How My Beard Makes Me Look Stupid & Why That's The Point – Beards In The Bible

(This post is a revised version of another piece I wrote a year ago almost to the day.) 

ךנקז תאפ תא תיחשת אלו םכשאר תאפופקת אל
“You shall not shave around the sides of your heads, neither shall you disfigure the corners of your beard.” – Leviticus 19:27
This passage is one of the most misunderstood verses of the entire Hebrew Bible, but this is not a post trying to understand it. This post will not shed light on what the Creator was getting at by commanding the Hebrews to not cut their beards or shave the hair from the temples of their heads in His Torah. No, this post is embracing this verse for what it is, what the ancient Israelites would have understood it to be, and a possible interpretation you may or may not apply to it.
I consider myself to be a Karaite. A Karaite is, very simply, a Scripturalist Israelite (the term “Kara” in Hebrew being a word meaning “to read”). A Karaite looks at the text and tries their best to put it in context; thinking it through the way an ancient Middle Eastern shepherd or farmer might have. It is with this understanding (or lack thereof) that I tackle this verse.
Many have attempted to throw this verse out of application by trying to “antiquitize” (yes, I made that term up just now) its intent. There have been many, many excuses for not applying this verse in its literal sense of not shaving the hair completely from the corners of one’s head and bringing no harm to the hair of the beard. Some say these practices were done as a sign of mourning, but when not done as a ritual in grief, they are acceptable. Others say these were pagan practices; either as a right of fertility or as a means of showing tribal identification with shapes and designs shaved out of the hair of the temples in ornate designs. How they come to this conclusion is by interpreting this to coincide to either the verse before or the verse after verse 27:
” You shall not eat anything with the blood: neither shall you use divination, nor witchcraft.” –Leviticus 19:26
“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo 
any marks upon you: I am YHVH.” – Leviticus 19:28
pagan tribal affiliation head shaved designs in hair
Designs shaved in the corners of one’s hair on their head – first used by pagan tribes for markings of affiliation.
When the entire chapter of Leviticus 19 is read, many of the prohibitions are given reasons for their observance, but many are given no explanation at all. There is a common theme that runs throughout the chapter: do not be like the rest of the world. The fact that the Almighty had to tell these people these things can be used to help one assume that these practices were taking place amongst those whom the Israelites were interacting. Archeological evidence also supports this thought process. It is understood that these practices were detestable to the God of Israel. However, another interpretation of this could be that even though this behavior did not yet at that time exist, the Holy One could foresee a time when this behavior would occur and He sought to snuff it out amongst His people before it had a chance to take root.
All of these theories are completely beside the point I wish to share; that being my declaration of ignorance! My ignorance is not an ignorance of the text itself, for that is right before our eyes, but an ignorance of the Almighty’s intent for these commands. When we go so far as to assume we know why the Creator of the Universe commanded us not to take part in certain behaviors and made other actions mandatory, we are putting words in His mouth. When we rationalize our act of omitting commands of the Most High, we are, in a sense, inserting a “condition of application” or “fine print” into the text that does not exist. It’s as though we have been including the conditions into the Holy Torah, “in the event that pagan traditions surrounding mourning, fertility, or methods of tribal identification no longer are the norm, disregard Leviticus 19:27 altogether.” To do this, even just in application and without scribbling these additions in the margins of the Torah, such a “condition” is in direction violation of the prohibition against adding or removing mitzvot from the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:2).
Old Samaritan man in a turban with a Torah scroll.

In this age, the ritual removal of facial hair is a very common practice. In fact, this behavior has gone from ritual to habitual just within the past 100 years or so. No United States President since 1889 has worn a full beard (Benjamin Harrison) and no president since Theodore Roosevelt allowed so much as a mustache on their faces. Also, now more than ever before in history are people being called back the Hebrew Scriptures and the observance of Torah. Secular Jews are clamoring back to the heritage of their forefathers. Even Gentiles are shaking off the lies they have been told in the past about their own scriptures and applying more of the Bible to their lives in a much more literal sense.
The mitzvah of not harming one’s beard takes no more faith than any other command, but the reason why so many are apprehensive about observing it is because not only is it on your face, but it’s also “in your face” as far as it being apparent to others. It’s because of this that so many want to find a way out of this commandment rather than be looked at with near-disgust by society. The world sees a full, untrimmed beard as being unhygenic and a symbol of not caring; but in actuality, keeping an “unharmed” and taken care of beard is one of the most natural and healthy things a man can do. I will agree that it is a symbol of not caring, but not caring about what is the question. A full, unharmed beard is a symbol of not caring about what people might say or think. That concept does scare many people, which is why I can say that a full, unharmed beard is not for everyone.
My beard is more than facial hair. It is the act of me announcing my ignorance of God’s intent for certain situations in my life. It is an act of letting go. It is a symbol of the pledge I made Him when I came into His covenant. I have trimmed it in the past in order to better conform to a certain situation in life, but I always regret doing so. It is for that reason that I have decided to never again harm my beard with a blade. Never again shall I cut the hairs of my beard. Is it because I know more than others about why God has told us not to cut our beards? If anything, it’s because I don’t know what else to do.
Now keeping a full beard does not mean being afraid of it, but rather taking care of what God has made grow. We should clean our beards regularly and brush them thoroughly remove any detached hairs from the rest of the beard for the health of the folicals. This also helps to remove the “dirty” stigma from non-trimmed beards. Also, not marring one’s beard does not mean always wearing it completely out in full view; able to get into anything you’re doing. Sometimes, tying the beard back is necessary. This can be done so by braiding the beard and then sticking the braid back through the braid-supporting hairs under the chin, or by holding back with some sort of bandana or cord to keep it free from machinery or other things
Never wear a beard to appear pious. If you ever feel you are growing your beard out with ulterior motives aside from obedience, I wouldn’t recommend wearing an unharmed beard. Also, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve gone without trimming if you speak badly about your neighbor or attempt to cheat people. The folicals of a beard do come from one’s face, but a beard really grows from the heart.
Remember, there actually no commandment anywhere in the Scripture to grow a beard. The command is simply to no cut hair that grows naturally on the corners of one’s face. If you cannot grow a beard, there is something to be said even more for those who cannot not grow a full and thick beard, yet still decide not to mar what grows.
All of this posts are of my opinion. I do not claim them as truth for all because I do not know everyone. All I know is what I see in the text and feeling that goes along with it. I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to share any feedback you have, but try and keep a positive mental attitude.
Many blessings, -Ken
Ken Lane and Joshua Jenkins eating gelato together in Tulsa.
Being silly with my good friend and fellow Hebrew, Joshua Jenkins.

