birthday · chronic pain/fibromyalgia · culture/multiculturalism · hair · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism

Head Case: Update on My Head Covering Woes

Getting snood-y.

Today even the Rastafarian beret failed me. I threw it on over my head to join my husband for his birthday dinner and well, it hurt. A lot. I figured, I hoped, it would get better but by the end of the meal, I was cowering in my corner with pain.

That was when I decided to stop covering my hair.

Just kidding! Calm down.

Tomorrow I am biting the bullet. I am getting a fancy haircut at Ouidad, a hair salon for the curly-haired. I am getting a drastic downgrade from my “shoulder length,” two feet tall hair. This will make my head proportional to most head coverings but I don’t know what it will mean for my fibromyalgia flare-ups.

Here’s what I have uncovered about the most convential hair coverings after some sleuthing:

So cute and so cruel.
Tichels/Head Scarves:

I think that tichels (head scarves) are a big no-no for me. Tying them, no matter how loosely, across the nape of my neck leads to pain. And the way they pull my hair back in the front leads to pain. I went into a rage at the supermarket the other day when I wrapped a tichel around my head (“You look like a nun,” my husband said.) and it led to a major flare-up in aisle 3. My husband told me to take it off but I didn’t because my hair looked like wild animals had attacked my head and I would have felt naked without something, anything, on my head. Instead, I made him distract me by taking me to Best Buy to get Twilight on DVD. It didn’t help the pain but it helped my soul.

Bandanas:

As I’ve mentioned before, I am Hispanic and wearing the wrong colored bandana might get me shot in the wrong neighborhood. This is a constant worry.

Sheitels/Wigs:

No, I don’t think I will ever wear a sheitel. I think it’s wrong to do so after taking a militant stance against my family and all those curly-hair haters out there. I will not break my vow to keep my hair curly and that includes wearing straight-haired sheitels. Don’t even get me started on curly-haired sheitels. UGLY. Plus I don’t think I’m ready to cut off enough hair to actually stick a sheitel on my head. My sister notes, “Ew, I don’t think I could wear someone else’s hair on my head.”

Turbans:

Turbans. Heehee. Sorry. Teehee. If you can rock a turban, then you are obviously much cooler than me.

Snoods:

I once tried on a snood. Keep in mind that my head is vertical. I looked like Marge Simpson.

Pre-tied Bandanas:

See Marge Simpson.

Beret:

Berets are not created equal. The Rastafarian beret is infinitely more comfortable than any other berets I’ve bought from Jewish websites. Keep in mind though that I’m more sensitive than most. I have never been able to wear hats because of my hair so I don’t know why I thought these would be different.

Headbands:

The headband is going to make a comeback. These are usually the least bothersome head coverings if I get them the right size for my big melon head and they’re not too tight. Perhaps now that my hair will be shorter people will actually be able to SEE them on my head and I won’t get called a hypocrite. Check out the fabulous new additions to Coveryourhair.com.

Notice that all the women in the pictures have straight hair or straight-hair wigs? Ahem. That’s because these head coverings are not made or modeled in mind for women with afros or kinky hair. Maybe head coverings are just racist? (Or at least that’s what I’ll tell people if I ever stop covering my hair. Telling them about my fibromyalgia will only confuse them and the racism bit will just floor them since they’d probably be expecting a rant about feminism.)

Meanwhile, my sister is an angel. After watching me flail about for a head covering before the wedding, she organized all my head coverings by size, shape, type so it will be easier for me to troll my closet for the right one.

Please keep me in your positive thoughts. This seems like a post about hair and head coverings but when it comes down to it, the bigger problem seems to be my chronic fibromyalgia flare ups.

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42 thoughts on “Head Case: Update on My Head Covering Woes

  1. Really? I think a lot of curly haired sheitelach are cute… I was thinking of getting one, but I don’t have curly hair so bah.Like this one:http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_1nnI16IsAHM/Rn6kr9nLOpI/AAAAAAAAAaI/EKsnadATGeU/s1600-h/IMG_0060.jpgYeah but why don’t you design your own? The reason the Jewish wigmakers make them white hair lady style is because that’s what a lot of their clients are looking for… so maybe you should get into that business?

