Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – What a Supportive Community Looked Like in 2006

Ed. note: This posts and the comments show what a supportive community looked like in 2006. It was all hugs and kisses, but it was a good discussion with many people looking to give support.

I recently started growing my payis. They have gotten long enough so that when I tuck them behind my ears you can see a little bit of them peeking out from the bottom of my ear.

When one of my coworkers, an FFB, noticed that I had started growing my payis he said, “Don’t be such a ba’al t’shuvah.” Even though he didn’t say it, what he meant was if I wanted to be more frum, growing my payis was not the way to go about doing it. Instead, I should focus more on torah learning and middos development.

I like having them, but at the same time I am definitely very self-conscious of them and find myself often hiding them behind my ears especially in the presence of teachers and mentors for fear of feeling foolish because I know they would disapprove.

I always wanted to grow my payis but now that I have them I need to ask myself if my decision to grow them is truly serving G-d, or is it serving myself by helping me to feel more like someone I would like to be instead of who I truly am.

68 comments on “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – What a Supportive Community Looked Like in 2006

  1. You follow your own conviction concerning on this subject, If you think (as i do)keeping your peyos pleases Hashem ‘blessed be He’ then keep it!..you need not concern about what other people should think of you..Everyone has its own conviction.and our relationship with Hashem “blessed be He’ is personal.. besides, who ever said that a person who keeps a long earlocks is holyer than one who does not grow it, or a jew who wears kaftan than a jew who wears jeans?..I think this kind of thinking is how gojims mostly percieve when they observe us..but for us, We should not think so shallow as these people..We may have different traditions,wether we are Sephardim or Ashkenatz..but we all have only one purpose..that is Glorifying our G-d..we only have diffrent ways on fullfiling it..

  2. I think everyone here missed an important point. The writer is not making a big deal about his payos. He was just fine with them until someone ELSE decided to make a big deal about them. The real question is why does someone feel that they have the right to judge the peyos of someone else? It’s not like they’re hurting anybody.

    I believe that anything that helps bring us closer to Hashem is worthwhile. When I first became a BT I started covering my hair, even though my husband at the time was not Jewish, and halachically I didn’t have to cover. I took it on anyway, gradually at first, until I was covering full time at home as well as out of the house. Eventually the religious differences made it obvious that the marriage would not work out and we got divorced. I continued to cover my hair at the advice of my rabbi, even though all my friends at shul said I didn’t have to. Now, B’H, it looks like I may be marrying a wonderful Jewish man and I’ll be able to cover my hair “for real”!

    Someone (above) wrote that you can get the externals before you get the internals, but that the externals can bring you closer to getting the internal stuff right. I think that’s as good a reason as any to keep your payos. Besides, I think they’re sexy! ;-)

  3. Am appalled and thoroughly bummed at some of the comments along the lines of “oh no, don’t do it or you’ll GASP look like a BT!!!” Thoroughly bummed.

    R’ Shlomo Carlebach would tell a story about a khasid with peyos down to the bottom of his back, and someone asked, “Why do you have such long peyos?” And he replied, “If my peyos are down to here, then my son’s will at least be to his chin. And his son’s will at least be to his ear. And his son will at least know that a Jew should have peyos.”

    And as another comment noted, the Yemenite community refers to them as “simanim,” signs of Jewishness.

    So what’s the problem?

    And while I’m at it, what’s it anyone’s business if someone wears jeans or not? Or has peyos with a beard or not? Or peyos while wearing jeans or not?

    Very bummed. Get out of everyone else’s business and stop being so judgmental, folks. Let’s make room for Mashiakh …

  4. Hey SP, After reading your comments I feel the need to defend myself. It sounds like you are writing with a good deal of hostility. Am I wrong?

    You may not agree with my decision to grow my payos but you have basically dismissed my efforts to grow and connect to the Ribbono Shel Olam by describing my desire to wear payos as “childishness.” Are you insinuating that I am a child? You don’t even know me…or do you?

    So even if you are making a valid point that a person should first focus on growing internally and developing his spiritual self through middos work and learning torah, it is hard for me to take your comments seriously when they are delivered in such a judgemental way, without even signing your name to boot.

  5. Aryeh Leib,
    Just some random thoughts:
    1. I didn’t know that in Heaven G-d asks each Jew, “Hey, where’s your beard?” I thought He asks everyone, “Did you make time to learn Torah?” and “Were you honest in your daily affairs?” or questions to that effect. You know, important things. Even Non-Jews wear beards, so what’s the big deal?
    2. Re: Payos, let’s face it, it really has become a style. Noone had them in my small NYC yeshiva growing up, and I first noticed them in Camp Agudah worn by real yeshivish guys. Now it’s all the rage; even little children have them, G-d only knows why. Are little kids suddenly caught up in a fiery bren for the Eibishte that they need payos? No; their friends have them, so they need them, too. Rabbi Shlomo Wlobe, in his essay “On Frumkeit,” wrote about little children who want to be big tzadikim, so what do they do? They cut their fingernails as prescribed in Kabbalastic thought. Then they feel they’ve made it. That’s not how to become a tzadik, but it is if you’re a child. It’s childish thinking. And today it’s stylish, cool, frum-looking, but I think unnecessary. Look around: hundreds of yeshiva guys have them, hundreds don’t. Why? Aren’t the hundreds who are payos-free as frum, as observant, as sincere and halachic as those who sport them? I think so. So maybe a person ought to get past the childishness of current frumkeit and its styles and instead reemphasize the internals, not the externals: focus on the dozens of critical halachos which really carry weight, do more acts of chesed, donate more blood. Why not be a real rugged individual and not sport payos?

