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The Jewish Hijab – Halacha gets hairy

October 21, 2010 – 8:29 pm87 Comments

A sheitel

By Malki Rose

It is felt by many that a basic tenet of female modesty is that married women must cover their hair.  A woman’s hair, only when married is considered ‘ervah’ (‘nakedness’) -defined as ‘that part of the body which is not normally exposed’.

This idea comes from a section of the Torah (Bamidbar/Numbers 5:18), which speaks of how a Kohen (priest) was required to deal with a ‘Sotah’ – a woman who had committed adultery.

The Gemara (Ketuvot 72a & b) states that a woman’s hair being uncovered or undone is a violation of Torah law, based on the passage, “And he [the priest] shall ‘para’ the head of the woman” (Bamidbar 5:18) – and it was taught in the school of Rabbi Yishma’el – this is a warning to Jewish women that they should not go out with their heads ‘parua’.

However, this custom, and later law, has a problematic basis.

In what appears to be the only example of this anywhere in the Torah, the rabbis of the Gemara deemed ‘parua’ to mean ‘uncovered’. This is nonsensical, since in every other context the word translates as ‘unkempt’, such is in the situation of a Nazir, a Metzorah and an Ovel, all who grow their hair for weeks, months and years, and had it wildly ‘unkempt’.

A secondary problem is with regard to the Gemara’s ban on a woman’s “going out” with hair that is ‘parua’.

Rashi explains that ‘dat yehudit’ (Laws for a Jewish Woman) refers to those customs of modesty which Jewish women have accepted and practiced in their communities. A ‘dat Moshe’ refers specifically to violations of Torah Law, literally “Law of Moses”.

In defining a particular dat Yehudit, the Mishnah lists “yotz’a v’roshah parua” – “if she goes out and her hair is ‘parua’”.

It would appear that the ‘Sotah’ verse from Bamidbar serves as a warning that Jewish women should not go out with ‘rosh parua’, meaning hair that is ‘unkempt’ – NOT ‘uncovered’.

What we are privileged to witness in the Talmudic text, is the advent of a single sweeping assumption as a tenuous basis for what becomes a ‘dat yehudit’, It then somehow manages to last for over a 1000 years, well past the social expiry of the dat Yehudit. (Keeping in mind the definition of a ‘dat yehudit’.)

This ‘dat yehudit’ ostensibly functions as a ‘Gezeirah” or ‘preventative legislation’ intended to avoid violations of Torah based commandments. To publically humiliate a woman in this manner would have, presumably, been a wonderful deterrent and warning to other women not to commit adultery… or else. (So, we can certainly see why this custom would have been popular in a tribal, male-dominated society.)

On the basis of Bamidbar’s (quasi clear) process for publically humiliating a ‘Sotah’, the Talmud states that ‘we know that a woman must keep her hair covered’, when in truth what would be more accurate would be for it to say ‘we ASSUME that she always had her hair covered’.

From this rather large assumption came this single, whopping ‘dat yehudit’.

Rabbi Yishma’el, amongst others, deduces that covering of hair amongst women of Israel was commonplace, based on the habit of uncovering a Sotah’s hair.

Additionally, in much of the middle-east it was customary for married women to cover their hair, and it was assumed that it must be only a married women’s hair which ‘becomes’ ‘erva’ once she there has been ‘Kiddushin’ (sanctification) of the marriage commitment.

They also assume that the Torah’s suggestion to uncover/un’keep’ a defiled woman’s hair is because it is a deeply important and holy religious principle, rather than merely considering it something done during that era.

What we, in 2010, with the benefit of hindsight and historical reflection are able to uncover (pardon the pun) is that women in most other cultures of that time had their hair covered too, not just Jewish or Israelite women.

Initially, the custom was a pro-Canaanite, Akkadian, Babylonian and later Arab/Bedouin custom throughout the entire middle-east, and arose and evolved as an expression of male ownership of his bride. This of course explains why only a married woman’s hair was considered ‘erva’. Years later, a woman’s hair as ‘erva’ and the custom of keeping it ‘covered’ would come to be more spiritually expressed as a very important and meaningful stage of Kiddushin. (As discussed in both the Gemara Kiddushin and Ketuvot)

It also demonstrates why Talmudic scholars came to the conclusion, again post factor, that ‘parua’ MUST by demonstrated example mean ‘uncovered’, rather than ‘unkempt’.

By definition, Tzniut (modesty) in dress is that which is communally perceived as acceptable, and ‘datei yehudit’ are always relative to ones environment.

The ‘dat yehudit’ is up to us. If we want to create a taboo on women’s hair and extend what it is we as a community consider ‘erva’ as a post-factor justification for why we embrace head covering as a law, rather than just a custom, we can. And some do.

The question is not whether it is wrong or right to generate such a ‘dat yehudit’ in a modern society, but whether it actually has a valid basis or serves any function for the woman, for the family, the community and serves to add or subtract from the beautification of the commandment.

In other words, what is the strict purpose of the ‘dat yehudit’ and is its basis truly valid?

The Torah tells us that its keeping is to be “L’chol Dor” (‘for every generation’), so we have a responsibility as a people to ensure that the genuinely meaningful Torah and its accompanying traditions are not lost to silliness generated by potentially damaging and misguided ‘datei yehudit’.

A ‘dat yehudit’ can either be a fence to protect the Torah from damage, or a fence which sadly keeps the damage in. It can preserve the negative, and keep any helpful pro-biotics out – stuff which could help the “Etz HaChayim” (‘tree of life’) grow and flourish.

The custom or law or perhaps habit of head-covering has its roots so deeply and obviously entrenched in a tribal, Bedouin, female-oppressive, middle-eastern past of 2000 years ago, with too many post factor excuses to justify its validity that it cannot possibly still be a valid ‘dat yehudit’ which enhances the keeping of Torah “L’chol dor”. But rather it serves to place the keeping of Torah firmly in reverse. In the nonsensical and the tenuous.

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  • About time somebody tackled this!

    For myself, I like to think that the origin of this custom lies in the banned mystical traditions that were recorded in the book of Enoch, preserved by the Ethiopian church. There, it is the beauty of human women that attracts the attention of the angels, who have intercourse with them and in so doing produce the divine/human hybrids who are known as the nephilim (cf: Gen 6:2-4). Targum Yonatan records this encounter as having been caused specifically by the women’s personal grooming, and Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:10) recommends women cover their hair “because of the angels”.

    But that’s as maybe. Why do you say that parua only means “unkempt”? It means “empty, unoccupied” in Arabic, and “uncovered” in Syriac Aramaic. Both meanings satisfy the Hebrew when it refers to the removal of a head-covering and the baring of the hair (eg: Lev 10:6 and 21:10). The passage that you quote (Num 5:18) is interpreted as denoting the uncovering of the woman’s hair by the KJV and the JPS (among, I am sure, innumerable others), and I don’t know how else you would translate it. That he musses up her hair? That’s what the NRSV has, but I would have thought that would require a hiphil. (The NRSV is one of my favourite translations, by the way, and the JPS one of my least; your interpretation is in good company!)

    That’s very interesting what you say about pre-Israelite traditions – mind if I ask where you encountered this idea? I’m not entirely surprised: nothing exists in a vaccuum, and despite the sense of propriety that people have for the biblical commandments, they are all as subject to an historical setting as are the laws that we practise and record today. I’m much more interested in why you, personally, find this particular custom so repulsive – if that’s not too strong a word.

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H
    ‘So, we can certainly see why this custom would have been popular in a tribal, male-dominated society’
    Well ,Malki you are certainly trying to push some buttons here. You also make a few gross generalisations and ignore certain points. To be honest, Judaism follows a matriarchal structure and Jewish lineage is defined through the mother and even when we say tehillim for people, we say the person’s name and that of their mother. Except in the case of the Cohenim where the kehuna passes from father to son and also in the case of the Levis, Jewish law is about protecting the rights and sanctity of womanhood. Women have had a very strong role and voice in Jewish life. The influence of women in home life and in raising kosher Jewish children is well recognised and revered. Women are exempt from time bound mitzvoth in order to better fulfil their role as wives and mothers.
    A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing and one can over intellectualise and create an argument for any perspective if one tries hard enough and long enough.
    ‘By definition, Tzniut (modesty) in dress is that which is communally perceived as acceptable, and ‘datei yehudit’ are always relative to ones environment.’
    By whose definition Malki? Yours? Have you got a hairy chin and chest? Do you have smicha? So if we travel to South Africa and visit a Zulu village, we can shuck our clothes and dance barefoot, bare breasted with heads uncovered? NOT.
    Covering your head of hair is not about women being ‘dominated and oppressed’ by men. A woman’s hair is a very attractive and sensual female feature in most cases. For some women who have been conditioned by the gushmius of this so called liberated world we live in, they find a head covering restrictive and uncomfortable, because it represents bondage rather than commitment.
    This world is so liberated that it has been enslaved by the desire to throw off all values that beckon commitment into one’s life.
    A head covering is about commitment to married life and a relationship with a partner. Your hair is covered not because it is a sign of bondage, but because you have made a commitment as a wife and later as a mother of Jewish children, to be modest in your behaviour and dress. It is a sign of your awareness and that you are no longer single. You are bonded, not in bondage, to another person and that relationship has kedusha in your eyes and his and that you are aware of your unique status. Be aware that I am in no way demeaning women who chose not to cover their hair. That is between them and their husbands and Hashem. There are also women who do not cover their hair and they are moral people of good character with impeccable standards.
    If a woman does cover her hair whether she is married, divorced or mother of Jewish children, there are again certain expectations of behaviour and adherence to a moral code that should be a par for the course. No one is standing over these women with a gun and saying, you must cover your hair or else. They choose to cover their hair in accordance with Halacha or not.
    Your bias comes through Malki and I feel sorry that you have not has a chance to look at this more deeply. It is 1.25am and tomorrow is a long day so I am going to say that I have said my piece for now. You sound as though you do not like men very much. Maybe you have had some bad experiences and should give a guy a chance to get to know you and maybe you will get married and cover your hair one day. G-D willing.

  • Ari says:

    I’d be interested for you to post the references upon which you base your comments regarding the practice of head covering in the ancient near east.

    But apart from that all of your post is irrelevant for the Halachic Community who are bound by the sanctity of the Torah, the Oral Law and the thousands of years of Psika. The Halacha is almost clear on this issue and married women must cover their hair, atleast partially.
    Recently in ‘Tradition’ there was a good overview of all of the halachot and halachic considerations.
    (One mistake many people do make is assuming that if a practice existed in the ANE that it is could not have been a meaningful Israelite practice and could have only been born out of ancient female oppressive society – something that is difficult to prove)

  • Marky says:

    Machloikes between Malki Rose The Tanoim re the interpretation of Paruah…. Ha ha!
    Now that’s what I call nonsensical.

  • Marky says:

    I meant “between Malki Rose AND The Tanoim.

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B”H

    I personally think head covering for married women, divorced women and /or mothers of children is mandatory.
    A girl whose head is uncovered, is a woman uncommitted and untouched by a man, in other words a virgin. She was sexually unawakened, even we might say unaware of her beauty and her effect upon males except in a very innocent way.
    A head covering, as well as being tznius, is a protection for the woman.
    It may be very hard for Malki to understand the concept of modesty in a world where immodest behaviour is the subject of much attention and even encouraged by media and the civilisation we live in. Sadly, we have year 8 and 9 female students in schools reading articles in magazines like Cleo and Cosmopolitan about and excuse me, if this is too vulgar for some here, about ways to give your partner pleasure through oral sex, sex education in upper primary and lower high school where children are taught to put condoms on bananas as preparation for the real thing, principals in High schools who are fascinated by a rather vulgar show called Penis Puppetry or appear at a formal assembly dressed in a rather revealing nappy and talk to students and parents alike about the fun he and his wife had learning to put the nappy on and where to place the pins and at the same school at the end of the year party you had to sit on the knee of a grubby little vice principal who was full of sexual jokes and innuendos about you and your personal life. So poor Malki is very confused as many young women and men are these days having that sort of a hotchpotch of an education where decency and values of modesty and proper behaviour are not taught.
    Young girls are given media messages about being sexually desirable and available and possibly face censure from the young men who have been taught that women are sex objects and exist solely for their gratification and sexual satisfaction. So I forgive you Malki because you are really confused and your article while clearly written is really confused.
    I have been told I am the one who is confused and that I am an old prude and I should get with it, get myself a boyfriend, or at least a one night stand (to rid myself of my ‘obvious sexual frustration because that is why you are so uptight’ quote unquote from the Behaviour Management Specialist at a NSW high school) or get a certain mechanical instrument. I would rather be uptight and correct in my approach and if I need to relax – I don’t view sex as a means of relaxant despite the popular media approach today, I take walks, meditate, read, do yoga or cook or some other enjoyable activity.

    Sex is an intimate act between married people that has kedusha and strengthens the emotional bond between the two participants in the act. It is is not a handshake act between friends, it is not a muscle relaxant or an anti-depressant.
    It is often too freely given and that is why we have abusive relationships so frequently to the fore today. In Torah sanctified relationships where two people conduct themselves appropriately and according to Torah guidelines, the woman is protected from abuse and misuse.

  • Malki Rose says:

    @ Ilana:
    Firstly, I am not sure you have understood the article as it is written, this may be because it is quite verbose, and for that I apologise.

    If you’d like I can email you a condensed version which might be more digestable.

