Insights and Inspiration
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
May 31st 2012 -Volume 2, Issue 30 –10th of Sivan 5772
The Lesson of a Receding Hairline
It’s a sensitive issue for most men my age. We look in the mirror after our showers and we watch that once healthy full hairline retreat slowly… inch by inch…just like the French at the slightest confrontation. I don’t want to see more of my forehead, Thank you very much. I am happier knowing about what’s in my mind, not what’s no longer on it. It’s too bad that hair doesn’t weigh that much, my diet plan might be going a little stronger. Well at least I might save on shampoo products soon.
The Torah also seems to have some interesting thoughts and laws regarding hair care. We are prohibited to shave the sides of our hair (seemingly this was an idolatrous practice even back then, I don’t know what type of practice Mohawks are today). We are told we can’t use razors to shave with (electric shavers are generally fine). The Levi and the Metzora would have to have their heads shaved as part of their service. Perhaps most fascinating though, in this week’s Torah portion we are told about two individuals that the Torah seems focus its hair laws on.
The first law mentioned in the Torah portion is that of a woman who was suspected of adultery after witnesses reported that she had secluded with a man whom she had previously been warned not to be alone with. The Torah commands that she would be brought to the Kohen where she would undergo a process of Divine discovery. He would uncover her hair publicly (we derive from here that married Jewish woman customarily would, and should, cover their hair), and then he would have her drink from the Sota water (non carbonated J). This was special water that had the name of God dissolved in it, to discern whether she was faithful or not. (PS- it wouldn’t work if her husband was ever unfaithful).
The second person was the Nazir someone who had undertaken a vow, like the great Samson and the prophet Samuel, to lead an ascetic lifestyle either for a period of time or for life. This person would be prohibited from wine and grape products, from coming in contact with the dead and last but certainly most visible was that was the prohibition to cut their hair. Even more fascinating is that at the conclusion of this process a Nazir must shave all his hair. It seems that God also has this thing about hair. What is it all about?
There is an interesting Medrash, that goes back to the Garden of Eden when Eve, the first woman, was created. The Zohar tells us that when Hashem first brought Eve to Adam he braided her hair. You didn’t know that God doubled as a Hairdresser, I bet? After the sin, when they were thrown out of the garden the Medrash tells us her hair was disheveled and it was from that time that the concept of married Jewish women covering their hair began. Our sages explain that hair is meant to represent the physical extension of our power of imagination; that which grows out of our mind. When Eve was first she was given the role and power to draw out the imagination of man, to be his partner in fulfilling his dreams and to braid together the inspiration of his passions bringing it to a glorious fulfillment in the service of the Almighty. Her hair was perfectly and Divinely braided. Yet when she caused Man to sin, she lost that perfect crown. Her hair and the illusions of the grandeur that she would get from eating the forbidden fruit, itself became a force that tempted mans imagination rather than restraining and channeling it. Forever thereafter the hair would have to be covered and restrained, to hold that power intact from the temptations of all men, besides one’s own husband.
With this understanding we can explain the lesson of the Sota woman and the Nazir. The woman who behaved in an illicit way with another man serves as a demonstration to all of the Jewish people of what happens when ones fantasy and imagination runs amok. That special crown of the beauty of the perfectly covered hair, which speaks to the modesty of Jewish women in restraining their passion to be used exclusively with her partner in life, is lost on this woman. The results of that loss reflects itself in the ultimate shame that is experienced.
Similarly the Nazir, we are told, is an individual who feels that he is too tempted by his passions and his looks. He feels he cannot express his natural human self-control of living within in this world and elevating it. He wants to take a vow of asceticism and separation. His hair is left to grow unnaturally long and untamed because he has spiritually put the brakes on his passion by his vows and his long hair testifies to imagination run wild. It’s not the proper way to be. We are meant to channel our physical drives and desires. And we are meant to comb and control our hair, those outgrowths of our imagination; to be that Divine image that God created, no holier and not wilder. The Nazir, when his vow is over, shaves his hair to symbolize that he now re-enters the natural path of growth of his live and his drives. The wild temptations are now subdued.