  6. Matis, A big, big yasher koyach for the divrei torah and also for the vote of confidence! I’m sure Hashem is very proud of all you have accomplished as well.

  7. Dear Aryeh Leib, Hashem wants us to differentiate ourselves from the goyim. Check out Rashi’s explanation of what Hashem tells us in Vayikra 18:3 “Bechukosayhem Lo Selechu.” Payos are one of the few things that a Yid can do to be physically different than the goyim. Even goyim have beards and many are even circumcised. But, as far as I know, no other culture wears payos.

    According to Halacha, a Jewish male can shave his beard in the approved fashion (pun intended) trim his payos to the point that they are not noticeable as “payos,” wear a baseball cap to cover his head, tuck in his talis katon or not wear one at all, and go about his business as a Halachic yid. Hashem may not be “angry” as it were, with such a yid because he is acting according to the bare minimum of halacha. Is however Hashem “happy” as it were, with that yid who is in effect blending in with the goyishe world?

    Recently, on my way to a family simcha in Toronto, I stopped off to see one of Hashem’s wonders the Niagara Falls. (It was the winter time when it is not nearly as pritzusdik as I hear that it is in the summer.) In any case, by the falls, a Japanese couple stopped me and wanted to take a picture of me. I presume it is because I dress very “Jewish” with a black hat and beard. I doubt they would want to take a picture of the baseball cap yid. Why, because the baseball cap yid looks like a goy. Sorry, no offense, just the reality.

    We live in a world where people are not ashamed to wear body piercings and tattoos and to walk down the street holding the hand of someone the Torah tells us not to, etc. Those people are proud to flaunt their immorality and society tolerates and even encourages such deviant behavior. You Yid are doing the right thing, going in the ways of your forefathers. We are not living in times of persecution. It is not Berlin in 1943. So, why not flaunt what is right? And, let us not forget that long peyos are a minhag Yisroel. If the pictures we have of the Chofetz Chayim are accurate, then it appears that he had payos, even though he was not Chassidish.

    I believe it is a mistake to assume that longer payos are a strictly Chassidishe minhag. Do you mean to tell me that in additional to the “innovations” which Chassidism introduced about 250 years ago, they also started a new thing by growing their payos, while nobody else was doing so at the time? Do the current non-Chassidishe Gedolim cut their hair down to entirely eliminate the appearance of peyos? Or, do they at least have short peyos which go behind their ears? don’t know. Check it out.

    Much of the attacks on you are based on the need of people to justify their own decisions in life. I tell those people: Don’t attack Aryeh Leib’s decision to grow payos to justify your own decision not to do so.

    Many of those nay sayers probably feel guilty that they are not as proud to be Jewish as you are.

    So, Yasher Koyach you for flaunting your Jewishness! I think Hashem likes it. You are telling Hashem: I am proud to be in your service, I don’t care about what the goyim think.

    Matis

  8. You didn’t get my point , I was unclear;
    I agree with both of you: by “biggest Rabbis” I just meant that those Big Rabbis who put payes on, did it because it is something of great
    importance, They are the type of Jews who do things because they understood it’s meaning and its power, which only prooves that Payes can be very important even if that’s not what makes a Jew bigger than the other.
    I totally agree on the fact that one can be the biggest Tzaddik and have no payes , beard , hat , black and white suit , and maybe even a yamulke…
    Kol tuv.

  9. Exactly Mordechai. Peyot do not make a tzaddik. They are important just like a borsalino is important. It is part of the “Jewish way” of differentation from the goyim.

  10. Michael Noach:

    with all due respect (I do mean that), I think the “Biggest Rabbis” proof is no proof.

    I finally have a night at home, in my study. I look around the pictures in sight or nearby, and here’s the census:

    Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook-visible, grown peyot
    Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook-not obvious
    Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (son of the mekubal Rav Sulamein Eliyahu)-beard, but not obvious peyot
    Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik-trimmed beard and mustache (like a goatee), no grown peyot

    We could point out that Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, rosh yeshiva of Har Etzion, is clean shaven. One of the finest rabbanei kehillah that I’ve ever been privileged to work with, Rav Yehoshua Wender, was (I assume still is) clean shaven, but not his rosh yeshiva at Chafetz Chaim.

    I’m not knocking it-mine are grown but tucked behind the ears-it’s just not a good proof of much…

    Ultimately, I think you’re correct in asserting that the topic has always held importance in our tradition. I think I just got the hackles up a bit at thinking that if they haven’t got peyot, they’re not among the “Biggest Rabbis”. That, I think, is a mistaken criterion.

    B’vracha,
    mordechai

  11. Shona,
    I too, clicked your name and feel similarly to YD, except that I have one more thing to add to his comment…huh?

  12. BTA, you write I think it’s cute up until the boy is 2, but then just looks ridiculous. Still, people don’t differentiate between bedrock halachas and minhagim with no real basis.

    Shona, you say that Hairs and payos are not so important…

    Well , I’m not a Mekubal and don’t know much ,
    but if you read more about hairs and what they really mean on a mystical level , they are very significant and the minhagim that exist (like waiting 3 years before upshiren )have deep meanings.
    If the Biggest Rabbis have them , it probably is more important than you think.
    every little thing a jew does to come close to G-d is extremely important and we don’t even know if a circoncision give you more Schar than having payes…
    with Shalom…

  13. “Peyos” is a term to describe this hair on a Jew (so how can a non-Jew have “peyot”?). However click my name and the link will show you “peyot” – although they are straight and they are on a female. But I’m taking “peyot” to be uncut hair above the ear and nothing else.

  14. SL –

    It depends on the circumstance. In relation to the vow of Nazirim, then yes you need the hair part; just like with kosher chicken you need the scheita part. The Torah defines many actions which are needed for ___ situation. Hair matters as much as kosher salt matters to meat.

