Answers to Quora Questions by Yair Davidiy (20 December 2017, 2 Tevet , 5778)
Can ultra-orthodox Jews have long hair?
Nazis forcing a Jew to put on tefilin alongside the bodies of murdered Jews. The issue of tefilin involves the subject of wearing long hair or not.
I came across a discussion of long hair in a Commentary to the Talmud (“Metivta” on Sanhedrin). It seems that the prevailing opinion was usually against long hair. In some places however in the distant past among some of the Eastern Jews long hair was accepted but even then the acceptance was not unanimous. A recent halachic [legal religious] authority ("Mishnah Brurah") describes long hair as indicative of excessive pride ("shachatz"). It is a possible impediment to the proper laying of tefilin i.e. the leather boxes with text on parchment inside of them that Jews place on their arm and head.
18 You shall put these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall tie them for a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as totafot [box-like containers] between your eyes.
Long hair does not make the laying of tefilin invalid but it may make it difficult to put them in the right place in the correct way. In other words there is no clear prohibition against long hair but it would not be encouraged. If one felt a need for social or economic reasons to wear long hair it might not be prohibited.
Others have brought up the prohibition again dressing like a woman which by extension could include trying to look like one. Usually this depends upon prevailing fashion and in the source I read this last point was not mentioned. Some have suggested that long hair be considered an imitation of Gentile practices which are forbidden due to their association with paganism and non-Biblical values. This too is debatable.
In Biblical sources Samson had long hair and so possibly (depending upon the interpretation) did the Prophet Samuel.
11 She [i.e. Hannah the mother of Samuel before he was born] made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head."
There were also "Nazirim" who took an oath not to cut their hair. Usually the Nazirite practice of not cutting the hair lasted for only 30 days but there are cases of it being indefinite. Nevertheless, the overall impression is that in Biblical Times and afterwards most men kept their hair short. Why else should a Nazirite vow not to cut the hair for thirty days unless it was accepted to usually do so?
5 All the days of his vow of Naziriteship there shall no razor come upon his head; until the days be fulfilled, in which he consecrates himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow long.