Should Camps Hire a Counselor Who Cuts His Beard?

Rabbi Moshe Wiener, author of the Sefer Hadras Ponim Zokon on the Halachic prohibition of cutting one’s beard, forwarded to us the following letter from the Rebbe to the directors of a summer camp who asked whether it was okay to hire a staff-member who cut his beard.

The following is the Rebbe’s response (Translation by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger):

Regarding the camp: I received comments from several people that the success of the camp would be increased if the counselors would align their external appearance with the [values and principles] that they wish to ingrain within the children. They immediately added that, of course, regarding conducting oneself according to Shulchan Aruch, everything was in order, but several of the counselors did not have a beard. It can be actually seen that the appearance of someone who has a full beard makes an impression on anyone with whom they come in contact, and particularly on children of a young age. Such a person serves as a living example of the image of Jewish spiritual giants which children – and even adults – picture in their minds.

As is well known, an important Rabbinic leader of the general Jewish community brought several arguments against the ruling of the Tzemach Tzedek in his responsa (Yoreh Deah, responsum 93) [which forbids cutting the beard in any manner]. After [his] analytic discussion [of the matter], one of the listeners asked [the Rabbi]: “How did he picture the image of Moshe Rabbeinu, the receiver of the Torah? Did he have a beard?”

Without thinking at length, the Rabbinic leader answered: Of course, he had a beard – even though that explicitly, the Tanach only mentioned Aaron’s beard.

The questioner than asked: If the license to cut one’s beard is so clear in his opinion, why was it so obvious to not only him – but indeed even to non-Jews – that Moshe Rabbeinu had a full grown beard? The logical conclusions of this are obvious.

Our Sages’ adage: “We do not cry out over the past.” In this instance, however, I am focused more on the future than on the past. May it be G-d’s will that these words be accepted according to their intent, for they were meant for your good and the good of your wife in material and spiritual matters.

(Igros Kodesh – Miluyim – 13 Menachem Av 5718)

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50 Comments

  • 1. What about a counselor that wrote:

    doesnt say krias shima on time…or uses nivel peh…
    or speaks loshon horo …the list goes on…we live in a different time now …we cant do this to the next generation or we will have no one left!!

    • 2. get with the program wrote:

      Torah is Timeless

      get with the program, it’s always been difficult–but rewarding.

    • 3. to "what about" wrote:

      Good point. Someone who “doesn’t say krias shima on time…or uses nivel peh…or speaks loshon horo” is not fitting to be a role model for little children in school or camp.

    • 4. Citizen Berel wrote:

      Wow. I always wanted a counselor what doesn’t lein kriash shema speaks nivul peh and doesn’t have a beard.

      K deep breath….there are good bochurim out there and if there were not, than you’d need to shut down camp.

      Do no harm.

    • 5. Kind of Obvious wrote:

      He should say krias shma on time.
      He should not use nibul peh.
      He should not speak lashon harah.

      And he shouldn’t be a counselor until he decides what his priorities are. Children learn from what they observe more than from what they are told.

  • 6. To #1 wrote:

    If someone is externally holy (i.e. has a beard) it is much more likely that he will inwardly refined too. I think statistics will also back this up and show that bochurim with beards don’t sleep in as much.

    • 7. M wrote:

      “statistics”? Which statistics? Show me a study!
      Your opinion that one is more likely to be inwardly refined if they have a beard is complete hogwash!
      Look at all the recent individuals who have molested children. Most if not ALL of them have beards.
      The beard doesnt make the man, his Middos do! Get a life and get over your holier than thou approach in life.

    • 8. K wrote:

      I agree that a beard does not define the man.

      In BMG there are many fine aidel bochurim that have real yiras shomayim and shtayg in learning lishma but they are clean shaven. They make excellent role models.

      There is a concept that a baal tefilsh or baal tokayah shofer should have a beard – provided he has all the other ma’alos and is merutza im hakohol. Even there, the beard is a “bonus”.

      Kal ‘chomer, the maaleh of a beard for a counsellor is a mere “bonus” ) if that is the l’vush / minhag of that group).

    • 9. Milhouse wrote:

      A real yerei shomayim would have a beard — unless he comes from one of those communities where shaving is accepted. The Rebbe wrote that a German shochet without a beard is acceptable, because shaving was accepted in Germany, so it’s not a sign of kalus. But in most Jewish communities shaving is not accepted, and if someone shaves it’s a sign that his yiras shomayim is lacking, and his shechita should not be accepted. Certainly he should not presented to children as a role model.

