Solely In Black and White: Sefira and the Revenge of the Beard

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sefira and the Revenge of the Beard

                                         Photo Taken From: Bein Kach U'Bein Kach

It’s that time of year again. No shaving, haircuts or listening to music. 

I really don’t mind the restriction on haircuts since I can manage to postpone a trip to the barber (or butcher depending on who you ask) until Lag BaOmer. Similarly, I have come to terms with a lack of music. I have found other ways to keep myself entertained while sitting in traffic. Besides, you can only truly appreciate something when you can’t have it for a while.  But the thing that bothers me the most is not shaving. I really hate that. Besides for looking unkempt it’s really uncomfortable. Personally, I think I look best with some stubble, maybe a 5 o’clock shadow, or what have you. I think even the “baby face” look works better than a beard. But an untrimmed beard? I think not, at least not for me.  

I recently read the results of a famous razor manufacturer’s customer survey conducted by the market research firm StrategyOne. It revealed, conveniently enough, that men who shave five times a week or more are happier (89 percent to 82 percent), more outgoing (41 percent to 32 percent), and more social (42 percent to 34 percent). And the kicker: men who shave regularly also earn on average $15,100 more per year than infrequent shavers.  Weird no? :-/

It’s not all bad. A beard does provide some fringe benefits. For one, it protects you from being pinched on the checks while someone proclaims “oh, so cute,” typically a right reserved for the elderly and creepy uncles. :) The other benefit is for dating. Not having to shave means one less step of preparation (you can check the male first date project responses for verification). But dating during sefira presents a complication or as my friend once asked me “don’t you feel self-conscious about going on a date looking like a hobo?” Well… you see... yes, I do, but I really have no choice. Assuming you don’t somehow get a hetter to shave, you’re left with two options. Either you can date looking slightly disheveled or you can take a strategically planned sabbatical from dating. My friend chose the latter. The best advice I heard on this subject was from a rebbi who insisted “if you plan on marrying a frum girl, then she won’t mind dating you with a beard.”

So to all the female readers out there, what do you think? Is untidy facial hair a turn-off?  


  1. SiBW, sefira beards are one of my favorite topics. Ever.

    trying to stay calm...
    (Woops. Staying calm didn't work.)

    Really. I'm a big fan of "scruffs", and it's my favorite dating time of year. I think most men look better with a little bit of stubble.

    I can't speak for most females, though. Some might really not like it. But even if they don't like it, your rebbi is right. If they're frum, they'll realize you can't shave now and will appreciate the fact that you're adhering to halacha.


  3. Here's the deal with sefira beards: you can never tell.
    This year, right in the beginning of sefira, I professed to have a profound phobia of sefira beards. But now that we're two weeks (and a day!) in, I have to admit I've reconsidered. Somewhat.
    Because some people, I have to admit, look really, really good.
    Others, not so much. (The smiley above is a great example of that :) ).
    And if you're in the latter category, there's really not too much you can do (barring a hetter to shave, of course).
    But I would like to think that I would rather date a guy committed to up-keeping the halachos associated with sefiras haomer (no matter how much he looks like an escaped convict/terrorist) than one who forgoes those same halachos for the sake of looking good.

  4. I don't like sefira beards on anyone. But it's just a fact of life; just like you can't listen to music, you can't shave so it would be an even bigger turn-off if a guy went ahead, and shaved during sefira. I just try to conjure up a picture in my mind of a better looking guy in a few weeks times :-).

  5. I would agree with most of what the ladies above me wrote (maybe without the same level of enthusiasm as Sefardi Gal). :-)

    Like your friend aptly put it, some guys look like hobos. (I've also heard the terms "muggers," "psych ward residents," and "wolf-man") On them, tough luck boys, but it's a HUGE turn-off.

    On others, however, a sefira beard (we're talking past the 5 o'clock shadow stage) can possibly be attractive. Personally, I associate beards with rabbis or learned Torah scholars. For me, beard=shtark (that's being extremely simplistic, by the way). So for those guys who I happen to find "good looking" (which is, granted, a matter of personal preference), a sefira beard can be an extremely beneficial asset. And it goes without saying that keeping halacha yields points in his favor!