    But in relation to the original post, peyot do not matter. They are not a pre-requisite for anything. Forget about peyot, and think about something much more central to Jewish identity – circumcision. If a Jewish man was never circumcized, he is still a Jew. The bris brings him into the covenant, but it does not “make” you a Jew (that comes from birth or gerus). Peyot are a much less significant symbol of Jewish identity – pro or con.

  15. Shona-

    I don’t understand. Does the presence or absence of hair DEFINE a person as a Nazir in the Torah’s system or not? I didn’t take sides as to what judgement the Torah makes on hair. I simply maintain that hair matters….matter!

  16. SL –

    It’s a combination of the parts. Just like a tire on a rim do no make a car. But in order to have a car you need some sort of wheel on it for it to be a car (at least currently). In the same vain, anyone can light candles on Friday night (especially now, since candles are “in vogue” now). Lighting candles alone do not “create Shabbos”; Shabbos comes regardless if a Jew lights or not. Similarly, a non-Jew can light, even say the bracha, but Shabbos does not “come” for him because the non-Jew does not have Shabbos (in the Jewish sense).

    Saying the that the Torah is judgemental towards hair is like saying the Torah is judgemental towards pigs. It’s not. The pig and hair are just indirect objects that are subordinate to the mitzvah in general.

  17. “Ultimately though, hair is just hair. No one should be defined as anything more or less because of it.”

    The Nazir, Election of the Levites and Purification of the Metsorah (total body shaves), Circumcutting the head or razor shaving the beard, Male transvestism defined in part as shaving body hair…

    You want to tell me that the Torah is non-judgemental towards hair?

  18. The outside can be a reinforcement of the inside; the the cover does not determine if the book is good or not.

    For example, I used to have dreadlocks. Why? Because at the time I was tired of adhearing the the “European Standard” of straight hair is beautiful. At first my family was sort of “Whoa, is she going to not get a job and start smoking marijuana now?”. But they got over it pretty quickly when on the surface I was the same me. The only change is that it “reinforced” that I could still have non-straight hair and look “cute”.

    Now I lost the dreadlocks. The real issue was not “Straight-hair rebellion”, but self-acceptance. While it’s still in it’s natural super-curly state, I have no problems with straightening my hair in the future.

    Point is; be honest with yourself. Why do you “need” peyot? Do you have ancestors that had that minhag? Do most men in your community have peyot? Or is it more along the lines of the security blanket that a 5 year-old carries. That only you know (if you care to admit). Ultimately though, hair is just hair. No one should be defined as anything more or less because of it.

  19. I never noticed them David, but good for you. Your sons must really think alot of you that you did that in their honor. And you are in a professional secular environment. There were many years that I wore a snood instead of a shaitel while I managed a totally secular/non-Jewish prestigious medical consultants office for world sought out neurologists at NYU Medical Center. My boss and colleagues expressed to me their respect and admiration for my upholding my values and I, in turn, accorded them the utmost respect for their mission of healing, their practice, and their tolerance of my appearance and many needs which impinged on their day to day running of an efficient office. I worked there for 13 years, started as a single, through marriage, having children. Though I have not been there since 2001, I am still in contact with them, those were long-term relationships forged out of trust and respect.

  20. Kol Hakavod Aryeh!

    David Linn, you are full of amazing and meaningful events. Ironically, I had a similar situation with the opposite outcome but the same result. Both my boys began growing payos from preschool. Most of the other boys had them and so did they. I figured what difference does it make, there is no mitzvah to be different and, of course, there are worse things in the world. Several years later, however, when they still had them and my wife was not excited about them (the payos, not the boys), she wanted the barber to cut them off. Both boys adamantly refused. Just as you and your wife relented, so did we. The next time I went for a haircut with my sons, my older boy asked me why I did not have payos. I went through many of the reasons previously mentioned to which my son said, “But Abba, it doesn’t look right that we have them and you don’t. You should grow them also.” So, it was either grow them or refuse to and cut theirs off. I simply couldn’t bear to snuff out their enthusiasm over “looking” like Jewish boys. To them, that is a badge of honor, not something to be embarrassed about. In the end, I grew mine. I wear them behind my ears and do not usually let them grow to where they can be seen below the back of my ears. Incidentally, I am of german descent and the few pictures that I have of my great grandfather shows that he had payos.

    I must also confess that I did not grow them simply to “look” frum. Nor have they been the source of a physical or psychological barrier to my secular colleagues. BH, the people that I work with are wonderful and I believe they feel the same about me. Certainly, I doubt that any of them perceive me as either arrogant or contemptuous. Believe me, both they and I are well aware that I am different. They know and accept that I do not eat their food at office events and bring mine instead. Nor do they appear to be offended that I do not go drinking or socializing in bars with them. Even if they do, they do not let it show. In the office environment, it is all good. Frankly, I feel as though they respect all the more because I am an observant Jew, not in spite of it. I have no idea how long I will have my payos, but I suppose it will be at least as long as my boys do. Besides, when I look in the mirror, it serves as another reminder of who I am and why.

  21. Knowing you – I believe it to be a very genuine expression of your yearning to continue to grow Jewishly!!You have a unique spirituality, keep nurturing it!!

  22. I will admit to not having read all the previous comments thoroughly, but I would guess this has not come up:

    while dating my then-clean-shaven husband (FFB), he told me that he would not grow a beard – maybe not where he’s really holding, people will expect him to behave a certain way looking like that, maybe it’s a false show of “who he is” etc. so the dilemma is not limited to ba’alei t’shuva.