    I have not suggested that we are living in a male dominated society, the shackles of must be thrown to the wind. I mentioned that in days of old, when women WERE property and it WAS a male dominated society, hair covering was one of the ways in which men declared ownership of their women. Almost all cultures and religions of the middle east, africa and asia of ‘Avraham’s time’ .. before and after ensured that women’s hair was covered.

    I am also very well aware of the enormous and unique role that women play in Jewish life (“Chachmat Nashim Banta Beitah”) and their spiritual loftiness, yes even ABOVE men in certain instances.

    I am not sure what part of this piece leads you to believe that I have a problem with men, with modesty as a concept or that I am in any way confused.

    It is a little bit patronising for you to ‘forgive’ me (as is only G-d’s role).
    I have no issue with modesty at all, Ilana, in fact you will find that we probably agree on several issues relating to modesty, and like you I look around and see modern society of women who do not respect their bodies, dress extremely immodestly and make poor value judgements with men, ultimately ending up in failed marriages.
    I am not one of those women. I am not sure what your situation with men has been but your eagerness to project some of this on to me suggests perhaps it is you who have been hurt by men.
    Perhaps you assume that only a person who hates halacha, hates modesty and hates men could write such a piece. This is a shame Ilana, because it is not the case and not even suggested in the piece.

    It is because modesty IS an important issue to me, and to most self-respecting women that I wrote this piece. It is the concept of Dat Yehudit in the context of hair covering which I find halachically and historically problematic.

    Look around the world between Yemen and Me’ah She’arim and you will note that the Dat Yehudit is certainly very different from place to place and era to era.

    @ Simon: I have noted your response and have a zillion things to write in response.
    I suppose I have opened the door to a series of discussions here, and am even considering whether its worth taking it up as one of my sessions for Limmud Fest as a better forum for group discussion and source sharing.

    But briefly, yes I take issue with this custom, but no I do not find it ‘repulsive’, you’re correct it is too strong a word. I find very few things repulsive. (I feel that everything is to be understood) Even in days of old, I recognise that it had its place as a culture habit, and dont get all up in arms about women being owned or anything like that. I respect that many women seek fit to do so, and hopefully their reasons are their own and valid. It is the ones who cover their hair without any notion of understanding that I seek to question.

    As I have mentioned to Ilana, I certainly take no issue with Tzniut as a concept, in fact I rather favour its existence and wish to G-d women treated themselves and their bodies with a little more respect.

    My issue with the custom, just to clarify, is primarily threefold
    1)Its accuracy in text (i.e. the term ‘parua’ and its meaning)
    2)Its origin (being ‘not-jewish’ for want of a better phrase)
    3)Whether it has a place in Jewish society as a Dat Yehudit or is no longer valid – if it ever was.

    I’l provide you with some of the the sources for the translation of ‘Paruah’ and where I have encountered this as pre-Israelite on Sunday, when there’s more time. (Yes there’s a lot of it! )

  • Malki Rose says:

    @ Ari
    Thanks for your response.
    In fact the piece is far from irrelevant to the halachic community. Judaism is not a religion of submissive participants.
    Anyone who considers themselves part of the halachic community is also ordinarily someone with sense enough to want to understand the halachot upon which they base their daily lives.
    If you are happy to accept this minhag as is, then you are of course entitled to that.
    Most women, the ones who unlike you Ari, have to actually wear the things on their heads, are keen to understand where, why and upon what this minhag is based.

    To write “But apart from that all of your post is irrelevant for the Halachic Community who are bound by the sanctity of the Torah, the Oral Law and the thousands of years of Psika”, reads very much like someone disinterested in discussion on this subject but rather set on certain ways.

    My reference the flawed modern understanding of hair covering being deeply spiritual or a symbol of Kiddushin is an very important one. And as you say hair covering is not a “meaningful israelite practice” (like you mentioned). Every single other culture did it.

    If since this time the Rabbanim have seen fit to retroactively attach meaning to it, as have the Muslims, then this is another thing altogether and something which anyone who is comfortable within their Judaism and with their emunah should have no problem exploring.

    Submissive Judaism is only for people who are afraid that their emunah is based on shabby foundations and are afraid to peek behind the curtain.

  • ariel says:

    My kallah lent me this book when we were dating and I found it quite insightful, especially as a man who has never even thought about this issue.
    I recommend the read :)

    http://www.amazon.com/Hide-Seek-Jewish-Women-Covering/dp/9657108756

  • ariel says:

    Here’s another interesting read about taking tzni’ut too far…

    http://www.thejc.com/node/36322

  • I don’t know if it’s coincidental, but Rabbi Gil Student has just completed a three-part series on this over at Hirhurim. The most interesting part of it, in my opinion, is Part Two. For an interesting take on the Rambam, scroll down to the section that concerns Rav Shach!

  • Shira Wenig says:

    Malki, you’ve presented an interesting angle on the issue. I’m not at all offended by the idea of kisui rosh including the aspect you discuss, but I think you’ve presented it in a one-sided way. Just want to respond to a few of the things you have said.

    1. The Sotah passage could be seen as mandating a basic or partial form of kisui rosh that is then built upon by the chachamim (this understanding is suggested by the gemara in Ketubot that you mention); or it could be seen as an asmachta; or even if you totally disregard the Sotah reference, classifying kisui rosh as a dat yehudit rather than dat Moshe doesn’t nullify the concept of hair covering nowadays. At the very least it just makes it derabanan rather than deoraita – hardly an uncommon basis for a mitzvah! Whatever the impetus for its institution, once it’s codified it’s codified.

    2. Dat yehudit is not necessarily subject to change. An article by Rav Yosef Tzvi Rimon of Gush (who I learned from at Migdal Oz and sincerely respect), on a topic related to hair covering, suggests that the gemara in Ketubot indicates that dat yehudit DOESN’T change according the common practice of women in different time periods. His basis for saying this derives from a particular machloket relating to hair covering in a private courtyard. In that article, the dat yehudit bit was a side issue, and he admits that this is not a thorough discussion of it – so I’ll leave it there. There’s obviously more to it, but I just wanted to raise the possibility that dat yehudit is not “always relative to one’s environment” as you suggest it is.

    3. Let’s say the impetus for this concept was ancient Middle Eastern cultural practices. That’s not the only time we see external influences feeding into halacha and minhag. Korbanot might have been instituted in response to pagan animal sacrifices. The Shulchan Aruch discourages doing kapparot with a chicken – out of “chashash darkei ha-Emori” according to the Mishna Brura. (I assume there are other examples that I can’t recall off the top of my head.) You could say that ALL these cases have a tenuous basis; or you could say that societal practices which are worthy of respect are a legitimate factor in shaping halacha; or you could say that these practices are inherently valuable and were thus adopted by several cultures independently, Judaism being one of them.

    4. You say that “tzniut (modesty) in dress is that which is communally perceived as acceptable”. Given your response to Ilana, I doubt you mean by this that the pages of Cosmopolitan or the red carpet at the Oscars dictates current tzniut standards…but your statement does lend itself to being misconstrued in that way. Who could determine what is “communally perceived as acceptable”? Fashions certainly change, but tzniut standards do not. We don’t have to shop at Myer’s Mesopotamia outlet to comply with standards set thousands of years ago. Hair covering fashions have evolved too, with sheitels (now seen by some charedi sectors as the ONLY way to adequately cover your hair) being a relatively recent phenomenon. This doesn’t mean that tzniut itself has changed.

    5. In your most recent comment you say you seek to question women who “cover their hair without any notion of understanding” the concept. I don’t think this is fair. By all means, encourage people to look into the basis for what they do (your article had that effect on me!) and I agree with you that it’s very valuable for people to know why they do what they do. But Judaism is predominantly about practice – the accepted psak is that mitzvot don’t even require kavanah, and all the machshavot in the world don’t amount to ma’aseh. If people choose to blindly keep mitzvot without learning about their basis, they are shortchanging themselves but certainly not doing anything wrong. In fact, in the vein of naaseh v’nishma, this is preferable to the opposite attitude of not keeping a particular mitzvah until you fully understand its rationale.
    Having said that, the risk of not learning about what you keep is that you then can’t distinguish between halacha and chumra – a valid concern which can be inferred from the 2nd last paragraph of your article.

    PS. I would also be interested in seeing the Tradition article mentioned by Ari – do you have a link you could post?

  • Malki Rose says:

    Wow!
    Just had a quick read (darn these interesting distractions from work!!)
    Am pasting my favourite bit (Especially since Ms Leeds thinks I have ‘invented’ the concept of dat yehudit and I am the only one, with or without a beard, to suggest this notion.)

    “But it was Rav Shach who startled me with his halachic view. Rav Meltzer had told me to listen to Rav Shach closely, as “Rav Shach was married to his [Rav Meltzer’s] niece and she did not cover her hair.” Rav Shach met me at some length, and told me very clearly and directly that whether hair covering was obligatory or not when most modest women did not cover their hair was a dispute between the Shulchan Aruch and the Rambam, since Rambam called hair covering a dat moshe and Mechaber called it a dat yehudit. Rav Shach told me that it was better to be strict on this matter, but one who was makil, yesh al ma lismoch. When I pressed Rav Shach about explaining the basis for the Mechaber‘s view, he told me that the Mechaber is adopting the view of the Tur, which must have been his view the Rosh as well, although Rav Shach indicated that he did not see that view in the Rosh himself.

    When I asked him about his own wife not covering her hair, he corrected me and told me that my information was wrong and while his wife had not covered her hair in Europe or while he was learning at Etz Chaim, now that he was at Ponevitch she certainly did cover her hair. (For those who doubt that Rebbetzin Guttel Shach did not cover her hair for many years, see the pictures of her found in the Moshe Horowitz’s book about Rav Shach, entitled HaRav Shach Shehamaphteach Beyado [Keter, Jerusalem, 1989] on the second unnumber page of pictures after page 64 of Mrs. Shach in 1942.)

    Thus, it is worth noting for the record that the observation that forms the heart of Rabbi Broyde’s article, that the Tur and Shulchan Aruch adopt the view that hair covering is a subjective dat yehudit and the Rambam considers hair covering to be an objective dat moshe, was not first made by Rabbi Broyde at all, but was first stated by Maran Rav Elazar Shach zt”l.”

    Great find Simon!

  • Malki Rose says:

    Shira,
    yes yes, I hear/read your points and will respond properly after Shabbos I promise.
    for now my brief answer to your point number 3 is, yes, for exactly the reasons you mention I do feel that all of these have a tenuous basis in Jewish practice, but then again as you suggest it might be a case of having a think about whether or not external influences from other cultural practices is a valid origin for Jewish ones.
    Perhaps it is.
    But then that leads us automatically to the question of ‘Arent’ we supposed to be unique? different ‘L’chol haGoyim?’.

    and the brief answer for point 4 is, we agree, I may not have made myself clear, I also think that they are doing themselves a great disservice by not exploring these bases, but also agree that they are not doing anything wrong by failing to do so.

    Will answer your other 2 points and these 2 more thoroughly after Shabbos.

    Must get cookin!

    p.s. “Myer’s Mesopotamia”, hehe, love it! ( I suspect we once had loyalty cards there)

  • Malki,

    1. A Sotah is not a woman who has committed adultery, rather a woman suspected of this after being warned by her husband, and who is tested using the Sotah procedure you describe.
    2. The principle of sa’ar b’isha erva – that a woman’s exposed hair is considered nakedness – applies to married and single women alike. The exemption for single women to walk around with their hair uncovered is so that they may be able to attract a husband.
    3. Why should any takana (whether it’s designated Dat Yehudit or any other designation) expire after a period of time or when you (or society) no longer deem it relevant? Even cherem d’Rabeinu Gershom, which was established for 1000 years still applies today. There are plenty of examples of extensions to halacha that are maintained even though the original reasons no longer apply (some people may find this very principle objectional).

  • Malki Rose says:

    David,
    1. Yes.
    2. No
    3. Because.

    same applies, will respond properly after Shabbos.

  • Malki Rose says:

    but , p.s. re 3. a) I dont think it ever applied in the first place. b) yes there are many examples of extensions to halacha being maintained. there are also examples of some which are not. I was NOT implying that it should be chucked out because its no longer in vogue or ‘old world’. I was suggesting it simply does not apply any more, at all – nor did it ever.
    excuse the brevity.

  • The Fool says:

    Excellent Post. Well done Malki.

    Unfortunately, you will never be able to convince those who come from a halachik point of view as the halacha does all their thinking for them.

    What seems obvious is that head-coverings of all types are a form of male oppression to directly control and regulate a woman’s sexuality.

    The success of the system is that there are now women who will passionately defend their right to be enslaved and are even offended by the notion that they are enslaved at all. This is the insidious way in which true slavery operates.

    It would seem to me that the ultimate evolution of consciousness will manifest in a way whereby sexuality is not an object of fear and derision, but will be entirely integrated into the religious function of the society.

    The confusing thing for people now is that the beginnings of sexual liberation have taken place and in most cases where freedom is seized after such a long time of oppression, the initial results are often twisted and out of control.

    One day we will not only see married women proud of their sexuality and identity as sexual beings, but the energy of sexuality will find its way into the holiest of places and sanctify them with its energy.

    There is no energy more powerful than sex. The sheitel is an attempt to control this power. When people are ready for the power of sexuality the sheitels will be thrown off. Except for the really expensive ones that can make chicks look even hotter.

