On the roof of the Aish center looking down at the Western Wall with Chevra & Davai in 2011

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Torah Thought: Parsha Mikeitz

In last weeks, parsha, Vayeishev, the Torah says that Joseph was handsome of form and handsome of appearance. The great commentator, Rashi, says that this means Joseph started to see himself in a position of authority and started to eat, drink and curl his hair. Rashi says that the holy One Blessed is He said “Your father is mourning and you curl your hair?” and this led to the troubles with Portifer’s wife.

For some reason, my 5 year old son though there was something hysterical about Joseph curling his hair and for the past week has been running around, making a silly voice, and saying “Look at me. I’m curling my hair.” My laughter probably encourages him.

On a serious note, it seems like Joseph’s attention to his appearance was not looked favorably in heaven. In this week’s parsha, when Joseph was summoned by Pharaoh, Rashi says that he shaved his hair out of respect for royalty. After meeting Pharaoh, Joseph quickly becomes appointed Viceroy (second in command) of Egypt.

As soon as I read about the shaving, I thought to myself… could there be a correlation between Joseph’s troubles & good luck and what Joseph did with his hair?

It may sound a little strange at first, but let’s refresh ourselves on the Torah’s description of a Nazir. A Nazir is a legal status in Judaism where someone stops drinking wine, or any other grape product, avoids ritual impurity and does not cut their hair for a set amount of days. On one hand, this seems like a holy thing to do, but curiously, the Torah mandates that a Nazir brings a sin offering once his term is up. The Rabbis tell us that one of the question that we’re going to be asked in the world to come is “Did we abstain from permissible pleasures?” and that this is the sin require the offering of the Nazir.

There’s also an incident with King David’s son Absalom. He was known for his beautiful long hair. When King David was older, Absalom mounted a rebellion and tried to seize power. He was eventually killed when his hair got caught on a tree branch which pulled him off his horse.

Since we’re talking about hair; we can’t ignore the laws of hair coverings for both men and women.

Bringing it all together… there seems to be a running them that excessive attention to outward appearance, specifically hair, is not looked favorably upon. On the contrary, excessive vanity or focus on self-importance can lead someone down a bad path. Even the Nazir, who seems to be holy, at first glance needs to bring a sin offering. It seems like his hair growth and abstention of permissible pleasures may be rooted in a feeling that he’s holier then other people or spiritual vanity.

This isn’t to say that we should walking around looking like slobs, but we do need to make sure that we’re focused on our actions and the thoughts inside our head instead of the hair that grows out of it.

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