    Everyone is supposed to grow in their Yiddishkeit, regardless of where they start. (For the record, we spent 3 weeks in E”Y during shana rishona, without the proper current for his elec. shaver, so I asked him to let it go, he could shave when we got home, before anyone local saw. . . . he deciced he liked it, and now we “fight” over the length.)

    And my 8 YO son’s peyos are as long as he likes them. My husband feels that boys’ peyos should go to the ear at least until they grow facial hair, and my son doesn’t like them in front, they tickle his face, so we left them long enough to tuck back, and he tells me when he wants them cut.

    – It works in my house.

  23. Just a quick thought. When a BT does an outward change, it isn’t always to seem more frum to the rest of the world. (I think the ubiquitous BSD is more of an example of that.) Here, Aryeh has tucked them behind the ear inconspicuously.

    There is another explanation- the BT is trying to get a physical “anchor” for his emunah/kavana. Every time he looks in the mirror, Aryeh is reminded of who he is and the radical change in lifestyle implied by those two small outcroppings of hair.

    Though he works with an FFB, the FFb might simply be uncomfortable of the BT’s own self-awareness.

    I don’t think the payos are a big deal one way or another. For me, starting wearing a kippah at work was a huge deal. The people that I worked with probably thought I’m the nutty guy with the yarmulke for a while, then got to know me. Although, I didn’t change in the middle of a job, I waited until starting a new job to don the kippah. Perhaps that would have been a better move, Aryeh.

    Also, why not just tell yourself it’s temporary, and you’ll cut them off after X if you’re still uncomfortable?

    There’s nothing wrong with a simple physical anchor for your behavior.

    One other thing, though- keep in mind there’s no requirement that you wear payos long. I’ve always had a pet peeve about BT’s with payos or the minhag of upshearin which has no halachic basis whatsoever and is popular with BT’s and FFB’s alike. I think it’s cute up until the boy is 2, but then just looks ridiculous. Still, people don’t differentiate between bedrock halachas and minhagim with no real basis.

  24. Menachem,

    You gotta get used to Toby Katz’s style. She’s got quite a dry sense of humor. Once you realize that, most of what she writes will make sense! (anyone who’s part of the areivim list will know what I mean)

  25. I think Payos look so beautiful and kodesh If it is right for you I hope it will enhance your experiences and growth. Be true to yourself.

  26. Aryeh Leib – I do think you misunderstood my comment, though I see David Linn was kind enough to explain it. Still do wonder what your intentions are, though if it is personal I respect that.

  27. Aryeh,

    I knew a guy who grew a long beard while at N.Y.U. who grew that long beard in order to separate himself from his classmates.

    I find that when BT’s take to dressing radically different than their colleagues and co-workers (or even their Rabbis), they are frequently out to separate themselves from their secular colleagues and co-workerss physically and set a psychological barrier.

    There may be reasons to do this, but it still screams of contempt and fanatacism when they are operating in that world, just as it does when ba’al Tshuvah Muslims start dressing in full garb.

    I understand why Chassidim do it, just as I understand why a seventeenth generation camel trader does it. But for you to do it makes me curious as to why this is such a big deal for you. I find it often is motivated by either arrogance or contempt, or a suspicion that the goal is to become as Machmir as possible.

    Why box yourself into a corner? You expressed shame on some level in your post. Why do you feel a need to make a big statement?

    I liked the alternative plan you felt some might suggest, to “focus more on torah learning and middos development.”

    Sounds like a better plan.

  28. Hi Aryeh Leib,you write “or is it serving myself by helping me to feel more like someone I would like to be instead of who I truly am”.

    Who says that it is a problem to become like someone else? isn’t every Chasid trying to imitate his Rebbe? isn’t every child inspired to become like his father and mother ?
    One can surely still be himself even though he imitates others. It is actually a big challenge nowaday even for the black hat world, each one is trying to see how different from the other be can be, especially if they all learn torah , all have a beard and payos, all have a hat…
    We even see some rebellion in teenagers , they start to put Nike shoes or something that is going to define them as different. We all want to be different!

    The Aish Kodesh actually speaks in his book “To heal the soul” that one has to swimm against public opinion, otherwise you might loose your true self.
    It is therefore very important to stay yourself of course , but your payes , hat, or beard are not going to change your true self , if you are constantly aware of who you really are, if your Neshama is shining by using your own qualities Hashem gave you, if you find out why you decided to put payes , then you not only take a beautifull tradition but you stay yourself also.
    We , Baaley Teshuva are more likely to be conscern with those things because we are use to be different through our apparence , that’s how the Non-jewish world works, especially America.
    It is maybe for this reason that the first step of growth after learning Torah is awareness(messilas Yesharim hakdamah) because if you are not aware of the reason you learn and the reason you serve Hashem , then you become a Robot , G-d forbid.
    Sometimes , just a few words like : “I do this for you Hashem , because I want to come close to you” will be enough to erase the struggle you had. It is between you and Hashem , the rest of the world is just a detail.

  29. Tee hee. When I saw this title, I thought it was about a woman’s decision to shave her hair.

  30. Yaakov-

    A corollary story; During WW II in Shanghai there was a “reverse” shidduch crisis with the entire Mirrer Yeshiva full of eligible and aging young men and only a handful of frum young women. One of these was the daughter of the Amshinover Rebbe. When the Mirrer Mashgiach, Rav Chazkel Levenshteyn, proposed a match with an outstanding student of the Yeshiva the Rebbe’s initial reaction was “What!! My daughter marry a Galeeach (clean shaven man)?!? Rav Chazkel responded “Amshinover Rebbe, A head (yeshivishese for a keen mind) can grow a beard, a beard cannot grow a head!” The couple married. Their son is the current Amshinover Rebbe of Bayit V’gan.

