WISDOM FROM THE SOURCE: There Are Angels Among Us     
May 14, 2017

By Royi Shaffin

Originally published in “City Beat Magazine”.

There are angels among us

They are inconspicuous 
They do not call attention to themselves 
But they are there nonetheless 
There are angels among us
They help us out when we are carrying huge loads by ourselves
They save us when we are in danger
They show us the way home when we are lost
They speak words of comfort when we are distressed 
There are angels among us
They might not have wings 
At least not that are visible to us
They do not necessarily have halos 
But they walk among us
They bring light where there is darkness
Hope when there is none
Faith to those who find it hard to believe 
There are angels among us
They are black
They are white
They are brown
The next time someone comes out of nowhere to help you
Your prayers are answered through a stranger 
You sit next to someone on the bus who just seems to illuminate the world 
Look closely and remember 
There are angels among us

Murder At The Hair Salon
October 10, 2016

Rabbi Royi Shaffin

Meir was feeling hot and heavy during the summer months as his hair and beard grew and grew and he didn’t bother to get a haircut and beard trim.  Some said that it was for religious reasons because of the various Jewish periods of mourning at this time and others declared him simply lazy.  Whatever his reason, his family and friends finally got to him.  The young strapping lad, a student of the great Sages of Judea, walked into the Roman hair salon to get a haircut and beard trim. His teachers in the Academy had warned him not to go to the Romans, but he thought that this was stupid.  The rabbis only said this, he thought, because they did not want to give business to the occupiers- the ones subduing Judea. 

He sat down in the chair and asked for a haircut and a beard trim.  Of course, he mentioned that the beard should only be trimmed and the razor should not actually touch the skin, a prohibition from the holy Torah.  The barber took out his scissors and started to cut one inch, two inches, perfect.  Then came time for the beard trim.  Snip, snip…and then underneath the beard, the part that it is permitted to shave close to the skin according to the scriptures, to make it nice and straight and presentable to both Jews and Romans – wherever Meir may travel.  The barber took out the straight edge razor and started to scrape off the hair.  Up and down went the razor, hair coming off at every stroke and then… there was a change…all off a sudden, the razor did not go up and down but rather from side to side upon Meir’s bare neck.  The blood came gushing out. 

Meir toppled over from his seat into the clumps of blood stained hair on the floor.  The barber looked down on the floor at his victim, then at his fellow barbers.  They smiled at each other, left the body on the floor, and went on to the next clients.

While the story I just told is gruesome and terrible, it is nevertheless a true story – a depiction and imagined circumstances of events which really took place –  and it is the reason why Tractate Avoda Zara of the Talmud forbids Jews from getting hair cuts from non-Jewish barbers. 

You may point out that today you see many religious Jews going into regular salons and getting haircuts.  Yes, that is because the prohibition no longer applies in our society…and that is the point.

In this week’s Torah portion, VaEtchanan, we find the Ten Commandments.  One of these commandments is:

“LO TIRTZACH”

“THOU SHALT NOT MURDER”

The idea that murder is wrong – that one may not make sport of a fellow human being and that bloodshed is gruesome has spread from the Ten Commandments – from Judaism to Christianity to Islam – to the entire world.  Today, everyone knows that it is wrong to kill someone…but imagine a world without Christians, without Muslims, without anyone else besides the small Jewish people who believe in one God – God who demands and commands justice and morality.  This was the world that once existed and to fully understand Judaism’s enormous impact on the world and on human civilization all one has to do is go ahead and get a haircut at a local Supercuts.