I have a beard right now. So, facial hair always becomes a big deal for me. For some reason, whenever I begin to grow anything that starts to resemble a beard, a myriad of emotions and opinions get involved. My wife tends to like when I have a beard, and would also prefer that I grow my hair as long as it was when I was in my 20’s. She would like to see me adorned with a beard and a “man bun.” My mother claims that my face is too nice to be covered up with a beard, and that it is just a bad idea in general. She does like it when my hair is “longer” though…but not too long…but not short. Also, some facial hair is OK, but just not too much…She can explain. Honestly, sometimes I just forget to shave, and the beard begins to happen, and then I see how long I can go before the itchiness and commentary begins to become too troublesome. I think that a lot of the strong emotions tied to my facial hair stem from the fact that I suddenly began to grow a beard at the age of 27. As soon as my son was born under traumatic circumstances (that more serious post will surely come at some point), I gained the ability to grow a beard. I was literally aged overnight. But, I digress.
Like all things on this blog, let’s look at this Jewishly:
According to Leviticus 19:27: “You shall not round off the corners on your head, or destroy the corners of your beard.”
It seems that many observant Jewish men have avoided shaving due to the interpretation of this line from Torah, and many let their beards grow long and free. Apparently, the scholarly Talmudic Rabbis also considered beards to be very beautiful on men, and there actually exists a list of rabbis whose beauty is comparable to the (bearded) Jewish patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I learned that there was a very physically attractive rabbi, Rabbi Yochanan, who was excluded from this chic list due to the simple fact that he did not have a beard!
This beardly conversation extends beyond Judaism as well. Let’s turn our attention to 11-year-old Grace Bedell. In 1860, future president Abraham Lincoln’s face was as smooth as mine was when I was a teen. Grace wrote Lincoln a letter letting him know that he needed some “whiskers,” as his face was “too thin,” and “all the ladies like whiskers.” She assured Lincoln that he would certainly be elected president were he to simply grow a beard. Miss Bedell’s words did not go unheeded by future president Lincoln, who wrote her back within four days, and then proceeded to begin growing out those trademark whiskers. The rest, as they say, is history. Was Grace Bedell ultimately responsible for the election of a president who is now famous for his beard? Well, she obviously didn’t hurt his chances.
I read a bit about Kabbalistic Rabbi Issac Luria, more widely known as Ari. It has been said that he considered the facial hair to be so holy that he was reluctant to even touch his own face for fear of some hairs falling out of his own beard. That is certainly some dedication to a holy beard.
My beard is currently at a level of thickness and length that it has not achieved in quite some time, and perhaps there is some level of semi-conscious Jewishness to my shaving ambivalence.
It seems to me, based on my quick research, that if I continue to let the facial hair run free, the worst case scenarios that could befall me would be: (1) I become a world leader, or (2) I do not exclude myself from a place on a Talmudic list of beautiful rabbis.
I’ll go with Leviticus and Grace for now.
Shabbat Shalom if I don’t see you.