Daf Yomi Nedarim 9
The Bible boasts some of the most beautiful people of all time. Sarah was so beautiful that Abraham had to hide her in a box to protect her from the Egyptians. Rachel was so incredibly stunning that for Jacob it was love at first sight. The Egyptian girls would climb up the walls to take a peek at the handsome Joseph. King Saul stood head and shoulders above everyone else. And King David was a redhead version of Brad Pitt (when he had long dirty blonde hair and a grey goatee, that is . . . )
How does Judaism view physical beauty?
Shimon the Righteous said: I have only once ever partaken of the nazirite offering. It occurred one day when a nazirite fellow arrived from the south. I noticed that he had beautiful eyes and was handsome, with his hair hanging down in curly locks.
I said to him, “My son, what motivated you to chop off your gorgeous hair?”
“I was a shepherding for my father in the town,” the young man replied, “when one time I went to draw water from the spring. I gazed at my reflection in the water and was suddenly overcome by my yetzer (inner tempter), who wanted to drive me out of the world of goodness. I said to him, ‘Evil spirit, why would you assume power in a world that does not belong to you? Why take advantage of one who will end up as nothing more than worms and maggots? I hereby swear that I shall shear you for the sake of Heaven!’”
Immediately, continued Rabbi Shimon, I stood up and kissed him upon his forehead.
“My son,” I said to him, “may nazirites like you abound in Israel!”
Beauty, like any aspect of this world, may be utilized positively or negatively. This young man recognized that it could lead him to sin and so he took an oath of nazirism to protect himself. But when utilized positively, beauty is an extraordinary vehicle to serve the Almighty.
Why were our biblical greats so physically attractive? We are created in the image of G-d. Of course, He has no image. Image, explain the Kabbalists, refers to the character traits of the neshama, the soul. The external beauty of human beings reflects the internal beauty of their souls. When you see your external beauty, it should inspire you to be internally beautiful. Ultimately, our Sages instruct us, we are to strive that our interior match our exterior. Someone who is beautiful on the outside, but of rough character on the inside has failed to heed this lesson.
The young man who took the vow of nazirism, which culminated in the shearing of his beautiful locks, felt that he needed a shock to the system. If he could not maintain his inner beauty to the level of his outer beauty, it was time to push the reset button and figure out how to exercise his inner beauty. When you look in the mirror, look into your eyes, for they are the window to the soul. Do you see an inner beauty that matches your outer beauty?
You are a beautiful person. You were created in the image of G-d. May your inner beauty forever match up to your outer beauty so that all describe you as a beautiful person inside and out!