Monday, November 8, 2010

"Hear, Hear" for Hair-Covering

The British "cheer" by saying:
"Hear, Hear!"

"Just Call Me Chaviva" blogged about how she's adjusting to a very specific aspect of life as a properly married religious Jewish woman, covering her hair.

Here's my comment:
OK, I've been covering my hair all my married life, yes, before you guys were born.  I always hated my hair.  It demanded lots of work, so it's a great freedom to cover it.  The trick for you would be to have it cut in a frum place where it won't be all gussied up for view.
There is such an enormous variety of "accepted*" ways of covering/hiding/tying a married woman's hair in public**.  Bli neder (this is not a vow/oath) I'd love to do a pictorial post on it.  When I got married, forty years ago last June, there were two and a half acceptable ways to cover one's hair.  You could get a wig, which was supposed to look very "natural," or you wore a hat or scarf.  In those days there were special scarves, prefolded with a piece of foam sewn in to give it some "bulk."  The question then was how much hair did you show, bangs, braid, actual hair-do, etc.

I haven't had a "to show" haircut since the day I got married.  Over the years, I've been the one to chop off my hair.  The less than a dozen times I paid a "professional" were rarely worth the money.  Actually, for practical and halachic (Jewish Law) reasons I think it's best to cover your hair in a way that nobody can really tell how good a haircut you've gotten.

According to Jewish Law, a married woman's hair shouldn't be an "attention-getter." Ok you may say that an awful home hair-chopping does attract the eye.  I like to hide the "ends," meaning no cute hat perched on a nicely styled cut. 

Nice hats and scarves do cost money.  A good haircut costs money, so why pay for both?  I'd rather invest in the "right" hats and scarves, styles to be changed instantaneously at will.

Nu, why not a wig?  I answered that question in HIDE and SEEK: Jewish Women and Hair Covering.  But if I was a wig-wearer, for sure by this time in my married life, I'd make it fun and not hide it.

*not accepted by all but with some sort of Torah-rabbinic backing
**in some circles the "in public" is emphasized and a married woman's hair isn't covered, hidden, tied up in her own home, even when non-family members are there

12 comments:

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
My two cents (possibly more): My hair is difficult also so covering it wasn't an issue with me at all, but I do understand women who have a hard time covering their hair. One of my closest friends says that she gets two mitzvot for covering her hair: for the standard covering, and for giving up her precious locks, not that she shaved her head. She just had to cover her beloved curls. Before the wedding she told husband-to-be, "This is my last day with my curls. I'm doing my own hair."
Wigs are out because we're Sephardic, not that plenty of other rabbis aren't against them too. Honestly, wigs are either designed to look better than real hair, which isn't modest, or they look like a dead animal, which is gross. I've seen plenty of hats and scarfs that I wouldn't consider modest either so there's always something to consider.

Jew Wishes said...

What an excellent post...

Batya said...

JW, thanks!
Hadassa, my great-great grandfather from Neshelsk, Poland didn't approve of wigs.

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
Yes, this is an excellent post with excellent links. I haven't had the time yet to read the review of "HIDE AND SEEK" let alone find the book. It seems fascinating. I honestly don't understand how women who wouldn't think of driving on Shabbat or violating laws much more personal make such an issue out of head-coverings, which can be both modest and beautiful.
If I understood correctly what I've read, the situation in Europe, Russia etc. was that the rabbis as a whole were not enthusiastic about allowing wigs, but they were eventually allowed. Today some rabbis favor wigs, which I don't understand.

Batya said...

amen

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

@Hadassa: "Today some rabbis favor wigs, which I don't understand." It was explained to me that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe preferred n'shei Chabad to wear sheitlach because a) they're more natural - ie you don't stand out in a "kiruvy" crowd as "the one with her hair covered" the way you do with a tichel or hat, and b) they're more tzenua because you can't tell if a single hair or a few stray hairs wander out.

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

I rebelled against hair covering at one point while I was divorced. Without asking a shailah, I just stopped. It was the BEST feeling - just having my hair whoosh in the wind with the windows rolled down. Showing off my curly curls - ooh, la la. But the day I married my current husband, I started again. I thought I'd hate it, but I really don't.
My haircuts are also self-inflicted, few and far between, and definitely not "to show." :-)))
And I definitely must go dig up my mother's copy of Hide & Seek now to re-read your essay!!! So funny - I read it a million years ago.

Batya said...

Jennifer, "the book" davka has an interesting article about wigs and the rebbe. It wasn't that he thought they were halachikly more acceptable, but he felt that he could best sell the mitzvah to women if he was pro-wigs, and he was right.

And I know of other women who took breaks from hair-covering inbetween marriages with and without rabbinic approval. I'm in no position to give an opinion on it, B"H

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
@Jennifer, I read a full length opinion by the Lubavitcher Rebbe about the wig versus the scarf/hat argument. None of the reasons made sense to me and the matter at hand was not kiruv. I'm not questioning the halachic status of the Rebbe's opinions; the points the Rebbe raised involved the ways in which women make choices. If the Rebbe was using wigs to convince women to cover their hair it doesn't seem to me that he favored wigs lehathila, rather only as being more acceptable than totally uncovered hair. Why is it that Sephardic women don't have a problem keeping a scarf over all of their hair and the Ashkenaziot do? Is a few strands accidentally straying from a modest head covering less modest than a wig that a fashion model would wear? I also know plenty of Ashkenaziot that don't let any hair show out of their scarfs.
Kiruv work is a special circumstance and does not constitute a blanket heter favoring wigs. We should also keep in mind that many rabbi's wives wear wigs so beautiful that no-one not familiar with the custom of married women wearing wigs is aware that they are covering their hair. A friend of mine who wears a scarf was actually asked when temporarily living in America, "Why do you have to be more frum than the rebbitzen?" Nobody in the community knew that the rabbi's wife covered her hair!
Another exception: Sephardic rabbis permit women to wear at wig a work if they must work to support the family and are not allowed to wear a hat/scarf at work. A proper head covering must be worn to and from work. In Israel, both situations are rarely relevant.
I know women who were given a heter to uncover their hair between marriages, and, like Batya, I'm not going to judge the ones who didn't ask. Unfortunately I know many widowed and divorced women, far too many...
P.S. One of the nice things about separate swimming at our local pool is LETTING HAIR BLOW IN THE BREEZE! WHOOSH IS RIGHT ON!

Batya said...

Jennifer, Hadassa, re: the rebbe, at the time he made the decision to promote wigs, kiruv was far from the problem. Frum, chassidic and Orthodox married women weren't covering their hair.

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
Batya, so was allowing the wig a sort of emergency solution? I can think of similar situations, but I don't want to get OT. Now that the general atmosphere is more religious, is the time ripe for encouraging/insisting on hats/scarfs? There's a women's organization based in Bnei Brak encouraging their fellow women to switch from a wig to a different head-covering and to increase modesty in other ways also.

Batya said...

The wig psak has taken a life of its own, and outside of people like us the majority of humans are too conforming by nature to wear something that doesn't look like hair.
When I think of "kippah shechora" (black) I don't think "more frum," I think of a kippah which won't be noticed at first glance vs the crocheted which is generally colorful and proudly proclaims the mitzvah.