When I first read Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer’s column describing why he decided to shave during the Three Weeks (July 13), I wrote it off as yet another distortion of Torah and halachah used as a means by which, ironically, to reduce our adherence to Torah and halachah. Then I read the letter by Rabbi Gerald Friedman (July 20), a rabbi serving a nearby Conservative congregation. Friedman took his argument to an entirely new level — one that I find most disturbing coming from a Conservative rabbi. Unlike the Reform, who make it clear that they revere those before them who were “liberated from the yoke of traditional Jewish life,” I expect more from the Conservative leadership.
Friedman’s assertion that we should all shave during the Three Weeks so that we do not highlight “our different levels of observance” is about the most absurd thing I have ever read. Why stop there? Perhaps we should all stop wearing kippot so that we don’t make our naked-headed bretheren feel bad? Maybe we should stop the practice of b’rit milah, too, so as not to embarrass the uncircumcised among us when we meet in the JCC locker room.
I agree with Engelmayer that any significant shift to the right or left is problematic, but I ask his colleagues not just to point the finger at those whom they accuse of moving too far to the right, but to notice their own drift to the left. Too far to either side and you will end up going off the deep end.