SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Ted Cruz said a rabbi gave him a “pretty cool” compliment about his new beard.
Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted Wednesday that a friend in Israel who is studying at yeshiva — a Jewish educational institution focused on the study of religious texts — told him his rabbi said the senator’s facial hair had geopolitical significance.
“His rabbi told him he liked my beard, elaborating 'It gives Cruz a Talmudic & Rabbinic look & presence that will put the fear of the Lord into Israel’s enemies & promote Middle East peace,” Cruz tweeted.
The Texas senator seemed surprised by the comments, describing them both as “pretty cool” and “a bit much.”
Cruz has been vocal about his support for Israel in the past, including his move to introduce a bill to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem just days before Donald Trump was sworn into office. That decision was controversial among Jews, with 47 percent of American Jews opposing the move, according to the poll by the American Jewish Committee.
What rabbis are saying
Rabbi Avremi Zippel, program director of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, said beards have a special significance in the Jewish tradition.
“Jewish Mysticism speaks at great length how a beard is deeply connected to G-d’s 13 Attributes of Mercy, and as such, the beard is a strong representation of Divine kindness and peace,” he wrote in a text message to the Deseret News. “I hope that Senator Cruz, Congressman O’Rourke and any others trying it out, indeed find the blessing of the beard in their life.”
(The custom of substituting the word "God" with G-d in English is based on the prohibition in Jewish law against destroying or erasing the name of God. Many Jews substitute "God" with "G-d" so that they can erase or dispose of the writing without showing disrespect to God).
Rabbi Zippel, who has a beard himself, said he hopes the trend also catches on with clean-shaven leaders in Washington.
“I think Jared Kushner needs to try the beard on next, to truly test its effectiveness in the Middle East!” he said. "As to the fashion element, I’ve a lifetime believer that beards are the way to go!”
Rabbi Sam Spector of Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City said the tweet didn't offend him.
“I have bigger things to be offended by,” he said. “None taken.”
But other rabbis across the country had a more critical response:
What the beard buzz is all about
This isn’t the first time Cruz’s beard has made headlines.
The Texas senator’s beard went viral after he started growing it out over Thanksgiving.
“I haven’t grown a beard since law school. I figured, if nothing else, it will drive the Twitter trolls crazy,” Cruz said during an interview on BlazeTV in December.
He was right — Twitter was quick to take notice. Someone even created an account devoted to the beard.
“Cruz showed up in the Senate with a filled-out salt-and-pepper beard, giving his face a defined jawline and its first-ever hints of ruggedness and affability,” the Slate author wrote.
Cruz was re-elected to the Senate in 2018, narrowly defeating Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke by a margin of 50.9 percent to 48.3 percent in the most expensive Senate race in United States history.