    The best part is beards on the guys with "baby faces". Either they look like they've had some unfortunate, genetically mutating experience in Chem Lab, or they can suddenly (and not unpleasantly) look extremely mature.

    But again, in terms of whether or not a sefira beard is a turn-off, it is all a matter of preference.

  6. I LUV BEARDS!!!!
    ok granted i would prefer a 5 oclock shadow to a full beard but u gotta take what you can get.
    imo guys look ten times better with a scruffly beard-
    also if u date a guy with a beard and still dating him after sefira its really cool to see the transformation!!!-


  7. Scruff is great, especially on a baby-faced guy though I'm not too keen on beards. Like scoopsup said, even if the guy doesn't look good with a sfeira beard, if I'm still dating him after sfira and I get to see what he looks what post shave, it would be cool to see what he looks like without it. There's a thrill that comes with realizing you're dating someone who is better looking than you initially thought. At least, think that way.

    All in all if:
    1) You intrigue the girl
    2) Make her laugh
    3) Smell clean

    she will most probably give you a shot anyway. Being hairy isn't much of a turn on (well, I can only speak for myself), but knowing that the bachur is keeping halacha and will eventually clean it up doesn't make the beard a be-all-and-end-all. But...if he's hairy and smelly...forget it.

  8. @Sefardi Gal: So you like sefira beards more than chossonzillias? :p I think you’re the only one I know who considers this to be “one of my favorite times to date.” To each their own, I guess. Wait a second; do you plan on making your future husband keep his beard?

    @BKUBK: HA. Your right, some things don’t look so great with stubble… thanks for the picture, it is really great. Two weeks and a day is kind of early, we still have a long way to go, especially for those of us who just started.

    @ Halfshared: Interesting idea. Maybe girls should start asking for pictures of guys because of the sefira beard issue, you know, just in case. :)

    @Happy Medium: So true. It’s really not fair though. Some people look really silly when they start growing uneven curly whiskers, while others have the potential to grow nice beards. And there is very little you can do about it. Theoretically, if you were turned off by a guy’s beard, would you try again after he shaved it off?

    @SchoolGirl: I know; the transformation after shaving is awesome. The coolest part is that clean and smooth feeling you get when you feel your cheeks. I sometimes do a double take in the mirror. The beard just sort of grows on you, literally. :p Sometimes I take a picture just to compare and contrast the before and after.

    @CoralCap: But what happens if he looks worse after the shave? I’m not sure how smelling clean is related to sefira (maybe the 9 days?) but okay; I’ll make a note of that.

    @All: I think girls should have to suffer too. :p It’s not fair that only the boys have to walk around looking untidy. :( Just imagine what would happen if girls wouldn’t be allowed to wear make-up during sefira! Anarchy possibly? :D

    @All: Alright, if all of you like stubble and five o’clock shadows so much, why exactly are all us guys shaving for dates then? :-/

  9. SiBW-
    what can I say? Combine halacha and manliness (beards) + spring weather, and it's my favorite time to date!
    And no, I don't want my husband to have a beard. I like scruffs/omer beards/stubble. Zehu.

    And WHOA, you've got a lot of responses. :D

  10. SiBW -
    I tend to find personality more of an indicator than looks. As my mom says, good looks are a bonus! So I hope if I liked him, personality-wise, I would give him another chance despite the mugger look. It is only temporary, after all.

    "Sometimes I take a picture just to compare and contrast the before and after." - Did you ever read "The Year of Living Biblically" by A.J. Jacobs? He didn't cut his hair for a year. Check it out -

    You guys are shaving for dates because a clean face or a neat, trimmed beard are better than the intermediate mess. And don't think that we don't suffer during sefira - we have to look at the rest of you!

  11. @ Sefardi Gal: Interesting mix you got there. Well enjoy and best of luck. It would seem the ladies are very opinionated about their date’s facial hair. B-)

    @Shlomo: I know. I was shocked! :-O Why didn’t you tell me this earlier? :)

    @Happy Medium: That sounds like a fair and reasonable approach. I haven’t read it, but it looks hilarious. That before and after picture is insane! Thanks for sharing that. :)

    True, but why can’t a guy go on a date with slight stubble? It may not be the neatest look in the world, but it’s not exactly messy either. See Sefardi Gal’s link above. HA! But looking at us is not nearly as annoying, that is unless you truly empathize with us and treat our pain as your pain, then maybe. Okay fine, but then you can’t complain if we scratch our beards in public. ;)

  12. SiBW, there's a world of difference when it comes to sefira beards vs. long beards.

  13. There are heaps and heaps of Torah sources that say you should always have a beard.

    I'll take that over statistics and a tad more money any day.