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  2. wow, ur hair gives u a more difficult time than my does!! im sorry its so painful for u to wear it, i thought snoods for sure would be the best bet for u. maybe fern is right and u should make a new hair line for women with thick hair.I personally have some qualms with sheitels since most girls are curly-haired and most sheitels are straight anyways…if they made good afro-sheitels I would prolly wear it once married.but scarves and snoods are hoooot. u need a new line–they are making them looser nowadays, though, u should look into it!! Legacy on jay makes loose scarves, u dont even have to tie them–and they’re in very pretty, fashionable spring colors—

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  3. HI AlizaOnce again, I suggest you think about what you are REALLY saying. You clearly do not want to be covering your hair and do not connect to it. So why are you doing it? Why do all the women out there who hate it keep doing it?And what does your answer say about Orthodoxy?What kind of society are we creating when women are systematically encouraged to ignore what they feel about their own bodies?Is this halacha? I don’t think so. This is about society and culture and what kind of culture this version of Orthodoxy is encouraging. What kind of society are we building when women continue to be perfectly obedient to customs that are archaic, patriarchal, illogical, and out of sync with women’s lives and experiences? A society of female robots. No heart. Elanahttp://www.forseriousjewishwomen.com

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  4. So, believe it or not I used to cover my hair. Long story. But anyway, the wide headbands are definitely the most comfortable IF they are made right and are big enough. If the elastic in back is too wide and stiff it bothers the back of my head. Honestly, it could be worthwhile for you to pay a seamstress to make a few for you if you need to. Also I have seen those Rastafarian type caps in other colors that might be a bit more subtle than the red-green-black – And the Guatemalan berets, too. So you have some options there. You could potentially find someone who knits or crochets to make one for you to your specifications. As far as bandannas go, Can you figure out even one color that is neutral in terms of gang related stuff? Like, pink? Or black? Because they do come in a lot of colors and are pretty darn light. I like tichels but I’ve heard the pre-tied kind can be way looser and easier for people who can’t tie something behind their head (some of them are elasticized). I am also a big fan of the cotton knit scarves from American Apparel, cut in half and then tied behind my head. They are so so soft and just stretchy enough to not feel heavy on my head. I think the “Afro-Sheitel” just requires going to a wig store that serves predominantly Black or Latina women – Jewish sheitel stores at most seem to show the kind with straight hair that is wavy. Also, re: comfort – There are soft stretchy caps that go over your head (this would work better with shorter hair, obviously) or very wide bands that are used to go under hijabs… Either will hold a tichel on more securely WITHOUT it being tied real tight.Elana: How does struggling with how to best do a mitzvah in which you feel commanded but with which you have problems related to physical illness and cultural/hair issues somehow equal not wanting to cover one’s hair? I can’t answer for Aliza but lots of women struggle with this and it doesn’t mean they are oppressing themselves or just trying to unthinkingly do what patriarchal Judaism tells them. Aliza can come to whatever conclusion is right for her – but I just want to point out it is not anti-feminist to struggle with some of the mitzvot yet still try to fulfill them!Aliza: hope you have a restful and low-pain day.

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  5. Elana, I’ll tell you a little story about an 8-year-old who attended a Chanukkah party at school where she was told that only boys could wear kippahs. She was upset and jealous. But when she finally converted to Judaism, she saw herself coming full circle. Someday, she would be married and have the opportunity to cover her hair. I don’t even wear a wedding ring. In most Jewish circles, the hair covering alone sufficies. If it was just thinning hair and permanent bad hair days, I could deal with this mitzvah much better.I do have a problem with the fact that no one wants to talk about how this mitzvah affects my physical health. Someone said that maybe on the days it is too painful to wear a head covering, I should stay close to home. As if my physical health weren’t limiting enough, now I am limited myself even further.It strikes me as terribly ironic that in the end, I may stop covering my hair someday. And people will decide I was trying to be a feminist or less religious. They won’t be able to read the “invisible disability” sticker on my forehead. I hate the way that head coverings become just another way that we box ourselves in and divide.

