Humility of Hair
Hair, flow it, show it
Long as God can grow, my hair
Let it fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees
Give a home to the fleas, in my hair
A home for fleas, a hive for the buzzing bees
A nest for birds, there ain't no words
For the beauty, splendor, the wonder of my hair
I think we can all agree, as my friend Barney Stinson says, That is the dream.
Parshat Metzora understands the wonder, the splendor, the Samsonian power of hair - and the extreme humility of lacking it.
Leviticus Chapter 14 verse 9 reads: “On the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair - of head, beard and eyebrows. When he has shaved off all his hair, he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water; then he shall be clean.”
Kli Yakar, an early 17th century Torah commentary, says the Torah mentioned hair, beard and eyebrows because they are close to the three primary sins which result in nega’im [literally afflictions, but understood as the leprosy-like diseases described in Tazria and Metzora.] He must shave the hair on his head to atone for haughtiness, the desire to be the head of everything. His beard he must shave off the hair around his mouth to atone for the mouth which spoke lashon hara. His eyebrows - to atone for miserliness (the Hebrew tzarut ayin literally “narrowness of the eyes”)
But all three of these sins - haughtiness, lashon hara & miserliness - come from a fundamental lack of humility - a building block of being a good Jew. As Rabbi Bachya ibn Pakuda writes in his 11th century work Duties of the Heart: “On what do all virtues depend? All virtues and duties are dependent on humility.”
The three primary sins which result in nega’im are all the product of one lacking humility. In the Bible, the prescription for this hubris is a shaved head. But we need not take such extreme measures to take a look in the mirror every morning and strive to humble ourselves. Though humility is one of our most sacred middot, it is also one of the middot that requires the most dedication to achieve.
In Everyday Holiness, Alan Morinis challenges us to “Focus neither on [our] own virtues nor the faults of others.” So in fact, gloriously flowing hair is not the dream; humility is.
Albert Einstein once wrote: “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.” If only we all can be so humble.