Resilience Without Intolerance

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    While it is a natural reaction for young people to apply their learning and hadrocha to what they see being done by other groups or individuals and think that said people are in violation of halacha/hashkofa, it is the responsibility of mechanchim to not engender intolerance for other valid Torah groups who do not “fir zich” like they do.

    While that is clearly not a viable educational option, the desire to educate children in a “breitkeit” where they are aware of every groups’ practices is not practical; it’s simply too time consuming, and it also can diminish the enthusiasm of keeping certain inyonim that they may emphasize while other groups completely ignore, such as washing negel vasser by one’s bed.

    I started thinking about this issue quite a lot over yom tov, as I had a long conversation with a very promising young bochur. I had mentored him in previous years, when he had wanted to learn gemara on a higher level than his class; he was frustrated at the lack of iyun and lomdus in his Yeshiva, and he enjoyed how I explained to him a certain tosfos. While living in an area where there were both litvishe and chasidishe yidden, he saw his neighbors learning birkas shmuels, ketzos and the like. Since I have a beard and I speak yiddish, his father was fine with me teaching him, and his very intelligent son was very happy to learn with me. We didn’t discuss hashkofa very much, but he seemed to be a very well adjusted, healthy chasidishe bochur.

    During this last conversation, something about him was different. We spoke in learning, but he was distant, far more on the giving end of the conversation without listening very much. Somehow it came up that I didn’t always have a beard, and that I only started growing one when I was 20. He said very plainly that there is a “pasuk” that says that if one even trims his beard that it is an issur deoraysoh, and that there is a mitzvas asei to have a beard. I told him that it is very important for him to have a beard, but that he should realize that a very large portion of klal yisroel does not believe it is necessary, and that in some yeshivos, single men are even discouraged from doing so (mine obviously was not one of them). They believe that is is an inyan, a spiritually significant practice that has its time and place. Others, including my rebbeim, held that it is generally a good thing and part of the tzurah of a Jew, but that trimming it is only a kabalah-oriented issue and does not concern average or even above average bnei Torah. I offered to show him the relevant sugyos in shas through the rishonim, down to the psak in shulchan aruch that cutting with scizzors, even when the effect resembles a razor, is permitted. The only issur is with a razor itself. Some poskim, including the tzemach tzedek, hold that the kabalistic reasons are important enough for it to enter the realm of halachik imperative, while most others do not. There were also opinions that held that if one removed his beard entirely, regardless of methodology, it would be assur because of lo yilbash – feminine beautification, but that too was rejected by the majority of poskim.

    He answered simply that it is an issur deoraysoh and that gedolei Lita were simply unaware of this in their youth and all did/do teshuva when they get older and learn all about how it is assur medoraysoh. He then went into a lengthy disorganized discussion of how he thought psak halacha works, that dayanim routinely overrule shulchan aruch and that we are duty bound to follow what they say.

    I told him that he and everyone else can learn halacha; it is accessible to all, not only those who have undergone training in psak (I didn’t get into details of my own training and experience in psak). When specific shailos arise, poskim apply their expertise, but we are not to accuse one part of klal yisroel of “violating an issur deoraysoh” because the poskim of another group say that something is forbidden.

    I mean no animosity at all towards the chassidishe world and its chinuch; the same thing happens in the reverse very often – litvishe boys will think that chassidim are in violation of halacha in old practices such as davening late, etc..

    Yet if this boy were taught that the yeshiva’s insistence on his having a beard was kabalistic and chasidish in essence and not halachik, he might think it’s not very important.

    My question is, how can we train youth to be enthusiastic and resilient in their given mesorah, without teaching them things that aren’t true about their own or others’ practices?

    Reb Eliezer

    I heard from my Rav, Rav Pollak in Staten Island that the first day there was also separation. The light and darkness is good when separated but not water and water on the second day.


    Avira, off topic, how and when did you learn Yiddish?


    I picked it up gradually from friends in yeshiva and shiurim; some of the shiurim and shmuzen were in yiddish, which made me motivated to learn it. I also wanted to learn it because I was/am close to a chasidish rebbeh who mainly speaks yiddish. I’m not fluent, but i can talk in learning in yiddish without much of an issue


    before i answering lets be clear:In places the Torah forbids a man to cut his facial hair:

    “You shall not round off the corner of your head, and you shall not destroy the edge of your beard.” Then in the context of the laws of the Kohanim: “…nor shall they shave the edge of their beard…”

    Noting that the Torah uses the Hebrew words for “shaving” and “destruction,” the Gemareh understands that the punishable offense in the Torah is shaving with a razor, in those days the only technique to fully destroy the hair.