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  6. AlizaIF the only reason you cover your hair is so that people will know you are Jewish, I suggest getting yourself a nice big star of david to wear around your neck (and i’m not sure why that’s so important anyway, and I would suggest that you ask yourself that question, why it’s so important to you that total strangers see you and say, ‘Aha, Jew!’)By The Bay: Like you, i covered my hair for a while, and of course I’m not trying to make crass judgments of all women who cover their hair. I’m just trying to help women alleviate their own suffering. Mitzvot are not meant to cause us immense physical pain. “Choose life” is a powerful biblical commandment that underpins many halakhic rationales for different things, eg breaking shabbat to save a person’s life, and more. Besides which, hair covering is not exactly a mitzvah. It’s more like a social convention that stuck. The Torah tells us not to eat pig, not to make fire on shabbat, to give zedaka and honor our parents (all of which, by the way, are perhaps uncomfortable at but hardly the stuff of constant, physical ailments that result in advice to the tune of “don’t stray from home”). The Torah does not say, “Women, cover your hair.” It just doesn’t. It’s just a custom that sort of developed because of accepting views on women’s role in society. Jewish practice has changed radically over the generations, as a result of changing social norms. There is no doubt in my mind that headcovering should fit directly into that categoryIn fact, haircovering actually did fall out of practice. My mother’s and grandmother’s generations let go of head covering. But rabbinic leaders afraid of feminism resurrected the archaic practice in order to protect themselves from changing women. This has nothing at all to do with halakha and everything to do with social convention and rabbincal fear of women. I just wish women had more courage to live their lives and not see independent thought and action as a threat to Orthodoxy. That might help, Aliza, with your annoyance about a certain superficiality and groupthink characteristic of Orthodoxy. If more individuals stood up for their own ideas and lived their lives according to their own souls — multicolored berets and all — then religious life might look more human and humane at times.

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  7. Elana – Hair covering -kisui rosh- is a mitzvah d’rabannan, I don’t know where you’re getting your information.It brings brochos down on a woman’s family. Classic story of Kimchit who was extremely meticulous in covering her hair and all of her sons merited to become kohanim because of this…

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  8. AlizaI would also like to analyze what you said about what would happen if you stopped covering your hair: That “people” (the invisible “they” — apropos Tova Mirvis’ book) — that “people” would say you’re either feminist or less religious. Can we talk about this?I mean, first of all, why is “feminism” equated with evil? We should really ask that question and not take it as muvan me’elav, as it were. The “f” word, like, oh my, anything but THAT…And second of all why is it that a woman with a hat is “more religious” than a woman without? I mean, can we ask the question, what does it mean to be religious? Isn’t there something else to being an observant, G-d fearing Torah Jew that is not about hats and skirts? The problem here is that Orthodoxy has indeed become such a label-focused culture that we are losing sight of who we are. What does it mean to be religious? Doesn’t zedaka count? Doesn’t feeding the homeless count? Doesn’t compassion and care — the entire corpus of bein adam l’havero mitzvot that we are constantly told are more important than adam lamakom but that seems to be lip service only — don’t these things count in helping us define our religiousness and spirituality? If I live a G-d-fearing life, with a pure heart and pure devotion and untiring dedication to bringing G-d into this universe, doesn’t that make me religious, spiritual soulful?Why are we so eager to buy into the easy tags of more-religious, less-religious? It’s like sleeve length or number of hairs showing on the forehead become a ruler marking red lines on our bodies for all the world to see and measure and say, “Hey, she gets a 6.3 for religiousness. The other one with the hair out the back –she’s a 4.5. And forget that one in jeans. She’s a negative 2.”I for one am trying to educate my daughters to be good rather than look religious. I would rather see women in jeans and hair loose volunteering in homeless shelters that women in the most fashionable hats and long skirts spending all day in the mall. I ask you, Aliza, who is more religious?We women need to take back ownership of what it means to be religious, Torah abiding Jewish people. Let go of the superficial, woman-hating minuatia.Be truly religious, on the deep, soul-spirit and action level. Not on what our hair and elbows look like. Okay, I’m stepping off my soapbox now… 🙂Elanahttp://www.forseriousjewishwomen.com

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  9. Being Jewish is about having a relationship with G-d. How do you express true love for someone you care for? By doing what makes them happy.We are in a relationship with G-d. We “please” G-d by fulfilling his will. His will is that we do mitzvos. It’s not easy. To say that hair covering isn’t easy for you and causes you pain thus not doing it is one thing, but to not do it just because it’s an “archaic custom” instituted by some rabbis to control women?

