PE'OT (Heb. פֵּאוֹת; lit. "corners"), sidelocks grown in accordance with the prohibition of the Torah that "Ye shall not round the corners of your heads" (Lev. 19:27). The Talmud has interpreted this to mean that it is forbidden to "level the growth of hair on the temple from the back of the ears to the forehead" (Mak. 20b). The hair in this area may not be completely removed even with depilatory powder, scissors, or an electric shaver which may be used in shaving the face (see *Beard and Shaving). Although a negative precept, women are exempt from leaving pe'ot since the parallel prohibition against "marring the corners of the beard" (Lev. 19:27; Kid. 1:7; Kid. 35b) obviously does not extend to women. According to Maimonides a minimum of 40 hairs must be left for pe'ot (Yad, Avodat Kokhavim, 12:6). However, the Shulḥan Arukh (YD 181:9) rules in accordance with Rashi (Mak. 20a) that hair must be allowed to grow in front of the ears until it reaches the upper cheekbones (zygomatic arch). However, the maximum length of pe'ot has been determined by the custom of a particular time and place rather than by halakhah. The kabbalistic writings of Isaac *Luria attribute great significance to pe'ot because the numerical value (see *Gematria) of pe'ah, 86, is the same as the numerical value of Elohim (i.e., God). It has become customary for Ḥasidim and Orthodox Yemenites to leave pe'ot, either short ones which are curled behind the ears or long ones hanging down at the sides of the head.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.