Best Hanukkah Gifts 5769: Hierarchy of Beards

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Scratchy, itchy, bestial, primordial, natural, cushiony, soft, sensitive, strokable. An instant aid for anyone so blessed with one who desires to take an instant nap — just extend your head downward, and it’s a pillow. You don’t even have to add water — just snuggle your chin up against it, and it’s there. A lot of girls hate them on guys. A lot of guys hate them on girls. But who are we to judge?

beards jewish

The comic artist David Malki just created an exhaustively exhaustive codex of beards entitled, appropriately enough, “Hierarchy of Beards.” (No sign whether there’s a Hasidic Beard on there, but I’m rooting for yes.)

I’ve never been very comfortable with my beard. I didn’t grow up in the kind of place where every grown man had a beard. My father is bearded, but his is short, neat, and simple — it’s the kind of beard that’s like cats’ fur. I had a goatee for a bit (that is, when I was 14 and wanted to look sophisticated) but shaved it off quick.

One day, I heard a story of a Hasidic rabbi who promised that, when the Messiah comes, he’ll fly through the air, yank all of his followers by their beards, and ship them off to the World to Come. (I guess the women (that is, the non-bearded ones) and children would already be there, and the men just slow to catch up.) So I stopped shaving a little tuft under my chin, again condemning me to the echelons of lame-looking cool kids. It felt a little uncomfortable, looking like the bassist for an MTV band that the world will forget five minutes from now….but, hey, what did I care? I had a free ticket to the World to Come.

Eventually, my wife called me out. She grew up Hasidic, and to her, beards were normal. And not just three-day-stubble beards — beard beards, the kind that keep out those deathly Siberian winters. (Her great-grandfather, after all, spent a year being conscripted into military service with the Red Army.) To her, it was simple. “Jewish men have beards,” she said.

Eventually, I settled into it. Some people might think beards are sexy. Others think they’re mystical. For others, it was just a way of reminding yourself of familiar things when you’re far, far away from the land you were born in. That might be the smallest chapter of the Hierarchy of Beards…but there’s my small contribution.

A tip of the mustache to Geekadelphia.

Posted on December 9, 2008

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