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  10. No, don’t get down, Elana. Your posts are so evocative! I really enjoy them and I agree with most of them. I agree that to a certain extent, I am buying into those labels. I am very afraid of the “they” in Tova Mirvis’s book and in the Orthodox world and especially afraid of those people who won’t give my husband a job because his wife doesn’t cover her hair and won’t date my future children because Mami doesn’t use a white tablecloth on Shabbos. It’s ugly out there.

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  11. I guess the truth is I’m sort of sheltered from this orthodox culture. I live in a very small Jewish community where there are all types… so I can’t relate to the fear of this “they.”

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  12. There is nothing like the NY “they.” It is its own beast but I am sure that there are beasts masquerading just like it in other communities. It is hard to be immune to “they” when you are a convert and when the bar is already set higher for you than it is for everyone else. Then there is the double burden of being a rabbi’s wife. Then there is the burden of coming from a different socioeconomic class, culture, etc. I hope that someday, I have the courage and the comfort to look “they” in the eye like Elana has and say, I don’t care what you think.

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  13. AlizaFor what it’s worth, I think you already are incredibly courageous and obviously capable of making independent choices and bucking trends and expectations. Your entire life and identity are testimony to that!(or, put differently, don’t get down either!!!!)I think the desire to fit in, or to be liked and loved, or extremely basic. I think that this base desire is just guiding way too much of religious life in this generation, and we are not successfully challenging that trend. And by the way, you know who might marry the child of someone who uses purple shabbat tablecloths? The child of someone else who uses an orange and pink striped tablecloth (don’t laugh, we have one just like it and it’s a fave)But, actually, there’s a better answer — maybe the person who will marry the kid of the family with stripy tablecloths will be the one doesn’t have a tablecloth at all, the one who creates her own path, who has no history, who, say, ran away from home, converted, and started a whole new life….Stick to who you are. I think you are wonderfully courageous and wise….B’vracha,Elana

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  14. Elana,A married woman covering her hair is d'oraisa, a Torah commandment.Here are articles about the topic from a liberal Orthodox Feminist site:http://www.jofa.org/search_biblio.php?searchstring=cover%20hair&searchparam=anyYou state, “My mother's and grandmother's generations let go of head covering. But rabbinic leaders afraid of feminism resurrected the archaic practice in order to protect themselves from changing women. This has nothing at all to do with halakha and everything to do with social convention and rabbincal fear of women.”Wow. now that is a vitriolic, anti-Orthodox diatribe.The issue is simple: for a particular segment of Ashkenazic Jewry, for some reason, hair-covering 'went out of vogue' for a period of time. That was halachically improper. This issue has nothing to do with feminism or mysoginism. Either one adheres to the Torah and masoretic Judaism or she does not.There are basic standards that define one as Orthodox. For those of you that don't like that, there are other (false) Jewish denominations to join.

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  15. Dear ShiraA few comments(1) Deoraisa? That is a rare minority view, almost unanimously disputed because of how impossible it is to prove. The inference from sota “U’prata et rosh ha’isha” is entirely interpretive and indirect, and the root “PRA” has multiple alternate meanings. Hardly the unequivocal “deoraisa” that you’re trying to promote. (2) Vitriolic — well, that’s a matter of interpretation. I think I’m pretty rational(3) “Either one adheres or one does not” — This monolithic vision of Judaism is out of sync with the 3000 year heritage of exegesis, interpretation, argumentation, and context-dependent responsa. I suggest reading Rabbi Eliezer Berkowitz’s book “Not in Heaven” on the history and dynamics of halakha(4) “Basic standards that define Orthodox” — what, like the Oxford Dictionary definition? That’s just funny. Orthodoxy is a social movement. How can it possibly have a “standard definition”? Who is writing a definition? Who is making the determination of who is “in” and who is “out”? More to the point, why is the exclusivity such an important element of Orthodoxy? And why is it so important to you whether I call myself Orthodox? Why are you trying to delegitimize my arguments by insinuating that I’m “outside” the “proper definition”? (Not very nice.)If you ask me, herein lies the real problem with Orthodoxy today. I think, Aliza, that this is what you’ve been talking about. As soon as someone thinks a little bit differently, a little bit creatively or independently, along come all the shouts of “You’re out of the box.” I think that’s what makes Orthodoxy such a sad, superficial, keep-up-with-the-joneses (or cohens) community today. Discussions that seek to define who is “in” and who is “out” based on an expressed idea are not very Divine or spiritual. Very human, though. B’vracha,Elana

