Yes, Iím once again making light of Ye Olde English. In Leviticus 19:27-28, rounding the corners of your heads just means cutting the hair on the sides of your head. This is why you see traditional Jews with long curls for sideburns called payot (the curls are there to make the hair manageable since it grows several feet in length).
Lots of time has been spent trying to get the specifics of this law down properly. Jews are in agreement that this doesnít apply to women, but they canít seem to agree on what constitutes ďtrimmingĒ or the ďside of the face.Ē Does trimming mean no cutting at all or does it mean no shaving? Does the side of the face include all the hair on the side of the head, or just the sideburn region?
The other two laws include not cutting oneself for the death of another, a type of self-harm which I presume was done to show a high level of grief for the loss of a loved-one. Also, no tattoos or printed marks on the skin, which probably rules out branding and ritual scarification.
Like most of Godís moral laws, no explanation is given as to why cutting oneís hair or getting tattoos are immoral acts, but believers just blindly accept that they are and follow the crazy laws. Of course, for those of us who donít believe that God created these laws, we try to uncover the real reason behind the decrees. On the face of it, there donít appear to be any; they just seem like bizarre taboos for the sake of taboo. Banning tattoos and self-mutilation seems understandable, but how do you justify banning haircuts?
12th century Jewish leader Maimonides wrote that hair-cutting, like many of the other Jewish rituals, were done to help distinguish the Israelites from non-Israelites. There isnít much reason to trust Maimonidesí interpretation, he was, after all, commenting on something that was written about 15 centuries before he was born, but it would follow a trend that weíve been seeing with the strange laws of the Israelites. They do all seem to be steeped in xenophobia.