What is the Mesorah of the Litvishe Torah Community Regarding Maintaining a Beard and Shaving?

In the 1890s, when the trend to shave the beard was gaining popularity in the Litvish regions of Lithuania and Russia and beyond (due to various secular influences*), the Chofetz Chaim zt’l published Kuntres Tiferes Odom. In this volume, the Chofetz Chaim systematically and vigorously refuted all the various justifications being advanced to defend removal of the beard and asserted (in his introductory remarks) that “it is a great mitzvah for the entire Jewish people to reinforce this observance and refrain from trimming the beard even with scissors.” [In contradistinction to common presumption that the accepted Litvish practice is to be beardless, the Chofetz Chaim attests in the first chapter of this work that, until that time, only “one in a thousand” shaved their beards]. Recently, much discussion has appeared in various widely-publicized forums on the topic of maintaining a beard. Is maintaining a beard a halachic imperative or a Kabbalistic/Chassidic stringency? Many individuals have expressed varied and often conflicting opinions and assumptions regarding this issue (especially regarding the position of the Litvish and other Gedolim). Following this precedent of the Chofetz Chaim (and in the spirit of “know how to respond….” in Pirkei Avos 2:14), a new volume has been prepared for publication to dispute and refute the various arguments and sources utilized by some in defense of shaving. Entitled Authoritative Responses to Common Misconceptions (and compiled by Rabbi Moshe Nisan Wiener, author of sefer Hadras Ponim Zokon and sefer Kvuda Bas Melech), this publication presents (in 25 chapters) various claims and contentions which have been advanced in defense of shaving and demonstrates that they are often based on erroneous assertions and misrepresentations of sources. It is hoped that the publication of this comprehensive volume will provide clarification and alleviate some of the confusion surrounding this issue. *As attested to by the Gadol Hador, Hagaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita, in his sefer Orchos Yosher (chapter 5): “Throughout our history, it has been a disgrace for anyone not to have a beard. It is only in recent generations that some have started to treat this irreverently, having learned this from the non-Jews.” For numerous addition sources documenting this fact, see chapter 17 in this new volume and sefer Hadras Ponim Zokon section 2 chapter 4 at length. Click here to purchase the sefer    Click here to purchase the sefer Sponsorship opportunities are available to support the costs which are required to print and widely disseminate this volume. Please contact [email protected] Authoritative Responses to Common Misconceptions may be viewed (at no charge) by clicking here. To review individual chapters, following is the table of contents with active links to each chapter (which can be accessed by clicking the chapter name): Preface: ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 3 Chapter 1: Glaring Omission I: What is the position of the non Chassidic Gedolim regarding maintaining a beard and shaving? …………………………………………….. 7 Chapter 2: Glaring Omission II: What is the position of the non Chassidic Poskim and Roshei Yeshiva  concerning all electric shavers? …………………………………………………………….. 13 Chapter 3: Was it appropriate to publish the sefer Hadras Ponim Zokon? …………………….. 20 Chapter 4: Is Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski zt’l a valid source to permit electric shavers? …. 23 Chapter 5: Is Rav Ovadia Yosef zt’l a valid source to permit electric shavers? ……………….. 27 Chapter 6: Is Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin zt’l a valid source to permit electric shavers?……… 29 Chapter 7: Is Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt’l a valid source to permit electric shavers?………….. 32 Chapter 8: Is Shaalos u’Teshuvos Tirosh v’Yitzhar a valid source to permit electric shavers? ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 34 Chapter 9: Is Rav Avrohom Yitzchok HaKohen Kook zt’l a valid source to permit electric shavers? ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 36    Chapter 10: Is the Chasam Sofer’s statement about the Rama of Fano a valid basis to permit shaving the beard?………………………………………………………………………………. 40 Chapter 11: Did Rav Elyashiv zt’l consider electric shavers to be a sofek prohibition or a vadai?………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 44 Chapter 12: Is the opinion of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l an adequate basis to permit electric  shavers? …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 46 Chapter 13: Is it accurate to say that only the Israeli Gedolim prohibited electric shavers and not the American Gedolim? ………………………………………………………………….. 55 Chapter 14: Is it accurate to say that the Tzemach Tzedek halachically prohibited only total removal of the beard but not trimming?………………………………………………….. 59 Chapter 15: Is it true that the Chasam Sofer discounted the kabbalistic basis to prohibit shaving the beard?…………………………………………………………………………………….. 65 Chapter 16: What is the significance of the beard according to Kabbalah? ………………….. 67 Chapter 17: What is the mesorah of the Litvishe Torah community regarding maintaining a beard and shaving?………………………………………………………………………………… 74 Chapter 18: Are electric shavers really forbidden according to the Chofetz Chaim zt’l?….. 78 Chapter 19: Did the son-in-law of the Chofetz Chaim write that shaving machines are permissible? ………………………………………………………………….. 85 Chapter 20: What was the position of Rav Aharon Kotler zt’l concerning shaving and electric shavers? …………………………………………………………………………………………… 87 Chapter 21: The Tzemach Tzedek writes that the transgression of lo yilbash is relevant to cutting the beard. Is his position accepted or rejected by the Poskim? ……………… 93 Chapter 22: Shaving the Beard: A Preparation for Rosh Hashanah?! …………………………… 102 Chapter 23: Should Electric Shavers Be Given To Those Who Remove Their Beard With Razors? ………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 106 Chapter 24: Are Concerns for “Ga’avah” and “Yuhara” Valid Reasons to Shave the Beard? ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 114 Chapter 25: What is the position of the Gedolim of the Sephardim regarding the beard and shaving? …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 117 Additional Challenges for Further Study ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….121 Addendum: ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….123 Epilogue: Why Does Mame Rochel Cry? ……………………………………………………………… 126