Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Shaving as a sign of mourning, brief followup

Just a quick followup to the idea presented in a previous post, that on a peshat level, the prohibited shaving in the Torah was specifically in mourning for the dead. As pointed out there, one can intuit it from context.

But in this post, two more bits of evidence. The first in Yeshaya 15:
א מַשָּׂא, מוֹאָב: כִּי בְּלֵיל שֻׁדַּד עָר מוֹאָב, נִדְמָה--כִּי בְּלֵיל שֻׁדַּד קִיר-מוֹאָב, נִדְמָה. 1 The burden of Moab. For in the night that Ar of Moab is laid waste, he is brought to ruin; for in the night that Kir of Moab is laid waste, he is brought to ruin.
ב עָלָה הַבַּיִת וְדִיבֹן הַבָּמוֹת, לְבֶכִי: עַל-נְבוֹ וְעַל מֵידְבָא, מוֹאָב יְיֵלִיל--בְּכָל-רֹאשָׁיו קָרְחָה, כָּל-זָקָן גְּרוּעָה. 2 He is gone up to Baith, and to Dibon, to the high places, to weep; upon Nebo, and upon Medeba, Moab howleth; on all their heads is baldness, every beard is shaven.
ג בְּחוּצֹתָיו, חָגְרוּ שָׂק: עַל גַּגּוֹתֶיהָ וּבִרְחֹבֹתֶיהָ כֻּלֹּה יְיֵלִיל, יֹרֵד בַּבֶּכִי. 3 In their streets they gird themselves with sackcloth; on their housetops, and in their broad places, every one howleth, weeping profusely.
Note the juxtaposition, and how this is shaving as an emotional reaction to the destruction, and perhaps even as mourning.

The second bit of evidence is from Herodotus, father of history, or else father of lies. In The Histories 2.35-36, he writes:
Elsewhere priests grow their hair long; in Egypt they shave their heads. In other nations the relatives of the deceased in time of mourning cut their hair, but the Egyptians, who shave at all other times, mark a death by letting the hair grow both on head and chin.
Note the connection specifically with the priestly caste; this accords with the pasuk in Emor singling out the kohanim, and with Rambam relating it to avodah zarah practices. But also note the connection with death, and how in many cultures, cutting the hair is a sign of mourning.

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