From T’nuas HaMussar (The Mussar Movement)
“…he employed every means at his disposal to guard his son [Yom Tov Lipman Lipkin] against straying from Judaism. He journeyed specially to St. Petersburg to extract a three-fold promise: that his son should observe Shabbat, refrain from eating trefah food, and not shave. He would say that were he able to disguise himself as a woman, he would go to work in the restaurant patronized by his son, so as to supervise the kashurt. He also requested R. Isacc Blazer, then rabbi in St. Petersburg, by mail, to keep an eye on the son. In this way, he said, the son remained a loyal Jew.”
While it obviously pained Rav Yisrael that this child (one of four sons and a daughter) strayed from the traditional path, the founder of the Mussar movement made great attempts to not only help his son while he was in university and afterwards, but that he never stopped loving Yom Tov. I have only been a father for 12 years and I know that my children don’t always see eye-to-eye with me, just like I didn’t always see things eye-to-eye with my father a”h, but the bond of love never is severed.
Hmm, not shave? doesn’t sounds so dramatic to me, but maybe back then?
I think that in the late 1800s if you were raised obervant and started shaving it was probably similar to going from wearing a yarmulka in the workplace to not wearing one or from not eating out to only eating dairy outside the home.