Monday, March 23, 2009

Picking vs. Snipping: an Aesthetic, Moral, and Halachic Discussion, dedicated to Cheerio, who finds this topic interesting

(Stam, I dislike the word "trimming" because it evokes images of Beis Shmuel people, whom I do not wish to emulate.)

View your beard as a field of grass. The natural, Chassidish beard is like an untamed prairie: nice, but wild.

A trimmed beard is like a well mown lawn: also nice, but under control.

The picked beard is like a lawn in which an amnesiac squirrel has buried his acorns: here it's long; there it's short. And everywhere, it's a mess.

So much for aesthetics. Now onto morality.

A beard picker says, "I don't want to have a beard. But my scruples don't allow my to cut it off. Oh! What a surprise! It seems that half of my beard is missing. Oh, what a nasty habit I've developed. Oh well. At least I look handsome. And don't blame me for not having a beard. It's just a habit! I've got no self-control."

The beard snipper says, "If I'm not gonna have a beard, I'm not gonna have a beard. No use avoiding the blame or pretending that I'm all holy."

Who is in control of his actions? Who's more upright and emesdik? The guy who doesn't follow his scruples or the guy who doesn't have the scruple in the first place? To paraphrase TRS' favorite haftarah, it's better to go to Baal than to jump on both posts.

Now for halacha:

There are two issues with beard cutting: "lo silbash" and "lo sashchis es pe'as zekanecha." The first issue applies equally to picking and to cutting and need not concern us now. Let us focus on the second. The Torah tells us not to "destroy" our beards. Cutting is not destroying. Picking is. Cutting leaves over some serious stubble. Picking leaveth not anything. So in order to assuage their guilty consciences, these pickers transgress a more serious prohibition "abi" to convince themselves that they're scrupulous young men.

Evil. Evil. Evil.

29 comments:

  1. people who pick their beards.

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  2. They pull out individual strands of hair instead of--god forbid--taking a scissors to the holy hair.

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  3. e- I think halachicly picking might actually be more acceptable, because there is no blade. Aesthetically you're probably right. Spiritually you may also be right- the guy that picks can delude himself into thinking he's doing nothing wrong.
    Also, I think for someone who has had a beard his whole life it is harder to get the scissors and snip away than it is to just pick "out of habit".

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  4. 1. blade shmade. Did you see this written anywhere?

    3. My point exactly. They don't even have the moral fortitude to sin properly.

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  5. I'll have to check for an exact source, but halacha forbids using a blade. The Arizal says one should not even pluck out hairs because they are channels of blessing.
    I believe that's also why many poskim allow shavers- because they hold that only a blade is forbidden and not scissors and they also hold that shavers are more like scissors than like blades (because they have two metal pieces hitting each other to cut the hair), but the Tzemach Tzedek says it is even forbidden with scissors and even with hair removal creams.

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  6. But like you mentioned there is always the issue of lo silbash, however we are not dealing with that here.

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  7. I'm talking about trimming with a scissors. Do people trim with razors?

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  8. e- I know you're talking about with scissors. I'm saying picking is even less than scissors, b/c there is no blade at all. For picking you don't even need to rely on the poskim that differentiate between scissors and blades.

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  9. TRS, care to elaborate on your wise and insightful comment?

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  10. thanks for the dedication. i feel quite honored.
    first half: exceptionally amusing.
    second half: insightful observation.
    so all in all - pretty good post! and even some decent comments...

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  11. you're welcome! Glad you enjoyed!

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  12. E - I'd love to see you take on TRS. You are the most logical person I know (too logical, in fact), whereas TRS is forced to say things like "Humph" and "Whatever" and has reading comprehension deficits. So go at it.
    Most warmly,
    Rishe

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  13. Rishe: I said "humph" instead of "subscribing" because it sounds better. I had nothing intelligent to say, and therefore I didn't say anything. Seems like you had the same issue, but obviously you didn't take the route I chose...

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  14. Rishe, you're off to great start! Maybe take on TRS himself?

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  15. ok no more patiance. trip down memory lane is over...

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  16. LOL, I'm undertaking it now after listening to 8th day.

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  17. undertaking? Has somebody died?

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  18. she has undertaken to read all ur old posts.

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  19. Maybe erev yom kippur I shouldn't but I had to take a break from the other holy endeavors of the day so I picked an old post at random. Here goes:

    There is no lo silbash in removing the beard except perhaps by distinctly feminine methods such as waxing. Pro-hair rabbonim often say there is but upon being pressed they will admit it is passionate hyperbole rather than halacha. Treatment of this topic is too long even for my marathon comments, so look for a post in the basement soon.

    Ah gut gebentched yohr

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  20. Great! Now we'll finally get the opinion of someone who knows what he's talking about!

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  21. Thank you for that vote of confidence. However, as I have not taken (passing not required) a 4-part test on 30% of yoreh deah, in the eyes of the Lore I do not know what I'm talking about. I think I'll write the post and let TRS sign it as gadol in residence.

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  22. I beg your pardon? I am the rabbi around here. TRS still didn't take the test on hilchos Shabbos. I have taken all the tests. (not sure if I passed melicha, but considering that my am ha'aratzus is incomplete, I probably did pass.)

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  23. E is a Rabbi- the irony is striking.

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  24. Really, e? In that case you and two noncertified amaratzim can give me smicha. Can we arrange this? People insist on asking me shailos that I know the answers to but cannot say so.

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Forth shall ye all hold.