Hashem has given us, with hair, an incredible barometer of our lives. When we are born we are mostly bald; no major dreams or passions. Change my diaper. Feed me, That’s it. As we get older our hair grows. We groom our passions, we direct them, we cut and trim them and they grow properly. Divinely. Yet as we age our hair becomes one of the first symbols of the loss of all those dreams. They turn gray, then white, and then sadly, one-by-one they begin to fall out. At a certain age we don’t dream any more. We have either accomplished or we haven’t. Although in Judaism we know it’s never too late to start, our hair reminds us that unless we act quickly our time is running out. Those strands get thinner and fewer the older we get and no shampoo in the world can bring it back. Hair today-gone tomorrow. So the next time you look in the mirror think of the message of the hair from days gone by and comb those stalwart remaining strands and promise them a better future.
Have an amazing Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
RABBI SCHWARTZ BAD JOKE OF THE WEEK
What do you call 40 rabbits hopping backwards in a row?
A receding Hairline oyyy
RABBI SCHWARTZ FAVORITE QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“CLASSIC: -A book which people praise, but never read”
RABBI SCHWARTZ COOL PLACES IN ISRAEL OF THE WEEK-
Kfar Nachum Synagogue- THIS IS DEFINITLY NOT YOUR TYPICAL JEWISH SITE. IN FACT VISITORS TO THE ANCIENT VILLAGE OF CAPERNAUM ON THE WESTERN BANKS OF THE KINNERET MIGHT FEEL OUT OF PLACE AT THIS “HOLY” CHRISTIAN SITE. YET IT MAKES IT TO THE SCHWARTZ LIST OF COOL PLACES BECAUSE OF THE ANCIENT SYNAGOGUE THAT IS IN THE VILLAGE AND THE MYSTERY SURROUNDING IT.
THE VILLAGE ITSELF IS MENTIONED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT AS BEING A PLACE WHERE THE FOUNDER OF CHRISTIANITY RESIDED AND PREFORMED MIRACLES AS WELL AS BEING THE PLACE WHERE PETER LIVED. IN FACT A CHURCH IS BUILT ON THIS SITE OF HIS HOME. THE MEDRASH IN KOHELET 7:26 ON THE VERSE GOOD IS HE WHO RUNS (FROM SIN) AND A SINNER WILL GET TRAPPED IN IT- RABBI ISI OF KISRIN (CASEREA?) SAYS GOOD IS A REFERENCE TO CHANINA THE SON OF YEHOSHUA AND A SINNER IS THE PEOPLE OF KFAR NACHUM.
THE SYNAGOGUE THAT WAS DISCOVERED THERE AND EXCAVATED IN THE EARLY 1900’S BY THE FRANSICANS WHO PURCHASED THE PLACE FROM THE LOCAL BEDOUINS HAS PILLARS AND ORNAMENTATIONS THAT DATE FROM THE 4TH CENTURY YET INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH THERE WERE COINS FOUND UNDER THE FLOOR FROM THE 5TH CENTURY A HUNDRED YEARS LATER. THEORIES OFFERED ARE 1) THAT EITHER THE FLOOR WAS BUILT LATER AND THE SYNAGOUGE IS REALLY 4TH CENTURY 2) THE SYNAGOGUE WAS BUILT IN A ROMAN PERIOD IN TH E 5TH CENTURY WHEN IT WAS PROHIBITED TO MAKE SYNAGOGUES AND THE PILLARS WERE JUST RE-USED FROM ANOTHER SYNAGOGUE OR 3) AND THIS IS THE COOL ONE- THE CHRISTIANS WHO BUILT THE CHURCH KNEW FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT THE THERE WAS A SYNAGOGUE THAT WAS PREACHED IN BY THEIR FOUNDER AND THEY BUILT THE SYNAGOGUE FOR THEIR PURPOSES. INTERSTINGLY ENOUGH THERE WAS A 2ND FLOOR FOR THE SYNAGOGUE WHICH SOME SUGGEST MAY HAVE BEEN A LADIES SECTION.
UNDERNEATH THE SYNAGOGUE THERE IS ANOTHER SYNAGOGUE MADE OUT OF BASLAT STONE (DIFFERENT THEN THE LIMESTONE ON TOP AND THAT WOULD BE THE ORIGINAL SYNAGOUGE THERE FROM THE 2ND TEMPLE PERIOD MAKING IT ONE OF THE OLDEST IN THE WORLD!