I have often wondered why many religious Jews have long hairy beards. Is this, like the kipah, a means of identifying oneself as a Jew or do the beards serve some other purpose?
There is more to the beard than just identifying as a Jew. According to Kabbalah the beard should not even be trimmed, but should be allowed to grow freely. Why?
Kabbalistically, our outer physical appearance is a reflection of our inner spiritual reality. The hands represent our ability to give and receive. The feet symbolize the power to progress. What does the beard represent?
One of the greatest struggles in life is to live up to our ideals. Many of us know what is right in our minds, but find it difficult to apply that knowledge in our daily lives. Often we do things that we know are wrong, but feel we "couldn't help ourselves". For example, we know that it is wrong to lose our temper, but when we get annoyed at someone we find it impossible to control our anger. Or we may know that it is good to give charity, but never get around to actually giving.
Between theory and practice there is a huge gulf. It is one thing to have good intentions, but that is far from actually doing good. It is like realizing a dream; without diligence, determination and hard work, it will always remain just a dream.
The greatest step we can take in our personal growth is learning to bridge this gap and implement our good intentions.
This is what the beard represents. The beard is hair that grows down from the head to the rest of the body. It is the bridge between mind and heart, thoughts and actions, theory and practice, good intentions and good deeds.
So we don't cut the beard, but rather let it flow freely, to open a direct flow from the ideals and philosophies of our minds into our everyday lifestyle.