The Torah says, "You shall not round off the פְּאַת Pe'at of your head" (Leviticus 19:27). The word Pe'at was taken to mean the hair in front of the ears extending to beneath the cheekbone, on a level with the nose (Talmud -Makkot 20a). The Mishnah interpreted the regulation as applying only to men. Thus it became the custom in certain circles to allow the hair over the ears to grow, and hang down in curls or ringlets. According to Maimonides, cutting the sidelocks was a heathen practice.There is considerable discussion in the halachic literature as to the precise location of the payot and of the ways in which their removal is prohibited.
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