Contact Us

The Hair Battle

The Hair Battle

 Email

Everyone, admit it or not, has a mitzvah, a commandment, they wrestle with. There are 613 to choose from, after all, so odds are one is bound to hit a sore spot. Some need their fists pried open to give a tenth of their paycheck to charity. Others may take a guilty pleasure in gossip. Even honoring one's parents can be challenging, especially if they're the type to drop not-so-subtle hints about an overdue grandchild.

My wrestling partner is the mitzvah of covering my hair.

My hair makes me feel beautiful, spunky and adventurous. It's as much a part of who I am as my nameJewish tradition holds that a woman's hair has sensual power, so a married woman's tresses are meant for her husband's eyes only. Don't get me wrong. I love the idea of having something to share exclusively with my husband. It makes me feel like we have a bond the rest of the world can't touch. I also like playing with funky hats and brightly colored scarves—tied just so, my husband says I look like a queen—and I even have a sheitel, a wig, as chic as any 'do you'd find on the streets of Paris.

The problem is, I love my hair. It's thick and dark black, with a natural wave. After years of trying different styles and experimenting with color—I could put a Crayola box to shame—I've finally found the perfect cut: a cropped, sassy pixie. My hair makes me feel beautiful, spunky and adventurous. It's as much a part of who I am as my name. So you can understand why I'm not so quick to cover it up.

If I wanted, I could do all kinds of mental acrobatics to justify avoiding this mitzvah. I grew up in the secular world, where suggestive images are on display almost everywhere; is my dark mop really such a big deal?

But I know the bottom line. The truth is, I love being a Jewish woman and I want to live by the laws of the Torah. But, I am also just a woman, vain as any other.

This seems simplistic, I know. G‑d created my hair, along with everything else in existence. Surely my precious ego should take a backseat to that. Why should vanity stand in the way of doing G‑d's will? Should I not keep the Sabbath because there's a sale at Bloomingdale's? Should I not keep kosher because a Big Mac tastes really good? Shouldn't I just accept that G‑d knows best, suck it up and tie on a tichel (scarf)?

The simple answer is—yes, I should. But these things are never simple.

Part of a mitzvah's design is that it deepens the relationship we have with our Creator. But, like all relationships, there can sometimes be disagreements.

Rebellion is part and parcel of our nation's history. From as early as Adam's little snack in the Garden of Eden to Israel's Golden Calf party, we as a people have not been what you would call "obedient." But these are the same people, the only people, who accepted G‑d's Torah without reservation, saying "Naaseh v'nishma"("We will do and we will hear") at the foot of Mt. Sinai. They took the brave step of committing to a long list of commandments they didn't always understand, but they drew assurance from their deep trust in G‑d. So I don't believe that my resistance to covering my hair suggests a lack of faith or moral muscle; it simply makes me human.

I don't believe that my resistance to covering my hair suggests a lack of faith or moral muscle; it simply makes me humanLike Jacob with the angel, it is in our nature to wrestle. In essence, this may not be such a terrible thing, because it means that we are in active engagement with G‑d. Much worse would be complete detachment, not only by ignoring the commandments, but also in doing them by rote. G‑d wants us to use the commandments to draw close to Him—by doing them, and in the struggle to do them. If I lack the willingness to do what G‑d wants of me, perhaps it is G‑d's way of inciting me to ask Him for help.

Completing a task that requires hard work is usually much more satisfying than something done with ease. How much deeper could my spiritual connection be, then, if I work with G‑d to grow in the areas where I need help, instead of coasting on easy commandments without breaking a sweat?

When I face the mirror each day and decide what to put on my head—or not—I'm not in it alone. G‑d's right there with me. I don't need to tiptoe around the letter of the law. I can go straight to the Source and tell Him how tough it is sometimes to do what He wants.

"But with Your help," I tell Him, "I'll be willing." Then I know I'm covered, no matter what I've got on my head.

Rea Bochner is a writer, musician and mother of two. She spends her spare time writing for various publications, whipping up gourmet sugar-free muffins and studying to become a midwife.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
76 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Anonymous January 24, 2016

good article very good article. i dont have a problem with covering my hair and i have gorgeous long hair bliainhara. Reply

Malkie Janowski for Chabad.org Chabad.org May 26, 2015

The directive to cover our hair is actually derived from the Torah, but not explicitly stated. In Bamidbar, chapter 5, we read of the sotah, a woman suspected of adultery. During the process through which it is determined whether she has actually been unfaithful, the Torah states that her hair is uncovered (5:18). From here we deduce that Jewish women cover their hair.

