Eilenberg trimmed his beard on Tuesday and did not leave home until Friday. It was his wife, my good friend Gitty, who put an end to it — she who could not understand him.
“You wanted to trim your beard for over a year,” she screamed, exasperated. “Why are you crying now like you lost your only son?”
But she knew why. Because it said so in the Torah, in Parshas Vayikra: “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.” And it says in the holy Zohar, the divine source of Kabbalah, that there is great holiness in the beard. Even trimming it with a pair of scissors is a great sin.
Eilenberg was the first in his family to trim his beard. He was the first among his brothers, uncles and long line of ancestors to violate the Torah and the Zohar. All in the space of 10 minutes.
Eilenberg could not say when it first began, this secret desire to cut. Before the madness struck, the man had not thought of his beard at all. Like his spleen or his kidneys, it lay unhampered and ignored, there because it was there. Like every other pious Hasid, he had side curls, facial hair, and a hat.
Perhaps it was because Goldman did it, walking into shul with a goatee in place of his once long beard, or maybe it was because Heshy did the same just a few days after. It was hard not to see the difference; somehow the cutting made them look better. Or maybe it was his son, two-year-old Moishe, pointing to a picture of a long-bearded shnorrer (beggar) in his book, shouting in delight, “Totty! Di bi in dem bukh!” — “Daddy! You are in the book!”