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  16. Elana,It’s interesting that you suggest reading Rabbi Eliezer Berkowitz’s book “Not in Heaven”. Leaders of modern orthodoxy and right-wing orthodoxy do not seem to give Dr. B. posthumous respect. I wonder if those rabbis labeling him as non-Orthodox and an apikores would agree with you that his books should be read as a model of how Orthodoxy can be “dynamic” and how one can be Orthodox.(see http://haemtza.blogspot.com/2009/02/man-i-knew-dr-eliezer-berkovits.html)“And why is it so important to you whether I call myself Orthodox?”I don’t care whether you call yourself Orthodox or not. I do care that you are being a stumbling block and encouraging others to stop following Jewish Law.

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  17. Elana,you said, “Deoraisa? That is a rare minority view, almost unanimously disputed because of how impossible it is to prove.”It’s just the opposite.<>The vast majority of halachic decisors take the Talmud in Ketubot literally and maintain that a married woman who goes out with her hair totally exposed is violating a Biblical prohibition (Dat Moshe). On the other hand, the requirement to cover hair completely is only Rabbinical (Dat Yehudit).<>http://askrabbimaroof.blogspot.com/see Rambam:משנה תורה – ספר נשים הלכות אישות פרק כד ואלו הן הדברים שאם עשת אחד מהן עברה על דת משה–יוצאה בשוק ושיער ראשה גלוי, או שנודרת או נשבעת ואינה מקיימת, או ששימשה מיטתה והיא נידה, או שאינה קוצה לה חלה; או שהאכילה את בעלה דברים אסורים, ואין צריך לומר כגון שקצים ונבילות, אלא דברים שאינן מעושרין.

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  18. I’ve had some issues, too – I will never be able to wear a wig, and I have had to get creative or I end up with something extremely painful. Of course, I have really small hair, so I’m sure what works for me wouldn’t work for you. I’m assuming you really do want to cover your hair (and not to start a debate, either).Some people on ebay and etsy will custom-knit or crochet hats to your specifications. Since I have an oddly-shaped head, I’ve tried that. This might sound nuts, but have you tried the more structured rasta hats besides beanies (which do come in other colors). Maybe you don’t like the shape anyway, but they’re designed to be that shape on purpose. Just some thoughts.

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  19. Elana, I almost laughed at loud when I read your simplistic rationalization on why hair covering no longer applies. I can write a point-by-point thesis refuting nearly every statement you make claim to, and I think it is unfortunate that you feel compelled to pull others down in your struggle to find an appropriate path.You seem educated, well-read, intelligent. You should- if you haven’t already- take a look R’ Soloveitchik’s renown book, “Halakhic Man”- there is a footnote in the book that I will quote below because I think in a nutshell, it sums up the faulty logic in your reasoning. p. 140- “[The] popular ideology contends that the religious experience is tranquil and neatly ordered, tender and delicate; it is an enchanted stream for embittered souls and still waters for troubled spirits… This ideology is partially embedded in in the most ancient strata of Christianity, partially rooted in modern pragmatic philosophy; but mainly it stems from practical-utilitarian considerations.”And a quote from Elana: “What kind of society are we building when women continue to be perfectly obedient to customs that are archaic, patriarchal, illogical, and out of sync with women’s lives and experiences?”Elana, I ask you, if I decide I don’t need to keep the laws of Niddah because they are not explicit in the Torah- wouldn’t that make me a Sadduccee? If the laws make me uncomfortable, unhappy, or seem archaic, can I, in my egotistical conclusions, decide that they don’t apply to me because they don’t “Feel Right?” Soloveitchik would say beliefs like that are based in Christianity, or religions that have “feel good, do good” as their mottos. He goes on to mock these theologies, saying, “If you wish to acquire tranquility without paying the price of spiritual agonies, turn unto religion! If you wish to achieve a fine psychic equilibrium without having to first undergo a slow, gradual personal development, turn unto religion. And if you wish to achieve an instant spiritual wholeness and simplicity that need not be forged out of the struggles and torments of consciousness, turn unto religion![…] Religion is not at the outset a refuge of grace and mercy for the despondent and desperate, an enchanted stream for crushed spirits, but a raging, clamorous torrent of man’s consciousness with all its crises, pangs, and torments.”In a nutshell, living the religious life is supposed to be a struggle- “Lefum Tzaarah Agrah”- according to your suffering, that will be your reward. If the performance of mitzvot was easy for us, if they always made sense, if they made us feel good and gave us that tingly feeling, would we really be rewarded? And who would we essentially be serving? Ourselves. And our needs. The performance of mitzvot is not negotiable. It is not within our hands to evaluate. This is the law: you either keep it, strive for perfection, and come closer to attaining it, or you decide it doesn’t fit into the box of your life, shrug off the presence of G-d, serve yourself and your desires, and go to sleep happy at night because you are a “good person” and volunteered in a homeless shelter. Judaism? Soloveitchik would say Christianity… idolatry.I am not the perfect Jew. I think it is unfortunate that so many of us have gotten involved in movements that remove us from the core focus of what our lives should really be. I hope you remember that first and foremost you are a Jew, and secondly a feminist, or whatever other “isms” to which you ascribe. As for Aliza and her personal hair covering issues: one of the beauties of the laws of Judaism is that it’s not always black or white. Individuals with specific situations or illnesses can often find leniencies when properly asking a knowledgeable Rav. I don’t know what the answer will be, but it can’t hurt to ask… but I somehow doubt it would fall under Elana’s “choose life” argument. That’s all for now-couldn’t help but get involved.