      The din that a bal tefilah or bal tokeia should have a beard but it isn’t strictly necessary refers to someone who can’t grow a beard, either becuse he’s too young or because of a medical condition; not to someone who shaves!

  • 10. to#1 wrote:

    no
    what the Rebbe says stays forever
    and in terms of the other things you wrote
    there have unfortunately always been people who have done those things
    they are not excusable, but
    they are a separate inyan
    don’t mix the two
    we need counselors who are examples to the campers

  • 11. Oh my God how dumb wrote:

    Wow. A beard?! Seriously?! It doesn’t matter if he’s clean shaven or has a beard. I would much rather have a counselor who shaves/isn’t as frum but is a good person, and is trust worthy, than have a counselor who has a great outward appearance but should never be allowed around kids….if you catch my drift.

    • 12. Ezra wrote:

      Obviously it does matter, since the Rebbe (and halachah) says it does. You’re setting up a false dilemma, as though you can’t have a counselor with a beard who is also “a good person and trustworthy.” The latter is vital, of course, but so is the outward appearance.

  • 13. To Number 1 wrote:

    The Rebbe’s words are forever! ‘…we live in a different time now…’ ….Make that time the Rebbe’s time and live by his words, bring them alive once again!!!

    Moshiach Now!

  • 14. Yosy wrote:

    I was waiting for a comment like this…..I get it, as long as they have a ‘Jewish soul’, it’s okay. Sort of like Aish Hatorah. No need to worry about ‘Chabad lite’, it’ll be a miracle if they’re even religious!

  • 15. Shmully wrote:

    “we live in a different time now …we cant do this to the next generation or we will have no one left!!”

    You are under the assumption that Torah was invented by the Rebbe, and 20 years later it needs to be changed? The Rebbe is quoting the T”T, and referencing back to Moshe Rabeinu – and indeed going back to Moshe is one of the foundations of our faith.

    I find that a lot of people point only to something the Rebbe said, without learning halacha, hadracha…the Rebbe always stressed that (especially Chasidim) should be Shluchan Aruch jews…does the Torah need to be changed? Perhaps we should eliminate certain sections of Vayikra?

    At a time of the 9 days, we should increase in our learning and observance, and not look for reasons (read: excuses) to diminish

  • 16. Fundamental Diffrent wrote:

    Someone who is “Nichshal” with an avaira as bad as this sound but he did not go to buy a shaver (hopefully “Kosher”) and premaditated made his mind and way to cut the 13 tikunei Dikna

  • 20. Yes. wrote:

    Yes.
    Just because he shaves his beard does not make him any less holy.
    Rabbi Wiener should try and learn Torah for good things, not to exclude another yid.

    • 21. Ezra wrote:

      Who said anything about being more or less holy? Every Jew is holy, but in keeping with that holiness there are things that we are allowed to do and things that we are not.

      Nor is it a matter of “excluding” anyone. But life – and Judaism – is about drawing distinctions. אם אין דעה, הבדלה מנין.

  • 22. keeping authentic chabad wrote:

    Anash that accepted the opinion that a beard is something which cant be played with should under no circumstances e hiring counselors who cut it.

  • 24. Parents take note wrote:

    Should you be sending your kids to a daycare or day camp where staff dresses untznius, even if they give the kids a great time with a lot of physical activity.

    • 26. Takeh wrote:

      good. If you won’t grow a beard for religious reasons, then at least grow it to be like the hip yuppies R”L.
      Anyway mi lo l’shma, ba l’shma.

  • 27. beard wrote:

    a beard doesn’t guaranty that a person’s behavior is what it should be.
    in fact because someone dresses the part doesn’t mean they are authentic and live the way they should. Appearances can be deceptive and misleading and just because someone looks frum and talks the talk doesn’t mean they are frum.
    The fact that someone wears a religious ” uniform” doesn’t mean we should trust them with children or trust what they do or say period.

  • 28. can someone explain? wrote:

    Why do they feel or need to cut or trim their beards? when a boy becomes bar mitzvah he changes in the outside. yes beards is one of them and the fact Hashem made that it should be this way, why cut it? i remember reading a story about Baba Sali. he cryed because he didnt have a beard till many years in his life..and one of reasons was because he didnt want pple to think he touched it.

    • 29. Yes wrote:

      Using that logic, why cut our hair, fingernails, or toenails? We don’t cut our beards only because that’s Hashem’s ratzon.

    • 31. K wrote:

      My understanding (although I personally disagree) of the point is, the beard is not a qualification. It is the lack of beard that disqualifies.

      A person can be shomer shabbos but that in itself does not qualify him or her from being a counsellor (e.g. s/he eats treif). But a michalel shabbos is automatically disqualified (because he has a din of a goy regarding many halochos such as disqualifying non-mevushal wine, joining a minyan would need a “kol nidrei” type of “Al da’as” to be mattir him to join etc).

  • 32. Wolfson wrote:

    The seminal source reference for this discussion is the letter of the Rebbe Rashab (cited above #17 by “Ezra”) which is (not a letter to a private individual, but rather) a “Public Announcement” address (not to Lubavitchers, but) to the entire Klal Yisroel. The Rebbe Rashab wrote as follows [translated from the Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Rashab, vol. II p.527]:
    “IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT
    “To our Jewish brethren, ‘believers, children of believers’:
    “Since there are many who permit themselves to cut their beards with scissors, basing it on what is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch and declaring that they are acting thus in accordance with the Halacha as stated in Shulchan Aruch —
    It is our obligation to announce publicly that THEY ARE IN ERROR, for this is absolutely prohibited (ISUR GAMOR) according to the Torah itself (MIDORAYSO), as many of the earlier and later Torah giants (Rishonim and Achronim) have proven and clarified that those doing this transgress several Torah prohibitions (KAMO LAV’VIN)..
    “Everyone is obligated to inform his family members of this severe prohibition (ISUR CHOMUR) so that it not be a root for growth of [spiritual] decay from his family. Everyone should be aware that all the issues about which we wrote were stated in accordance with the dictate of our holy Torah (Daas Torah), and whoever transgresses this should know that the sin is upon his head. And whoever listens to our words here shall be blessed with abundant blessings for all good forever.”

    Please share this halachic statement of the Rebbe Rashab with all those who are contemplating this matter under discussion here.

    • 33. Milhouse wrote:

      This is true, but not everyone in the world has to hold like the Rebbe Nishmoso Eden. It’s important to remember the law that even if we hold something is literally an issur kores, if there is a legitimate opinion that permits it, and there is a community that follows this opinion, this does not affect their status as yir’ei shomayim. We may trust their testimony, eat from their shechita, and even eat at their home from their keilim, relying on stam keilim einom bnei yomom. Beis Hillel even trusted Beis Shammai to tell them which of their children were mamzerim according to BH’s opinion and which were kosher!

      This is why the Rebbe permitted a Lubavitcher community to hire a German shochet without a beard, while a Russian or Polish shochet without a beard would not be allowed. Not because Germans are “allowed” to shave, but because they legitimately hold that they’re allowed.

      This is probably also why the Rebbe made an exception to his usual rule, and was mesader kidushin for Dr Seligsohn a”h before he had a beard.

    • 34. K wrote:

      …just as our community holds that cholev stam is 100% legitimately muttar.

      Other poskim hold that gelatin made from treif animal bones is 100% legitimately allowed.

      Other great poskim legitimately hold that rennet made from milk by-products is parave.

      So where do you draw the line???

    • 35. Milhouse wrote:

      You don’t. So long as it’s a legitimate opinion, someone who follows it is a kosher Jew, and you may eat his shechita, at his house, from his keilim, relying that min hastam they’re not bnei yomon. You can’t eat the thing that you hold is treif and he holds is kosher, but you can trust him when he tells you that it’s not in what he’s serving you.

    • 36. K wrote:

      Glad to hear that “you don’t” draw a line.

      Some follow the cherem HaGra and consider it in full force and effect. The cherem HaGra is “a legitimate opinion”.

    • 37. Milhouse wrote:

      No, those are not “legitimate opinions”. The GRA made a big mistake and acted against halacha. He meant it lesheim shomayim, but those who know the truth and yet trumpet the cherem have no excuse and they are resha’im gemurim.

    • 38. K wrote:

      So…you decide who is or isn’t legitimate. It doesn’t matter the acceptance by mainstream of the frum klal (as the GRA). It is you who decides who is “legitimate” and therefore worthy to be followed, even when you may disagree with their shitos. Wow, that is an eye opener!

      Do you think the previous Satmar Rebbe is “legitimate” enough to follow on his shitos against Eretz Yisroel, learning CHabad chassidus or Mivitzoyim (- he openly was against mivtza tefillin and other out reach activities of Chabad)?

      Are “legitimate” sources only the shitos that you can can tolerate?

      Is Harav Kook views on religious Zionism “legitimate”?

      Is Harav Soloveitchik view on Modern Orthodoxy “legitimate”?

      Is Chacham Ovadya Yossef “legitimate” when he held “land for peace” is okay?

      What about Harav Samson Refael Hirsh’s views on Toran im Derech Eretz – is that “legitimate”?

      Is there an official list of which gedolim are legitimate?!

    • 39. Milhouse wrote:

      1. Minority opinions in halocho by genuine poskim are legitimate. Beis Shammai had the right to hold that a tzoras ervoh is subject to yibum, so even though the halocho is that it’s forbidden, and the children they produced from such marriages were mamzerim, they could still be trusted. The Rhinish Jews had the right to follow Rabbenu Yoel’s opinion that the fat adhering to the bottom of the stomach is permitted, so even though the halacha is that it’s an issur kores, one could still eat at their homes.

      In the same way we can say that although the GRA’s cherem was a huge mistake, he thought he was right so it did not affect his status as a yerei shomayim, and he remained kosher le’eidus. But it doesn’t change the fact that it was a huge mistake, just as the Beis Shammai children produced from yibum of tzoras ervoh were mamzerim, and just as the Rhinish Jews were still eating chelev. And one nowadays who knows the facts and still decides to champion this purported “cherem” has no such excuse, and is a rosho gomur, posul le’eidus, and one can’t trust that everything in his home is kosher.

      As R Chaim Brisker said, those who were misnagdim lesheim shomayim learned that they were mistaken and stopped being misnagdim, so the only ones left are those who were never lesheim shomayim in the first place, but were always just מחרחרי ריב.

      Someone who genuinely believes that mivtza tefilin is wrong, for whatever reason, is free not to participate. Nobody is trying to force him. But he has no right to criticize those who do it because it’s right. Even leshitaso he has to acknowledge that they have the right to disagree with him. But the bottom line is that both those who accept R Yoel’s opinions on the medinah and those who accept R Kook’s are acting legitimately, and retain their chezkas kashrus. One may eat both at a Satmar home and at the home of a devoted religious zionist, and if one were presented with a get witnessed by R Kook and R Amrom Blau it would be kosher, even though mimo nafshoch at least one of them was wrong. However those so-called “Neturei-Kartaniks” who make common cause with the enemy are not following a legitimate opinion, they are traitors to the Jewish people, just like Agripas and Josephus y”sh, or the Yevsektzia, Kapos, and Judenraten y”sh, and until they do teshuvah their status is like goyim. Reb Amrom would have thrown them out of NK.

    • 40. K wrote:

      “The GRA made a big mistake and acted against halacha.”

      If a Rebbe does not make make a mistake or go aganst halacha, kal v’chomer, neither does the GRA!

      Would you write such chutzpah against the Chofetz Chaim – that he made a mistake or went against halacha?

      Would you write such chutzpah about R’ Akiva Eiger, the Chasam Sofer, the Chazon Ish?

      Never!

      How dare you write so against the GRA???!!!

    • 41. Milhouse wrote:

      I “dare” to write it, because it’s a FACT. The GRA did a terrible aveira, one for which he deserved to be put in such a strong cherem that his neshomo would have been cut off from its source and he would have felt compelled to shmad. But the Alter Rebbe was moser nefesh to save him from this cherem, because it would have been a chilul hashem, and because he believed that the GRA truly thought he was acting lesheim shomayim.

      The GRA had no right to do what he did. He violated halacha in several ways. But he meant well, and as soon as he was in the World of Truth he realised his mistake. You are doing him no credit by defending it.

    • 42. K wrote:

      “The GRA did a terrible aveira, one for which he deserved to be put in such a strong cherem that his neshomo would have been cut off from its source and he would have felt compelled to shmad.”

      Let me get this straight – you are saying that the GRA was:
      (1) a ba’al aveira,
      (2) deserves to be in cherem,
      (3) is chayov kores, AND
      (4) would have been Oved Avodah Zara – shmad.

      And you write this not as a raving lunatic’s opinion, but as a “FACT”.

      I will use one of your “standard” replies:

      Prove it!!

      Show a (reliable) source to substantiate your “FACT”!!!

      Because without a source, it is mere raving of a lunatic.

    • 43. K wrote:

      “as soon as [the GRA] was in the World of Truth he realised his mistake”

      Really???

      Where do you get this stuff from?

      Did someone from the World of Truth send you a memo?

      Is this something you made up, personally witnessed or hallucinated?

    • 44. Milhouse wrote:

      Let me get this straight – you are saying that the GRA was:
      (1) a ba’al aveira,
      (2) deserves to be in cherem,
      (3) is chayov kores, AND
      (4) would have been Oved Avodah Zara – shmad.

      And you write this not as a raving lunatic’s opinion, but as a “FACT”.

      That his cherem was a terrible avera needs no proof. Everyone except you and your lunatic teachers agree that it was wrong. He 1) accepted false witnesses, 2) outside the presence of the accused, and 3) indeed never bothered hearing from the accused. These are all serious offenses. Then he issued a false cherem against talmidei chachamim, which the halacha is clear is itself an offense that deserves cherem.

      The story of the proposed cherem against the GRA, and that it would have driven him to shmad, is well known and documented in many impeccable sources. For two examples, see Likutei Diburim vol 2, starting at p 516; or Reshimas Hayomon p 177.

      Take note that on this forum, at least, these sources may not be challenged. They are absolutely true, and if you find a sefer that contradicts them it is automatically discredited. In particular, don’t even bother citing anything by that notorious liar Boruch Epstein.

    • 45. K wrote:

      Is their no end to your howling at the full moon? Now you are calling the author of the Chumash Torah Temima Rav Boruch Epstein…a liar? (Unless you mean the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to Illinois who holds the same name). Who else of Gedolei Yisroel do you consider illegitimate? What about:

      Rav Boruch Epstein’s father, the Aruch Hashulchan?
      The Chayay Adom?
      The Stipler Goan?
      The Chazon Ish?
      Rav Hutner?
      Rav Ahron Kotler?
      Rav Shlomo Goren?
      Chacham Ovadya Yossef?

      These among many other Gedolim had no kind words to say about chassidim, especially Chabad.

      Where they all misled by false witnesses?

    • 46. Milhouse wrote:

      Yes, Boruch Epstein, author of that worthless commentary “Torah Temimah”, was a serial liar. Not a word he wrote is worth beleiving. The Torah Temimah is a nice chumash, and has a useful collection of maamorei chazal above the line, but looking below the line at his own commentary is a waste of time. Publishers could save ink and paper by cutting it off at the line.

      I’m not going to go through your list one at a time, but there is a lot to say about each of them. I’m not surprised that you imagine they are the greatest of the great, but they are all in the עולם הפוך now.

  • 47. Wolfson wrote:

    The difference between other “heterim” and cutting the beard is clear. Other “heterim” are viewed by the sources of the heter as “l’chatchila.” Regarding cutting the beard with scissors, the Rebbe explains that “The differences of opinion [among the Rabbis] involve only whether leniency can be granted due to perceived duress and whether the prohibition is Scriptural or Rabbinic” (Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XII, pg. 206; Igros Kodesh, Vol. XXII, pg. 490, See there where the Rebbe writes further: “According to the Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek and many halachic authorities who preceded him and followed him, [trimming the beard] involves a clear Scriptural prohibition”).

    • 48. Milhouse wrote:

      There are those who permit shaving lechatchila, and there are communities who accept those opinions. Ours is just not one of them.

  • 50. Litvish View wrote:

    In response to the comments suggesting that the non-Chasidic, Litvish gedolim believe that it is acceptable for Jews to cut their beards –

    Following is the view of the recognized “Gadol Hador” of the Litvishe world, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, quoted from his sefer Orchos Yosher (perek 5):

    “The Gemora (Shabbos 152a) states: “Hadras Ponim — the splendor of the countenance — means a beard.” 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. Targum Yonoson states that one who does this transgresses the prohibition of “A man shall not wear woman’s dress,” which means even if he cuts his beard using scissors. Sefer Hachinuch states the same, adding that one transgresses also the prohibition of “You shall not follow their [non-Jewish] rules.” This is quoted by the Chofetz Chayim in his Sefer Hamitzvos Hakotzer (Prohibitions 177). He [the Chazon Ish] once said that when someone who removes his beard..comes in to see him, he feels so sick that he almost vomits..”

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