Mesiras Nefesh for the Beard: New Publication Unveils a Compelling Chronicle of Self-Sacrifice



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    Shifra Vepua

    Mesiras Nefesh for the Beard: New Publication Unveils a Compelling Chronicle of Self-Sacrifice

    There is a mistaken notion by some in the frum community that growing the beard is a chassidic conduct, limited to those with a high level of piety and commitment. A newly published compilation by Rabbi Moshe Nissan Wiener debunks this myth • Full Article

    There is a mistaken notion by some in the frum community that growing the beard is a chassidic conduct, limited to those with a high level of piety and commitment. A newly published compilation by Rabbi Moshe Nissan Wiener debunks this myth. Titled “Mesiras Nefesh to Preserve the Beard,” the Hebrew booklet is a compelling testament to the attitude of Jews throughout the ages to go to great lengths to preserve the beard, even in the face of unimaginable hardship and persecution.

    The publication makes it clear that Jews throughout history—be it the tailor or the scholar, the water-carrier or the rabbi—viewed their beard as an integral part of their very identity. It was easier for them to imagine living without a hand or leg than without a beard! Persecuted from all sides, suffering from poverty and hardship—their assets were not gold or silver but their tzelem Elokim (the image of HaShem in man – how the beard is referred to throughout Torah literature).

    Rabbi Wiener uncovers a rich tapestry of chronicles that reflect a Jew’s unwavering determination to uphold the preservation of the beard. At the time of the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdosh, Jews were prepared to be beheaded rather than remove their beards. During the Crusades, one of the Rishonim ruled that one may disguise himself from the marauding invaders by donning non-Jewish clothing, but one may not remove his beard. In Nazi-occupied Europe, knowing that going outdoors might involve forced beard-cuttings, many stayed indoors, enduring hunger and privation to preserve their beards. Jews would wrap the lower half of their faces with a scarf, feigning toothaches to avoid being caught with a beard.

    In the Kovno ghetto, the Litvish gaon, Rav Avraham DovBer Kahana Shapiro, last chief rabbi of Kovno, preferred to be killed rather than remove his beard. And when Gestapo agents attempted to remove the beard of the Kapishnitzer Rebbe, he stretched out his fingers and declared valiantly, “Rather cut off my fingers, but don’t touch my beard.”

    The book’s Table of Contents highlights the breadth of this awe-inspiring mesiras nefesh:

    1. Chapters One through Four: Self-Sacrifice Amidst Persecution. Dive into the compelling accounts of Jews throughout the ages who faced persecution, and yet clung to their beards as an integral part of their identity. Chapters Three and Four showcase the heroic efforts of those who fought against all odds to preserve their beards during the horrors of the Holocaust and the dark days of Soviet Russia.
    2. Chapters Five and Six: Withstanding Outside Pressure. Discover how Jewish individuals, from all walks of life, stood firm in their commitment to their beards, despite overwhelming outside pressure and societal norms (such as those prevalent in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century) that urged them to conform.
    3. Chapters Seven and Eight: Beard and Family. These two chapters explore the proper approach toward keeping one’s beard in the face of disagreements with parents or difficulties in marital harmony.
    4. Chapter Nine: In the Line of Duty. Maintaining the beard even when serving in the military (e.g., the Russian Imperial Army and the Armed Forces of the United States) [including the recently discovered position statement of the Lubavitcher Rebbe regarding this issue].

    “This new publication is a timely reminder of the extraordinary lengths to which ordinary Jewish individuals have gone to maintain this vital element of Yiddishkeit,” says Rabbi Wiener, who also authored Hadras Ponim Zokon, an encyclopedic classic documenting the halachic perspective on shaving the beard. “These stories serve as a testament to a Jew’s steadfastness to preserve his beard despite all odds.”

    To further extend the publication’s reach, efforts are underway to secure sponsorship for an English translation, making it accessible to a broader audience. Please contact  [email protected] for sponsorship opportunities.

    To purchase the Hebrew booklet (at a nominal price), please visit Amazon  https://a.co/d/4EVar0A

    To view this publication on-line at no cost, click here.

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    Mesiras Nefesh for the Beard: New Publication Unveils a Compelling Chronicle of Self-Sacrifice



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