Eilenberg's Beard

Vanity Versus Piety When It Comes to Facial Hair

Lisa Anchin

By Judy Brown (Eishes Chayil)

Published November 12, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
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At dawn, Eilenberg woke up, refreshed. He jumped out of bed, walking briskly down the hall to the bathroom. He closed the door and saw himself in the mirror. A strange creature stared back at him — a man who was almost him. His hands rushed up to his chin. They fumbled at his cheeks, groping anxiously at the missing part.

When Gitty woke up an hour later, her husband was still in the bathroom. He exited after the pounding, but he stayed in his room. And this is how it went on for three days: From the bedroom to the bathroom; from the bathroom to the kitchen, where he paced back and forth, circling the table in fear of his father-in-law, his own shadow and divine retribution.

But mostly his father-in-law. Because Eilenberg’s father-in-law did not trim his beard. And he did not marry off his daughters to men who did. And when he had signed the engagement document for his eldest daughter, it did not need to say on paper what was engraved on the cultural soul, that one does not touch or tamper with certain things.

On Wednesday evening, Gitty found her husband sitting in front of the mirror, pulling at the hairs of his chin. It was then he declared that he was no longer leaving the house. Gitty would go to work as a salesperson, while he’d stay home, wash the dishes, get pregnant and give birth in the bedroom without an epidural. He could not, must not, absolutely would not, tread outside until every last curl had grown back in and in every which wrong direction. He would not leave home until he was, once more, the saint of all shnorrers.

But Gitty was already pregnant and said that she did not need help with that. Desperate, she warned him that if he did not go out, she would call her father. Because a man at home is a man in the way, and she’d soon lose her mind.

Now, I know what you are thinking, those of you who did not grow up in this world. I know that you are certain that I am exaggerating, that I am stretching the truth. How could this be? All this over a few inches of beard?

Then let me explain it to you, the way it was explained to us.


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