web analytics
September 16, 2014 / 21 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The IDF’s War On Beards


An identifying mark of the Jew has been, and for many still is, his beard. The foundation for this is the commandment in the Torah: “You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shall you mar the corners of your beard” (Leviticus 19:27).

The Second Book of Samuel provides an early example of the importance of the beard. There, the Ammonite king shaves off half the beards of King David’s messengers to insult David. The messengers are so embarrassed that David instructs them to wait until their beards grow back before returning to Jerusalem.

Medieval biblical commentator Rabbi David Kimchi notes that implicit in the story is the fact that the messengers’ other option – shaving off the other half of their beards – was too humiliating to contemplate.

The beard is also a sign of piousness and the wisdom that comes with age. The Hebrew word for beard and elder is derived from the same root letters of zayin, kuf, nun. In Jewish liturgy, the beard is a recurrent symbol when describing a pious or a wise man.

In modern times, many religious Jews would not shave off or even trim their beards, actions strictly forbidden by chassidic and Kabbalistic teachings.

The Jew’s beard also made an easy target for anti-Semites. In 19th century Poland, then controlled by the Russian empire, a government decree banned Jews from having beards and side-locks. Many chassidic Jews were heroically ready to face prison or exile rather than comply. Fortunately, a group of rabbis and community leaders convinced Polish and Russian authorities to annul the decree.

Despite the significance of a beard for many Jews, the Israeli military has initiated a “war on beards,” as a headline in the major Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot put it, announcing new regulations that restrict the ability of soldiers to grow and keep beards.

Previously, the Israel Defense Forces placed no restrictions on a religious soldier’s right to grow a beard. The old order (Directive 33.0118) states that “a soldier, observing a religious lifestyle, can grow a beard for religious reasons.”

Under the new rules, however, a soldier must obtain a recommendation from the rabbi of his unit and then a permit from a lieutenant colonel.

If the soldier transfers to another unit he must renew his permit in the new unit. And if the soldier shaves his beard or if he is tried for a disciplinary violation of the new regulations, he must wait a year before obtaining a new permit.

In the memorandum sent to all soldiers announcing the new regulations, Lt. Cl. Avishai Azulai explained that growing beards outside the regulations violates the “image of IDF soldiers in the eyes of the citizens of the state.”

These new guidelines place considerable obstacles in the path of a religious soldier wishing to fulfill a precept he considers central to his observance. They violate religious freedom of soldiers. At the very least, they force the IDF to question soldiers’ religious beliefs and pass judgment on religious sincerity.

How will the IDF pass such judgment? For example, if a soldier only recently became religious, how long must he wait to show his religious sincerity before growing a beard? If a soldier observes Shabbat and kashrut but not other mitzvot, is he sufficiently religious to grow a beard? What if a soldier is only traditional?

Having such judgments made by the IDF, in and of itself, requires state intrusion into a person’s belief system.

Further, there are no guidelines for the lieutenant colonel who issues the permit. He, sadly, may be hostile to or have little-to-no understanding of Judaism. As a result, soldiers in different battalions will face different and unfair requirements.

The requirements imposed by the directives are themselves no small obstacles, especially for young and impressionable teenagers. A soldier should not be forced to request official approval for and embarrassingly attempt to prove his religious sincerity to the IDF.

As the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, an Israeli civil rights organization, wrote in a letter of protest to the Chief of the General Staff on March 2:

[A] soldier, especially a young or freshman soldier in a combat unit, does not easily approach an officer of the Lieutenant Colonel rank . . . for any purpose. . . . [T]here is a real concern that religious or traditional soldiers . . . will be afraid to obtain a permit to grow a beard under the stated conditions.

The new directives also provide no exception for soldiers who only refrain from shaving during specific times of the year as prescribed by halacha. Those soldiers will have to go through an arduous process several times a year, and a lieutenant colonel who does not understand or even disdains the halacha may simply reject such requests. The Legal Forum therefore requested that the new directives be clarified to include such exceptions.

About the Author: Daniel Tauber is president of the American Legal Forum for the Land of Israel and a third-year law student at Fordham University. Dr. Avraham Goldstein is executive vice president of the American Legal Forum for the Land of Israel and teaches mathematics at BMCC/CUNY.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The IDF’s War On Beards”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Kreshnik Berisha is not Jewish but played for a German soccer team - before joining ISIS.
German Man on Trial for ISIS Membership Played On Jewish Soccer Team
Latest Indepth Stories
Donny-Fuchs-medium

Originally scheduled to be held elsewhere, the hotel canceled, pressured by local missionary groups

syria_stratfo

It’s likely that some of the rebel factions, including US clients, have indeed made pacts with ISIS

Phyllis Chesler

Imam Tafsirli of the Harlem Islamic center: “You cannot be a Muslim without believing in Jesus”

Gas Pump

If simple fuel choice were implemented, the power of petroleum and those who sell it would cease.

Value of IS: It enables people to see the place to which all other Islamist fascism is headed.

“When Frank does something he does it well and you don’t have to worry about dotting the i’s or crossing the t’s.”

President Obama: “ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents”

he time of the Uman pilgrimage is upon us, and we dare not ignore the opportunity to highlight the danger.

Healing requires that the victim be validated for being harmed and the guilty assume responsibility.

During the war, not once was Hashem’s name mentioned to the nation by Israel’s PM or gov’t officials

How many illegal Arab structures are there in the city? Why are they not being destroyed?

We did not win the war in Gaza because we are still captive to the concept of the 2 state solution.

Trapped in a false notion of power, America will lose the battle in the same way Israel now loses.

It’s a cliché, but nonetheless true that 9/11 changed my life. There is evil in the world. Our grandparents were right.

More Articles from Daniel Tauber and Dr. Avraham Goldstein

An identifying mark of the Jew has been, and for many still is, his beard. The foundation for this is the commandment in the Torah: “You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shall you mar the corners of your beard” (Leviticus 19:27).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-idfs-war-on-beards/2009/04/07/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: