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About Rav Kook, payos and beards

Rabbi Ari ShvatNisan 29, 5773
Question
Did Rav Kook have payos? also did he have a beard before he was married? Is there anywhere I can look up his thoughts on payos and beards? Thank you so much Ari
Answer
Shalom. I’m glad to see that bnei Torah in America are interested in learning more about Rav Kook. Yes, Rav Kook had payos, but we don’t know if he had a beard before he was married, for there are no known pictures of him before the age of 23, by which time he was already married, and had a beard. Although every detail in Torah is important, the customs which you are referring to are clearly not major points in Torah, nor in Rav Kook’s outlook on the world, and I suggest spending more time on his beautiful, original and spiritually-awesome philosophy and understanding of Torah, mitzvot, Am Yisral, Eretz Yisrael, Jewish history, the ge’ula, Hashem, mussar, Tanach, chassidut, kabbalah, and even his poetry, which are much more basic and central to his (and to every rabbi’s) Judaism than his external garb. You can see some sheurim on his thought in English at http://www.yeshiva.co/midrash/?orderby=505&search_in=0 or http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4315133,00.html Nevertheless, Rav Kook does discuss the importance of a beard and peyot in Otzrot HaRe’iya, p. 717-719 (in the first edition, 5748) in his article “Te’udat Yisrael u’Le’umi’uto”, where in short, he says that the benefit of these mitzvot is to have a special, national “look” which identifies us as the Nation of Israel, even regarding our physical hair grooming. People tend to find beauty and love among those who fit their national appearance, for example, Japanese usually see beauty in the way they themselves, look. This national look adds to our love of Israel, ahavat Yisrael. Rav Kook stresses that National Unity is important, and how much more so, we should be stand out, identify and be identified as Hashem’s Chosen Nation, and be proud of our special role. On p. 912 there, Rav Kook writes that it’s important to publicize that if one wants to shave, he should do so in a permissible way (which, he stresses, is “totally permissible”, just not “midat chassidut”, or sometimes against the local custom) and not with a razor blade (which is 5 Torah prohibitions). Accordingly, Rav Kook himself probably grew a beard even before his wedding, following the custom, the midat chassidut, and out of a feeling of national unity and a desire to identify and look like a son of Israel. B’hatzlacha in your striving for truth! With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat
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