There seem to be many aspects of hair that are thought to reflect a person's spiritual attributes in Judaism. Examples I can think of off the top of my head include the kabbalistic benifits that some ascribe to long peyot and unshaven beards, the Nazirite's uncut hair, and a midrash I remember seeing that discussed the personality traits of redheads (I'd have to look it up again to find the source, but I remember it said that red hair is a sign of either complete righteousness or complete wickedness, bringing David HaMelech and Eisav as examples). In fact, according to chabad.org the Zohar states that "…from the hair of a person you can know who he is." (Zohar, Naso, Idra Rabba 129a)

In constrast to this, I haven't seen much discussing baldness. Are there any sources that discuss what spiritual traits baldness reflects, whether positive or negative?

  • In the torah there is a specific mention of tzaarat causing a bald patch. There is also a prohibition on making a bald patch (or tattoo) as an act of mourning. – Clint Eastwood Jan 8 '14 at 7:13
  • See the mishna in B'choros (7:2) regarding the type of baldness that invalidates a kohein from service: הקירח, פסול. איזה הוא קירח, כל שאין לו שיטה של שיער מקפת מאוזן לאוזן; ואם יש לו, הרי זה כשר. – Fred Jan 8 '14 at 7:31
  • @Fred he's asking whether its a spiritual blemish not whether it's a physical one – ray Jan 8 '14 at 8:46
  • @ray I assume there's some spiritual significance to the fact that this is a mum, and the citation in B'choros seems a good place to start researching further. I understand this is not an answer as such, which is why I posted it as a comment. – Fred Jan 8 '14 at 8:55
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    "kabbalistic benifits that some ascribe to long peyot" Interesting! Especially since the Ari Z"L made sure to regularly cut his peyot short enough that the would not grow into his beard. (Source: Beis Lechem Yehuda on the margin of any Shulchan Aruch on Y"D Siman 181) – Danny Schoemann Jan 8 '14 at 12:59

The Alter Rebbe describes (Start with the ד there and continue) the difference between the Leviim who were completely shaved to prepare for their service in the Mishkan, vs. the Kohanim who kept their hair and beard when anointed.

In very short, baldness represents the level of סובב, transcendence where the highest of spiritual levels and lowest of existence is equal before G-d. Hair shows drawing down such high spiritual levels into levels which are internal and appreciable.

To give an analogy (which is referenced in that location, but appears in various places in Likkutei Torah at length), doing Mitzvos in this world connects to סובב - transcendence - or higher, but is not appreciable. Gan Eden is where we can appreciate the spirituality, but it is therefore much more limited, so that it doesn't overwhelm us. This is why the Mishna says יפה שעה אחת, it is better to have one hour of Teshuva and Good Deeds in this world than the whole World to Come, even though it says that this world is only a preparation for the World to Come, because in this world doing Mitzvos connects to a level unattainable if it is appreciated, and more can be spiritually accomplished here.

Baldness represents that transcendence, whereas the hair represents the idea of revealing that spirituality in the world. The hair is very distant from the life of the body, as represented by the fact that it can be cut off without pain, similarly the spirituality drawn into this world is very distant and much lower than its source.

Korach's failing was that he didn't recognize that his spiritual station was to elevate things into the spiritual (Gevurot - strength, the idea of song, which is what the Leviim did in the Mishkan) and connect with the transcendent and instead wanted to use his spiritual connection to draw down such high levels into the world, which would have been destructive - causing excessive judgement - when the world is not in a state to be able to take such revelation.

See here towards the end where he speaks to the same thing, and explains Elisha's baldness in this context as representing the good aspect of what Korach was trying to accomplish. Footnote 6 there is basically speaking around the same concepts as above.

  • interesting about shaving hair, but is natural baldness also for these reasons? – ray Jan 8 '14 at 18:42
  • @ray, from the comment about Elisha's baldness, it would seem so. – Yishai Jan 8 '14 at 19:32

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