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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(page 7 of 8)

And did Eilenberg know that Menachem Mendel Schneerson said that shaving a beard falls under the Torah’s prohibition of males resembling females?

Eilenberg nodded rapidly, hoping to seem knowledgeable. Then he shook his head faster. He had certainly not in any way, shape or form at any point during the trimming meant to resemble a woman.

But the beard is a complicated thing. It has corners, his father in law said, jabbing his thumb in the air. As explained in the Talmud, it has five extremities, or points, that one is forbidden to touch. No one is completely certain what those five points are. And did Eilenberg cut the five prohibited points of his once-long beard?

Eilenberg said he had cut the bottom, also a little on the chin. But the mustache and sides remained untouched. Maybe three extremities. No more.

What about an electric razor? Reb Moshe Feinstein says the electric razor is permitted because it acts like a scissor, trapping the hair between two pieces of metal rather than between the blade and the skin. And yet the same electric razor is prohibited by the great Reb Avraham Karelitz. The rotary-model razor by Philips is especially problematic. Did Eilenberg use that one? Eilenberg said he did not.

“An electric razor?”


“But it’s permitted by Feinstein.”


“Yet prohibited by Karelitz.”


“A sharp tool to weaken the roots of the hair?”

“God forbid.”

“A tool to smooth the skin?”

“Not over my dead body.”

Then what had he used to remove half his beard, to reveal his foolish face?

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