  14. well i guess some girls don't "dig it"
    actually ( ok pretty embarrassing) i once told a guy not to shave for the next date cuz i like the scruff :) - and so he didnt

  15. Feivel - let me're Lubavitch.

    Scoops - you and I can be best friends!

  16. @Sefardi Gal: At what point does a beard get classified as long? Cuz I know some people whose sefira beards grow quite long…

    @Feivel ben Mishael: To each their own I guess. If someone really offered you $15,100 a year to shave, you would politely decline?

    @SchoolGirl: That’s Awesome!

  17. SiBW - I'd say at the point of the last pic on the first row:

  18. If someone offered you $15,100 to eat a treife piece of meat, would you politely decline?

  19. @Feivel - that comparison (between shaving and eating treif) is like comparing apples and giraffes. Can you explain your question/comment?

  20. @Sefardi Gal: Phew, I was getting nervous my sefira beard might be too long, but we’re good. Thanks for the clarification.

    @Feivel ben Mishael: I apologize if my question came across as condescending. I was under the impression that a beard is at most a minhag, but more likely a hanhaga tova. However, I can be totally wrong in that assumption. If you hold that shaving is a halachic mandate then your question is completely valid. Just as side note, it’s interesting that you used an example of terif because in the halachos of basar b’chalav there are a few select situations where hefsed merubah would allow one to be lenient.

  21. Many poskim (perhaps even most) shaving is forbidden by halacha. When it comes to shaving close to the skin it becomes even more hold it to be assur.

    The Chofetz Chaim said that the electric shavers of his day were a borderline Issur Deorisa (were talking about not so great early 1900's shavers). The Stepler Gaon said that if those shavers were borderline, than the shavers of his time were Vadai an Issur Deorisa.

    The Steipler also said that shaving was a disease which infected the Oilem Heyeshivos and that his soul burned with rage.

    Theres a whole sefer about this issue called Hadras Panim Zakein.

    Also, if your interested see

    which quotes the Gedolim of both our generation and previous ones, and how they were opposed to the practice of shaving.

  22. SiBW - I've never seen really "bad" sefira beard. Well okay...maybe one this past Shabbat. :P

    Feivel - wow. I never knew the halachot of using an electric razor (and lack of doing so) are so complicated:

  23. @ Sefardi Gal

    Shaving at all is a very complicated subject and unfortunately many people aren't well acquainted with the details.

    @ SIBW

    I didn't take your question to be condescending at all. In fact I was worried that my comments might have come across like that. Just to be clear I mean nothing condescendingly and I don't ever set out to be a baal machlokes ch"v.

  24. I'm with the rest of the girls here- no shame in the sefira beard! Some guys are luckier than others in how neatly it comes in, but I have utmost respect for each and every one of them for waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror and hating it, and sticking it out without shaving. The clean shaven guys with some cop-out excuse............ eh. That could be indicative of other customs in his frumkeit that are negotiable. Your rebbi is right :) We can wait until Lag Baomer to see you clean.

  25. Feivel -
    it seems like the biggest issue for someone who shaves is with finding the proper razor that is permitted l'halacha.

  26. feivel-
    there was a heter given to yeshiva guys to be clean shaven because they were seen as aberrant enough from what a normal girl wanted, they were allowed to shave in order to get shidduchim. The same way they were among the first east-european jews to wear a short jacket (west european german jews were amongst the first, hence the nickname 'yekke' which mean jacket)

  27. I'm aware of what led to the onset of shaving...
    The Haskala. In other places no such heter was given and it seems to have turned out okay. I'm sure if all of the Gedolim would come out together and state unequivocally that Bochurim should not shave that the general level of frumkeit in the community would cause this not to be a problem anymore.

    I just don't understand it when my litvisher friend's say something in the name of Rav Elyashiv and use the title "Posek Hador" and say "How can you not listen to his psak?" but if you mention that Rav Elyashiv also paskens that its assur to shave.... all of a sudden there are excuses.