  31. Aryeh,

    Within reason, just do what feels right and gives you that feeling of growth. Many BTs, like myself, often need external signs of “frumkeit” in order to compensate for the insecurity born of being a BT.

    I still vividly remember the spiritual exhileration I felt when I started wearing my tzitzis out 17 years ago.

    I suggest that whenever you take something on, you do so with the condition that you may not do it forever. You will change and your needs will change over time.

    I also suggest that if you’re looking for growth areas you should turn to halachic areas first. If the payos works for you fine, but there are so many actual halachot you can take on yourself before you even get to minhagim.

  32. From Toby Katz:

    “Payos with no beard simply does not go. When you are a BT there are many things from your former life that may be of great value — talents you have, knowledge you acquired — and there is certainly no reason to hide the fact that you are a BT. But there’s no reason to flaunt it either — which you do, when you make up a minhag that is representative of no Orthodox circle.

    And there is no Orthodox circle in which grown men wear peyos while remaining clean-shaven. That is a definite fashion faux-pas, like wearing a shtreimel with blue jeans.”

    This is complete nonsense and patently false. There are entire yeshivot filled with guys who have “behind the ear” payos and no beard. Many working chareidi types are clean shaven with payos. There are many professions where it is still uncomfortable to have a beard, but “behind the ear” payos can be virtually invisible.

  33. A transliterated spell check would be awesome!

    Of course, no one would ever agree what spellings to use. Maybe there could be an option for ashkenazi pronunciations, and one for modern Israeli, and one for Sephardi/mizrachi, etc.

  34. The comments remind me of a story about Mike Tress, arguably the one Jew who did more than anything to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

    Though a firey eved Hashem, he had no beard. The story goes that the Satmar Rebbe showed him tremendous respect in their meetings. When one of the Rebbe’s talmidim asked the Rebbe why he gave so much respect a man who didn’t even have a beard the Rebbe responded, “It’s true when he gets to heaven they will ask him, ‘Jew, where’s your beard?’ But you know what they are going to ask you? ‘Beard, where’s your Jew?”

  35. Your piece reminds me of my “hair story of long ago:

    28 years ago I was learing at Ohr Somayach. I came from a frum home but for a story too long and personal to post, I was at Ohr Somayach. About 4 months into being there, I found myself marveling at the bochrim who were davening such a long shmoneh esrai, flailing their arms, with such intense expressions on their faces. I, who felt so much wiser and knowledgeable about the right way to do things, having had an FFB background, looked at all of this with much cynicism.

    When I would complete my faster shomeh esrei, I spent the rest of my time looking around the room, and thinking how strange this whole scene was.

    That bothered me about myself. So I went to talk it over with Rav Bulman zt”l. He told me that first of all, I should get rid of that beard I had started growing, and not to put it back on until I got married. At that point it should stay on for good. Secondly, I should get myself Orchos Tzaddikim and learn the first chapter.

    Well, I did both. How very put in my place was I, when I discovered that the first chapter of that sefer was all about arrogance! As for the beard, I’ve been sporting it for 21 years now. No payos…

  36. Why grow Peyis? What’s the point? Aside from becoming fashionable in recent years, there really is no point. Unless you shave off your Peyis to the skin, they are there wheter they are distinct fromn the rest of the hair on your head or not. If you trim them at all you may as well trim them so they don’t stand out.

    To me showing Peyis is more about looking Frum than being Frum.

  37. Aryeh Leib,

    I don’t think Ezie is attacking your decision. He even mentioned that he doesn’t think that you intend to be employing some level of phoniness.

    It seems to me that he is questioning the reason for your decision. I think it’s a valid question. You stated that you’ve always wanted to grow your peyos and that you like having them. The question is why? Those may be personal questions that you don’t want to share here. I respect that. At the same time, one has to at least ask themselves the reasons for taking on a chumrah and/or minhag especially one that is something that others can see.

    About a year or so ago, my son (7 years old at the time) said that he wanted to grow his peyos. I didn’t have a problem with that even though I think he wanted to do it because a group of his friends, especially the sephardi ones, had peyos (peyot for them!). I would only let him put them behind his ears and I thought it looked cute. My wife thought there was no reason for it. Being shortsighted, I said that if I constantly have to draw lines for my children regarding homework, bed time, computer use, etc., the only thing they are ever going to see is me saying no. My son having a desire to grow his peyos should be the least of my problems!

    And so we allowed him to grow them. We were always particular to have him put them behind his ears (His older sisters would chide him “FYP, FYP” Fix Your Peyos)

    One shabbos, my rav saw my son and asked when he grew his peyos out. I told him the story. Basically, the Rav said that he’s not a fan of a son having peyos when the father doesn’t. It sends mixed messages. I thought my son would be crestfallen when I would tell him that we were going to cut his peyos (a modern day Shimshon). I explained what the Rav had said and he dealt with it with grace and a lor less emotion than I expected.

    Clearly, this story is not analogous to your decision, as an adult, to grow your peyos. But I think that in my situation, I got caught up in the “frumkeit” angle of the peyos and completely missed the possible chinuch opportunity and mixed message I was sending.

  38. Ezzie,
    Who says I have no such minhag? Because my father doesn’t have payos, is that to conclude that my great grandfather or great great grandfather didn’t have payos? Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t but who said that a person has to have a mesorah to take on a chumrah? If you are a BT, your whole existance is one big chumrah from your family’s perspective. So I don’t quite understand your reasoning for snubbing your nose at the idea.
    Payos are minhag Yisroel, that being the case why not add them if you can, and if you can tolerate the naysayers?

    As for my intentions, they are personal and I do not believe that they deserve to be viewed as being “fake” without knowing first what they are.

