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 Like many others I have my hair cut at least once a month and my beard trimmed then as well. Having one's hair trimmed and neat apparently is a Jewish value. The Talmud teaches us that the high priest of Israel had his hair trimmed daily. The monarchs of first temple times also had their hair cut on a regular basis and in a very timely manner. Long and unkempt hair and beards were apparently reserved for those who took the vow of a nazir – someone who pledges abstinence and holiness – and for people who have not yet purified themselves from a place or from impurities that they have suffered.

Serving as a barber in Jewish tradition was and is a long-standing position of necessity and even respect. The Talmud records for us many great scholars who sustained themselves by being barbers. The barber that I use here in my neighborhood in Jerusalem is a very fine person and perfectly fits my requirements. He is friendly but never gregarious. He is efficient but never appears to be hurried. He is polite and never inquisitive. He is expensive but never exorbitant.
Those are wonderful traits not only for a barber but for all of us as well. So, I find the experience of going for a haircut to be a pleasant one and never burdensome. Part of the experience of the barbershop is noticing the variety of customers that come and go. The barbershop like the hospital is a great leveler of society. Everyone removes their hats or head covering to have one's hair cut.
All the people that I meet in the barbershop whether I knew them before or not, are interesting. Some exhibit greater patience than others, while others are determined to make conversation with whoever is present no matter whether the other party is willing to engage in such a conversation or not. Some are very fastidious about their haircut. They are replete with instructions and comments to the barber, who patiently complies with their wishes, even if following those wishes will not enhance the attractiveness of the person.
Others, like me, leave it up to the professional expertise of the barber as to the type of hair and beard that will result. I have always been satisfied with what the barber prescribed, without words of instruction being transmitted between us during the process. It is not that I do not care about my appearance – I am as vain as the next person – it is simply that I realize there are limits to the magic that any barber can perform and am, therefore, very comfortable in my appearance and in the haircut that I am undergoing. There are people who, while waiting for the barber, read the newspaper that is provided. Most however are busy playing with their phones. I am busy contemplating the view that I see passing before me.
I always suffer a jolt of nostalgia when the barber wets my hair prior to his clipping away with his scissors. For that instant my hair turns black again. I have had white hair for many years now and I am completely adjusted to that reality. However, my hair was jet black for most of my life and when I see it, albeit only for a few seconds, I am reminded of the passage of time and the experiences of life that have occurred
The barber will sweep the hair that he has cut into the receptacle that he has for used human hair. I have never dared to ask him what eventually happens to that hair and why he is so careful to make certain that every piece, no matter how minute, ends up in that receptacle.
I shudder when I recall how the hair of millions of Jews who were gassed to death in World War II, was used to fashion pillows, slippers and other items of clothing and purposes for the civilian and military German population. I imagine that this is not a proper thought to be having when having one's hair cut.  However, since my barbershop is in Jerusalem and Jerusalem is Jewish to the core, I do not dwell on past bad memories and associations. I just concentrate on hoping that the barber will somehow magically make me look younger than I really am.
Shabbat shalom

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