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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 (14)
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
May 30, 2011
Christian Jew
I have recently been tracing more and more roots back into Judaism, and finding that most of Christianity is anti-semetic in nature and doctrine. I base my walk on the word and spirit of the LORD, but feel extremely inadequate to understand the torah without having any Jewish background. Thank you for your insights into this manner. I have been growing my beard for 9 months, and have found it has produced humility, maturity, separation from worldliness, and solemnity for obedience to the law (not just fear, but also willingness). "if you do these things, it shall be well with you." I would love to learn more about this.
Jacob Lorang
Walla Walla , WA
June 25, 2010
Thank You
Thank you for explainging this. As one in the process of converting to Judaism, I have always wondered why beards were custom in Jewish custom, however no one would give me a straight answer. Thank you again. Shalom.
Joshua Edwards
Fridley, MN
December 23, 2009
for Tzvi Jacobs
I had the same thing happen to me, and I felt weaker and actual had on 3 separate instances it happen, immediate financial 'wake up calls'. I think Tzvi Freeman is playing 'devil's advocate' with the how can you know it's your psychology or actual flow of divine energy --- if he really believed that, why isn't he an agnostic? There is no question in my mind that a beard adds to one's spiritual strength, and not only do I see it in myself, but when I look at other's I see it in them. The 13 Attributes of Mercy is not a small thing, and ever since I had a beard I've had much chesed showered upon me, financially, even though I didn't change my financial ways at the time, I was giving tremendous tzedakah before and Be'ezrat Hashem will still be able to. Grow the beard, do not trim it, and don't listen to anyone who tells you to --- it is a major boost to one's spirituality. I've been told that I have told by very holy people that I have special insight. Grow the beard, be proud yet humble!
m m z
New York
November 11, 2009
What about the Torah?
Doesn't the Torah say in Vayikra 19:27) not to trim the sides of our beards? So it would seem that it would be a sin to trim the beard, not only something where we feel spiritually weakened by it (because we of course feel spiritually weakened by sin).

@Tzvi When Shimshon cut his hair, he was violating his Nazirite vow, and disobeying G-d's command to his mother: "No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to G-d from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines."
Tyler Kocheran
Escondido, CA
August 21, 2009
For Tzvi Jacobs in Monsey
It's true that the beard is a conduit for blessings and strength from Above. On the other hand, I would be very surprised if a person could so openly feel the difference. How can you ever know whether it's your own psychology or an actual flow of divine energy?
Tzvi Freeman
Thornhill, Ontario
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