The Talmud tells us this clearly in Berachot 24a with the words, "A woman's hair is ervah," ie: an area that needs to be covered. Reply

Anonymous los angeles May 18, 2015

Instead of covering one's hair as a tribute or honor to G-d, I would like to see Jewish women t o make a concerted effort to be friendly and conversant to other women who are newcomers,strangers or neighbors.Jewish women are extremely unwelcoming, and unfriendly to other women who are not their personal friends.This is Absolutely not the same as Christian women who attempt to show the love of their G-d by making others feel this love.I am not talking about those who are nominally Christian,but those who live their belief and creed. It seems that Jews have often forgotten the purpose of the many rituals and customs. Althoughj rituals can enhance one's connection to G-d, it would be closer to the intent of G-d 's commandments if Jews would remember to include others in their daily lives..Regarding the concept of modesty, women wearing expensive and gorgeous wigs do not ward off the attentions of men. More importantly, men need to learn to demonstrate respect and self-control. Reply

Anonymous Israel May 18, 2015

I do cover my hair and I know why but where in the Torah is the actual commandment or where do we learn the we must cover cover our hair. Thank you Reply

Adriana Texas January 30, 2013

Vanity!!! I wish no one was envious, jealous or lustful about beautiful hair, but the reality is that many are. A woman walking with a gorgeous and well taken care hair is calling the attention of others, and she knows it. There is the problem: knowing it.
Some like to be seen in their gold, others in their properties, and many in their best fashion. We are a diversity of the forces of kelipah and give them more and more strenght when we "know" we are doing things that hurt us and others. What we created in others will weight on us.
A sheitel can be also sensual; it is our choosing that hurts, be it our hair or a wig if we want to be seen we will be. One synonim of attraction is temptation. The antonym of it is revulsion. The 2 extremes are bad. Just be yourself and for G-d, always and only. You'll be most beautiful. Reply

Anonymous February 12, 2012

covering.... I am a Jew by choice. I was married to a Jew by birth ( I converted on my own before I met him). We divorced in a big part, because he had no discipline, and did not believe in G-D he just liked calling himself a Jew. Which is OK for him, but I wanted more for our kids.I raised them Modern Orthodox and Baruch HaShem they turned out fine. They are adults now, and I have been though a lot in my life including illness. I believe I am still here and doing as well as I have always been as observant as I could. I never covered my hair because my ex didn't like it, he didn't like any "ritual' , he went to shul when our son became Bar Mitzvah, only went back for family weddings etc In making the decision to become more observant without the pressure of anyone, I have recently decided to cover my hair. I will wear a wig to work, but for other times I will wear tichels. You can still be attractive in both. I need the next man I marry to know for me G-D comes first. I owe it to HaShem. Shalom. Reply

Sarah Akhtar New York, USA December 9, 2011

Hair G-d is above and separate from religion. Every human being has to look deeply inside, to make a very painful jinterior journey to determine what rings truthful or not. No other human being, whether a wise teacher, a religious guide, a loving family member, can determine for someone else what feels truthful, what leads to greater spiritual growth. The answer will be different for each person and millions of words of commentary, explanation or justification are still human words. The person of faith must answer the inner voice to find Truth. If that accords with custom, then custom is right for you; if it does not accord with custom, one needs to have the courage to present one's honest choice to G-d with courage and faith. All of religion is the attempt to make the unknowable comprehensible in human terms. Truth is of course eternal and immutable, but every person must individually decide if what is presented as "truth" accords with the voice of one's soul, intellect and heart. Reply

Michelle Andre cc, fl December 8, 2011

Ok buy a wig from the hair of some poor girl who rather have the money to feed herself or family in order to survive! Wow, So why not donate that $2.000 you where going to pay for that wig to a poor family and let the woman keep her own hair!!
Be proud of what you have on your head it is the crown G_d gave you and love yourself as the creater made you not how some human wants you! I will like you for who your are! Reply

Sarah Masha W Bloomfield, Mi/USA December 7, 2011

Anonymous You get out of something what you put into it. So would you cover your hair for some set period of time (say 3-6 months, an amount of time that will be suffiicinet to really make it a part of you) and then judge it?
I also ask you to read the comments above, you will see many of us who do find covering up does promote positive qualities. If you are willing you could also read Hide and Seek: Jewish Women and Hair Covering. Schreiber, Lynne Ed.

For me, one benefit of covering my hair is the concrete reminder to keep my head out of the cesspool parts of modern society. Some days I need it. Other days the cover is simply a part of me, supplying only subtle energy.
In order to keep the tone of this site positve, I may choose to not respond to further posts, Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma December 7, 2011

Hair today Gone, tomorrow to Lighten up! Every time I think I've seen the last commentary, there's another! We do have this phrase, about hair, which is so sadly true about cancer and chemotherapy, and also it seems about practice, in terms of covering one's hair.

I don't think this has really anything to do with G_d, and so I rather lean to Anonymous in the comment above. But those who DO think this is about modesty, and that G_d requires this, well, that is your option, to interpret and be part of the diversity that "covers" this world, in terms of custom and what is, in your culture, customary.

