To All The Beardless…
If you are a woman, this thread is not for you! Here, we wish to engage in the halachic ramifications of shaving one's beard, or being clean-shaven (with an electric Remmington shaver), when you are a Jewish man capable of growing a beard – whether full or scraggly.
Since much of this subject is new to me, it will be a learning experience for me. Honesty, I have read very little about this subject. What is presently known to me, however, I shall lay down in this initial post. I'm looking forward to your give-and-take on this important subject. Perhaps we can learn from each other what we should, or should not, be doing.
To commence, I'd like to open the thread with a short-story about "Moishe" whose dad had just passed away. After sitting "shiv'as yamei aveilus" (the seven days of mourning), he returned to his regular paying desk job with his face clearly marked by the signs of a growing beard. Surprised at seeing him, the "shiktze" secretary and a few of his Jewish compatriots who knew not that his father had passed away, said to him: "Hey, Moishe! You're growing a beard!" His sad but benign answer to them was, "Yes. I just lost my father." With that said, they all knew and understood that in Jewish law, when a man's closest relatives die, he must grow a beard as a sign of mourning.
Here, our story ends, although – sad to say – their perceptions of Moishe and of Jewish law are grossly mistaken! It is not that a Jew must grow a beard at the death of a close relative, but rather, he is not permitted to shave his beard! (Shulhan Arukh, YD 390:1). Moishe, who had no beard, could do no more than to grow out his own beard.
Being a former Yeshiva student, I have always been surprised at how young Jewish lads that begin to sprout their first facial growth are quick to take out their electric shavers in order to rid themselves of those unwanted hairs! Is it not a Jewish custom for the men folk to grow out their beards – especially frum (religious) men? Why all the concern for being clean-shaven? Do not beards add an element of dignity and grace to that person? Afterall, a grandfather without a white beard is a grandfather that has lost much of his "grandfather image." Still, by shaving his beard he could never really return to his youthful days and hide, thereby, his old age. Here, then, he's made himself lose out on two things: youthfulness, he can never return to; dignity, he forfeited.
While the Talmud (Makkos) prescribes the punishment of lashes to he that mars his beard or "peyos" (side-locks) with a razor, cutting your hair in those places with a pair of scissors, on the other hand, does not fit into this prohibition. Can it be implied, therefore, that simply because there is no punishment for cutting off one's beard with a pair of scissors that it is perfectly sanctioned? I should think not. What about Jewish practice and custom? Are we not obliged to keep and to maintain our Jewish customs? Afterall, we have a maxim that says: "minhag yisroel Torah hi" (a custom, once accepted by Israel, becomes as forceful as a thing of the Law that we must abide by). Is anyone to argue that it is not a Jewish custom to grow a beard?