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May 26, 2015 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Naso

This week’s portion contains the laws of the Nazirite, someone who temporarily takes on an ascetic lifestyle, including abstaining from wine and haircuts.  Wine I can understand, but why haircuts?

Sforno writes that this prohibition will (in the Soncino Chumash’s words) “divert his thoughts from his physical beauty and indulging in vainglory.”  In other words, if you aren’t too preoccupied with your hair you won’t be too preoccupied with your physical appearance generally.

This is one area where Judaism is very countercultural, and which I have really struggled with.  I was taught to believe that respectable people shave every day and get haircuts about once a month.

But an observant Jew who follows all common customs and laws will have to go through over 100 days without shaves or haircuts- shabbos (52 per year), yom tov (another dozen), sefirah (33 days I think) and the three weeks before Tisha’b’Av (21 more).  I avoid shaving etc on shabbos and yom tov, but am less consistent about sefirah and the three weeks, because my mother is a bit obsessive about proper hair, and letting her see me with a month-old beard would not be good for her mental health.

Having said that, I think that there is something to be said for the idea that even good grooming has limits.  More broadly, I think that traditional Judaism teaches us not only to control our bad urges, but to keep our good urges from getting out of control.

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