For me, if it's a custom relating to G_d then remember G_d as you do this, and thus relate to G_d. I honestly believe it's fine to be free with one's hair, to let it blow in the wind, to feel beautiful, and to admire each other, for the diversity present in everything, including so many, many types of hair.

Life: so filled with "hairy" experiences.

We're all "hair" today and "gone" tomorrow and there are "grave" matters at hand Reply

Anonymous December 6, 2011

hair covering Following this custom is part of the cultish enslavement of people who truly wish to connect with Gd and Gd's laws .It turns off the true spiritual seekers and sends them to other religious traditions. If reminds me of the Jehovah Witnesses who also believe in false interpretations of Gds word.This practice is simply a holdover from Middle Eastern culture which is male dominated and repressive. It is not in and of itself uplifting,nor does it teach ,nor promote any positive qualities. Reply

Equally Anon Not needed, USA December 5, 2011

Anon Pittsb. USA Read the comments from Nov 2010
Chapter and verse cited.
The issue is considered settled in Halacha Reply

Bonnie December 5, 2011

Anonymous, Pittsburgh It's a guy thing. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma December 4, 2011

to Anonymous Anywhere I believe that ALL is G_D and my life, is a dance of total synchronicity, because whatever I am focussing on is mirroring, and the story I am recording of total synchronicity, which does involve us all, as it takes everyone to form these connects, is total proof for me that G_d runs the entire show, and chooses, mostly, to hide behind the "seens".

Now if no one is interested in my Diary, perhaps that's part of "the plan" because I know the connects falling like gold coin are real, are provable, and too massive to be anything but created by G_d. Way too intelligent.

And yes, perceiving what I do perceive, that we are all ONE soul, and yet diverse, and also part of the Whole, creates a lot of difficulty with issues of free will and determinism but I know, deeply, that my life is not random and I am comfortable with this.

I do believe G_d is speaking through us all and the challenge is to determine who is speaking G_d's truth and who is not with compassion as guide. What's My LIne. Reply

Michelle C. Andre cc, florida December 4, 2011

I love everything G_d made on me and it is not a sin to be proud! It is a sin to hide and be ashamed of what G_d created! G_d gave adam and eve each a fig leaf not a wig! How in the world can I disgrace my G_d because of someones sick perverted thoughts saying womens hair is sensual!!! Hashem loves my hair and I am not covering it up! Reply

Anonymous Pittsburgh, USA December 2, 2011

Covering one's hair Where in the Torah is this a commandment/law for women? If it's to be for modesty purposes, then why don't single women cover their hair? They are more beautiful and younger than married women (who will age and get gray hair, or have much less hair as I am reading--is that even healthy?) and it, that is, having the young singles show their hair seems to be much more of a concern in relation to modesty. I am obviously missing something. Please explain, redirect. Thanks! Reply

Anonymous anywhere, earth March 27, 2011

You have many wise words Ruth. I always enjoy your comments. But G-d is not playing ALL parts. I have seen the black house. It gives Him no pleasure.
Some parts we can and do devise on our own. But I keep in mind that I do not know about the final, very final, ending of all parts. Perhaps only the L-rd knows that.
I do agree to disagree. My main concern is that choice is done 'untainted'. Choice belongs to the individual; and all that goes with it. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma March 20, 2011

G_d's WILL It seems, as people are writing, that there are powerful reasons to feel one way, OR, the other, but that one way of thinking does not necessarily hold "sWay".

It's Purim. It's about what is hidden, the hidden face of G_d, and a story, so marvelous in all its details it simply defies the idea of, random. In order to embrace the entire story, we have to concede that the bad parts had to be part of the story OR, no story. This story needs Haman as much as, Mordechai and Esther.

It's a looking at both sides, to make a story. The good, WITH, the bad. After all, we had to rejoice about something.

As to HAIR, it's about listening to each other, about respecting each other, about knowing anything done with love is fine, but that there is a diversity of ways to worship G_d, and that G_d wears many masks, and maybe G_d is playing ALL the parts in Purim, and always all ways!

So let's agree to disagree and not be splitting hairs about this one.

Dance. It's PURIM! Reply

Anonymous anywhere, earth March 20, 2011

I do not see how wearing a wig will draw less attention to the modest.
A wig is sold as a 'perfection' of what hair should look like. As opposed to say the natural hair, which may not be perfect.
That of course, would only increase the attention and defeat the purpose of the wig.
How about some gnarly wig for increased modesty? People will avert their eyes to a less than perfect hair-do.
Mission accomplished! Reply

goldie Omaha, NE March 19, 2011

A Hairy Issue I think there are as many pros as there are cons, so this issue probably will never be resolved with 100 percent agreement. I say do whatever your conscience dictates, without criticizing those who disagree with you. Everyone has a right to her opinion. It has been a very interesting discussion albeit no outstanding consensus of opinion either way. Reply

Related Topics