Sarah Bechor

Why I am divorced and still cover my hair

The number one question I get from people who meet me, when it’s past the “I just met you” stage (hopefully), is “Why do you cover your hair if you are divorced?” After moving to a new neighborhood, starting my kids in new schools and starting a new job in the last eight months, I have gotten this question so many times. Of course, there are those (I know who you are!) who had (have?) no idea I covered my hair and thought my wig was my hair — so for those of you who thought (think) that — gotchya.

Naturally, people think that because I am divorced, I should not cover my hair.

So why do I cover my hair if I am divorced?

Well first a disclaimer. This is about me writing about me — not me writing about you or me writing about other people in my situation. Each person does what they feel is right for them in their situation, and in no way do I mean for this to be patronizing, agonizing, criticizing or judgmental in the slightest. I am just sharing my thoughts.

I also want to state that generally speaking, in respect to the fact that we are a polarized nation, the more charedei approach is for a divorcee to cover her hair with or without children, and the more modern or dati leumi approach is for the divorcee to not cover her hair. That doesn’t mean that you don’t find dati leumi divorcees covering their hair or that you don’t find haredei divorcees uncovering their hair. I for one do not fit in a box of any sort so because I can’t say I am one or the other (fully) I just am. So because I am me…

Why? Why do I choose to cover my hair?

No, I am not bald. I don’t have gross hair. And I have nothing to hide. Okay, now that we got that out of the way, the reasons I cover my hair are the following.

1 — Once something becomes nakedness, it can’t become un-naked. Many people think that covering hair is about being married or not being married. That is not correct, according to the Torah teachings I have learned. Covering one’s hair is about being a virgin or not being a virgin. Once a woman is no longer a “batula,” her hair takes on a new identity — it becomes nakedness just like any part of her body that needs to be covered. That transformation happens over night, literally in most cases, and once the woman “crosses over” her hair becomes “ervah” — nakedness, which needs to be covered according to Jewish tradition. This has nothing to do with being married or not being married and it has nothing to do with walking to one’s chuppah or receiving a get. In contrast, it has everything to do with whether or not the woman is a virgin. Many people who get divorced uncover their hair, but for me, I couldn’t just turn nakedness into not-nakedness. Once something becomes something else, it is not so easy to turn it back to its original entity. My hair actually became a symbol of privacy and modesty for me, and married or not married, that didn’t change when I got divorced. I didn’t know how to undo that transformation.

2 — My children, the community and “other” people. I was married for almost seven years. I felt that uncovering my hair would make many people in my life uncomfortable. It would have been very strange for my kids, for my uncles, for my friends’ husbands, for all the people that knew me covering my hair for so long, if I just one day uncovered my hair. I just didn’t feel it made sense to simply uncover it and make others, especially my kids, feel weird about looking at me just because I made a decision in my life to get divorced. It might sound weird to others, but honestly my kids had enough changes, they didn’t need my appearance to change as well, especially if it literally represented “the divorce” which is a very traumatic event for a child.

3 — My mother, may she be blessed, kept her hair covered after she was divorced and it was not easy for her and still isn’t easy for her. She struggled with it and I just couldn’t uncover my hair after watching her struggle with it for years. She has always been and continues to be my role model and I thought — if she could do it, so can I.

4 — I knew that if and when I get remarried I would want to cover my hair. I thought it would be so much harder to uncover and then recover. A part of me kept it covered just to guarantee that if I were to get remarried, I was preventing the struggle of having to “recover it” again after having it uncovered for x amount of years. A preventative measure I suppose.

5 — It keeps me feeling like a mom. I can’t explain it, but even though I would like to remarry, I need to remember that my first role right now is being a mother — not being a single woman. Uncovering my hair would have symbolically “put me back in the market,” but for some reason, having my hair covered keeps me outside of the “I’m available” look which keeps me in my mom mode, which is what I need to do right now. The truth is, I don’t know if that’s a good thing that I don’t come across “available” — but it serves a purpose. In any case, I don’t think I’d meet someone because they looked at my hair and thought: “She must be single because her hair is uncovered so I’m going to ask her out.” In other words, I don’t think I’m closing any potential doors by covering my hair.

6 — Something deep inside me felt it was the right thing and this is what G-d wants from me. I repeat, from me. I have told G-d many times, it’s so so so hard for me and I hope it will be a merit for good things in my life.

All that being said, there is such a thing as a heter. A heter is a real thing and it means that when a divorcee asks their rabbi or rabbinical mentor to uncover their hair, for sensory reasons or because they want to get their self esteem back or simply because they want to look more attractive to remarry or because they have no kids or because they were married for such a short amount of time, they can and should get that heter and it is 100% more than okay — it’s actually a mitzvah! And with a heter, the hair actually does transform back into non-nakedness.

Then there are people that don’t ask for a heter — and they uncover their hair — and guess what? I still love you whoever you are!!! Like I said, everyone is their own person, this is NOT about me judging people or thinking things about other people and I LOVE YOU NO MATTER WHAT YOU DECIDE. I don’t think this is a black and white issue or a right or wrong issue. Just like each person is totally different, the “right thing” is totally different for each person. This is simply about me answering the question that is constantly being thrown at me and I never know how to explain it so I am finally just putting it down on paper. Well, a screen.

So there it is. I gave you my answer.

Now can we please talk about something more interesting?

About the Author
Sarah Bechor is a freelance writer in addition to her full-time job at United Hatzalah. She made Aliyah in 2007 and now lives with her husband and children in Gush Etzion.