  • Ari says:

    @Shira:
    http://traditiononline.org/news/article.cfm?id=105511

    @Malki:
    I do not think trying to understand the basis for minhag and halacha even utilising modern academic methods.(I did ask for references). I think that your methodology though is problematic in being used to determine which halachot are relevant(and by implication should be adhered to and therefore I was tryng to point out that this has no effect on halachic practice. To utilise only the gemarra and then point out that the peshat is different(atleast according to your scholarship) is almost irrelevant to the halachic discourse(I am not claiming that the Gemarra is the peshat, rather that that is the Oral Law – which needs to be respected from an Orthodox perspective) I feel that if you would have included more halachic sources your post would have been more balanced and would have presented the many different facets of this issue.

    (You wrote: To write “But apart from that all of your post is irrelevant for the Halachic Community who are bound by the sanctity of the Torah, the Oral Law and the thousands of years of Psika”, reads very much like someone disinterested in discussion on this subject but rather set on certain ways.”
    Due to the stance that I outlined above, in terms of halacha, there is really nothing to discuss since your post did not really deal with any of the wide-ranging psika on the issue.)

  • Ari says:

    I Wrote:
    I do not think trying to understand the basis for minhag and halacha even utilising modern academic methods.(I did ask for references

    I intended:
    I do not think trying to understand the basis for minhad and halacha is problematic, even when utilising modern etc.

  • Ari says:

    @Shira:
    There is also an article in response in the latest Tradition that is not available to non-subscribers.

  • Malki Rose says:

    @ Ari
    I would be more than happy to discuss the ‘wide ranging psika’ on the issue.
    As I am sure you can appreciate, the piece was already very long, and the issue complex and multi-faceted and I had to be mindful of focussing on a single aspect of this discussion.

    I do understand your very valid concern about my methodology and what you see as my attempt to render certain halachot irrelevant.

    I understand you are seeing me as, to put it rather crudely, looking at the halacha, looking for the source in Pshat and then turning around and saying, ‘oh the link is tenuous, therefore it is no basis for a halacha’.

    Ari, this is exactly the nature of gemara discussion. And just because the books have been cannonised, published and bound does not mean that we, the thinking Jews of 2010, are not permitted to refute or revisit old discussions, with some new and some not so new ideas.

    In short, none of this is an original idea created by Malki Rose. Many different Rabbanim have touched on these ideas before, and for many many years. There are hundreds of sources whereby those more scholarly than I have explored these Halachot and found them problematic.

    My position in doing so is in sharing these concerns with them, concerns which are quite plain to see. To both Rabbanim and laymen/women alike.

    As I’ve mentioned earlier to Simon, Shira and David, on sunday I will write in more detail with some sources, so you can see where some of these ideas originate. In the interim, I encourage you to have a look at the link Simon shared earlier on in this thread, there is some interesting stuff there.

  • ariel says:

    The Fool:

    What time is the orgy at yours tonight?

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’h
    Tut tut and not King Tut. It seems I have gotten under Malki skin again. How long till I am banned from comment here, I wonder?
    Thanks David Werdiger for getting to tachles.
    [Eds: Please do not make comments about other people’s relationships or potential relationships. Innappropriate comment removed].
    Answer to your question, am I projecting my past experiences onto you? Naw, not likely. I, in my other life, BFJE, probably hurt guys myself and guys hurt me too. That is the way it goes in the secular lifestyle, no one really cares about a lot of things. You live and learn, babe! That is what life is about. Learning and moving on.
    @ The Fool
    You are exactly that. This comment is absurd.

    ‘One day we will not only see married women proud of their sexuality and identity as sexual beings, but the energy of sexuality will find its way into the holiest of places and sanctify them with its energy.

    There is no energy more powerful than sex. The sheitel is an attempt to control this power. When people are ready for the power of sexuality the sheitels will be thrown off. Except for the really expensive ones that can make chicks look even hotter.’

    It all boils done to holiness and anything worthwhile or holy is kept covered. The bima in shule is covered, the Torah scroll is covered. One’s body which is created by Hashem is holy. I want to keep myself holy therefore I will not allow myself to be abused or used by anyone. If we wish to have sanctity in our lives then we need to know how to protect and cover ourselves.
    So, for a woman, she should not uncover herself for all to see and she should cover herself adequately in order that she is treated with the proper respect due something holy. Her hair is holy for her husband.
    Once you allow your body to be used indiscreetly without kedusha and in an improper way, then you are defiling yourself. That is why the marriage between a man and woman is so important. It is a union blessed for building a Jewish home and the conceiving of Jewish children.
    Malki if you are not married, I give you a bracha that you will met your beshert this Jewish year and have the sehus to stand under the huppa and more fully understand this mitza and all that it entails in a Kosher Torah way.
    Shabbat Shalom all.

  • Ari says:

    Malki:

    I believe your methodology, even though you utilised some halachic terminology, is far from the methodology employed in Orthodox Pesika and I was concerned people would think otherwise.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Ilana, you have not gotten under my skin at all.

    You will see that I have agreed with your notion of a woman maintaining modesty and self respect, and just like you say the torah, women, anything holy or precious should be treated with utmost respect and care.

    Please re-read my comment so that you can respond accurately in future.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Ari,
    I think to be fair to your comment and mine, perhaps it would be prudent to demonstrate to readers the way in which my methodology differs from that of Orthodox Pesika. Perhaps offer an example of a Halacha and the process by which it came to be.

  • Shira Wenig says:

    @ the Fool:
    Your post is offensive and not at all constructive in this discussion.
    My comments on this issue come, unapologetically, from a halachic point of view, and I assume you did not read my post if you think halacha does all my thinking for me.

    You might want to acquaint yourself with some of the writings of Orthodox thinkers on halacha and sexuality – Rabbi Norman Lamm, past president of YU, for example, has many things to say about the celebration of sexuality within the halachic framework. In “A Hedge of Roses” he specifically discourages prudishness and explains why this is not at all what Judaism requires.

    I have no idea what you meant when you expressed a desire to see that “the energy of sexuality will find its way into the holiest of places and sanctify them with its energy”, but if your ideal expression of Judaism is something akin to the orgy described in the Da Vinci Code, then I suggest you are the one subjecting religion to totally foreign and repulsive ideas.

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H

    I do know now that I have not made any inappropriate comment about any relationship inferred or otherwise. You will probably not post this because you have made something up and misrepresented me in order to make me look bad.

    My comment is posted exactly as I wrote it. So why the foolish ed’s comment to make me look as though I have made some comment that was inappropriate. It is unethical and total immoral. What you don’t know is that I make copies of my comments before I post them.

    You will hear further about this and it is not going to be pleasant. I do not mind you censoring, but I do mind you making things up about me and others. Are you so lacking in self esteem and self respect that you have to lie in order to discredit me and make yourself look great? If so I feel sorry for you. It must be sad to have such a tenuous grip on reality that you cannot see the facts for what they are.
    Stick to truth, if you do really know what it is? It means literally facts, plain and simple without exaggeration, not making up things that did not actually happen or take place.

    [Eds: this is not true. Ilana, we can send you the line that we deleted if you would like. Please email if you would like to discuss this further to Editorial AT galusaustralis dot com]

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H

    What I believe is this. You are trying to get me banned from the site and you are building a case against me and making stuff up in order to back up your case against me.
    You have no real reason to stop me posting here, except to make up a few pretend comments or write them yourself in order have me banned.
    What a bunch of left wing nuts with only half a brain between the lot of you.

    [Eds: see previous Eds comment about email]

  • Eli says:

    Can someone please explain how a “sheitel” can be considered a head covering for the purpose of tznius. For all intense and purposes the wig was designed to beautify women by giving them either an alternative to their own hair or disguise the fact their own was not attractive.

    It seems that wearing a sheitel as opposed to a scarf or actual head covering is a contradiction to the desired effect. Most men would not know a shietel from real hair there fore defeating the entire purpose of the halacha in warning off potential suitors, unless off course she is followed by a dozen children and pushing a pram. But then she maybe the sister doing a toyveh.

  • Eli says:

    Ilana,

    Having owned a number of blogs and websites myself with forums, you should realize that no one is making you post here. However if you do then you subject yourself to the owners’ or moderators’ interpretations of the ground rules ( see http://galusaustralis.com/about/)

    If you are not happy about their rulings then certainly complain, however I found that when I used to enter into those discussions nothing I said changed the writer’s mind. In the end it was a case of using Asimov’s logic. If in doubt at rule 3 refer to rule one!

    Perhaps the editors can install an add-on that allows a time limit whereby a poster can edit their post within 15 mins of posting. This allows time for reflection for badly chosen words or spelling.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Eli,
    just briefly, then popping off for Shabbos, I would like to say that you have brought up a very important and highly disputed aspect of this head-covering debate.

    There are some rabbinic authorities who have ruled essentially as you suggested, against the wearing of a sheitl for some of the reasons you have mentioned, because they believe it to be an immodest representation of a woman’s actual hair.

    Then there are other’s, including everyone’s favourite the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who actively encouraged women to wear a sheitl, and thought it a swell idea.

    There are a whole gammut of issues and side topics relating to women’s hair covering including how much hair needs to be covered, partial versus entirety, netted snoods, scarves, hats, etc but its a whole series all on its own.
    Those such arguments can be had until the cows come home, but I feel that they are all moot because it is the origin of the ‘halacha’ of ‘covering’ in the first place (of any kind) which I find problematic, and am discussing here.

  • Eli,

    The requirement for hair-covering arises because a woman’s hair is deemed erva (nakedness). It doesn’t make a difference if she has bad hair, or very attractive hair. Covering her own hair with a sheitel, even if that makes her look more attractive, meets the requirement of covering.

    Consider this analogous to covering up any form of nakedness. There is no requirement that the clothing make the person more or less attractive.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Well actually David, interesting you should say that. I’ve had this discussion with someone, and we decided wearing a sheitl is kinda like wearing a totally tznius body suit which covers every inch of the body… but has a totally naked body painted on it in great detail.. you know, like those skeleton suits.
    So it’s tznius, covers everything, fufills the ‘requirement’ but is misleading and not in the spirit of the purpose of the law.

  • frosh says:

    David,

    I have often wondered why the wearing of a high quality sheitel does not cause an issue with marat ayin.

    Any thoughts on this?

  • Akiva says:

    Malki, I too am interested in the sources for these pre-israelite customs you speak of. With a background in near-eastern archaeology, I can’t think of one representation of every-day female hair covering (and that includes the Israelites) – excepting, of course, the upper-class ancient egyptian custom of shaving one’s head and wearing a perfumed wig -although both men and women did this, and it is hardly a marker of married status, modesty, or of male ownership of women.

    Seriously – a few people have asked now, and you haven’t responded – what are your sources for this as an ancient practice? In general, I strongly agree that Judaism can be best understood (especially in terms of origins) by looking at in in its geographical context and cultural surroundings – you have no idea how many ‘Israelite’ customs were held in common/ enacted in opposition to/ adopted because of neighbourly/host culture customs. But these things need rigorous and scrupulous research, and vigilant citation; invented theories about the origins of things are all too easily used for the justification of just about anything and devalue the genuine investigation. so – your sources?

    For what it’s worth, as far as I am aware, the practice of hair-covering as a symbol of modesty is late-antique at the earliest, and really flourished in the medieval period (from whence the sheitel comes). I personally see little or no difference between the Islamic and UO practice of women’s head-covering, and believe that the two are probably anthropologically related. But when that started – is a different issue. So I am very curious about your sources.

  • Some people object to the sheitel as a valid hair covering because you often can’t tell if a woman is really wearing one. I understand that in communities like Adass, the women put a pillbox hat on top of a sheitel, so it’s clear that because the hat itself doesn’t cover all of their hair, the hair you see is a sheitel.

    This could also be the reason why many women prefer a tichel or snood and don’t wear a sheitel at all.

    It could also be as Malki and friend “decided”, i.e. that the sheitel isn’t in the spirit of tznius.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Akiva, I will respond to you in a bit, just finishing up with rather lengthy response to some earlier posts, so hang in there.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Ok, lots of answering to do.
    Firstly Simon, with regard to my first issue of the translation of the word ‘parua’.
    Regardless of any later uses in Syriac Aramaic or Arabic, there are three irrefutable instances whereby it has been clearly translated as ‘loose’ or ‘wild and long’.
    In the case of the Nazir the pasuk states ‘yiheye gadel PERA s’ar rosho’ – ‘And he shall let the hair of his had grow wild’.
    And earlier in Vayikra regarding the Leper , ‘V’rosho yehiyeh PARUA’ – ‘And his hair shall be loose’.

    If we are to assert that ‘Parua’ suddenly means ‘uncover’. Then to be consistent we are left with the notion that a Nazir, a Leper and even a mourner are supposed to ‘uncover’ their hair, rather than leave it grow wild, as has always been understood by the phrase.

    It is clear in all cultural references from Biblical times up until at least the Roman Empire (and even to an extent till this day, with having ones hair neat and tidy a sign of self-respect, class and properness), that a persons hair was loosened, grown wild
    or messed up as a strong symbol of degradation, disgrace or mourning. (This of course also explains why a Cohen Gadol was specifically instructed in the Torah NOT to grow wild his hair, obviously for these reasons and the fact that his stature was to be held in high esteem at all times.)

    We see this throughout the Tanach, even in the New Testament, (for those who like that sort of thing, check out Corinthians), in Bedouin culture, that of most tribal peoples, (which we initially were), and certainly this habit of keeping ones hair neat and tidy certainly has its place clearly in modern societal norms as well.

    Interestingly the Gemara enacts a law that precisely mirrors that of local Roman Law, that a woman was not permitted to show her hair in public and that a violation of such a law would be grounds for divorce.

