It was with great fascination that I read the exchange of letters between Lieutenant Colonel Klein and Rabbis Goldstein and Wiener. Though I personally stem from a family that exhibited great mesirus nefesh not to trim our beards in any way, and baruch Hashem, my siblings, my children and I have followed on that path, my initial reaction was to agree with Mr. Klein. Since joining the U.S. army is something voluntary, why should we — as Yidden in galus — seek to fight longtime regulations that require shaving to join an army that is clearly not cut out for our type of lifestyle?
It was only the final lines of Rabbi Wiener’s letter that turned me around.
Indeed, if it would only be a matter of soldiers wearing beards, and there were enough Orthodox chaplains available from those kehillos whose poskim permit shaving, then perhaps there is little reason to fight this battle. But as Rabbi Wiener indicated, and my own research supported, this is not the case. Currently a very large proportion of frum chaplains in the armed forces come from Chabad, and unless they are permitted to wear beards, it would cause a severe shortage of frum chaplains.
That is something well worth fighting for.