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Max Well

Hair: The Kabbalistic Significance

Part 2

Section II: Spiritual Insights

The path of Kabbala is a profound, yet subtle spiritual path, nestled within the heart of Torah. The mitzvot we will be exploring will distinguish clearly between a person, whose commitment to Torah is limited to the keeping of the letter of the Divine Law, and a person whose commitment soars to the level of passionate harmonization with the spirit of the Divine Law.

Any part of the natural order can be perceived in a variety if ways. Hair, the subject of our exploration here, is no exception. For a scientist, hair is seen and understood in terms of its function in the human body; for a swimmer, in terms of its implications on the speed of the race; and for an advertising executive, as an instrument to attract customers. All these perspectives are understandable, yet far removed from how a Torah practitioner and Kabbalist relates to hair.

Many people today experience and relate to their hair as an important expression of their self and something that is integral to their self-esteem. Thus for moderns, it should be reiterated that the Torah gracefully allows them to keep their hairstyles. This is the case provided the hairstyles conform with basic Torah norms of modesty and with the laws relating to shaving and haircuts that we have seen above and will explain later. There is an element of the Torah, the Tree of Life, that makes space for a spectrum of people who are all in different places along the spiritual path. The disciple of Kabbala, representing the epitome of spiritual aspiration in Torah, seeks from the depths of Torah a way of relating to their hair that brings greater spiritual purpose, understanding and maturation.

When the Arizal teaches that the hair of the head is of the quality of judgment (din), perhaps this is also tacit recognition, in one respect, of the intimate association of hair with ego. For anyone living in the Western world such a connection between hair and ego is beyond need of demonstration. Likewise, is the understanding nothing more than ego limits a person. The hair of the head, located as it is on the top of the human body, can be perceived as the keter (crown) of negative human ego. Interestingly, a woman who expresses the Divine persona of Nukva, is required to cover her hair on the head but is not to eliminate it. In actuality, the opposite is true. She is discouraged from making herself hairless, given the need for her embodiment of a tamed force of din in this world. Women are rooted in the left side of the Tree of Life and correspond to the gevurot (contractive power). Her gevurot need to be contained but not eliminated. Men are rooted in the Right side of the Tree of Life, and find their source in the chasadim; therefore, their gevurot/dinim i.e. the hair of their heads, needs to be eliminated largely but not completely.

In the words of the Zohar (19), “Disruption of spiritual consciousness (tiruf daat) will befall a man who allows his wife to expose her hair; this


Eccles. 7:14.

Num. 6:5.

Rambam, Sefer Mitzvot, Mitzvah 8.

Tomer Devorah.

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 203:7.

Kad HaKemach, Rosh Hashanah Ayin, aleph.

See Shaar Hakavanot, Inyan Chag Hashavuot, for quotation of famous Midrash.

Otzrot Chaim, Derush Adam Kadmon, pg. 6.

Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 2:6 and see Shabbat 156b.

Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 1:1.


E-l is name of G-d associated with the sefira of chesed, and Sha-dai is associated with trust see Ex. 6:3, Rashi ad loc.

Job 19:26.

Derech Hashem 1:3:8.

Gen. 2:25.

Guide for the Perplexed, ch. 2.

Zohar, Parashat Naso 125b-126b.

Section 3: Meditation Instructions

When a man is beginning to have his haircut, he should intend:

1. To fulfill the will of his Maker in not having the corners of his head shaved with a razor.

2. To fulfill the will of his Maker in not having his beard cut by a razor.

Besides these preparatory meditations, he can intend:

1. To remove the judgments (dinim) from his head to the extent that he does.

2. To do the meditation while reflecting on the above gematria of the word toar and name of Hashem.

Throughout the day, a man can attune to his beard, as an expression of the Divine names E-l Sha-Dai. This should not be done in the bathroom or an unclean place. While contemplating, a person can focus on opening his heart in kindness, and developing his inner strength, thus becoming more truly trusted as a vessel for the Divine Will.

A woman, when putting on her hair-covering, can intend to conceal and sweeten her judgments (dinim). She can also contemplate ways in which she can appropriately manifest her inborn quality of gevura (power). Hair, as a clearly sexual dimension of her existence (1), can suggest a meditation focused on the partial concealment of her physical self so that her spiritual self can illuminate creation with greater clarity.

The goal of the Kabbala is the transformation of a human being into a chariot for the Divine. Hair, an aspect of our existence that has been exiled into banality and perversion, in Kabbala is recognized for its spiritual power, properties and potential. Contemporary Jewish spiritual seekers are encouraged to work with this Kabbalistic tradition and experiment with its fruits.