Tuesday, July 12, 2011

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But it is “Permitted”!

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

ear-piercingRegarding the article on Jewish men with pierced ears and earrings, someone wrote:

     That is your opinion, not Judaism's. We determine our values and practices by what's in the books. Your dislike for men with pierced ears has no bearing on Torah-based Judaism.

If it's not against the Torah, then any opposition to it is arbitrary. You're just reacting according to the cultural values you embrace.   Read the books. Why do you insist on relying on your intuitive understanding when we have great men who came before us who show us the way?

Gutman’s response:

     Although you may or may not be correct that that there is no Torah law today that forbids a Jewish man from putting a hole in his ear and wearing an earring, the truth is, there never was a law against doing this. In fact, the law allows a Jew to have his ear pierced if he wants.

If he wants to become a slave, then this is the way to do it.

     Notice that I wrote that this is the way to do it and not that this was the way to do it. Like all things in the Torah, even though the literal physical aspects of the mitzvah may have ceased (at least for now), the spiritual aspects still go on.

     Why was a hole in the ear chosen to be the sign of a slave? And why did the master pierce the slave’s ear on his doorpost? Since the hole is obvious to anyone who sees him, it identifies him as a slave. That he was “nailed” to the doorpost shows that he could not leave that house without the owner’s permission. These were characteristics of a slave then, and they still are today, albeit spiritually and not literally.

     When a boy chooses to put a hole in his ear (or 3 holes, as the boy in our story), he does so because he wants to belong to a certain “house,” a certain school of thought. He has given up his freedom, his individuality, and has joined that group in a way that is very difficult to change. Those holes that he put in his ear are most likely going to be there for the rest of his life. When, many years from now, he finishes school and becomes a professional, people are going to see those holes and judge him according to what they mean to them. Also, by the way, when his young sons see them, guess what they are going to want to do?

     Why is the ear different than all the other limbs in the body, i.e. that it is chosen for piercing for a slave that chooses to stay by his master? The Holy One, Blessed be He said, "The ear that heard My voice on Mount Sinai when I said, ‘Bnei Yisroel are slaves to Me, and not slaves to other slaves,' went and acquired another master for himself; his ear should be pierced!" [i]

     There is a law in Torah that a Jew is not allowed to take on the ways of the surrounding nations, the goiim. This is why the Russian religious Jews wear long black coats styled like the ones the non-Jews wear in England, and the English religious Jews wear long black coats styled like the ones that the non-Jews wear in Russia. Certainly, men with earrings is not a Torah style. It comes from the nations around us. A Jew who wears one is ignoring his history.

     Also, there is the question of wounding the body for inappropriate reasons. Although a boy might think that it is appropriate to “beautify” himself now, when he wants to get rid of those holes he will surely consider them to be inappropriate.[ii]

When Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach was asked if it was all right for a religious girl to have her ears pierced, he said, "What is the question? By us, we give the boys a bris milah (circumcision) and pierce the girls' ears." So, even though today many minds do not consider the earring solely a woman’s garment (which would be forbidden for a Jewish man to wear), it was solely a woman’s garment to Rav Shlomo Zalman.

     Again, although you may or may not be correct that there is no law against a Jewish man piercing his ear and wearing an earring if other Jews in his community also do it, still, it is a very foolish thing to do today, as it was foolish way back then. And even though it may not be forbidden in the community where this boy dwells today, remember, I am trying to move him into our community, the community of Jews who try to follow Hashem’s ways and do not do such things as permanently mar our bodies.

     As for your advice to follow the “great men who went before us,” they said that when you love your fellow Jew, you try to help him to avoid doing anything foolish.[iii]


[i] Gemara Kiddushin 22b

[ii] Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 420:31

[iii] “…loving your fellows and bringing them close to Torah.” Avoth 1:12

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