    This is not dissimilar to the statutes of Shemot being verbatim the wording of the Hammurabi code, written in the time of Avraham Avinu, well before the Israelites (or Hyksos) left Egypt and even received the Torah.

    This of course goes back to Shira’s point about considering the validity of external cultures influence on the evolution of Jewish law and tradition.

    It may not necessarily be problematic.

    But it certainly seems pertinent to explore and consider it.

    So before I specifically address particular concerns or points made be Shira and David, my general response is this…

    a) the fact that translating the word ‘parua’ as ‘uncovered’ is problematic, for the reasons I have detailed above, and calls into question, for very obvious reasons, the accuracy of such a rabbinic ruling. (yes, my emunah is such that I take no issue with questioning a rabbinic ruling, my emunah will not suffer as a result, if others reading this take issue with questioning of rabbinic rulings, then we will not agree and it is fair to see we shan’t see eye-to-eye on any matters of Torah. I think, as G-d intended, therefore I am.)

    b) This does not mean that it is not valid that women cover their heads on the basis of custom. (As Shira has suggested, many of our customs are from other cultures)
    In this instance, my issue is certainly not with the validity of the custom.
    The nature of a custom, within Judaism, is essentially that it cannot be argued with, all the way down to the example of the congregants in an old Shule, who used to bend at the knee walking past a certain point in the Shule, as had been the custom in the shule for years.
    Of course this was because there was once a beam in this spot and congregants had to bob down not to hit their head.
    What I am suggesting is, as I’ve mentioned before, to understand the source of the custom.
    Shira, knowing you, I certainly was not alluding to you when I suggested that their are some who just don’t think to delve into the whys and hows and whens of a custom or Halacha. And as you’ve said, by not doing so, these women aren’t breaking any laws.. they are just doing themselves a great disservice.

    Also just to respond to your points (and my apologies for earlier acknowleding only 4 of the 5)
    1. “once its codified its codified”, I suppose this is where we may disagree. I see the Torah a constant living, breathing thing, and that its aptitude for change in codification is intrinsic to its continued existence.
    Certainly the Mishneh, opened the book on more discussion, as did later the Talmud, the Shulchan Aruch, Igrot, Sichot and Teshuvot of many Rebbes and biblical commentators, and I would hope that the codification of Torah would be something open to permanent discussion and and revisitation. (I do not suggest that Torah should be thrown out when it is no longer trendy and we should change the Torah to suit our changing needs.. but something similar while wildly different… The Torah is our life guide and if it is not pertinent and accessible to us, then we are truly lost in that awful wickedly Gashmiusdikeh world Ms Leeds referred to. This was of course the brilliance of R’ Moshe Feinstein (zt”l) his desire to discuss the pertinent and not shy away from changing needs and challenges of the Jewish People.

    2. Re the ‘Dat yehudit’. I kind of agree with you. There are some intrinsic problems with the concept of a Dat yehudit, and as you have suggested there is not sufficient literature on the subject, although there darn well needs to be, given the shakiness of the term.

    3. I have touched on this above, and also in response to David’s piece about ‘Kapparot’. As much as I see it may in some instances not be problematic to take on customs of other cultures, it may if they are idolatrous or overtly pagan in nature be problematic. This issue of ‘where the custom comes from’, is an interesting one and certainly worth exploring.
    4. Your 4th point links back to your 1st. It is not necessarily my view on changing tznius standards which could be misconstrued, it is as I mentioned above a problem with the nature of defining Dat Yehudit. I am not sure if you had a chance to look at the link that Simon posted, but certainly that last section about Rav Schach’s wife is an interesting illustration of this point. (I copied and pasted it earlier)
    5. I think I’ve covered this point earlier. But yes, one of the concerns does become the inability to distinguish between Halacha and Chumra.

    Simon, David, Shira,
    Please let me know if there’s something I responded sufficiently too.
    I will post some of my other sources for the earlier cultural influences, soon, but haven’t had a chance to make havdalah yet, so as I said to Akiva.. hang in there.

    And Frosh, what you and David have just illustrate is exactly the nature, and thus, inherent problem with a Dat Yehudt, it can be two totally different things in two different societies. A woman in a Sheitl only, would not be dressed modestly in some communities.

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H

    I am going to only address the topic of this discussion here as the other matter I am taking up together with another person in a blog post about Galus Australia moderators and their level of ‘objectivity’. And Eli you are right. No one makes me post here, but like the masochist I am, I must love the pain of beating my head against a brick wall occasionally. It must make me feel somehow more connected to the physical world.
    Now Ms Rose your premises would work magnificently, if and only if, unmarried girls were allowed to walk around in clear plastic clothes in order to attract a mate. It might work if humans were horses or willy wagtails, but the human being is a lot more complex a creature and we should not endeavour to bring ourselves down the level of instinctive mating behaviour that happens with animals, although I can say some animals who mate for life are far more moral that some humans today.
    As a person who wears a kitsuri rosh most of the time and sheitel on Yom Tov and Shabbes, I will tell you my personal feelings on a head covering apart from halacha.
    When a woman covers her hair there is the expectation of a certain code of behaviour in regard to interactions between men and women that I think goes without saying. It should be expected that a person who covers her hair is observant of the following:
    1. Hilchos negiah http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/754092
    2. Hilchos niddah
    3. Understands the concept of tzniut in relation to being alone with a member of the opposite sex and is careful ‘not to put a stumbling block before the blind’ or in other words put herself and a man in a situation where their sexual energy may overwhelm the boundaries of proper conduct between unmarried or even G-D forbid, married people married to other people and they do something that they later regret. That is why one should be extremely careful not to have conversations at length with members of the opposite sex or even allow oneself to be alone in an enclosed space like a room with a locked door with a member of the opposite sex, unless one of the couple becomes overtaken by emotions and may desire to touch the other person in an inappropriate way or speak in a way that is not tznuit. In this day and age, with the advent of the immorality of the times, it is even difficult to be alone with members of one’s own sex if you understand what I mean, because the values have become so corrupted and confused. One has to be careful not to be soiled by the taint of values that are injurious to one’s own spiritual health and that of your child/ren.

    As anyone who has worn a sheitel whether it is human hair or synthetic, knows it is still a head covering and one could very well argue that a beautifully embroidered and colourful kitsuri Rosh is equally attractive and eye catching for a man and will draw the men’s attention to such a woman wearing this garment.
    Yes, there is a problem of tznuit with the concept of wearing head coverings that are overly attractive and eye catching. If the idea is modesty and for the woman to keep her beauty as holy to her husband and family then she should keep the magnificent sheitel of long red hair or blonde or auburn whatever, for family gatherings e.g. her husband and close family. However there is also the idea that a woman should not disgrace herself and her husband by going out looking like a sharmutta with a shmutta on her head and should be neat, tidy and clean, in other words, well presented. Not all sheitels make you look like movie stars and many are modest.
    I think it is possibly that the idea is misunderstood. I was told recently of someone who goes dancing and dances with men as well as she has had intimate relations with men or they take advantage of her state of mind and that is sad. She should not perhaps cover her hair, because then it leads to other expectations of other women who do cover their hair. And any of the men who took advantage of this poor woman, even they wear a stremiel and daven religiously, they cannot call themselves a frum yungerman. They should have married her, so she does not make herself into a zona on account of such a man.
    I also spoke once with someone who covered her head and told me she ate treif meat and that astounded me. I immediately told her that she was very confused and should not do so. (eat treif meat and asked her if it was because of financial hardship, she could apply to a charity and get Kosher meat cheaper or subsidised).

    A head covering also entails some aspect of yirat shamaim . One is aware that all one’s actions are overseen by the Abister and we do not have anywhere to hide our wrong doing so better not do it in the first place.
    Shavoua Tov all.

    Oh and mods I have made copies of all my comments so no tricky business.

  • Malki Rose says:

    What ‘premise’ Ms Leeds?
    You are once again writing as if you have not read what has been written.
    I have supported the notion of Tznius. I am not sure why you cannot see this, I dont think anyone else reading this would have just come to the same conclusion you just did.

    It is immaterial whether or not you like, or dislike Sheitls, or think a nice tichel is equally attractive. We are discussing the Halachic issues of ‘Parua’ as it relates to hair which is considered ‘ervah’.

  • Malki Rose says:

    In answer to Simon and Akiva’s request for sources to support my assertion that hair-covering was not a uniquely Israelite custom. Here are some interesting findings worth discussing, perhaps in another forum.

    Yes, I referred to Akkadian tradition, and, as Akiva would most likely already know from his studies, there is very little actually written per se about what Sumerian women wore on their heads, (short of some paintings of the bowl shaped hats worn,) and for what exact purposes. In fact there is very little written information of any kind, and certainly pertaining to the daily life of laywomen.

    Because of this, most of what we know about the practices of Mesopotamian women can only be deduced and inferred, not definitively known.

    There are tablets and carved reliefs which portray women of elite status, high-priestesses, queens, etc, all of whom wore hair-coverings, usually which were quite ornate (see Great Death Pit – Sumaria, Ur, Early dynastic period), bejeweled and feathered; this was already from about 2500BC through till the Akkadian dynasty of about 1750BC, and the beginning of the Hammurabi era when women’s role in society became somewhat diminished.

    Some sources to have a look at would be “Women in Mesopotamia” an essay by Jessica Bieda, (which should be accessible via the University of Arizona’s Women’s studies department), and ‘Women in the near east: Stories and Primary Sources from 
the Sumerians through the Early Israelites’ (collated by ‘Women in World history’, Berkeley California).

    My reference to women’s hair covering as a custom in pre-Israelite cultures was not referring to it as an example of hair-covering for modesty, ownership, etc, but as a custom relating to that of keeping hair ‘kept’, decorated, preserved and certainly as a part of the body (head) which was holy and respected.

    (The ‘ownership/marital status’ stance is something which only seems to come into effect a little later in history. And certainly seems to be a nomadic/Bedouin and therefore Israelite practice, given our wandering history.)

    As the Assyrian era dawns we see a change in the role of women. Although there is some debate about exactly at what point the public veiling of women/covering of women’s hair began. (And no, I will not enter into that debate here, although Akiva, I do note that the existence of such customs in late-Antique literature is certainly irrefutable. Including the Roman public laws about hair-covering and of course this precise Talmudic discussion, also written during the late-antique times.)

    We do however see in some of the sources I have mentioned, (et al, please email me if you would like to continue a discussion on the primary sources as well, as I suspect this could bore the pants off many readers), that Mesopotamian women kept their hair tied neatly back in buns and hair nets.

    There is an interesting essay written on the change of women’s status in Mesopotamia by Zainab Bahrani. He, amongst others, discusses several plates depicting scenes from Assyrian battle and victory banquets.

    What starts to become clear, in terms of primary evidence, is that during this period women are no longer high priestesses, or rule like kings, but are now volubly absent from reliefs and other Mesopotamian societal depictions. But, when women are depicted, it is as servants, or onlookers. This only tells us they were demoted in some way. Nothing more.

    Most telling however is a relief in which on-looking women appear to be tearing at their loose hair in sadness and dismay, which most western scholars read as odd, while most biblical scholars simply recognized this as typical behaviour associated with mourning and degradation. (This is also not necessarily limited to women)

    The ancient writings of many peoples allude to a woman’s hair as her pride, and the custom of many cultures was for women to have long hair, so certainly any culture would prescribe the keeping of a woman’s hair kept safe, neat, tidy or even covered.

    During the Babylonian period, cloth bands and woven materials were used to keep hair in place and it could very easily lead one to think that the purpose of which was covering as opposed to preserving its shape or style.

    It is the notion of ‘disgrace’ or degradation from which the ownership concept evolves.

    If a woman’s appearance and behaviour can denote status of wealth or self respect, then a failure to protect her hair sufficiently and appear to be unkempt, is not just a reflection on her, but also on her husband.

    Assyrian (and related tribal and nomadic peoples) society was unquestionably male-dominated and wandering around the Middle-East with a wife who looked like trailer-trash was certainly something no leading middle-eastern man would have stood for. Nor did they. How ornately a man’s wife was decorated distinguished him in a hierarchy.

    I think it is clear, even if only by deduction that beautifying or preserving the hair of any woman, whether the high priestesses of Ur as a goddess, an Assyrian general’s wife or an Israelite woman, was a way of suggesting that she was highly valued or prized; perhaps by a people, perhaps by her husband.

    With regards to the Canaanite (among other locals during the early-mid bronze age) influence on the Israelites customs, I refer you to the following: ‘Ancient Canaan and Israel: new perspectives’ by Jonathan Michael Golden, and ‘Whisper of Stone: Natib Qadish: Modern Canaanite Religion’ by Tess Dawson.

    Upon their arrival in the promised land, we do see the Israelites locked into what seems to become an ongoing struggle to distinguish itself from its polytheistic native neighbours.

    And have we?

    It is the phrase used in Shmuel, ‘K’chol haGoyim’, which leads me constantly to find the keeping of external cultures customs problematic.

    Do we keep them because everyone else does? Or because they are deeply spiritually significant to us?

    Or do we retroactively attach religious/spiritual meaning to these customs in order to justify their keeping and make them our own?

    If the word ‘parua’ is to be more consistently translated as unkempt or wild and we are able to view Modesty with a more earnest look at its core, we see a principle of protecting that which is sacred, treating something beautiful and precious with respect, care and pride.

    Although this does contradict the rabbinical ruling on ‘covering’, it certainly doesn’t violate any actual concept of modesty. In fact it supports it.