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  20. Hi Aliza,I’m so sorry you have fibromyalgia. It’s a tough illness and can be limiting in so many ways. I have fibromyalgia, too. And I know what it’s like for my hair to hurt, or for my headcovering to feel uncomfortable. From what you say, you are in a lot of pain. Five years ago, I was almost bed-ridden from my fibro. Today I took my four kids hiking, and lived to tell the tale. Check out the info at http://www.fibromylagiatreatment.com My doctor put me on this protocol and although a long tough road, it has made a HUGE difference in my life.I really am a real person who stumbled across your blog (via it’s mention on http://www.thoseheadcoverings.blogspot.com), although I know this comment totally sounds like spam or something. I’m very sincere about the protocol I mentioned. I think it would be a sin not to tell anyone I know of with fibro about it. G-d bless,Alana

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  21. With all due respects, there were many Sephardi poskim in North Africa who held that it was no longer obligatory for a married woman to cover her hair. For that matter so did Rav Yosef Baer Soleveitchik. My wife does cover her hair but I made it very clear to her, before our marriage, that this was her choice. It was not an issue for me.

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  22. I am Sephardi, and to date, the only knowledge I have of poskim saying women don’t have to cover their hair is Rabbi Massas, a very controversial Moroccan Rabbi- who are these other enigmatic Rabbi’s you quote? Just for my own knowledge…

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  23. So what do I know from Rabinical teaching on Jewish heads? I’m an Irish Catholic caught off guard by the deep desire to wear a rag on my head about a year ago,been trying to figure out why since. So what’s the joke about me finding you? That I just went round and round with my equally Irish Catholic cousin who was having a cow concerning my rag so it shouldn’t look like I was in a certain form of Catholicism becoming very popular of late but which being very fundamental in it’s outlook is a real PIA to those of us just looking to follow the Spirit. So I shouldn’t wear lace because I’d look like them then I shouldn’t wear a scarf ,I’m Irish for heaven sake. I shouldn’t wear a headband becase I’m old not young and nothing long–I’m married not a nun, and nothing of a long rectangular form as I am NOT one of THEM.What’s even funnier is that I was just telling my husband how I get a bit of peace from the headcovering blogs because they don’y usually bog down in peripheral arguments. OOPS!So I’ll forgive you this time. Take Omega-3 for the Fibro along with resveratrol— I’m a Granmother now and a nurse so I know about these things. For curly hair YOU wear the lace–it’s light weight and a little faric softener makes it—soft.Chiffon is nice.Ever hear of consecration? In Goy terms it means giving something precious of your own as a gift to G-D. Like your head. It’s His if He wants it He will make it possible. If not don’t worry. I see your picture, if you saw me you wouldn’t mistake me for a Jewish Grandma I’m an Irish Granny thru and thru. But my head is consecrated it is G-d’s. I still haven’t found the perfect cover or the why but in the meantime when I speak with Him I will keep you in mind. A Goy prayer can’t hurt right?

