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Why don’t chassidic men shave their beards?

Why don’t chassidic men shave their beards?

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The Torah1 forbids the “destruction” of specific parts of the beard. The Talmud2 interprets “destruction” as shaving with a razor.3 This prohibition also includes shaving with any implement which completely removes all the facial hair, but does not include trimming, or shaving with a scissors or other tool which does not provide the smooth shave provided by a razor.4

There are halachic authorities (including the Tzemach Tzedek, third Chabad rebbe) who opine that cutting any part of the beard, even without a razor-like implement, falls under the prohibition of cross-dressing.5 This opinion is especially followed by Chabad chassidim.

Maimonides teaches that the reason the Torah forbade the destruction of the beard is because shaving was a practice of ancient idol-worshippers.

In addition, Kabbalah attaches great importance to the beard, teaching that the “thirteen locks” of the beard are representative of G‑d’s thirteen supernal Attributes of Mercy. Growing a beard makes one a beneficiary of the bounty which originates from G‑d’s compassion.

Traditionally, Jews throughout the ages wore beards in order to not even come close to destroying the forbidden parts of their beards. This was also true in Eastern Europe, where the vast majority of Jews grew full beards until the mid-nineteenth century.

As the winds of “enlightenment” spread to Eastern Europe, many people felt that wearing a beard labeled them as backwards and old-fashioned. Many Torah leaders, including the Chafetz Chaim, protested this change. Chassidim were in general less swayed by the modernization taking place around them, as is evident in their dress. Therefore, they—for the most part—did not feel compelled to shave their beards. In addition, the Kabbalistic reason mentioned above made the practice of growing a beard much more precious to them.

See also: The Beard

I hope that I’ve been helpful today.

Yours truly,
Rabbi Menachem Posner

FOOTNOTES
1.

Leviticus 19:27.

2.

Makkot 20a.

3.

This prohibition does not apply to females who have facial hair.

4.

If you do intend on shaving, speak to your rabbi to determine which shavers are halachically permitted to use.

5.

Deuteronomy 22:5.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org. He lives with his family in Montreal, QC.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Discussion (11)
November 21, 2012
razor's edge
But so does this mean that the blade should not have to come in direct contact with the skin?
Anonymous
Switzerland
November 21, 2012
Mainstream Orthodox Tradition
Generally, Jews had beards. The current trend of many even observant Jews not to, is due to emancipation and enlightenment and the desire of many in the new world to 'fit in.' it has been codified by many including Ashknazi leaders such as the Tzemech Tzedek, Mishneh Berurah and Chazon Ish and Sephardi leaders such as the Chida, Ben Ish Chai and Baba Sali.
Dovid
November 20, 2012
Beards - yeah or nay?
I was very interested in the article regarding beards as I have had one since I was about 15 but do trim it every now and then. Where are the 13 points of the beard located and why do some very frum Rabbis shave from their ear lobes to the mustache line and leave the 'gotee'? Thanx for your info.
Stephen
Ottawa, Ontario , Canada
November 18, 2012
To Beard Worshipper
Maimonides is assigning the practice a practical purpose. He's explaining that the practice of growing the beard started as a way of distinguishing ourselves from the non-Jewish idol worshipers. It is essentially a technique, like circumcision, or keeping the Israelites from mixing with other peoples and losing their identities. It's a subject that's hard to be blunt and concise about without sounding like an elitist.
Anonymous
December 13, 2011
Besides, there is Beauty
There are some beautiful beards out there. I guess it depends with what eyes or Eye one perceives them.
Hany
Mtl, Ca
June 21, 2011
In response to beard worshippers.
"Maimonides teaches that the reason the Torah forbade the destruction of the beard is because shaving was a practice of ancient idol worshippers."

Why do you find this unintelligent? As far as the term "cogent" is concerned, I cannot think of a more "cogent" explanation for the commandment outside of the axiom that G-d said not to do so. Logical positivism is dead.

That being the case. Not everything under the sun can be examined under scientific or rational means.

And to lead you down a path of reductio ad absurdum: intelligence can not be revealed by attacking an ancient tradition---and why can it not be revealed in a beard? Really, what argument do you have against it as being spiritual beneficial to the individual Jew, who finds--at the very least-- a connection to his ancestors and tradition, which are not material mental processes but a historical reaching into the past that is non-material, or, as you so deride, "spiritual."

Peace and blessings to you.
Sean DeGan
marrietta , GA
October 3, 2009
Thanks
Thank you Rabbi Posner I now understand what the beard stands for.
Grateful Jew
Long Beach
July 9, 2009
To my worshipper
No need to feel a bit down because you thought your intelligence was in a beard.

I'm surprised they posted your comment for I've been censored for less than your shallow display of wittiness.

Grow that beard and show everybody the dubious intelligence on your chin for this is what you would like everybody to think about you right? Intelligence cannot be revealed by a beard nor assumed to be spiritually beneficial on account of long standing tradition.
Beardworshipper
June 29, 2009
to the beardworshipper!
you sound very smart, I would like to worship you. can you tell me what I need to do. I promise I won't grow a beard as I see it makes you angry. and i don't want to make you angry.

A humble follower
servant of beardworshipper
miami
June 25, 2009
Chofetz Chaim
This holy tzaddik has an entire kuntres discussing the severity of shaving and the importance of a beard. It's called Tiferes Adam and can be found in Kol Kisvei Chofetz Chaim.
Feivel Yosef
Denver, CO
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