    In fact the rabbinical ruling (and its prior discussion) does not take into consideration at all the value and preciousness of a woman’s hair as her crowning feature.

    There is a brief, and often skipped over, discussion on the importance of her ‘presenting well’, with pride and self-respect.

    This is a shame. There are many orthodox women, who are seen in the street covered in every rabbinically correct manner, as prescribed by their halachic authority, but have little concept of pride in their appearance, with ratty poor quality wigs, dirty housecoats and general frumpiness. The true essence of the mitzvah of Tzniut seems forgotten by many.

    (And Shira, this is perhaps what I was alluding to earlier regarding those who don’t bother with the whys and how’s, the disservice they do for themselves is in missing out on understanding the essence of the halacha.)

    I suppose it’s about women finding a modest balance between inner and outer beauty, as suggested in the following phrase…

    “Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine clothing, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

    (NB: My apologies for the long posts, it was not my intention to do so, and future posts will remain brief.)

  • ariel says:

    This is a great discussion.

    In the book of essays I recommended earlier, “Hide and Seek”, one Hungarian woman who only wears a tichel and refuses the sheitel explains that the sheitel came about as a result of Eastern European rulers (Czars and princes of Russia, Greater Poland) issuing decrees against women going out in public with their hair covered. This was deemed a typical decree against Jewish custom of the kind that popped up often in those parts. Such decrees never reached Hungary.

    As a result, the rabbis had to be creative with halacha/minhag (depending on how one views the hair covering) and came up with the idea of the sheitel to fool the authorities.

    Many career women continue to choose the sheitel as their hair covering as they are uncomfortable about the idea of going to work in a tichel as it may be too confronting. However, they still want to cover their hair as part of their avodah.

    In any case, I think it’s great to have these debates and for women to choose how to approach the practice of this concept.

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H

    Ms Rose, here you have made an assumption. One would have to believe that most learned western scholars would also be familiar with biblical narrative and all that it implies, (however certainly not to the depth that biblical scholars are) otherwise why would they be called scholars.
    Most telling however is a relief in which on-looking women appear to be tearing at their loose hair in sadness and dismay, which most western scholars read as odd, while most biblical scholars simply recognized this as typical behaviour associated with mourning and degradation. (This is also not necessarily limited to women)

    We are discussing the Halachic issues of ‘Parua’ as it relates to hair which is considered ‘ervah’.
    What is your real point Malkie, for head coverings or against? You appear to contradict yourself. Hence stands my contention that you are confused.
    I quote Shifra Dukes Livne from a discussion on Facebook. She has expressed herself quite well and I see no need to add to it.
    In chassidus, the concept of head covering is related to the idea of sources of holiness- the higher something’s source, the more base it can become.

    The skull is considered to be on the level of keser, and hair grows above the skull. Coming from such a high level, one’s hair gives sustenance and life force to either very positive or very negative influences. What Chana said above was that shaitel hair is dead, it’s not growing anymore. Davka because it’s not being fed by a life force, it doesn’t have the power to affect spheres of holiness/impurity the way live hair does.
    While several sects actually shave their heads (probably to remove all possibility of their hair being used to enliven klipah- correct me if that explanation is lacking), from a Chabad perspective, that’s kind of missing the point.

    When you get married, your entire being is elevated to a much holier status, and your hair is connected to the highest madrega of your physical being. What’s holy is holy- not to be completely eradicated so as to prevent its use, period- it should be present, but kept holy. As a Jewish, married woman, that’s one of your responsibilities. Keep yourself holy- that includes keeping your head holy.
    n some middle-eastern societies, women walk around completely covered, head to toe, many with barely a screen to see through. Judaism values the individuality of each unique person. You don’t need to cover your face; it represents who you are. Your emotions, expressions, power of speech; these are all very big parts of your conscious experience and shouldn’t be hidden from others.

    When people do tell you to cover up- your skin is showing, your kerchief slipped, or whatever the case may be, it’s because consciously or nconsciously, they want to see more of YOU, not more of your body.

    The concept of tznius, of covering what is ervah, is based on valuing what is important. What would distract someone from doing something as holy as reciting krias shma would also distract them from seeing YOU- who you really are, not your clothing, not your physical form, but a sentient being who has the power to affect, to think, to inspire.
    The Rebbe also writes about sheitels-

    With reference to the question of a sheitel about which you wrote that you object to it on the grounds that it is old-fashioned, etc., let me say that the true approach to matters of Torah and Mitzvos is not from the point of view of whether they are considered old-fashioned or new-fashioned. We observe the Torah and Mitzvos because they are directives from the Creator of the world and of man. It is self-understood that the Creator knows what is best for man and that He desires that man should be happy and not only in the World to Come, but also in this life. This is the reason why the Torah is called Toras Chayim, meaning that it is a guide to the good life on this earth.
    Specifically on the question of a sheitel let me quote here the words of the holy Zohar (III, 126a) which are quoted in Mishnah Brurah, and I will quote only the positive results mentioned there omitting the negative aspects: “Her children will be superior… her husband will be blessed with spiritual and material blessings, with wealth, children and children’s children.”

    Considering the great reward which is promised to the woman and mother who wears a sheitel, it should surely be worthwhile to do so even if the wearing of a sheitel would entail serious difficulties and conflicts. How much more so where the objection to it, as you write, is only because it is “old fashioned.” This is not a real objection, nor a valid one, and it is rather based on the “opinion” of others.

    Let me also add that even considering the general attitude towards this and other Mitzvos, there has been a radical change in recent years; one of respect and admiration for people who are consistent and live up to their convictions and ideals, and are not influenced by the mob. There may always be some individual who might make a joke about a person’s convictions, but where a person is sincerely dedicated to his faith, such a person can only call forth respect and admiration.

    Furthermore, if you will eventually settle in a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood, you will find that other young women will wish to emulate your good example, and thus you will have the additional merit of being instrumental in influencing others in the right way. The reverse is also true, for a Jew must always consider how his or her conduct affect others. This should be an additional consideration why you should overcome your superficial objection to wearing a sheitel.

    It is no less important to bear in mind that marriage is called “An everlasting edifice,” meaning that it is an everlasting institution which is of vital importance not only for the husband and wife, but also for future generations. Every parent desires to ensure the happiness of children and will do everything possible to take out the utmost measure of such insurance.

    Of course, you might point to this one or that one who do not wear a sheitel. However, it is surely unnecessary to point out that every person may have a particular weakness, and if one is to follow the principle “He is wise, who learns from every person,” he will be wise to learn from only the person’s strong and positive qualities and not from his weak ones.”
    Excerpt from a letter of the Rebbe, Chanukah 5721

    And also sorry about the long quote but I am tired of saying what others have said better than I could have said it.

  • Shira Wenig says:

    Malki, thanks for your comments.

    On the topic of “once it’s codified it’s codified”, which goes back to the definition of dat yehudit, I notice you make 2 related comments which I think are off the mark:

    1. Regarding minhag – “The nature of a custom, within Judaism, is essentially that it cannot be argued with”
    2. Regarding codification in general – “I would hope that the codification of Torah would be something open to permanent discussion and and revisitation”

    As far as I know, there is plenty of room to argue with minhag. This definitely applies in the case of a “minhag shtut” (like the one you mention about the chasidim ducking under a fictitious beam in shul during hakafot, which is one of my favourites!) – unlike your suggestion that it cannot be argued with, in such cases the minhag is patently ridiculous and is certainly not binding. We shouldn’t confuse habit with minhag.
    Even with legitimate minhagim, you can’t just chuck them away, but there are valid reasons for abandoning them – for example, getting married and adopting your spouse’s minhag; and possibly the modern practice of some Diaspora Jews (myself included) keeping 1 day yom tov in Israel is an abandonment of “minhag avoteinu b’yadeinu”.

    I seem to recall that if the basis for a minhag has disappeared, there is room to discontinue the minhag itself (but I’m not well versed in this topic so am open to correction). This cannot be said with regard to gezeirot d’rabbanan, where even if the basis for the gezeira has long disappeared, the gezeira remains in full effect. A good example is the prohibition of taking medicine on Shabbat (in a non-sakanah case) – which was originally instituted when medicine was made from ground substances, because of the concern that one might come to grind more medicine on Shabbat. The basis for this gezeira has clearly lapsed but the prohibition is still in force. Whether one agrees with this principle is an entirely separate matter from the fact that the principle is built into the legal system.

    It’s dangerous to lump all of halacha in one category, from de’oraita through to minhag, with the same rules applying to all. This leads to the statements of yours which I highlighted above:
    1. The inflexibility of d’oraita and d’rabbanan is then transferred to minhag as well, making the whole system sound dodgy (particularly when a minhag shtut is used as an example).
    2. The desire to see legitimate change where warranted, such as might be allowed in the case of a minhag, is then transferred back to the entire legal system – leading one to believe that codification is always open to review.

    Torah is certainly always open to discussion and review, particularly when it comes to new understandings of texts or institutions, and modern day applications of ancient rules. But this is done within the framework of already-codified law. The writers of the Teshuvot you refer to, such as Rav Moshe Feinstein, don’t rewrite the laws, they apply them. The Torah is, as you say, a “constant living, breathing thing” but this doesn’t change the fact that once something is properly codified, it’s codified.

  • Ari says:

    Malki:

    While we’re on this subject and before I reply more at length I wanted to know:
    How do you understand the בין עיניכם?
    How do you understand טוטפות?
    Although my question is a bit tongue in cheek I believe it highlights the problem with your methodology for understanding Parua and attempting to decide halacha on such a basis. As Shira explained when something is codified, it’s codified. No recognised Orthodox decisor(and if I am wrong I’d appreciate it if you would point me towards a source) would write a Psak Halacha and simply throw out the gemarra’s understanding of a word simply because it doesn’t seem to be the pshat.(I mean, it’s not as though R’ Moshe Feinstein or Rashi would read your post and say, “Why didn’t we think of that, just reading the word as pshat, against the tradition of the Gemarra.) Similarly, Orthodox Pesika does not sidestep the understanding of the Rishonim, the Bet Yosef or the Darche Moshe and it does not disregard the positions of the Ahronim. Orthodox pesika(now there is a difference between Ashkenazi and sephardi traditions of Pesika in this regard) does tackle the sources, understand them and their source(in the spirit of the sanctity of the Torah and the Torah She’beal peh) and reasoning and attempt to make the most appropriate decision based on the values of the Torah as they understand them taking into consideration the modern situation and many other factors.

  • I’m not sure what it was about Malki’s article that gave people the impression that she was writing a psak din, but that wasn’t an impression that I received from it. Given that her focus was on what she perceives to be a disjunctivity between a tradition and the biblical verse on which it is ostensibly based, any insistence that the tradition is fundamentally rabbinic in origin only makes her point for her.

    Now, I do dispute this idea that the halakha is based upon a misreading of a biblical verse. Malki suggests that, if פרע means “uncover”, then consistency demands that we translate it accordingly in every instance. This is actually incorrect. For a start, one requires a great deal of flexibility when rendering the words of one language into another, and translations need to take into account the semantic range that the word has.

    On that note, it appears that there are three homonyms (words spelt the same, but with different meanings). One of them, related to an Arabic word meaning “nobleman”, possibly appears in Judges 5:2. The chapter is a poem, and its meaning in this instance has been debated. Another of them, related to an Aramaic word meaning “sprout” (as a noun), or “mess up” (as a verb), appears variously in the Bible with the meaning of “long/wild hair”. Malki quoted one of these verses earlier, in reference to the nazir. But there is a third one, which is related to an Arabic word meaning “unoccupied” and an Aramaic word meaning “uncovered”.

    I am not suggesting that the halakha has evolved into an adequate reflection of what the biblical text was saying (and I also don’t care if it did: I’ve no greater reason to adhere to biblical halakha than I have to adhere to rabbinic halakha), but I do think that it goes without saying that ancient audiences who were versed in Hebrew had a better idea of what the word meant than we have. Aside from the fact that the rabbis understood Numbers 5:18 as referring to the uncovering of her hair, the same is the interpretation of the Septuagint (α͗ποκαλυψει την κεφαλον) and, somewhat later, the Vulgate (discoperiet caput eius). The Aramaic evidence (Targums Onkelos and “Yonatan”, as well as the Peshitta) is more complicated, but only because they all use פרע, which – as I noted – can mean both “uncover” and “mess up” in Aramaic. For what it’s worth, Targum “Yonatan” appears to take the “mess up her hair” meaning, but only because his version involves knocking the girl about in various other ways as well.

    [Thanks for the lengthy overview of what you found in other ancient Near Eastern sources. Interesting what you say about hair-nets! I wonder if uncovering the hair and messing up the hair were more than just lexically related?]

  • Shira Wenig says:

    Simon,
    I can tell you what it was about Malki’s article – the following section:

    “By definition, Tzniut (modesty) in dress is that which is communally perceived as acceptable, and ‘datei yehudit’ are always relative to ones environment.
    The ‘dat yehudit’ is up to us. If we want to create a taboo on women’s hair and extend what it is we as a community consider ‘erva’ as a post-factor justification for why we embrace head covering as a law, rather than just a custom, we can. And some do.”

    I doubt that any of us thought Malki was giving a psak, but in that section she is clearly commenting on the prescriptive, rather than the historical, aspect of the concept. The rest of the article focuses on the disjunction between the pasuk and the tradition based on it, which is interesting in its own right but, as you point out, doesn’t have anything to do with psak if the whole thing is d’rabanan.