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  24. Dear Tovi,Rav Soloveitchik’s wife did not cover her hair.So this twisted use of his Halachic Man to prove that Aliza should cover her hair is absurd. The ideological wrestling and struggle that Soloveitchik describes is certainly powerful. But there is a huge difference between intellectual-theological struggling and the physical pain and suffering that Aliza describes.Soloveitchik, in fact, was one of the greatest proponents of empathy, and dedication of one’s life to the alleviation of human suffering. His interpretation of the amidah, for example, is that in order to reach G-d, one has to strive to empathize in order to alleviate human pain. Put differently, to reach G-d, one has to try and alleviate the suffering of fellow human beings. Hardly the stuff of, hey, the Torah hurts, so live with it. It is so sad to me that so many women are so stuck in patterns of blind following and obedience, as if that is Orthodoxy, as if to be Orthodox one has to stop thinking and feeling and being an independent-minded human being. Socialization into Orthodoxy involves this entire “Don’t you dare break the mold” groupthink that, again, has nothing to do with G-d and Torah. It’s just so sad. Just because a person is Orthodox it doesn’t mean that they should not be able to respond to their body’s messages and pains.

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  25. Hi Aliza, I have no idea who you are, but you seem like a really amazing person. I found you through Elana, and I just thought I’d stick my 2 cents into the conversation.When I got married and looked into the whole head covering thing I basically came to the conclusion that if I really hated it and wanted to not cover my hair I could find some halachic justification for it based on the fact that it did fall out of practice for a while in certain places. I also decided that whether or not this is a halacha d’oraita, d’rabanan, dat yehudit, minhag, or anything else you want to call it, it’s a pretty well established custom that should not be tossed out lightly just because of my inability to appreciate it. I don’t get the whole no kitniyot on Pesach thing either, but I do it anyway… So I started covering my hair when I got married (though I continued wearing pants which really confused some people, but no one has yet been able to convince me that there is anything wrong with pants, and I’d even argue that they are often more tzanua than skirts, but that’s a whole different conversation…) I discovered that people do see you differently when you cover your hair. This may be annoying, but it’s a fact of life. I think people who know you well won’t think any differently of you, but first impressions are often all people have to go on. It used to make me crazy that people would see my hat and assume they knew all about my religious views, political views, how many kids I wanted etc. Then I realized that if I didn’t cover my hair they would make other assumptions about me that would be equally annoying. So the question is, why do I care what people I barely know think about me? Well, for the most part I don’t, but I have found that there are some hidden advantages to playing on people’s prejudices. Like I said, people who know me well and with whom I discuss various halachic, feminist or other issues know where I stand, and know what my views are based on. Others know me less well and don’t necessarily realize that, unlike most women who grew up in a religious home and got a “good Jewish education”, much of what I do religiously is not done just because I grew up with it, but from an understanding of the issues involved. These people will take other “radical” things I do more seriously if they see me as being more “religious” because I cover my hair. For example, one Purim, I was told by an acquaintance after a women’s megilla reading that she wasn’t going to go to a women’s reading because she wasn’t sure how halachically kosher it was, but when she found out that I was going she figured it must be OK. I don’t know why she didn’t just discuss it with a rabbi or do the research herself, but apparently there are people out there who do make these kind of decisions based on silly things like that. Had I not covered my hair I don’t think this woman would have gone would have missed out on a really wonderful experience. I find can discuss other issues that are more important to me and be taken more seriously religiously if I have my hair covered. If I tell people that I wouldn’t send my daughter to a school that doesn’t teach girls gemara, or if I tell a friend whose child just got engaged to make sure they sign a pre-nup they assume that these are real legitimate religious positions and not just the rantings of some not-so-religious anti-rabbinic fanatic. So, like I said, people who know me well know who I am. Total strangers, I don’t really care about, but there are those in between people who for better or worse – might take me more seriously with my head covering. Not that that is why I wear it, but it is an advantage.I know this is long but I just want to comment on another point you made, Aliza, about comparing boys’ kippot to kisuy rosh for women. My cousin once had a huge fight with my grandmother because she was going to our (Orthodox) shul on Shabbat for a family simcha and didn’t want to cover her hair. Several years later, while studying to become a Conservative Rabbi she started wearing something her head all the time. I started thinking about why something that was once so repulsive to her became something she happily and willingly embraced. I think the answer to that is in the symbolism of each. A man who covers his head is doing so to show his subservience to God. I won’t get into a debate about why married women cover their hair, but it certainly has to do with the fact that they are married. So basically a kippa represents one’s direct relationship with G-d, while a woman’s head covering is at best a way of relating to G-d (by doing a mitzvah) through her husband. That is a big difference that must be dealt with.Anyway, if anyone is still reading this, thanks for giving me the opportunity to say what was on my mind.Mona