    Incidentally, even if the purpose of a yarmulka is to “remind you how you should be,” I’m not sure I see how that excludes the possibility of then having payos? Why do they need to be mutually exclusive? Many great people have yarmulkas and payos. Shouls we tell them to cut their payos because they already have a yarmulka?

  39. DK,
    There is a difference between negativity and sharing an opinion. Even some of the comments that do not condone my payos are still and all encouraging b/c they do not claim to presume to know exactly what I and the other contributors to this blog think and feel.

    I am curious to know what prompted you to claim that I, or for that matter any of the other people responding to my post view Yiddishkeit as “cultish and weird.” That is what I mean when I say that your comments are negative and provocative, rather than constructive and adding to the discussion.

  40. I think I have to agree with Toby on this one. I think certain types of look make you stand out as a BT if that doesn’t bother you then fine but I think we have to always keep in mind the consequences of our actions and how they may affect our children.

    I think (wether this is true or not is another story) that in general ppl see payot as a sign of being more frum. When I was in shidduchim a shadchan came to talk to me about a boy and like all shadchanim he extolled the virtues of the boy and at the end he said there is one thing… I asked what is it and he said he doesn’T have payos. And the tone of voice he used was as if the shidduch was over that a girl like me woudl not consider going out with a biy without peyos. I’m not sure where he got that idea, I’m not even sure whether I woudl or wouldn’t (I’m married now to a wonderful man with beautiful payot) but what I did take away was that there are ppl who feel payot symbolize a great deal about a person.

    My husband is a Sefardi who wears peyot and often ppl tell me sefardim don’t wear peyot which is not entirely true. Ppl who falltheshitaof the Ben Ish hai do wear peyotand in his sefer he describes exactly how those peyot should look.

    So my advice to you Aryeh Leib is make sure you are following a certain shita and cut your payos according to that shita and grow into them if you have to but most of all enjoy them.

  41. After reading all of this, I just don’t quite understand: Why peyos? If it is for halachic reasons or minhag, it seems illogical – you likely have no such minhag, and it certainly does not seem to fall into normative halacha. It almost seems like another “fake chumra”-type idea, as if peyos make someone more frum. I understand that you don’t intend them as such, at least not consciously; but what are your intentions? That they remind you of how you should be? Isn’t that the purpose of a yarmulke? (I should note that I’ve actually had a similar conversation with another member of BeyondBT who I’m friends with, and I didn’t like his answer very much either.)

  42. Toby, I feel compelled to ‘defend’ myself…

    In a strictly halachic sense, payot and a beard are similar. Neither is required. Since they tend to be grown for the same reasons (be those al pi sod, or some other ‘sensibility’), we most often see them together. Truth is, they do not depend on each other.

    As I noted earlier, there are indeed some men who grow their peyot a bit, but not a beard. I don’t know about any particular ‘circle’; but I do know that at one time this was not an unusual site in Yerushalayim.

    As for myself-as I said earlier, I cannot have a beard for the type of work I do during part of the week. There wasn’t any reason I had to cut off the peyot; so why should I?

    I do believe you used the correct term though. You’re relating more to “fashion faux-pas, than something of substance.

    This isn’t making up a minhag; it’s simply enhancing the mitzvah concerning peyot in the manner possible in the circumstances provided, at least in my case.

    As far as peyot with a baldie haircut, I’m afraid your exposure is too limited. There are many men out there with peyot (short or long, behind the ears or not) who are not Hungarishe chasidim, and don’t shave their heads.

    My teachers did not all look alike, nor even all look like their teachers. I taught my own students with a similar approach. First and foremost, to be Jews of the Shulchan Aruch. Even that is a path broad enough for variables. After that, we all find a need and room for our personal avodah and derech, without showing disregard for minhag Yisrael, Daat Yehudit, etc. As one looks at, and lives in, the big world of Jews learning and living Hashems’s Torah with sincerity, we find there really are alot of possibilities even within the realm of Torah.

    I apologize for preaching. Time to finish getting ready for work. Got a baby to transport to a pediatric cardiac center in a few hours; then a trauma patient to transfer to a center closer to home. I’m sure someone will think the flight suit and stethoscope doesn’t go with a kippah and peyot (and no beard!). I won’t worry about the fashion statement, just the substance. And I’m pretty sure that if I get to go to shul in any of these cities, no one will question my sincerity or ability to be part of the minyan. Usually I just get a hearty Shalom Aleichem!

    And no, *my* feelings aren’t hurt…:-). I *do* think you’re off the mark though. There’s more going on in the world of Torah than you’re taking into account…

    blessings to all…

  43. Payos with no beard simply does not go. When you are a BT there are many things from your former life that may be of great value — talents you have, knowledge you acquired — and there is certainly no reason to hide the fact that you are a BT. But there’s no reason to flaunt it either — which you do, when you make up a minhag that is representative of no Orthodox circle.

    And there is no Orthodox circle in which grown men wear peyos while remaining clean-shaven. That is a definite fashion faux-pas, like wearing a shtreimel with blue jeans.

    Wearing long hair or bangs with long peyos is also a fashion no-no. Peyos go with a baldie haircut. If you want to grow your little boys’ peyos, you have to give them a chassidishe baldie haircut, too. Cute little boys with long hair and long peyos announce with their hairdoes, “My father is a BT.” I hope that I haven’t been too blunt, I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings here.

    Payos that are just long enough to curl behind your ears — that you can get away with, and for your little boys, too.

  44. Mordechai, you wrote,

    “When communities do this (for long enough), it’s called a minhag.”

