Photo Credit: Jewish Press
Yitzchok Sprung

If we close our eyes and picture peyos, the ringlets of a chassid may quickly come to mind. Perhaps peyos bespeak a special piety. However, all Jewish males must have peyos, and ringlets or not, we all claim to serve Hashem by keeping them.

What are they really about? To make us look respectable (Bechor Shor)? Separate us from paganism (Ralbag)? Regulate how we express ourselves in mourning (Ibn Ezra)? Perhaps something deeply mystical (Ari)? The commentators give many suggestions and I confess that I’m not sure.

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But I do know that whatever place they hold in pop culture and our minds, we will not find a particular correspondence between peyos and piety in our Chumashim. Rather, we will find attempts to forge and strengthen our relationship with Hashem through the study, performance, and experience of Torah. Piety will come not from a particular custom or approach to peyos, but from how we pursue G-d through Torah. And that – whatever approach grabs you – is the main point.

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Yitzchak Sprung is the Rabbi of United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston (UOSH). Visit our facebook page or UOSH.org to learn about our amazing community.