An old British friend recently asked me why I cover my hair? Leave it to the Brit to have no filter and, even though he’s not a close friend and someone I hardly ever see, he still felt at liberty to pose the somewhat personal question.
But I like a challenge and I started contemplating my answer as I was forming it. The facts on the ground were pretty clear – even to an acquaintance like him – I was hardly akin to holy Rachel Immenu or little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes Ramot-Daled Rebbetzin. So why was I doing it?
I’ll tell you this much now that I’m being honest. The reason had nothing to do with the negative source from where the law originates:
The Kohen shall stand the woman up before Hashem and expose the [hair on the] head of the woman” [Bamidbar 5: 18] leading our rabbis to infer that “hair covering for a married woman is a Torah obligation” [Ketubot 72a].
Euch, I’m sorry, but gross. And it wasn’t because hubby requested it of me:
“How do you feel about me covering my hair?” I’d asked when we were engaged.
“Your hair, your choice,” was his philosophical, halachic, I-Tarzan-You-Jane 4-word response.
So what did inspire me to do it? It certainly wasn’t the holier-than-thou Halo-angel within me either. And how do I feel about it today, nearly 14 years later? What, if anything has changed with me and hair covering? These were all issues I thought about after the conversation with The Brit.
My initial response to the guy was “well, I do it for 3 main reasons: first, to feel like I belong. When I cover my hair – in the way I do – I feel like I belong to the Gush community of women of which I’m a part. While there is disparity in amount of hair covering and a choice to not cover at all, a lot of women in my neighborhood choose to cover like me. Given that before I met Daniel I often felt “excluded” and like I didn’t really belong anywhere, this was something very positive for me. The second reason is, to show people – men in particular – straight away that I am “taken,” married, out of bounds, off-limits and that I’m proud of it. And third, for gratitude. Grateful that I’d found a place where I belonged and grateful to be a married member of the modern orthodox community in Eretz Yirael.
I had another interesting question with another Brit yesterday that prompted me to write this piece now. While I’m far from being a fashionista I do follow trends I like. When I first got married I wore kippot l’nashim – these are kinda large kippot style knitted headgear covering the whole head. According to Berachot 24a, men are not allowed to recite a blessing in the presence of the uncovered head of a married woman. So even when we were alone at home, at a Shabbat meal I would actually keep my hair covered – something I do to this day. Also, when it was just the two of us, I took it off and when someone came in, I put it on.
I’ve stopped putting it back on now if someone enters (unless it’s a Shabbat meal) mainly because I don’t feel the halachic need and I also know that when someone comes in they know I am married. I also don’t feel the need to feel like “I belong” as I’ve got that “covered” (scuse the pun) while I’m at home.
Over the years I have changed how I cover my hair. These days more often than not I just wear a thick hairband. This is slightly problematic as it doesn’t cover the entire head at all times so, when I go to shul/eat with my husband on Shabbat I try to switch off for one of the older, more covered hats.
But now I’ve begun to re-think the whole large headband covering method after my conversation with my single friend. She said she used to love her funky straw hats, hair bands, scarves and other hair accessories back in the day. But now she has a problem with it: everyone – married and unmarried – is wearing head covers and so she may be mistaken for married! This, she told me, she doesn’t want!
I kinda told her it’s how I felt when someone told me I couldn’t wear a rainbow T-shirt because that’s the pride color for LGBTQ. “Excuse me,” I said, ever-so-liberal-politely, “they can’t steal the entire rainbow spectrum of colors.” So then, if that’s my belief, what am I now doing to the single orthodox community by using the entire array of head pieces to declare I am married?
Hmmm….I think I’d better put my thinking hat on for this one!