Monday, July 11, 2011

Hidden Tresses

"I wear a hat at night." She says it matter-of-factly.

"You wear a hat to bed?" I try not to sound shocked. She's not Chasidic, she's not even Chareidi. It seems rather extreme to me.

"Yes, I decided to keep my hair covered at all times."

That's the point when naughty questions pop into my head, like when exactly does she show her hair, but I bite them back, being the nice frum girl/woman I am.

"Oh." I say instead. "I don't cover my hair at home."

"Unless we have guests of course." I add. I've got my reputation to mantain.

"Of course" She says.

"I mean it's a good thing, covering your hair all the time, I guess… There's that story with the woman who merited torah scholar sons because the walls of her house never saw her hair…" It's a Bais Yaacov classic. I always hated it, but that part I leave out.

The conversation leaves me thinking.

I don't cover my hair at all, except when I have to, i.e. I'm outside, or there are (non related) men around. (Halachically I heard that in her own home a woman doesn't have to cover her hair even if there are strange men around, but I'm not going that far, it would make them, and me, uncomfortable. )

It's hard enough covering for a woman to cover her hair, so why make it even more difficult?

Or am I missing something here?

Maybe the reason is logistical - when there are older kids around, it confuses them to see their mother without a head covering?

And maybe there really is some mystical Tznius benefit?

It's a bit like the great "what to wear to the separate swimming pool" debate. It's about extra sensitivity. What can I say, I don't have it yet.

So what do you do, or plan to do, in your homes- bare it or share it?

18 comments:

  1. I'm a little surprised at your surprise. Granted it's weird she wears a hat because how does one sleep in a hat? But sleeping in a tichel is not strange at all...I know people who do, and I know people who don't. As someone I know who always covers holds: It's brought brocha into my home.

    I've only once been in a home where the woman uncovered her hair in the house; everyone I know covers unless she's sleeping, and then some do and some don't.

    And even those who might not be so careful in front of kids...they'd definitely cover in front of their brothers.

    So bottom line: don't be so surprised!

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  2. There is actually some debate as to whether that story (about so diligently covering her hair that the walls of her home never saw it uncovered) is cited as an example that everyone should aspire to or an extreme that we shouldn't necessarily reach for.

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  3. I thought the idea was that the husband *is* supposed to see the wife's hair. Why cover it?

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  4. I'm a little surprised as well. I mean, logistically speaking isn't it a pain? When you're in your house and someone knocks on the door, what do you do? Check if it's a guy and then run and cover your hair? Wouldn't it just be easier to always keep it covered? I can understand that going to sleep you don't want to cover it lol; I can't imagine it's comfortable wearing a tichel to sleep, but the rest of the time? Wouldn't it be more annoying to constantly be covering and uncovering your hair?

    Not that I know anything, but I've never heard of it being muttar for a woman to have her hair uncovered in her own home if there are men around. If it's an issur from the Torah, I can't see how it's possible, but then again, I'm a single guy who is far from fluent in hilchos tznius :P

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  5. I took a semester long course in kisui rosh. It is, m'ikkar hadin, permissible for a woman to have her hair uncovered in her home, even when there are other men present. The issue as discussed in the gemara is not one of who is present, but of location, as in: where must a woman cover her hair and to what degree in each location?

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  6. Whilst the gemara does seem to imply what Rabbanit Sophie (or is it Rabbi Sophie?) wrote, we are not posek halachot directly from the Talmud. None of the poskei halacha allow a married woman to sit with her hair uncovered with other men present.

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  7. I am uninterested in entering into a halachic debate with a snarky stranger. Suffice it to say, anyone who is interested can go and look up the sources him/herself. While there are a range of conclusions among the poskim--most of them admittedly far more machmir than the Talmudic sources indicate--the point stands that the original discussion centers around location rather than who is present, with a number of different levels of covering (or lack thereof) under discussion.

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  8. That's fascinating Sophie, I never knew that! As I wrote in my first comment, my knowledge of hilchos tznius is limited mainly to the practical and not the theory.

    At the end of the day however, although theory is a beautiful thing, practically, what is the halacha and how is it implemented? From what I've seen/heard, it matters who is present and not where you are, no?

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  9. On this issue, as on most, there are a range of halachic opinions. I'm sure you're aware of different types of coverings--hats vs. sheitels, showing a bit of hair in front vs. covering everything vs. the Chassidic double covering. As regards location, the general consensus is, mainly, to cover when there are men present, but that line of thinking is based on the premise that the gemara's assumption is that "in your own home" means there are no men around (which is not stated explicitly). While I cannot recall which modern posek holds this way, I do know that there are some women (admittedly, not a large population) who uncover at home even when there are men present, but always cover when they leave the home. So the answer on this, as on most things, is to ask your LOR. And if it's a big issue for you, it's worth looking into further, knowing that there are a range of opinions, and that the halacha is not entirely cut and dried.

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  10. Just stumbled into this blog. Funny that there can be so many different assertions about what halacha requires without a single person actually referring to a source.

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  11. Because day-to-day observance isn't made from people looking in a source every 10 minutes (or remembering which source they're following). It's based on culture, what one is used to.

    And that's what makes the tznius discussions so sticky - there is a halachic range of what is permissible depending upon the posek and approach, but then those who are used to a more stringent style think it's unconscionable.

    Just last week my husband said he thought it was odd that the parsha newsletter which recently added a female writer, actually published her picture there too. But five years ago when we moved into our semi-Charedi community we thought it was ridiculous that a shul published a getting-to-know-you booklet listing all the families but only photos of each man. We got used to that! (OK maybe I didn't.)

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  12. if all her sons were kohanim gdolim doesnt that mean that 9 of them died in her life time
    or became pasul? and wouldnt that be a bad thing? never understood that.

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  13. aabb - I imagine people didn't write sources b/c this is not a halacha blog. If you want you can look up Igrot Moshe Y.D. 2, 75. For a short summary of the inyan see R. G. Ellison, Hatzne'ah Lechet, p113-114 (esp. note 84)

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  14. Because day-to-day observance isn't made from people looking in a source every 10 minutes (or remembering which source they're following). It's based on culture, what one is used to.

    Yes, so people should then be saying: "in my community etc.", "the way I was brought up etc."

    And that's what makes the tznius discussions so sticky - there is a halachic range of what is permissible depending upon the posek and approach, but then those who are used to a more stringent style think it's unconscionable.

    Indeed.

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  15. emma - or it could be that they each became tamei right before the Yom Kippur Avoda and had to be replaced with his brother as a stand in. But you're right, the implication is a little strange.

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  16. Oh, I'm definitely going to bare it at home. Keeping hair covered and bound up all the time isn't good for the roots, plus having something on my head 24/7 would drive me mad.

    My sister once was having a harried day, and the plumber showed up while she couldn't find a snood. She adopted the position, "My house, my hair can be out." It's just good to know that that option is available.

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  17. I do not cover my hair in my house, no matter who is around. I can't imagine covering it at all times, but then, I massively loathe covering my hair at all, for all that I carefully do so whenever I go out.

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  18. Wow, it never even crossed my mind to uncover my hair at home. (Bedroom aside)

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