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  26. Mona, I think you are really on to something with your disticions between kippot vs when married women cover their heads. I don’t cover because I’m married (and yes, I am an EEEEVVVIIIILLLLL feminist), but I do wear kippot or other head coverings while learning, praying, etc. For me, there is that connotation of a direct relationship with G-d, vs a public announcement of my sexual role and identity.

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  27. Elana,Soloveitchik was not happy about his wife’s hair-covering decisions. In Biblical times, Tamar dressed up like a prostitute to trick her father in law into sleeping with her- is that appropriate? We can’t judge others’ actions- but people are human and make decisions they deem appropriate for them. I wasn’t using Soloveitchik as proof to cover one’s hair. I was saying that it is his belief, and should be everyone’s, that religion is a struggle- and I KNOW I mentioned that Aliza’s case is different due to her physical pain- but to just give something up because it is too hard is utterly ridiculous. Because it no longer applies- conservative. And you say, “It is so sad to me that so many women are so stuck in patterns of blind following and obedience, as if that is Orthodoxy, as if to be Orthodox one has to stop thinking and feeling and being an independent-minded human being.”It is amazing that you can make this generalization about me and others like me, when you so clearly are not living the orthodox life. I put a lot of thought and emotion into my actions, and live an incredibly fulfilled life. You have no right to criticize me and the followers of Orthodoxy- many people are able to live both the dual life of enjoying modern advantages while keeping within the strict realm of halacha.

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  28. Response to Alana’s piece: Well-written as always. I get such pleasure reading your arguments. I did not mean to make “feminist” a dirty word but I’m glad that you caught that tone of how people would launch this word at me with “less religious.” I wish I could have said this so well: “The idea that our entire identity can be boiled down to a hat is almost as sad as the fact that Aliza cares so much about these superficial judgments.”Please don’t think that I don’t give your responses equal weight because I am not answering all of your responses individually. I sat down with my husband to understand all the Hebrew. I think you all present your points well and MOSTLY without name-calling. Thanks.

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  29. I know you say you’ve dropped this subject but I am so glad to find this post. I am a head covering person with an afro and get so frustrated seeing only straight hair in pictures for head covers.

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  30. Hi, I just found your blog a little while ago.

    I just posted an article on my tznius fashion blog on “plopping” – a hair drying method for curly haired girls you may find useful. I also talk about going no ‘poo which is great for all hair types.

    http://frumfashionista.livejournal.com/58422.html

    I have thick nappy hair and I feel your pain. Those without the curl won’t get it. I hear women with straight hair complain that their sheitals give them headaches so I don’t know why some people are jumping all over you for that.

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  31. I did not mean to imply that you have nappy hair. i was only referring to my hair; because I have nappy hair and I don’t have a problem using that term because that what my hair is. Sorry. I forgot how the word nappy can get people fired up.

    Two, thanks for checking it out anyways and giving me your input.

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  32. Angelina, as long as we’re clear: you nappy, me not nappy. 🙂 It’s all good. That was the easiest interaction I ever had over this term, by the way.

    I’ve seen many different views on the idea of wrapping curly hair in a towel while it’s drying. My current curly hair stylist says it’s a big no-no but a while back I bought a towel specifically for curly haired girls for this purpose.

    In my own hair’s experience, it flattens my curls and I want height. I want my hair to be gravity defying.

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