  28. @feivel
    I'm glad that you decided that things turned out OK. How do you know that without doing what they thought was right and needed at the time it would've turned out better? That's your opinion, which just like mine, is colored by the community I associate with (Mine the yeshiva one, and yours ChaBaD)
    What colored the Psak of allowing shaving may have been the Haskala, but the BY system was also colored by it.

    The fact of the matter is that R' Moshe Feinstein and R' Henkin who were the ones who paskened on modern day shavers, said that its muttar.

    The fact of the matter is that if you go onto and read the teshuva over there, it is difficult to find the poskim that say its muttar. Not because there aren't any, but rather the people who wrote that article have an agenda. If you put only the shittos that say its assur in the article, yet place R' S.Z. Auerbach and R' C.O. Grozenski in footnotes is telling of where the authors agenda lies.
    The fact that The Chasam Sofer who was very strident against the Haskala allowed shaving, may hurt your contention that is was a Haskala move.

    (on a side: I have heard from R' Belsky and R' Heineman that the way the companies describe lift & cut is the equivalent of a superman move and impossible so just a marketing move)

  29. I didn't say that you can not find poskim who allow it.
    I said there are many who say that is assur but people take for granted that it is muttar. R' Moshe may have paskened that it is muttar, but he also paskens that using timers for electricity on Shabbos are assur... but then you can just go and find a different posek who says that those are muttar... so its not such a problem.

    The Chasam Sofer lived in central europe. There the custom seems to have been that it was muttar. However, in the eastern european communities it was held to be forbidden and the gedolim of the time were dead set against it. Fast forward to the present time and in the velt it is seen as being a GOOD thing. From very b'dieved to straight up l'chatchila to the point where you are meant to do it and its a good midda!


  30. For a variety of reasons, Lithuanian yeshivot, and "Lithuanian-style" yeshivot in other parts of eastern and central Europe and Palestine didn't allow the unmarried students to have beards. Which created the situation that if one were to have a beard, it'd look as if they're trying to appear as one of the rabbeim...

  31. That was a more recent development.
    It is true that it became the shitta in some yeshivos that bochurim were not allowed to have beards but in many yeshivos the Roshei Yeshiva were against it but the bochurim did it anyway until it eventually became the norm.

    In Radin, if a clean shaven bochur was called to the Torah the Chofetz Chaim (who would stand near the bima) would turn away.

  32. Can I just be the one to say that I love the turn these comments have taken - from girly responses about how they like/don't like sefira beards to a general, halachic back-and-forth about beards/razors in general.

    @Feivel - just a general, philosophical question... You seem to be answering a lot of responses here about how "those are recent developments" (for example, the point about bachurim shaving in response to shidduch purposes or kavod to their rebbeim). If we don't deal or respond to reality in modern times in a halachic fashion, then what kind of life are we living? We can't just ignore modern reality and how it affects halacha/hashkafa. Imagine how different Shabbos would still be today if it wasn't determined (through halacha) that it was mutar to have a light bulb on.

    I don't mean to be snappy, I'm honestly interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

  33. Happy Medium: Not to put words in the mouth of Feivel, but it seems that according to you one would be allowed to employ an automobile as a means of reaching a distant 'shul' on Shabbat since we have to "respond to reality in modern times". I'd say there's nothing lacking in modernity in a guy having a beard or a girl covering her hair. Even many hipsters today have beards. Anyway, you're making it sound as if shaving was created in the past ten years. Yet, even as far back as the Greek presence in Israel (בתקופת הבית השני), Jews were surrounded by Jews and non-Jews who went beardless, and that situation existed in many other times and places after that...

  34. Having a light bulb on during Shabbos is not a leniency that was granted in the name of modernity. It was determined al pi halacha that there is no issue with it. On the other hand, there was a general consensus that shaving is halachically problematic and in certain communities the religious leadership was dead set against it. However people did it anyway and after the fact there were heterim found by some poskim to accomodate it (That way it won't look like Rov Bnei Hayeshivos are brazen violators of Torah.)

    Then if you sprinkle in a bit of ignorance and revisionism it goes from shvach b'dieved to expected and honorable l'chatchila.


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