|Gozez - Shearing|
Shearing is one of the thirty-nine avos melachos as it was necessary to shear sheep for the production of the wool used in the creation of curtains for the Mishkin and the ritual garments of the Kohanim. Shearing refers to removing something that grows on the bodies of people or animals. This includes both hair and nails.
The Biblical prohibition extends only to shearing an item that one needs. This is however extended by Rabbinic law that also prohibits the shearing of hair to improve appearance even though the byproduct is unwanted hair being cut.
Shearing in the usual manner is prohibited which would include any of the methods one would use to ordinarily remove hair, nails, etc. For example, in the case of hair one may not remove hair using a razor, scissors, tweezers or even depilatory cream.
As even a single hair may not be removed, it is also forbidden to brush or comb one’s hair with a brush or comb that has hard bristles as to do so would result in the pulling out of hair. A brush with soft bristles may be used, with minimal force and a small number of strokes. The brush itself should be specifically set aside for Shabbat.
In the case of wigs, Rabbinic authorities are split when the wigs are made from human hair. Synthetic wigs are clearly permissible to brush if the hairs are attached firmly to the base.
Cutting nails, likewise is prohibited whether it be with a scissor or clipper. Should a nail inadvertently tear and become painful, one is permit to remove it with scissors or by biting if the purpose is to alleviate pain. Should a woman need to go to the mikveh and forget to clip her nails prior to Shabbat, she is permitted to ask a gentile to bite off her nails for her (this request may however be just a bit hard to explain!).
Removing partially detached skin is prohibited although removing body parts is allowed! In the cases of scabs, it is permissible to remove them without drawing blood because scabs do not grow from the body.
In the case of a splinter, removal is permitted. One may even cut surrounding skin in the case of a splinter that has become deeply embedded but care should be taken to avoid drawing blood.
As far as animals are concerned, one may not pluck the fur on Shabbat. Extension of this rule applies to fur garments as the animal fur is still attached to the hide. Feathers from a bird may not be plucked either, whether the bird is dead or alive. There is a small exception that most will allow, for removing the small feathers that may remain on the skin of a cooked chicken.
Adapted from The Shabbos Home by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen