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.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 8 of 8)

Eilenberg showed him the scissors. He told his father-in-law that Shulchan Aruch quotes the Talmud in saying that because the cutting action of a pair of scissors happens between two blades and not the blade and the skin, it does not violate the prohibition against marring the five extremities of the beard. It is permitted.

His father-in-law did not agree. He called it a forbidden kind of permitted, a sinless sin, a deception of God and the soul. And you cannot fool God or the soul.

“You are a bum,” Eilenberg’s father-in-law declared. “A disappointment. Do you know that Ha’Ari Hakodosh did not touch his beard for fear that a hair would fall out? Did you know that Jews in the Holocaust died because of their beards, which made them look like Jews? You are a fool! An idiot! A Hasid does not play with prohibitions.”

He then ordered his son-in-law to get back to life. He ordered him to stop the mourning, the misery, the ghost-walking through the streets; to be husband to his wife, and to grow that beard. He would see him and the grandchildren on Shabbos.

With that, he strode back out of the house. And when Eilenberg and wife and children came on Shabbos, he did not utter another word.

So goes the story of Eilenberg’s beard. The one he did not grow again. Not after Gitty, accustomed to the trim, warned him that if he didn’t keep it neat, she’d cut it herself as he slept. With a rotary blade.

A good two years have passed since then. Many others followed Eilenberg; many have not. Yet despite the Zohar, and his father-in-law’s angry silence, Eilenberg’s moral core remained uncompromised. He is, to this day, a good man, faithful to his past and his ancestor’s traditions, a pious if short-bearded Jew walking proudly past the glass windows of the bakery, where sometimes he can still see, among the reflections, the saint of all shnorrers, laughing.

Judy Brown wrote the novel “Hush” under the pseudonym Eishes Chayil. “Inside Out” is her essay series about life in the ultra-Orthodox world. It is based on true events, but her characters’ names and identities have been changed. Some are composites, comprising several real-life people. “Eilenberg’s Beard” was inspired by a real-life story that happened to Brown’s good friend.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.