    In addition, the following comments posted later by Malki show that she intended this article to have prescriptive ramifications:

    “It is the concept of Dat Yehudit in the context of hair covering which I find halachically and historically problematic.”

    “the piece is far from irrelevant to the halachic community. Judaism is not a religion of submissive participants.
    Anyone who considers themselves part of the halachic community is also ordinarily someone with sense enough to want to understand the halachot upon which they base their daily lives.”

  • Akiva says:

    Malki, I don’t believe that your sources for wide-spread Levantine hair-coverings actually hold up to critical analysis. I think that they are very much too speculative. There is some evidence throughout the history of the Levant for the use of hair coverings – for both women and men – as a marker of high status, but very little for the use of covering as a religious principle or marker of modesty, or indicator of a special concept of the sanctity of the head. The use of head covering for the elite is near-universal in this period; indeed, there is much more evidence for it in Europe than in the Levant. It is worth noting that by the time of Hammurabi, several law-codes specify which women may and may not cover their heads, and it is clearly a marker of class, not the idea of ‘properness’ (it is simultaneously clear that the most ‘proper’ class of woman is what would best be describes as the merchant class, who may not cover), nor the special function of the head – a concept, again, which I would suggest is a vague and universal one. These law codes specifiy that elite concubines, as well as legitimate wives, may also cover their heads. The entire harem of an elite sumerian and assyrian were entitled to wear a veil.

    Basically, the pattern goes like this: Near Eastern Goddess is depicted wearing a highly ornamental and non-functional headdress; consequently, high-status women are depicted in her image. Repeat, with variations. This tells us very little about what actually happened in real life, let alone why. It is far too tenuous to base any assessment of the rationale behind Judaism’s interpretation of the head covering on this. All one can really say is that the covering of hair, particularly but not exclusively women’s, seems to be some sort of universal ancient and medieval ritual, no doubt fulfilling different functions from place to place.

    Also, in contradiction to your thesis, there is some evidence that canaanite and Israelite women of the Egyptian New Kingdom did not cover their hair. The Beni Hasan wallpaintings show a group of Canaanite women – this is c 1890BC – one accompanied by a child, and they all have uncovered heads. I consider this evidence to be slight – but enough to forbid any pop-historical theories about such matters. Gender studies brings up some fruitful information, but is also notorious for dealing badly with historical record, of making ‘modern’ assumptions without an understanding of the period culture.

    What is much more pertinent to this conversation, if not as thrillingly ancient and ‘roots-associated’, is the widespread attestation of the custom of women covering their hair in late-antique, specifically Roman Judea (although it seems the custom also occurred, but differently, amongst hellenized Jewish communities). Philo makes it pretty clear in his discussion of Numbers 5:18 that a covered female head is a proper and modest female head; ‘modest’ in the sense of possessing both humility and the capacity to feel shame. Dio Chrysostom describes this as an eastern, rather than exclusively ‘Jewish’ phenomenon. It is pretty clear that greek women of antiquity did not cover their hair.

    It is the Romans who covered their heads during worship. Both men and women. Decorous Roman matrons and vestal virgins also covered their hair (and sometimes shoulders) in everyday life (cf Plutarch). Synagogues such as Dura Eurpos show hellenized/romanized Jewish women wearing roman dress, with roman veils covering their hair. Mind you, these same frescoes show male biblical figures (eg David and Samuel) clean-shaven, wearing tunics and togas. These communities were almost certainly not the norm (although they make up a sizeable section of the Judean ‘provinces’ so to speak, and perhaps we would have more record of them in concentrated centres if later development had not flourished). I think a more problematic, but more fruitful course to pursue might be whether Judaism’s understanding of head-coverings was influenced by the customs of the Roman Empire.

  • Joel says:

    I’ve not read through the comment thread to see if anyone else has pointed this out: the various parts of Malki’s argument only stand up if one assumes that women’s heads were uncovered biblically (hence the ability to ruffle, but not uncover, their hair), but that the Rabbis lived in a world influenced by proto-Canaanite, Akkadian, Babylonian, Bedouin, etc. custom in which head coverings were assumed.

    It may well be the case that heads were uncovered in biblical times, and a later culture influenced the Rabbinic understanding — it wouldn’t be the first time that happened in biblical interpretation, even if it doesn’t always have an active impact on contemporary Jewish life — but proto-Canaanite and/or Babylonian practice are top candidates for influencing Biblical culture.

    In which case you are perhaps making two contradictory arguments in order to achieve the same point… again suggesting that this is a social issue more importantly than one of interpretation. Need we mask it?

  • Ari says:

    Just quickly in response to Simon:

    I did not think that she was giving a psak din but I the conversation thread went like this:
    Ari: “your post is irrelevant for the Halachic Community”
    Malki: “Submissive Judaism is only for people who are afraid that their emunah is based on shabby foundations and are afraid to peek behind the curtain.”
    Malki: ” do understand your very valid concern about my methodology and what you see as my attempt to render certain halachot irrelevant.

    I understand you are seeing me as, to put it rather crudely, looking at the halacha, looking for the source in Pshat and then turning around and saying, ‘oh the link is tenuous, therefore it is no basis for a halacha’.

    Ari, this is exactly the nature of gemara discussion. And just because the books have been cannonised, published and bound does not mean that we, the thinking Jews of 2010, are not permitted to refute or revisit old discussions, with some new and some not so new ideas.”

    Ari: “I believe your methodology, even though you utilised some halachic terminology, is far from the methodology employed in Orthodox Pesika and I was concerned people would think otherwise.”

    Malki:
    “I think to be fair to your comment and mine, perhaps it would be prudent to demonstrate to readers the way in which my methodology differs from that of Orthodox Pesika. Perhaps offer an example of a Halacha and the process by which it came to be.”

    That is why I wrote what I wrote and voice concerns. The sense one gets is that Malki feels this should be how one decides what forms the halachic consensus(or atleast personal choice in terms of halacha)(Please correct me if I’m wrong) and my claim is that this article does not represent any kind of Halachic analysis that is relevant to halacha.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Ari,
    just to re-quote myself especially since you are clearly concerned about possibly misleading readers, “I think to be fair to your comment and mine, perhaps it would be prudent to demonstrate to readers the way in which my methodology differs from that of Orthodox Pesika. Perhaps offer an example of a Halacha and the process by which it came to be.”

    Joel,
    Yup, we’ve touched on that in significant detail, read my last very length post, and then Akiva’s most recent one too.

    Akiva
    Firstly, regarding your comment

    “I think a more problematic, but more fruitful course to pursue might be whether Judaism’s understanding of head-coverings was influenced by the customs of the Roman Empire.”

    I very much agree with this point, and I suspect that Roman culture would have been the most influential, considering some of the similarities in custom (which seem to appear at the same time) and some of the halachic rulings made during this time. (I just recently purchased a pretty fantastic book by Martin Goodman on this topic, “Rome & Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations”, which I highly recommend for more clarity on this topic.)

    I would very much like to pursue this discussion further (and will do so at Limmud in November) and although the roots of this discussion are certainly pertinent and no doubt interesting, for brevity’s sake I shall leave it at this,

    “…All one can really say is that the covering of hair, particularly but not exclusively women’s, seems to be some sort of universal ancient and medieval ritual, no doubt fulfilling different functions from place to place.”

    Yes, on this, I’d say, we can all happily agree.

    So in returning to my original statement, hair-covering throughout various points in history has never been uniquely Israelite or Jewish.

    And so I once again ask, on what basis did the Rabbanim of the Talmud decide that It was a requirement of deeply religious and spiritually significant proportions that a married woman’s hair be covered?

    Was it purely on the basis of the Sotah example and of the translation of the word ‘parua’ as ‘uncovered’?

    I still find this basis extremely tenuous. (Even if it did mean ‘uncovered’, which I still don’t believe it did/does. )

    Simon,

    I do understand that consistency in meaning is not always assumed in translations of foreign texts and may be relative to context, and while I agree that it is certainly conceivable that ‘para’ could be a homonym, I am still not sure on what grammatical basis it would be ‘uncovered’ in Perek 5 and in Perek 6 it suddenly becomes ‘wild’.

    I was thinking about the English word written ‘minute’, a homonym which in some instances is ‘minute- as in ‘very small’, and in other cases ‘minute’ as a measurement of time/1/60th of an hour, etymologically we find its source meaning to still be ‘tiny’.

    With regards to Hebrew etymology the words are much easier to decipher as each letter was far more recently (than English) a pictogram with each letter representing a ‘thing’ or ‘concept’ on its own. This would mean that ‘para’ would have to have an etymologically consistent meaning based on the pictograms of ‘Peh’, ‘Resh’ and ‘Ayin’, in that order.)

  • Ari says:

    Sorry for the long post(but it’s Malki’s fault :-)) and any mistakes in translation are my own.

    Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s response regarding a widow who will not be able to support her family unless she can work in an office that requires her to work without a head covering.
    I responded to allow her to do such a thing if it is for a great need such as this, for it appears simple that even the Bet SHmuel and in Chapter 21:5[Shulchan Arukh, Even Haezer] that hold, based on the Yerushalmi[Talmud] that also a widow is forbidden from going Paura Rosh, this is only due to Dat Yehudit and that the Torah only [forbids] a married woman and therefore it is possible to say that since it is not stated in the Torah using the language of ‘forbidden’ that it is only a positive obligation that she should go with a head covering. And it seems, in my humble opinion, that it is on this point that the 2 statements of Rashi in Ketubot 70B…where he explains at first “That they do this to her[Sotah] to make her unattractive Midah Kneged Mida(punishment fit for the crime so to speak) as she made herself attractive and it is forbidden.” This implies that he[Rashi] believes it is forbidden to act thus[and make oneself attractive by being Parua Rosh] and see the Ritva who wrote that according to this Rashi believes that being Parua Rosh is considered immodest(Pritzut) for a woman and therefore it is definitely forbidden.
    And from the second explanation[of Rashi in Ketubot] he says, “Since it is written[in the Torah] Upara it implies that at that time she was not Parua and learn from this that it is not the way of Daughters of Israel to go out Paruot Rosh, meaning that it is a concept that is a[positive] Mitzvah to cover one’s head and not a concept of a forbidden action, rather it is forbidden since she breaches a positive commandment when she goes Parua Rosh and Rashi rules that this is the main understanding.
    And the difference in practice is that if it is forbidden then it is necessary to forbid even where there is a great loss, even all of her money, but if it is only a positive obligation then it is a case of Ones Mamon and in such a case you are only obligated to lose up to one fifth of one’s money. And therefore at any time when you stand to lose a fifth of your property or more as in this case where she cannot get a job to support her and her children it is a case of Ones and she is not obligated according to the second explanation of Rashi which is his main position.
    But in any case a married woman, that is forbidden by Torah law, it is necessary to forbid due to doubt and this is the first explanation of Rashi that holds that it is a prohibition and therefore it is necessary to forbid even if she stands to lose all of her money. But with a widow that it is only due to Dat Yehudit there is room to be lenient due to doubt for it is certainly not stricter than a rabbinical prohibition that in general we rule leniently. And it is also possible to say that perhaps Dat Yehudit is only like a custom and we should not forbid in a way that we did not find people acting and when there is a possibility of losing money we did not find that people acted in such a way[for a widow to cover her hair].

    From here one can see how what you wrote is different from Orthodox peskia:
    • Rav Moshe views the Gemarra, Rashi, the Ritva’s understanding of Rashi and the commentators on the Shulchan Arukh as binding. This does not stop him from entering into a debate with them and even pointing out a contradiction in Rashi. He also, however, resolves the difficulty in Rashi(I don’t think that this is always the case in any Psak).

    From what I have seen(and admittedly this is not that much) Orthodox pesika changes and adapts through an unending conversation with all of the great Rabbis of the past, but always respecting them utterly as a part of the Oral Law. It does not simply push away a gemarra or a commentary because it doesn’t sit well with the Peshat or because it doesn’t sit well with modern sensibilities. It converses with it, always trying to justify the tradition where it seems to contradict and yet always being flexible enough to understand the basis for the gemarra’s ruling in order to adapt the Halacha to current conditions and pressing needs. It in general does not attempt to understand it in a cynical light(except where it is part of the Talmudic discussion).

  • Ari says:

    The above was not intended to add to the halachic debate here but rather to show the methodology of Orthodox pesika, something which is hard to get a feel for until you have read a teshuva and see how the Rabbi’s deal with earlier rabbinic sources.(I hope this particular one managed to do that though I have my doubts)

  • Ari says:

    Interestingly, Rav Moshe Feinstein in his teshuva(Even Haezer 1:58) seems to point out that the forbidden nature as described in Ketubot is so that “the hair will not be Parua” and that it is not written “that she should not go out bareheaded.” He uses this as part of his arguments as to the amount that one needs to cover their hair.

  • I must disagree with what you have just written, Malki, even though I realise that I have already strayed far from the point of your post. Hebrew letters in their most primitive form were representations of objects, but those objects spoke to the letter’s pronounciation – not to the meaning of any word in which they appeared. For that reason, calling them pictograms is incorrect. The letter מ (mem), while originally a picture of running water, never actually meant “water”, but merely the sound /m/, which is the first sound in מים.

    To suggest that the etymology of a word must be consistent with its spelling is entirely incorrect. Hebrew was a living, organic language, and the writing system used to represent it graphically is completely secondary to the meaning. For example, you have been spelling the word with English letters (parua), but it means the same thing there as it does when spelt in “Hebrew” (פרע). What is more, there is a great flexibility of spelling as well: the Bible that we read is the product of a long period of transmission, during which the spelling becomes stable, but you can compare Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible, as well as pre-, and extra-biblical Hebrew texts, and see for yourself just how fluid the spelling could be.

