Upsherin Once

January 17, 2013

In the quaint town of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu about 50km south of Montreal the sight of Hasid is shock enough to the locals to stop traffic. On Main St. (known to them as St. Jacques St) sits the famed Arto Gallery. Tonight they show the work of Julie Taxil. Julie, a photographer from Paris, photographed Zalmy's Upshernish a little over a year ago. Julie's exhibit entitled "Upshern Once" captures the unique Jewish tradition of Upshernish.

According to Jewish Law, a tree is not touched during its first three years. Since, "man is like a tree in the field," the age-old tradition to not cut the boys hair until three years of age. The time of the haircut signals a major transition in his or her education. For the first three years, a child absorbs the surrounding sights and sounds and the parents’ loving care. The child is a receiver, not yet ready to give. At the age of three, children’s education takes a leap—they are now ready to produce and share their unique gifts.

On his third birthday friends are invited to a haircutting ceremony—called an upsherin in Yiddish, and a chalakah by Sephardic Jews. The child’s peyot (biblically mandated side-locks) are left intact—the initiation into his first mitzvah. The child wears a kipah and tzitzit.

"The photos capture the pure innocence of a child," one abserver explained. "these photos are a portal into another dimension." Julie Taxil thanked Rabbi Yisroel and Sara Bernath for allowing her the opportunity to photograph this special event. "At first," she explained, "I really felt out of place coming into a cutlure that is so different from my own. It didn't take long before the Bernath's were like family to me. I am so grateful to them."

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