Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Should I Shave?


By Daniel Harrell

OK, so I'm getting ready to embark on this month of living Levitically, along with eighteen friends (read about them here), and already I'm worried about Leviticus 19:27- "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard." I grew a beard once and hated it. Who knew that small creatures could crawl in there and make a home. Some say that the reason behind this prohibition had to do with shaving being part of a heathen ritual (OK, I do have a fairly complex shaving ritual, but not sure I'd call it heathen). Others argue that hair is part of the natural order, and thus deigned as good by God and not-to-be-messed-with. Still others say that hair symbolized the life force of an individual (which explains the popularity of Hair Club for Men) and thus should be emphasized for whatever reason that it should be emphasized. Was this just an ancient cultural thing? A mark of separation from the pagans? Or is shaving truly immoral? Do I need to grow a beard to be obedient? I'll admit that my biggest concern is that I'm traveling to my parents' home during January and my mother wants a new family portrait. She'd kill me if I showed up with a beard. Of course Levitcus actually says don't trim your beard presuming perhaps that you already have one? Maybe that's my workaround. This stuff is going to drive me crazy.

2 comments:

Kristen said...

Of course Levitcus actually says don't trim your beard presuming perhaps that you already have one? Maybe that's my workaround.

That strikes me as a stretch.

However, this:

I'll admit that my biggest concern is that I'm traveling to my parents' home during January and my mother wants a new family portrait. She'd kill me if I showed up with a beard.

does not. It seems to me that here, "honor thy mother" could trump the no-beard-trimming thing.

After you get back to Boston, though, you're on your own.

I am checking with my consultants as to why Modern Orthodox can be clean-shaven. Will report back.

Anonymous said...

The "this" trumps "that" - I think that is a lot of what the oral torah / Rabbis discussion is about. (Which is most important?) Perhaps you're right on this one - if it's one of the 10 words, it's a 'core mitzvah'.

Does your mother know about the experiment??

I think that the idea of wanting to distinguish from pagan shaving is valid; but also, I suspect the commandment may have something to do with keeping a distinction between men and women?

Sharon in the UK