    And when a BT does it, it’s called Radical Public Change of Lifestyle, NOT Minhag. He has no such minhag, and even if his ancestors were somewhat Chassidic, he may not have such a minhag, since even as late as the early 20th century, Chassidim did not all don the garb and look of modern day chassidim.

    Areye Leib, I did not realize that your raising this discussion publicly of your new payos was only to be remarked upon in a “supportive” way, that is to say, restricted to telling you what a good idea it is that you are growing payos. My misunderstanding.

    Mordechai, you wrote,

    “And, btw, one can certainly find Litvishe types with peyot tucked behind their ears”

    Ha! Those are Yeshiva types (the most radically religious brand of Lthuanian Jewry, which most Litvaks NEVER WERE!) who were influenced by the Chassidim over the years in terms of their focus on separation from the secular world.

  45. David Kelsey:

    Maybe I misunderstand your comment, but how do peyot exclude khakis or jeans?

    There are plenty of believing, observant Jews with peyot, or whatever other aspect of personal chassidut (not to be confused with Chassidus; and not to get into the whole discussion of whether or not steps in development such as this can be concurrent or must be consecutive apropo that issue about the Mesilat Y’sharim), who wear jeans or khakis, or what have you. Additionally, one’s choice of ‘personal chassidut’ may not be so obvious. It may be relevant to one’s more subtle behaviours.

    I don’t find wearing climbing pants, or a flight suit (that’s later tonight and tomorrow for work) the least inconsistent with my kippah, or peyot, or tallit katan (with t’chelet, for that matter). I don’t find my wife wearing scrubs during medical procedures, or jeans while cleaning the chicken coop or the garden, inconsistent with her sheitel or hat. A local ER physician wears a black suit and hat on Shabbat, and slacks and a shirt during the week. When I see him in the hospital, he’s in scrubs and with no kippah. I see no inconsistency in any of that.

    I see no problem that my g’mara and medical books live in a ‘messenger bag’ instead of some attache case (that’s where my safrut tools live).

    By all means, wear your jeans or khakis, as long as they suit you and your needs. Wear a black suit and hat, if/when that suits your needs.

    Please, don’t assume that personal measures/behaviours of chassidut are ‘cutish’ or ‘weird’. Yes, they can be overemphasized or indulged in. But just as likely, they are of true personal importance for the individual’s derech in devoting themselves to Hashem. I, for one, treasure those little things (tying my own tzitzit, immersing in the mikveh erev Shabbat, etc.) that help me renew my own sense of how much I really care to/strive to draw close to Hashem.

    In fact, I’d be surprised if many devoted Jews don’t have some such a behaviour, however subtle it may be. Think about it. What’s your personal little ‘thing’ that’s important to how you serve Hashem? It doesn’t have to be the same as someone else’s; but I’ll bet it’s there.

    When communities do this (for long enough), it’s called a minhag.

    This in no way contradicts what one of my teachers always urged (Rav Meir David ben Yehezkel Shraga Kahane)-that we be Jews of the Shulchan Aruch.

    And, btw, one can certainly find Litvishe types with peyot tucked behind their ears… :-).

  46. David, are you telling me that I should be wearing khakis or jeans? Been there, done that.

    Payos, however, happen to be new for me, and yes, the comments are supportive and encouraging.

    On the other hand, your comments seem to be negative and unsupportive, not to mention unclearly written.

    If you would like to make a comment in support of or against those BTs wearing khakis and jeans, then by all means, please do so. However, your post adds very little to the discussion except to knock people who are sincerely attempting to better themselves.

  47. I would like to thank everyone who has commented so far on this post. Overall my general impression is that people are more or less supportive and that feels very encouraging especially since I really haven’t talked about this issue with anyone since I started growing them.

    bps said, “Very often when we see someone who is frummer than us or trying to be so, we want to knock this person down because his efforts to get closer to Hashem may make us feel that we are not doing enough.”

    As this may very well be true of my co-worker, his intended message still hit me hard because even though I want to keep my payis, I have not yet convinced myself 100% that I am worthy of them and therefore his remarks, true or untrue, give me pause.

    Payis do represent something to me that is very personal. Yes, plenty of upright, scholarly, and reighteous Jewish men do not have payis, yet there are arguably no non-Jews who have them.

    Becoming a BT is difficult in the sense that, like Yaakov A. was saying you need to differentiate yourself somewhat from your past and who you were in order to become someone new. Payis, in a small way help me to do this even though I might not yet feel worthy enough to wear them.

    This is why I very much appreciate Mordechai’s comment to ‘grow them longer, and struggle to live up to what they represent for you.’

  48. I admit I am a fabrentene Litvak, so that will tell you something right there, but I have to say I am horrified that it has to come to payos for it to be even controversial.

    Woe to the Jewish people who see their religion as something cultish and weird. This is obviously the message being disseminated and recieved, or we wouldn’t look at American born secular Jews choosing to dress like Amish on Acid as a possibly positive step.

    Where are the posts and support of members of the ba’al tshuvah community for those ba’al Tshuvahs who continue to wear khakis or jeans?

  49. Thank you for sharing this.

    Peyot are a personal, and therefor more complex, issue than we credit it.

    Jacky: You’re right if you mean that *long* peyot are not a halachic obligation. *Some* growth is, as you know, a mitzvah (more correctly, the mitzvah is to not completely shave the hair down to the nub); though the amount or length required is very little.

    Also, it is not only a Chassidic custom. The Teimanim (Yemenites) were known for growing their ‘simanim’. And there are quite a few non-chassidic types among Ashkenazim who do, as well.

    I’ll share my two peyot-growing stories from when I was deciding what to do.