Smash Lies: What You've Read About The Bible is Wrong | Ecclesiastes' Answer to Many Biblical Misconceptions

Just when you thought it was fine and dandy, along comes the Book of Ecclesiastes. 

Just as I wrote last in my last post, one of my favorite activities is observing and learning more about people. In this, I really enjoy listening to different people’s opinions on certain subjects and why they may feel the way they do. I find that when I speak to non-religious people or even some religious individuals on their perception of the Bible, I hear an extremely diverse array of opinions. At times, the diversity of opinion about the single text makes me wonder if they’re talking about the same book. The Bible has long been thought to be a book that tells you that if you’re good, you’ll go straight to heaven when you die and your good memory will be forever remembered. It’s been the text that many believe teaches us that both wine and money are evil and that you should deny yourself pleasure. Then, like that gruff uncle that nobody likes to talk about, comes the Book of Ecclesiastes to efficiently squash many commonly-held views about what the Bible teaches. It is for this reason why it is one of my favorite books of the Bible. 

King Solomon, Shlomo HaMelech, Son of David, King of Israel

The term “ecclesiastes” is a Greek term for the Hebrew word “koheleth” – which means “teacher”, just like the word for an advanced school of Jewish study is called a “kohel.” This word is commonly mistranslated to say “preacher.” The author of this text is believed to Shlomo ha’Melech, King Solomon – who is thought to be the wisest man who ever lived. With that in mind, this book definately holds some serious weight for those who want to know the million dollar question – “what did the Bible say about that?”In this post, we’ll take a look at how the Book of Ecclesiastes turns a box fan on the house of cards many have built up in their minds about what the Bible teaches. This is not all-encompassing, but rather an overview of some obvious misconceptions Ecclesiastes smashes. 

 Common misconception #1

The Bible says that upon death, the good will rise up to heaven and the bad will go to hell. 

Jesse James death picture, outlaw death pictures


It’s frequently thought that those who are good or those who believe will go to heaven and those who are wicked will go elsewhere. However, in multiple passages in the Book of Ecclesiastes, that doesn’t appear to be the case: 

For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?” – 3:19-22 

 While many religious people are quick to state that their righteousness will save them from death or that the wicked will be damned, before any of that occurs, death is a very real truth that all should face. No one, no matter how righteous, is immune from death. A common theme throughout out the Book of Ecclesiastes is vanity – both of the wise and of the wicked. 

But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath….Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.” – 9:1-2,6 

Common misconception #2 

Wine is evil and enjoyment of one’s own possessions is vanity. Money is the root of all evil. 

Pinot Evil, Pinot Noir Wine
Pinot Evil – ironically a cheap favorite at some of my Erev Shabbat dinners. 


Wine and strong drink are so taboo to some Bible-believing individuals that they will even serve unfermented grape juice in place of wine where wine was once used in sacramental service. While everything should be enjoyed in moderation, food and wine are actually celebrated in this particular book of the Bible. Not only are these things encouraged, but that it is taught to enjoy these things because they will not be present in Sheol – the grave or pit – where one is going when they die. 

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.” – 9:7-10 

Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life, and money answers everything.” – 10:19

You may be saying to yourself, “I thought the New Testament says that money is the root of all evil?” That is another misconception:

“For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through is craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” – 1 Timothy 6:10

Heart made with money $20 bill to represent a love of money.



 Common misconception #3 

 Shout the good news of the Bible everywhere. 





The is a certain movement of people who believe that they must tell everyone about what God has done for them anytime they are given the opportunity. While this is a good thing to do according to the Bible, one must also take into account what will make people want to listen and how they will hear – will it be through you speaking or will they experience the grace of God through what you do and how you act? Today, the common picture of religion is a preacher shouting a firey message amongst a room of individuals with little to no knowledge of the Bible that has not been puréed for them by a leader. Ecclesiastes teaches about the significance of being wise but also being quiet enough to not scare away any who may actually listen.

 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.” – 9:17

The same teacher in the Book of Proverbs has more to say about the benefits of remaining quiet: 

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” – Proverbs 17:28 

There are far more common misconceptions about the wisdom of the Bible to be discovered, but one of the most common misconceptions is that someone else must present these to people on a platter – or a blog. It is for that reason that I encourage those who have mostly thought about the Bible as a lame book that forbade drinking wine, enjoying what they had worked for, and thinking they are immune from death, to investigate the Bible for themselves. They’re sure to be extremely surprised to find wisdom from the ancient text and just how relevant that wisdom still is.