Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rock Scissors Paper


The photograph to the right of my blog posts has been replaced to reflect how I look now (and how I have looked since early October). This "new" look is not so new. It is a return to how I trimmed my hair and my beard for most of my adulthood. Looking at the photos side by side, I am startled by the contrast.

I liked the hair and would not have cut it without a lot of encouragement. (Or was that DIScouragement?) Comments like "What did you do to yourself?" were wearing me down. However, I was heartened by one distant relative who, seeing all that hair, asked me if I had taken a Nazirite oath.

Of course, I had not. Tractate Nazir makes very clear why such oaths are no longer possible and why they were always to be discouraged-- no longer possible because there is no Temple at which one can offer a sacrifice to be released from the oath; and always to be discouraged because they are egotistic expressions (of manic humility).

But in the spirit of a "good" Nazirite oath I was bearing witness to sin by refraining from cutting my hair to call attention to government policies of detention, interrogation and occupation that were not coming from a holy place and not likely to end up in one either. When people would ask, "What did you do to yourself?" I would respond that I took a Nazarite oath until that man in the White House would be brought down. Many people found me to be much more handsome when I put my appearance in that context.

Then when they asked why I cut it, I replied in the same spirit, with a statement that I swear is completely truthful even though the truth of it can never be documented: In early October I was visited by a bat kol who whispered in my ear that I could cut my hair. The election results speak for themselves.

Remember the teaching that the Torah is not in Heaven? It was seen by some as signalling the end of the bat kol. That, however, is not correct. It simply meant that we no longer heed heavenly voices if they oppose the majority. Clearly, my bat kol was a voice to be heeded.