    When I was a bachur yeshiva (in Machon Meir and Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav Kook) in Yerushalyim some 25+ years ago, I really struggled with this decision. At the time, I had the great privilege of spending time with, and assisting, Rav Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Marcus during his last months on this earth. Rabbi Marcus was one of the students of Rav Soloveitchik who had answered the call of Rav Uziel for American rabbis to come on aliyah. Rav Marcus was clean-shaven. I confided in him one afternoon of my inexplicable desire to grow my peyot. He told me, ‘if I was your age again, I’d grow them’. That’s all it took. I started growing my peyot, though I kept them behind my ears, and trimmed them back from time to time. My only concern was not to appear pretentious.

    Later, I was preparing to begin my service in Tzahal (the Israel Defence Forces)as a combat soldier. I confided in my friend, Rav Yoel Lieberman, that I was considering cutting off my peyot. I was afraid that I wouldn’t live up to the ‘extra-dati’ expectations people would have of me in the army (of course, I wasn’t going to remove my kippah or tzitzit). Yoel’s response was, ‘grow them longer, and struggle to live up to what they represent for you.’

    Over the years, I’ve kept my peyot. My mother, tibadel l’chayim’, doesn’t like them to this day. My wife doesn’t comment much on them; sort of puts up with them (not one of those things worth protesting in a marriage). When I was rav of a shul, I know some of my influential, not so observant, congregants didn’t like them.

    Today, I have only a mustache (with no beard) for work reasons (I’m working part-time as a flight medic); but I still have my peyot.

    Like Yoel Lieberman said years ago, they remind me of what I aspire to. That was strictly by my choice; but that makes it no less significant.

  50. Hi Aryeh Leib. What makes you think that when your “FFB” friend told you “Don’t be such a ba’al teshuvah” that he meant you should work on your inner growth instead of your outer appearance? His comment reveals more about him than it does about you. Very often when we see someone who is frummer than us or trying to be so, we want to knock this person down because his efforts to get closer to Hashem may make us feel that we are not doing enough. So don’t assume that just because someone is Frum By Accident (FFB) that he can advise you in matters of the heart, such as this. Know yourself and let your heart and your mind be your guides.

  51. The peyos issue is very complicated. In KGH, you see many very halachically carefully Ashkenazim without peyos and yet their K-12 age children have peyos. And for others in the community this externally noticeable inconsistency between the parent and child is frowned upon.

    I think you need to ask your Rav or a very close and knowledgeable friend keeping in mind that external displays of religiousity are often fraught with subtle dangers.

  52. There is a story, I belive of the Rebbe Rashab, that once someone came to yechidus and spoke of someone from his town who pretends to be this big chassid but really he has all of these flaws.
    The Rebbe replied “What it says in the Gemara should happen to him”.
    The chasid in yechidus paled worrying what he has brought down on his neighbor.
    The Rebbe explained that it says that one who pretends to be need Tzedaka when they do not will eventually come to need the Tzedaka. If this is true in the negative how much more so in the positive. As he pretends to be a Chassid so will he become one in actuality.

    So my reply is – if what you want to be is to become one who would “of course” have peyes then even if you are not there yet sometimes the addage “Fake it till you make it” holds true and using the externalities to affect the internal is not nescessarily a bad thing. As they say “Clothing makes the man”. The Lubavitcher Rebbe brings this in a maaimer on the garments of the soul. Our thoughts speach and action (the garments of the soul) can actually transform the middot of the soul – even as a non-tzadik cannot directly transform them. So physical garments (or hair growth) can have an effect – especially when joined with study. If nothing else it gives you a push to live up to those peyes.

    As my husband’s Mashpia said to him when he got his first Kapote – “May it become penimi.”

  53. Aryeh Leib,

    Thanks for sharing. I see your struggle with the peyos as a microcosm of classic BT struggles.

    You genuinely feel growing peyos somehow expresses an authentic inner state. Yet, your environment — the “religious” culture of all things — is making you self-conscious and pressuring you not to express your religiosity to what it considers an extreme.

    A friend once pointed out to me how a BT is a lot like a nazir. The nazir feels a pull toward one way (generally toward materialistic urges) and thus takes on temporary but extreme obligations in the other way (generally toward ascetic urges). The purpose of going the other way is to arrive at a balance, not to live in a permanant nazir state. Nevertheless, it’s necessary to spend some time at the other extreme in order to reach that balance.

    One day, x years (months?) from now, you may see the side of those who are disparaging you for growing longer peyos. You may say to yourself, “Who did I think I was?”

    But that’s x years from now.

    And, then again, you may keep longer peyos for the rest of your life. I have a peer who grew peyos too early in my estimation when he first grew them. But he still has them many years later and, you know what, It is who he is. It turned out to be real. I would have understood if he cut them. And now I understand why he didn’t.

    As BTs we’re constantly judging the edges, pushing the barriers. Sometimes we go too far. But we don’t know till we try.

    One of the advantages of being BT is that we have a certain window to experiment that FFBs don’t necessarily have. We’re more open to pushing the barriers, even if it means looking foolish a little.

    The main thing is to find your comfort zone. It may be more “frum” than your neighbor thinks, or less “frum” than you currently think. But at least you are experimenting. FFBs have had years to think about their comfort zones. We’re often doing it on the fly.

    Yes, BTs tend to go too far. But that doesn’t mean you are in every case. Sometimes your friends see you more objectively than you see yourself, and sometimes they don’t.

    So, I say go with it, if it really feels genuine to you today, and stay with it until and if it stops feeling genuine.

  54. It’s your decision but I do feel that by paying so much attention to external factors like long Peyos which I think are purely a Chassidic tradition and not a Halachah,one tends to think that he’s accomplished a lot may subconsciously feel he’s above others who don’t have peyos but who in reality serve H’Ashem with much more devotion and honesty.

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