    How about trimming with a scissors, or otherwise cutting the beard but not achieving a clean shave? Many (starting with the Sefer Hachinuch) understand that the Rambam would consider such an act to be assur but not punishable.

    There are halachic authorities (including the Tzemach Tzedek) who teach that, in addition to the issue of destroying the beard, cutting the facial hair of a man has the problem of Lo silbash, which is assur.The Rambam teaches that the reason the Torah forbade the destruction of the beard is because shaving was a practice of ancient idol-worshippers.In addition, Kabbalah attaches great importance to the beard, teaching that the “thirteen locks” of the beard are representative of Hashems thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Growing a beard makes one a beneficiary of the bounty which originates from Hashems compassion.Traditionally, Jews throughout the ages wore beards in order to not even come close transgressing the Torah’s command. This was true in Eastern Europe, where the vast majority of Jews grew full beards until the mid-nineteenth century.
    As the winds of “enlightenment” spread to Eastern Europe, many people felt that WEARING A BEARD LABELD THEM AS BACKWARSD AND OLD-FASHIONED. Many Torah leaders, including the Chafetz Chaim, protested this change. Chassidim were in general less swayed by the modernization taking place around them, as is evident in their dress. Therefore, they—for the most part—did not feel compelled to shave their beards. In addition, the Kabbalistic reason mentioned above made the practice of growing a beard much more precious to them.LETS BE CLEAER: BEARDS STOPPED BECAUSE OF THE HASKALAH!!!! ALL GEDOLEM HAVE BEARDS!!!! SO YES!!! CHASSIDEM WANT TO HOLD ON TO THEIR HOLY UNBROCKEN MESORAH, AND WHILE THERE MAY BE HETEREM TO SHAVE, CHASSIDEM ARENT GUNNU TEACH THAT!!!! FOR GOOD REASON!!! WERE TRYING TO HOLD ON TO OUR HEILIGEH MESORAH AND BY MAKING IT CLEAR THIS IS HOW IT IS WE STAY STRONG!! ANI CHOMAH!!!!

    Reb Eliezer

    Shaving a beard according to the holy Chasam Sofer whose yahr tzeit is tomorrow on the 25th of Tishri as indicated in his teshuva O’CH 159 is not such a big deal as long as stubles are left.


    Choosid, a razor was not the only way of destroying a beard – fingers can do that too. A razor is the only instrument that accomplishes destruction (hashchasa) and giluach (shaving). Plucking with a finger only does the former. A scizor is derech giluach, but not hashchasa, and is therefore allowed.

    As for the removal of a beard not having precedent; that’s demonstratively false. The entire Italian school of mekubalim, including the ramak and ramchal, held specifically to remove the beard, contending that one is not holy enough in chutz laaretz to have it. The hamon am amongst them didn’t have beards simply because they were not taught that it was necessary.

    Shulchan aruch and the nosei keilim do not agree with the chinuch; we simply don’t pasken like him. By “we” I don’t mean litvish, i mean normative halachik jurisprudence does not prioritize rishonim who have not been cited by leading achronim.

    While the quotes you cite are mostly accurate, the only ones that I can see as relevant are the tzemach tzedek and the chinuch. Teaching that one who does not follow the tzemach tzedek, and for instance, follows the mechaber and rema, are in violation of Torah is not beneficial to anyone… neither the talmid nor the non-chasidish jews he will encounter and look down upon in his lifetime.

    It is true that the non-chasidish world gave up beards for the wrong reasons. That doesn’t mean that the ones who followed them afterwards, and continued that practice without that bad intention – not wanting in the least to intermingle with goyim or be involved with haskola – are likewise guilty. It is for this reason that many heiligeh yeshivos forbade bochurim to have beards. Once the practice( along with short jackets and other imports) became the norm, it no longer represented a defection or modernity. As such, if one had a beard, his reasons were scrutinized – is he worthy of doing something that only choshuve people did? The middah of gaavah is called a toe’va; Hashem hates it, and the yeshivos held that gaavah is a far more egregious malady than removing one’s beard in a permitted way.

