Long Pe'ot

Q: What is the source for the custom of having long pe'ot?
A: First of all, it is similar to every mitzvah in which it is possible to be strict. May a blessing come upon one who is strict. There is an innovation in growing long pe'ot because usually having a stricture of quantity (having longer tzitzit, etc…) is for positive mitzvot and this is a negative mitzvot. We do not have other such examples. The commentators on the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah, chap. 181) discuss the issue of long pe'ot, insofar as some authorities raise an issue based on the words of the Arizal that one should not mix the pe'ot of one's head with the pe'ot of one's beard (the five places it is forbidden to cut on one's beard). These are different mitzvot and represent different mystic lights. Therefore, when one's pe'ot reach one's beard, he should trim them. This is why Chabad Chasidim have short peyot. It thus appears that long pe'ot are a disadvantage, not according to the Halachah but according to the mystical teachings of the Arizal. There are authorities who do justify this custom together with the teaching of the Arizal. For example, see Shut Mishneh Halachot of Ha-Rav Menashe Klein (4:116, 5:124, 6:149) who wrote that it is explicitly written in the Shulchan Aruch that one should not touch his pe'ot, that we do not find anywhere any prohibition to let them grow, and that it is known that Rabbi Akiva Eiger would not even brush his pe'ot. By the way, it seems that a cohain in the Temple may not have long pe'ot since the Halachah says that it is forbidden for a cohain to be unkempt with long hair. What is long hair? Hair which has not be cut for 30 days. There is no problem for them to have a long beard, just long pe'ot. Therefore, when the Temple is rebuilt – may it be speedily in our days – cohanim will have short pe'ot.