    As for words that are in proximity being used with different meanings (or different words, spelt the same, appearing alongside one another), this is hardly a rare phenomenon. If I were to tell you that “I wound the bandage around the wound”, you would hardly throw your hands up in exasperation. Let that sentence be discovered in two thousand years, when people have only the written record to assess our language, and they can argue over whether or not the words share an etymology (they don’t). The only example that comes to mind from the biblical literature (this is off the top of my head: there are literally dozens of examples of this) is the punning on ערום (naked/shrewd) in Genesis 2:25 and 3:1. Those words may also not share an etymology: the origin of ערום as “naked” is debated, with some scholars thinking that it relates to ערום as “shrewd” and others thinking that it doesn’t.

    [Very much off the topic now, but the example that you gave is actually a really good indicator of how etymology can be confusing. “Minute”, being one sixtieth of an hour, derives from the Latin minutus, which means “small”, and is first attested in the late 14th century. “Minute”, meaning “tiny”, derives from the same Latin word, but is not attested until almost halfway through the 17th century (link). One would think that it would have been the other way around, but the meaning thought to be primary is actually a later derivation than the one thought to be secondary! This development was to subsequently influence the bivalency of the Israeli Hebrew דקה, but that’s a-whole-nother story.]

  • Malki Rose says:

    Hehe, I suspected that using ‘minute’ as an example would lead down that road. As you say, another WHOLE story. :-)

    I take your point on this, but also see that for us in 2010, deciphering true meanings or etymology, especially when their applications become vastly different, remains problematic, and as you’ve mentioned words, like ‘arum’, can become subjects of etymological debate.

    The problem for the reader of a homonym, when reading an ancient text, is deciding which one meaning applies in each context. As you say, in the case of ‘I wound the bandage round the wound’, the meaning of each use of ‘wound’ becomes perfectly clear BECAUSE of the context; meaning the way the words are placed in the sentence around the subject.

    How does the use of ‘Peh, Resh, Ayin’ in the Sota example clearly mean ‘uncovered’?
    How does the use of ‘Peh, Resh, Ayin’ in the Nazir example clearly mean ‘wild’?
    How does the use of ‘Peh, Resh, Ayin’ in the Metzorah example clearly mean ‘wild’?

    (I am trying to think of an example in English where homonyms in certain contexts could be read TWO ways, because the rest of the sentence doesnt provide sufficient clarification, unike the ‘bandage’ example with ‘wound’.)

    My reason, (and I am not alone in this) for believing that ‘Parua’ in this context means ‘unkempt/messed up/loosened’ is simply because of the fact that culturally doing so is culturally typical in implying disgrace and degradation, which was what the Cohen was doing.

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H

    Simon
    I have to say that I LUV’VED that last quote of yours and having taught English overseas, know that it will leave some interesting questions for a few thousand years hence.
    Example:
    The boy stood in the bow of the boat and made deep bow to the girl wearing a and purple bow in her hair on the ship nearby. As the boat approached the buoy bobbing in the water, an archer drew back his bow and shot an arrow through the bow which fluttered through the air until it landed at the feet of a row of sailors standing to attention on the upper deck. ‘Fetch me my bow’, at once the young queen ordered. Quickly without ado, two sailors hopped into a boat and rowed to the the row of sailors still standing at attention. They gathered the bow and the archer too. They took him back to the ship where the queen gave orders to chop his head off. Once the deed was done, she ordered a meal of lamb chops with mashed potatoes and peas. I will leave the peas alone and finish here.

  • Rabbi Meir G Rabi says:

    According to the Torah Temimah (Bamidbar 5:18) there is a dispute regarding the meaning of the word Parah.

    He quotes the Gemara of Sotah which explains that the Cohen will dishevel her hair. Rashi says the same, implying it was not uncovered but unbraided.

    He also quotes a Sifri which suggests that we “learn from here” that the daughters of Israel cover their heads.

    See the comments note 96 of the TT, Rabbi Epstien where he suggests that Rabbi Yishmael of the Sifri argues with the Sages quoted from the Gemara.

  • dovid segal says:

    David

    you wrote:

    Where did you see or read it? a widow or a divorcee have to cover their hair, even if they want to attract a husband, (see “halichot bat israel” p78) but a women that was never married, with no plans to ever be married, may walk around with her hair uncovered.
    Did you hear about the custom for women not to cover the hair until the morning after their Chupah? If not, see nitei gavriel, hilchot nisuin chapter 58 note 9.

    why not, isn’t the nature of takanot, that they expire after a period of time, or a change in conditions?

    what applies for the ashkenazim today is not the Cherem but the Minhag, and for the sefaradim and teimanim even not that.

    the question is not whether they are maintained, but whether they should be maintained.
    __________________

    Shira

    a minhag was never important in judaism, and I don’t know since when did it become so important. in the “good old days”, every country, town or family had their own minhagim, and no one had a problem with it, as they understood that there are different minhagim in different places, who change with time, but in our days minhag avot is more important is than halacha.

    See here:

    בחדרי חרדים | סחוג, חריין, חצי חצי – מנהגים וסתירתם בין בני זוג

    http://www.bhol-forums.co.il/topic.asp?
    topic_id=2037099&whichpage=&forum_id=1364

    can’t it?

    See: אנציקלופדיה תלמודית כרך ה, ערך “גזרה” טור תקכט]

    a good example is the gzeiraha that prohibits clapping hands or dancing on Shabbat, (Beitza 36,b, see shulchan aruch harav, orach chaim siman 339, 2.

  • In 1853, Punch ran a humorous article on (what they perceived to be) a ban on wearing the sheitl. You can read it here.

    Many thanks to Ari for Reb Moshe’s responsum! And thank you, Rabbi Rabi as well. For those of us who don’t have access to the Torah Temimah, can you please provide the reference for the passage in Sifri? That sounds very pertinent to an understanding of the gemara in Ketubot 72a.

  • Ari says:

    The mishna and gemarra(Ketubot 72) which deal with this subject discusses this issue from an interesting angle which I think has been overlooked here and relates to the simple reading of the gemarra.
    The Mishna defines two categories for which a woman is divorced and does not receive her Ketuba.
    Dat Moshe(the way/religion of Moshe) and the examples for this are clear Torah prohibitions such as making a vow and not keeping it, or eating food without taking Teruma
    Dat Yehudit(The Jewish way and Rashi: The way that daughters of Israel acted even though it is not written) such as, Going out and her head is uncovered.

    The gemarra then asks on “Going out and her head uncovered”: Is not Going out with her hair uncovered a Torah prohibition(So why is it not included in the category of Dat Moshe(cf. Rashi)?) as it is written and he “uncovers the hair of the woman”. And it is from the Bet Midrash of Rabi Yishmael that it is a warning for the daughters of Israel to not go out with their head uncovered.

    That is the difficulty in the gemarra is that it is a clear Torah prohibition to go with bareheaded and so how can it be that the Mishna relegates it to a status of Dat Yehudit.
    The gemarra then resolves this difficulty by stating that according to Dat Moshe a woman can cover her hair with a Kalta(a type of basket) and that is sufficient but that according to Dat Yehudit it is forbidden.

    The next section of the gemarra then explains that this is only so in the public domain but not in a courtyard and follows with the statement, “If[it was in everyplace and not only in a courtyard] then there would not be a daughter of Avraham left with her husband. This last statement seems to open the doorway to dat yehudit once more. The gemarra skillfully uses the term Bat Avraham due to the perceived tension with dat yehudit and it is interesting to consider what is purpose of this specific term here.

    From the above I think it can be shown that there was a clear tradition women do not go bareheaded (and that it was a Torah requirement) and the gemarra, therefore has to deal with the mishna which is problematic for this tradition. But it is clear that there is an ancient tradition for Jewish women to cover their hair(and the verse in Parashat Sotah may be an asmachta). The gemarra then utilizes one of its usual methods(Ukimta) in order to justify the difference between the tradition and the mishna. Note: The gemarra does not throughout the Mishna due to a perceived conflict, nor does it throughout the tradition due to the Mishna. When faced with both of those sacred concepts it cannot. Rather it comes to show how they work in unison. This is the way of traditional Judaism, which is different from some other sects that have existed which rejected the tradition when it flew in the face of the pshat. The way of Pharisaic Judaism is one which ascribes more sanctity to the Oral Law than the Written but only when it has to.
    To come and say, this Is not the understanding of Parua means little due to the fact that it is a firm tradition in the eyes of the Talmud.
    In terms of the simple meaning of the word “Parua”:
    (Note: Since I will only have access to a full library Tuesday I am basing some of these comments on the BDB only)
    As I mentioned above the Teshuva of R’ Moshe Feinstein, he picks up on the case of Sotah and utilizes it to instruct what is considered loose hair.
    The BDB translated “Parua” as let go, let alone. It also, however explains that it is

  • Ari says:

    It also, however explains that it is in the sense remove restraint and mentions the fact that its meaning in Vayikra 10:6, 21:10 is intended to be “unbind head(removing turban, sign of mourning).”(The Late Hebrew sense is uncovered, and it mentions the Arabic and Syrian Aramaic terms that Simon mentioned).
    In the contexts that you brought it could very well be that the verb means ‘wild’ or untidy but just as possible that the intention is to be unbound as mentioned in the BDB(also ICC)
    I would also like to suggest that there is a difference between the two other cases that you mentioned of Nazir, Mourner and a Metzorah. And that is to do with the fact that those cases speak of someone who grows their hair(does not restrain it) over a period of time(Or perhaps as mentioned in the BDB, someone who unbinds their hair. The verb, as utilized in the case of the sotah, is referring to an immediate action. This necessarily implies that the woman had long hair and the Cohen released it. There is but a slight difference between this possible understanding and an understanding suggesting that the woman’s hair is uncovered(thereby making it unrestrained).
    (I do not necessarily think that in every case one needs to justify the simple reading according to the tradition of the Torah Shebeal peh – but in this case the simple reading certainly allows for the reading of the Torah Shebeal peh).
    (One more very side point: It is possible in the case of some homonyms that they can be understood(not in their context) when the we find a similar stem in another Semitic language with an exchange of letters. This can sometimes hint at the fact that homonyms have different original stems.)

  • If I might just add one point to what Ari said, the BDB lists that definition under פרע III. The first definition (פרע I) is “nobleman” and the second (פרע II) is “sprout” – from which we get the “wild hair” possibility. Those are the three homophones to which I was referring, and it is interesting to note that they list this verse (Numbers 5:18) under the definition that Ari cited. If you have access to it, compare HALOT (1. “to expose”; 2. “to let hair grow freely”; 3. “to pay”). Interestingly, they cite Numbers 5:18 with the second definition: “to let the hair on the head hang loosely”. That’s contrary to the Septuagint, as mentioned.

  • Ari says:

    It appears to me aswell(although i cannot verify it at this point) that פרעII is connected to פרצ (cf. for instance ארצ and ארע in the aramaic) but I don’t think due to a different original stem. Perhaps just due to changes over time.

  • There is a sound used in the Semitic languages that was represented in Arabic with an emphatic /ḍ/, in Hebrew with a /ts/, in Old Aramaic with a /q/ and in Late Aramaic with a glottal stop. You mention the word for “land”: while this is ارض (arḍ) in Arabic, it is ארץ (erets) in Hebrew, ארקא (arqa) in Old Aramaic, and ארעא (ar’a) in Late Aramaic. I believe you noted earlier that sometimes homonyms have differing etymologies: this is frequently the case. As you can see here, the relationship between the shapes of letters and the sounds that they represent is entirely arbitrary.

    A side note, but it is of interest. Lest one might get too cocky about using their knowledge of the evolution of Hebrew (or Aramaic) for the relative dating of individual texts, have a look at Jeremiah 10:11. This is the only Aramaic verse in Jeremiah and you’ll find that it mentions the word for “land” twice. I’m going to make people look it up :)

  • Ari says:

    As I recall it is connected to the fact that there were earlier sounds that have since been lost to the various languages. Some took the sound to be represented by certain letters and others took different letters(or approximate sounds) and some, like Arabic have kept some of the variances.
    Interestingly after a quick look in CAD:
    Parāṣu – To breach
    Para’u B – To sprout

    The difference between them also exists in the Akkadian.

  • S. says:

    >It appears to me as well(although i cannot verify it at this point) that פרעII is connected to פרצ (cf. for instance ארצ and ארע in the aramaic) but I don’t think due to a different original stem. Perhaps just due to changes over time.

    Is that you Rabbi S.R. Hirsch?

    ;-)

  • Malki Rose says:

    I am not sure any of this actually answers my (essential) question, in my last post.

    With all the etymological and cultural context considerations firmly in mind,
    How does the use of ‘Peh, Resh, Ayin’ in the Sota example clearly mean ‘uncovered’?
    How does the use of ‘Peh, Resh, Ayin’ in the Nazir example clearly mean ‘wild’?
    How does the use of ‘Peh, Resh, Ayin’ in the Metzorah example clearly mean ‘wild’?

  • Ari says:

    1. Sotah, 2. Nazir, 3. Mourning

    In case 1, it does not necessarily mean uncovered but the simple meaning of the Talmud is that there is a Torah prohibition for married women to go without their hair covered. This is the position of many Achronim aswell.(See also the Teshuva of R’ Moshe(Even Haezer1:58 where he seems to suggest that it does mean “wild” in this case and therefore that is the amount which a woman must cover, so that it not be wild).