    Every sect of klal yisroel has things that make them stronger and outstanding; things that other groups do not emphasize. Litvishe bnei torah and even rosh yeshivos without beards (like rav laib malin) were completely fenced off from haskalah, because they fought it with learning torah and mussar. Chasidim chose to emphasize the externals far more, and to encourage strong communal ties that will shield one from the outside. Both groups desired the same thing, but had different methods of achieving it.

    Which do you think is a stronger bulwark against assimilation – A bochur in slabodka without a beard who spent his entire day immersed in learning and davening and never even encounters a goy, or a bochur who goes to work at 18 and has to deal with goyishe workers everyday, while learning a little at night and going to tish every shabbos?

    Many have said that chasidus worked better for the hamon am, the general population who could not or would not sit and learn all day. I agree that chasidim had and still have a higher retention rate than others, but I also believe that Litvishe might be more sensitive to the finer points of assimilation, in how goyishe ideas may infiltrate while dressed up in vayser zakin.

    I’m not saying chasidim are wrong; I’m saying that there is merit in both approaches.

    Just as an aside, because we don’t use taamei mitzvos in halacha for the most part, the rambam you quoted would be a smach for the matirim, since nowadays it’s not part of avodah zara to shave; aderabah, many religions lehavdil require their clergy to have beards.


    Choosid is also echoing the exact issue I’m getting at; the beard is just an example of how one group can take their shitos and bash another in an effort to strengthen their stances, which may or may not have sound, concrete halachik merit aside from hashkofa.

    The Litvishe approach to working vs learning is similar, although the benefits of sitting and learning seem to be a lot more important than a beard in my opinion..we also have sources which promote being supported, having women work, and and taking tzedaka to learn, but chasidim ignore them because that was not the norm in many parts of Europe.

    My question was and is, how can we preserve the strengths of our mesoros (separation from goyim, or sitting and learning day and night) without looking down on those who emphasize other elements of avodas Hashem?

    I forgot to mention that I also don’t think shulchan aruch would say that scizzors which look like the effects of a razor would be allowed if no one did it at all in his time or previously. My guess is that it depended on the community.


    Avira, a good question. I would think anyone who learns would encounter numerous discussions in the Gemorah where multiple opinions and schools are respected and analyzed. Maybe Beis Hillel gives you a way forward by first explaining the opposite shitah.

    Furthermore, it is a halakha that you often need to follow other minhagim, at least chumros, when visiting/davening with other groups. This requires knowing them to certain extent.

    A practical question is how and when to introduce kids to other minhagim. Maybe the best would be for the kids to see their parents being respectful when interacting with others. Highlight to them what you learned from Chasidishe/Litvishe/Sepahrdishe/Modernishe friend or Rav or sefer …


    Learning about customs, minhagim, hashkafos and/or mesoras other than one’s own is not something properly taught to children, for the many risks you outlined in your OP. As such, such education and becoming familiar with others practices is appropriately left to be learnt once a person is older.


    ujm > is appropriately left to be learnt once a person is older.

    from whom? If everyone in school insists that it is their way or highway, then they’ll stay the same as adults. I am not sure though what they are learning that they are not aware of opinion diversity. If they are not learning Gemorah that is full of opinions, they may be at least learning Sh’A that is a Sephardi sefer with Ashkenazi notes.

    🍫Syag Lchochma

    “If everyone in school insists that it is their way or highway”

    That’s not educating, that’s indoctrination. If a school is doing that, switch schools. If you live oot, as you’ve said, I highly doubt that that is what they’re doing.


    You can generically teach children that other Yidden have varying minhagim on different points in Yiddishkeit. You needn’t get granular by specifying and teaching customs that aren’t your own.


    Syag > That’s not educating, that’s indoctrination.

    I was responding to previous suggestions that kids learn only their way is right at school and learn the rest after. Your point is well taken. I was able to send kids to an elementary school that was sufficiently good at not fully disrespecting others. But I think parental example is even more important than school. I regularly take kids to different types of events or quote different sources. When I was younger, I would quote Misnagdim to Chasidim and Chasidim to Misnagdim 🙂

    Reb Eliezer

    Rac Moshe ztz’l in Igros Moshe explains how to raise children. First, half persperation, by putting the personal effort into it, and then half inspiration, to pray to Hashem that it should bear fruits.

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