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The Beard

The Beard

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Question:

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?

Answer:

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.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Discussion (19)
March 9, 2016
Re: Question about beards
It is permitted to to roll and tuck one's beard so that it doesn't interfere with daily activities.
Eliezer Zalmanov
for Chabad.org
March 8, 2016
Question about beards
Now there's a fuss within the IDF over beards I was wondering whether it's permitted to braid or tie one's beard so as not to get it stuck in military equipment?
Yente
Israel/Canada
March 1, 2016
To Anon in Torrance
In my experience, chassidic Jews wear their beards with pride to interviews, and people generally respond with respect, understanding and admiration.

By all means, go ahead and brush your beard and even roll it up nicely. There is nothing wrong with that.

Also note that there are many religious Jews who shave (of course with a shaver that does not give too close a trim). If you think you should be one of them, speak to your community rabbi and determine what makes sense for you.
Abraham Gugenheim
NYC
March 1, 2016
Halakhah and job interview

What do you do if you need to guard the mitzvot of the Torah with regards to your beard while at the same time getting ready for a job interview? We need to make a living and get work; yet also need to make sure that the we are zealous to guard the Torah. What needs to be done? Thank you for your time.
Anonymous
Torrance, CA
November 28, 2014
Greetings and shalom,

High praise Rabbi Aron for your most scholarly answer on the importance of the Beard! If only this were before my eyes prior to November 2012 I would have sought you while staying in Australia at that time on holiday to thank you personally. I am a writer on the topic of Beards for a very mixed audience - some of the faith or similar Judeo-Christian teaching, some from other faiths; all who grow beards understand a sense of divine eminence the longer the beard grows. I am writing in one of my blogs to point more beard growers to your article via a link.
W E Alley Jr
Rhode Island USA
March 10, 2014
Hello,

As a woman, I can't grow a beard. Is there a womanly analogue to the increase in spirituality of hair growing down from the head? Is a woman's head hair an analogue.

Thanks!
Tobie
the public table
chabadstudentnetwork.com
September 3, 2013
Spiritual Power
I do hope that the free-growing facial hair actually exerts the desired spiritual power, as that would trump the unpleasing aethetics of an untrimmed beard.

Glad I Googled the question that led me to this website because now do not have to ask the rabbi why he doesn't neaten-up his beard.

From a female who doesn't like beards in general, is barely Jewish and has started to attend Torah study for the conversation, I ask that you forgive my perspective if forgiveness is warranted.
Anonymous
East Coast
August 30, 2012
True Courage
I grew the beard first thing when becoming observant. I was in college. The beard keeps you from assimilation because it makes you look very Jewish. Everyone thinks women don't like the beard, including some rabbis at Yeshiva. I can tell you they are wrong. The beard helps you behave well because everyone thinks you are a rabbi. The beard gives you more confidence because it makes you look more manly. The beard makes you feel authentic doing mitzvot, such as praying, putting on tefillin, and singing Shabbat songs. Do not underestimate the importance of this mitzvah. Yes, it is merely externals, but externals reflect internals.
Benyomin Fitterman
Atlanta, GA
chabadofcobb.com
March 23, 2012
@ James I have found that rule to be true in such ways that it astounds me; if I change, my family does. The beard initially for me was a distinction between the image of society, and the image of God. It was all about what people thought, and how I wanted them to see me as a dependable, hard-working, responsible man and father. Clean-shaveness represented that to me b/c that is what I was taught, and that a beard such as mine is rebellion. Isn't that amazing? What the LORD says is obedience, the world cries out rebellion?! Ha! I pondered in great length David's men being shamed by having their beards cut. I've realized that it represents maturity, and comprehension regarding the words we speak. What is the Jewish view of hair length? Some say to keep it short, for long hair is regarded as sensual... I would tend to agree with that idea, for simplistic presentation seems much more suitible to ward off temptation... in my opinion.
Jacob Lorang
WW
January 17, 2012
Convert
I have a child who has beautiful hair, during times of stress he begins to pluck his hair out. I would tell him over and over again not to pluck because it may cause negative reactions at school. People, especially children can be very mean. He continued plucking. This was when I was a beardless and bald man. I have within the last year actively pursued Judaism in order to live a life pleasing to the Lord instead of mortals and their wavering variations of righteousness. Even before deciding to convert I wanted a beard but could not grow one because I was so nerve wrecked about what people thought about my appearance. So I would straight razor shave my face daily. Shaving my face would cause major razor bumps, take a lot of my time and show people that I am, in my opinion, a slave to my own narcissism. I knew well before I began conversion that I was supposed to wear a beard and now I do. Since I have stopped obsessing over my appearance so has my son stopped plucking.
James