Why Do They . . . ?

I can’t begin to guess how many visitors have asked me, “Why do they grow those side-curl things?” For those who haven’t been around this type of religious Jew before, the sight of “peyos” can be quite fascinating. And I have to admit, even though I have been quite exposed to “peyos,” I find the variety of peyos fascinating.

Apparently, there are many ways to observe the commandment,”You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard (Leviticus 19:27, NKJV),” because in Jerusalem, one can see all types of peyos: short, medium and long peyos; straight, curled and unkept peyos; clearly visible and peyos that are hidden around the ear or under the skullcap.

The longest peyos I’ve ever seen dropped to the young man’s belt. I wonder if he ever struggled with pride in having the longest peyos in Jerusalem.

Clearly, peyos are an effort to fulfill a commandment, but they also seem to serve as a comforter because I often see men nervously playing with their peyos, which usually involves repeatedly wrapping and re-wrapping them around the index finger. Sometimes I see men chewing or sucking on their peyos, which is probably some type of comforter, but seems weird to me. Of course, I’ve never had hair long enough to suck on it; perhaps it’s more compelling than I imagine.

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