If you’re a regular customer in our cafe in Ferndale and you’ve been around for the last two weeks, you may have noticed quite a bit of hair forming on my usually clean shaven face. There are three reasons for this new development.
Exodus from Egypt to Mourning:
From the second day of Passover to the holiday of Shavuot (the Festival of Weeks), 49 days later, it is traditional to refrain from shaving or getting a haircut. In addition, Jewish weddings or any other happy occasions are not scheduled during this time for many reasons. Many calamities have befallen Jews throughout history during this period. In the Middle Ages, one of the most learned Rabbis, Rabbi Akiva, led a seminary with thousands of rabbinical students. According to Jewish tradition, a plague tore through the school, killing thousands of students because the students were too competitive. They weren’t studying for the sake of teaching about how to live a good life, they were studying to be better than their fellow students. During periods of mourning, Jews do not shave or get haircuts. Therefore, we use this time between Passover and Shavuot as a time of mourning to contemplate how to live a life of good deeds. In truth, bad things have happened to Jews throughout history during different times of the year, so why emphasize this particular calamitous time? The answer is connected to the next reason for not shaving.
Being worthy of receiving a gift:
Another reason for not shaving is found in the weeks before Shavuot. On Shavuot, we remember the revelation on Mt. Sinai where we received the Torah, the five books of Moses. Therefore, these seven weeks are meant for self-reflection, thinking about how we can improve our communities and our lives. We are preparing ourselves for receiving the Ten Commandments again because according to Jewish tradition, all of the generations before us and all of the generations after us were present at the time of receiving the Torah. During Passover, G-d saves us from the Egyptians and redeems us from slavery and then we prepare ourselves to be worthy and capable of receiving G-d’s law. Historically, we just escaped slavery and we need some time to grow as free people, and as a free community. This is really the main reason why I cease shaving during this period. The act of not shaving helps me reflect on my life- my personal vision statement as well as my personal mission statement. Where am I going, and what do I want to do when I grow up? (These questions happen to be the subject of the book that I’m writing)
The third reason for not shaving is simply, I can! When you first create your business and then several years of hard work later, you need to look clean-cut and dress the part of an entrepreneur. Many parts of your business grow from first impressions because you haven’t had enough time for credibility and profitability to develop. That first impression is what drives your business at first.
It’s also important to shake things up in your life. Growing my beard is one way that forces me to look at life differently. Should I do anything different personally or professionally? How can I improve my life and the lives of those around me?
Finally, one of the most important reasons for growing my beard is the educational aspect. It’s a way to share with you and with my friends, coffee customers and congregants, the various levels of understanding that I have about the world. Even after reading this explanation, feel free to say: “Hey Frank, did you lose your razor?”