Fear of Change
He truly bore the deformity of baldness very badly, having experienced often his vulnerability to the jokes of his detractors. For that reason he was even accustomed to “recall” his thinning strands from the very top of his head, and out of all the honors decreed for him by the people and the senate he neither accepted nor took advantage of any other more gladly than the right of wearing a laurel wreath on every occasion. (Seautonius, Life of Julius Caesar 45.2)
Julius Caesar may have considered baldness a deformity, but times have changed. I see men who shave their heads wherever I go. Quite frankly, I don’t understand it. I refused to get a very short haircut when I was an eleven-year old student in Yeshiva. Everyone had the same haircut as a freshly minted soldier. The new style is even shorter; people literally shave their heads.
Our biology teacher in Ner Israel High School would make fun of his bald head and describe how he would wax his skull every morning to make it shine. He used to refer to himself as a “bowling ball.” Telly Savalas, Kojak, was his favorite actor simply because he shaved his head. Yul Brynner was a close second. Our teacher loved them. I pitied them for their deformities.
I have shared many hospital rooms with people who lost all their hair during chemotherapy. They certainly did not choose to be bald.
I once met a man, a Chazzan – cantor – who had absolutely no hair on his body. He had been one of Mengele’s guinea pigs for a medical experiment. He wanted to be known for his beautiful voice, but his shining plate overshadowed his singing. I don’t know if he is still alive, but I doubt he would still be known as the Hairless Chazzan. Caesar, Kojak and Yul Brynner have won the day. Bald is now officially cool.
The shaved heads are in good company. Elisha the prophet was bald, as was Rabbi Akiva. But the fact that their baldness is mentioned reflects how unusual it was for a man to be bald. What would the people of the First Temple period have thought of all the shaved heads passing us on the street? Would Caesar, ashamed of his head, have been relieved to know that people desire to look like him? Or, would he have felt slightly less special?
I never thought of myself as someone who is bothered by change. In fact I am bothered when everything remains the same without ever changing. Yet, here I am, typing on an Mac, having changed from a PC, learning all sorts of new software programs, with most parts of my life drastically changed from twenty years ago, but bothered by all those shaved heads. You just can’t tell which change will be the one that bothers us.
The world after the flood was very different from the world before. The new world lived in fear of God, Who had proven His ability to destroy everything. Noah spent 120 years as a carpenter, another year as a zookeeper and sailor, and he stepped from the ark to become a farmer. Shem and Yefet willingly accepted that all would change and they also continued to honor the past. Cham did not want anything to change. He rejected his father who he held responsible for bringing about this changed world.
What scared Cham? The Sages teach that he was frightened that Noah would have more children and then Cham, rather than be one of the three sons, would only be one of four or five. He was frightened of losing his position.
The people, who dreamed of building a great Tower that would reach the heavens, realized that the world was changing. They too wanted to maintain their position in the world: “Let us make a name for ourselves.”
Then a very special person appeared on the scene, someone not frightened of change. In fact, he was determined to create an ever-changing world that would never stagnate. His name was Abram and he became a traveler. He challenged the beliefs of his family and faith and changed the world into which he was born, a world of multiple gods and idols, one for every taste and palate, into a world of the One God, Unchanging but Infinite.
Abram changed into Abraham and introduced us to a world of unlimited opportunities. Not a flavor of the month world, a new hair style every few years, but a world of possibility and adventure. Abraham traveled as did Noah, but unlike Noah, he didn’t travel to escape but to thrive.
So, to all you shaved heads out there, enjoy your bald heads. I’ll simply change my hairstyle. I think it allows more opportunities for self-expression.
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