    The BDB does suggest that in cases 2. and 3. it does mean “Unbind head or remove a turban” and not “wild” and this is similar to the definitinion given in HALOT for case 1.(Although there is the possibility that it does mean to expose but that is not the position of HALOT).
    There is a difference between case 1 and case 2 and 3. In case 2 and 3, if it does mean to make hair unrestrained or wild it is over a long period of time. In case 1 it is the Choen makes her hair immediately Parua therefore implying untying her hair or removing her hair covering. Both are very closely related and it is hard to argue one over the other. Given that it may be possible to argue that 2 and 3 should be understood in terms of 1 and not the other way around.

    * The simple meaning certainly could be to remove hair covering and this is the position of atleast one scientific dictionary(albeit a little dated).
    * Perhaps case 2 and 3 should be understood in terms of case 1 since case one speaks of an immediate action that the cohen does and an immediate making of the hair Parua. This could be the meaning of 2 and 3. The difference between the cases is, according to your translation, a matter of time and this does/can affect the translation of the simple text.
    * Even if the simple meaning is that the cohen makes her hair “Wild” this is not the source for the Torah prohibition and it only serves as a kind of asmachta, with implications for deciding how much exposure of hair means “wild”.
    * There are many places where normative Judaism recognises ANE practice as influencing Jewish practice – either causing Judaism to forbid the practice or in some cases to adopt it in part- and this did not stop it from continuing such practices.

    The argument – It is all according to Dat Yehudit which is based on the practice of oppressive societies and therefore we should change current halachic practice. Another argument could be made that, it is all according to Dat Yehudit which is how modest Jewish woman understand modesty and it should not be influenced by the permissiveness of Western Culture and modern persuasions away from modesty. It is seems to me that one cannot not take Dat Yehudit to mean, if all women decide not to cover their hair in order to reject the idolatry laden practices of their anscestors then Dat Yehudit changes. Rather it is decided(according to those who believe that it changes) by how frum woman of each place and each time act.

  • Sheitel Macher says:

    http://www.latimes.com/features/image/la-ig-wigs-20101031,0,7976836.story

    Topical and meaningful article about head covering. Such a contrast to the above article under discussion. For one women this is oppresive, negative and to be abhorred for another its the perpetuation of a beutiful traditon of modesty and exclusivity.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Sheitl Macher,
    While the link and the article is quite lovely and certainly an opportunity to give people who might not be familiar with orthodox sheitl practices (and of course dispels several myths relating to negative press which hair covering often gets), it is really is not “a contrast to the above article under discussion”, primarily because the article does not claim that hair covering is abhorrent or oppressive in itself.

    The article is about its basis in Halacha and text.

    Women (and men for that matter) decide for themselves, either as individuals or as a community, that covering a woman’s hair is either wonderfully spiritual or horridly oppressive, in either case, well and truly post-facto to the setting of the original ‘requirement’.

  • Sheitel Macher says:

    Malki,

    was giving you the benefit of the doubt. my above assumption was the lesser of two evils. The other which is far more embarrasing is that you feel comfortable to state that which was taught in the house of rabbi yishmael, brought down in the gemarah, taught in the mishnah, brought in rashi and many other great rishonim, as “nonsensical” having “problematic basis” and finally at the end of your ground breaking pilpul as being “nonsensical and tenuos”.

    i have never heard a rosh yeshivah or a gadol or a posek or rav use such language never mind somone who has failed to even read a few short lines in the gemara accurately or interprate them correctly. (Of course the gemara it is quite clear that hair covering is Daat Moshe and not your transient, backward, easily changeable daat yehudis)

    But more importantly still im getting an impression ( and id be happy to be corrected) that you dont even have a simple understanding as to how torah judaism operates – meaning – the relationship between torah shebichsav and torah shebaal peh and gezerios takanos and minhagim and how judaism is practiced and evolved, how the torah is to be read and interperated. i mean your positon above doesnt just cause problems for head covering it causes problems for shabbat kashrut kiddushin gittin etc – rather then me preaching (which is presumpotuous at best) perhaps when you have some time you can read the introduction to the mishnayos by the ranmbam.

    look i may have been a little harsh with all i wrote above but we must be so careful when it comes to torah true intepretation – one false move and weve lost it all…

  • Woah, Sheitel Macher, slow down there. There’s nothing to be gained in attacking the author of the post, but if you want to accuse her of general ignorance, be aware that you will then become fair game as well. If you have a specific correction to make, then make it, but the breezy suggestion that she is ignorant of “Torah-true Judaism” is obnoxious when it comes without an example.

    You also might want to read the other comments on this thread. You will discover that Malki was not writing a psak din, but was commenting on the origins of the halakha. What’s that you say? That you could write similar articles about Shabbat, kashrut, gittin, kiddushin…? Does that mean to imply that, before you read this article, you didn’t think that those subjects could be written about in this fashion? Your approach to Torah is evidently a top-down approach: start with the piskei dinim of Reb Moshe, trace them back through the various Acharonim, find their “source” in the Rishonim behind the Beit Yosef, and then walk with them all the way back to the Mishna. That’s one approach (which can only possibly lead you to the conclusion that the piskei dinim of Reb Moshe were contained, elementally, within the early rabbinic literature), but it is far from being the only approach.

    Read the article again. You will see that Malki is taking a bottom-up approach: she is commencing with the biblical text, and discussing a disparity between (what she considers to be) its straightforward interpretation and the interpretation of the rabbis, which gave rise to the tradition under discussion. You might not think that’s a valid approach at all, but then there’s nothing to be said. I would hardly assume that she is ignorant just because she doesn’t approach Torah as you do.

  • Malki Rose says:

    “we must be so careful…one false move and we’ve lost it all”

    Sheitl Macher,
    I think you underestimate the sturdiness of the Torah.

  • Sheitel Macher says:

    Simon,
    Specific correction:
    Hair covering as explained in the gemara in kesubot there(at least in a public domain/ with minimum a kulta) is daat moshe ie a din in torah mideoraisa. without that point the arguments posited tend to fall away pretty quickly. Unless malki is suggesting we do away with din torah these days… its the basic pshat in the gemara there.

    Malki,
    exactly.
    Torah is sturdy – its our understanding of it that needs to be developed. Not vice versa.

  • That is a fair point, Sheitel Macher, but it is not as simple as that. I linked to an article above that I link to again now: if you read down the page, you will find the opinion of Rav Shach, whose wife did not cover her hair. She is far from being the only prominent rebbetzin not to do so, incidentally: such was the case with many Lithuanian Jews, even into the modern era. In any case, you will note that there is a disagreement between the Rambam (who holds as you do, that it is dat moshe) and both the Tur and the Shulchan Arukh, who hold that it is dat yehudit. Rav Shach even suggests that this latter opinion was the view of the Rosh as well.

  • Malki (and anybody else who is still reading this thread),

    Have a listen to this. It’s a shiur on “guarding one’s mouth” given by Rav Nissan Kaplan at the Mir. Skip ahead to about 5:25 and you will hear him quote Tractate Nedarim, “הרואה סוטה”, etc. Listen for about twenty seconds, and you will hear him referring to kohanim messing up her hair.

    (This isn’t a great example of his shiurim, by the way: there are many more and better ones here.)

  • Malki Rose says:

    Rav Kaplan’s conclusion: Women with messy hair are explosive?
    LOL!

    Seriously though, he’s not the first person to refer to it as ‘messing up’. I have mentioned that for all everyone’s displeasure at my thinking the passuk means this and not ‘uncover’.. I was by no means the first person to come up with this thought.

    It might be that some individuals find it disconcerting to have to question the validity of their hair covering. I am not the one who has ‘dared to question’ an age old custom.

  • Sheitel Macher says:

    aah. the internet age. a befeirishe raaya from google…

    Simon, generally my currency when discussing jewish teaching/torah are seforim such as gemara rshonim acharonim etc. please dont quote from heresay re rav shach or a passing comment from an audio shiur. Would you practice medicine from the internet, would you debate a legal concept from an anonymous passsing comment?? so dont treat Torah any less. (indeed Upara does mean undo to extent of uncovering and messing – see gemara Sotah or even rashi on the Torah there in Naso)

    Malki you question was a good question… why is the term upara used for the intention to uncover. The answer (therefore it doesnt) was the problem and i think belied not only a lack of experience in the discipline of torah analysis but also a rejection of the fundemental tenants of how Torah communicates to us. Or even the rules of logic.

    The best way i heard it explained (not universally but in a context which you seem to have missed) is that Torah shebichsav is the lecturers short hand notes, Torah shebaal peh is the actual lecture. Torah is the sum of it all.

    G-d says a women has to cover her hair. Where we find it in the shorthand notes (Torah shebichsav) is parshat naso. Why the short hand note uses a puzzling term and a weird context (sotah). are good questions – and discussed at great length in Gemara, rishonim achronim poskim etc. – (just as why the torah frames basar bchalav in its language and context and kiddushin in its language and context)

    See the rambams hakdamah mentioned in the earlier post.

  • Timaahy says:

    Does anyone know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

  • Marky says:

    Yes. 29,034,923

  • It’s not a “raaya from Google”, Sheitl Macher, and you should have looked at it. If you want something that better elucidates the actual sources, why not read this article instead. It’s written by Michael Broyde and was published in Tradition. He devotes substantial space to chronicling the perspectives of a number of Rishonim and Acharonim on this issue, and you will learn that there are various authorities (including both the Tur and the Shulchan Arukh – as I mentioned above) who hold that it is dat yehudit. As for the passing remark in a shiur, I mentioned that it was a passing remark in a shiur and never claimed to derive anything from it except that it was interesting.

    You seem to think that by being rude to people you will convince them of your opinion. On the contrary, you’ve yet to substantiate your argument with anything except assurances that you are very frum. Rather than continually hammer away at the one sugya that you’ve learned, come back to me when you’ve read the other texts that Broyde quotes and we can chat then.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Sheitl Macher,

    you write…
    “The answer (therefore it doesnt) was the problem and i think belied not only a lack of experience in the discipline of torah analysis but also a rejection of the fundemental tenants of how Torah communicates to us. Or even the rules of logic.”

    Your first point, that it “belied a lack of experience in Torah analysis”. Hardly.
    Your second point, a rejection of what you term the ‘fundamental tenants of how Torah communicates to us”. Most definitely.

    Again, I am not the first, nor, will I be, the last to do so.

    As Simon mentions above, please refer to the Tur and Shulchan Aruch, re Dat Yehudit.

    The halacha is problematic because the (as you call it) “actual lecture” fails to properly read, interpret and convey the correct “Shorthand notes” in front of it.

    Several “lecturers” actually have acknowledged in the Gemara that ‘Para’, like in every other context, simply means “messed up” not “uncovered”.

    (Initially I found your comparison to be inaccurate and perhaps a little backward… in terms of seeing the Torah as a mere bunch of “shorthand notes” (as this made it sound superficial and one dimensional, but then leapt into my hand the view that Rav’s name of אבא אריכא was so given not as a reference to his height/length, but because he was considered “the lecturer”. Perhaps your comparison is spot on.)

  • Sheitel Macher says:

    Gday fellas,

    RE Rudeness
    Apologies if you took offence to anything I wrote. From now one I will put smiley face after anything witty or needling thus hopefully softening the blow for those that are battle scarred from pages of shoshanah silcove vitriol :)

    Re Tur and Shulchan Aruch (apologies I don’t have a Tur or SA handy at present)
    Now Simon when one learns Shulchan Aruch it is prudent to refer to the noseh keilim before drawing any conclusions as to what the meaning of the shulchan aruch is. Similar to when one studies Talmud one refrences rashi and tosefot. So if you weren’t just sending me a link about the TUr V’SA but had actually studied it then surely you would have noticed the Beit Shmuel on that siman who states point blank that it is Das Moshe. Why of course that’s why the shua uses the case of a radid in the das yehudit list. Now I cant remember his whole message but I do remember that… so if you have a shulchan aruch handy I sure hope you can fill me in :) You also would have surely noticed an earlier Siman (21 I believe)which states point blank that a woman can not go out with an uncovered head. And somewhere in Orach Chaim you surely would have encountered a law about a womans hair being ervah and carrying all types of ramifications re tefillah and lifnei iver… :)

    (Its actually quite ironic that the rishonim use radid as das yehudit as that was exactly what malkis title refrenced – a hijab like object – and that indeed is das yehudit. :) By the way if das yehudit is indeed subject to change with changing times is a whole separate discussion which we needn’t really get into because we are talking das moshe )

    And Malki I sure do appreciate your endorsement of my little analogy though I must admit its not my own – and at risk of sounding somewhat like the aforementioned simon H :) I think I heard it on an online shiur by Akivah Tatz of all people. To be honest I didn’t love it either but it is a good starting point for one to appreciate the discipline of true Torah analysis :)

    Oh and speaking of which Simon I suggest you balance rabbi Broydes erudite limmud zechut by the response from Rabbi henkin here http://torahmusings.com/2010/09/hair-wars-ii.html… oh hang on you sent me that link :)

    (why the Tur Shulchan aruch and for that matter the Mishnah dont inlcude gilui rosh under das mosheh if it is das mosheh…now thats a good starting point for some traditional torah style analysis and i would be only too happy to hear your thoughts… as im sure you would be to hear mine…even though i am a little frum and just occassionally a little rude… (No Simon they are not one and the same…)

    :) :) :)

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