Hair Covering Revisited

I have recently (in the last few months) begun to cover my hair full time again, and have been asked by several people why I am doing so when not too long ago I was vehemently opposed. It’s a fair question and I will attempt to answer it here.

When I married I didn’t want to cover my hair, I just did it because it was asked of me. Almost every time I covered it I felt like I was putting shackles on. I never researched it, never wanted to understand the reasons why. I just went along with the flow – shalom bayit (peace in the home), y’know? At the time that I uncovered my hair, about 10 days after receiving my Get, I did so after a lot of conscious thought and reflection. It wasn’t a case of “so sad too bad”! Yes, some people around me were shocked and didn’t understand and some people went as far as to assume that it meant I threw away religion in totality. Not so. Those very close to me were not surprised. The way I looked at it then, was as follows: when a person God forbid passes away we rip our clothes, we sit shiva and observe a period of mourning, and we take physical things upon ourselves for the year to remind us of our loss – no music, men don’t shave etc. My Get happened mere weeks after we separated. I was in so much deep pain and suffering and at that time, I needed, for myself, to physically show signs of my grief (other than crying all day long wherever I was – that gets old quickly), to work through the grief and the pain and the anguish and all of that. It was never about “not married any more so who needs to cover their hair, I am doing what I want”. I needed to do it to help heal my spirit. I needed to show myself and the world that I was not the same person I was when I was married.

By the time the recent barmitzvah preparations were in full swing and Lenny asked that I wear a sheitel (wig) and not a hat, I had to do some tremendous soul searching. Of course the fact that he reminded me that I had told him this was HIS day, and was about HIM and no one else – that put more pressure. (I hate when they actually listen to what I say!) He said he would be “ok” if I wore a hat, but would prefer me to wear a sheitel.

Standing there, on the day of the barmitzvah, watching my son do his bit, my heart swelling with enormous pride and love and gratitude to G-d, I knew I had come full circle. I knew my mourning was very much over. I let go of the past, of the pain, of the anger and bitterness. That day marked Lenny’s barmitzvah but also in some ways my rebirth.

I now cover my hair on my terms, because it is what I feel is right for where I am in life. No one is forcing me to do it. I can find countless heterim (dispensations) that allow me to keep it uncovered. But the aveilut (mourning) is over. My life has been returned to me in many ways, in so many wonderful ways. Life is good. Life is BH amazing. I have 4 kids who are so wonderful and good and generous and loving, I have a new job that I love, I have friends and community around me that have literally pulled me through these last few years – we have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, I pay some bills every month, and I am still young. I have so much. G-d has blessed me with more than I could ever have dreamed about. Not too long ago I thought I was going to die from the pain. But Hashem (God) and his shlichim (messengers) didn’t let me give up – and look where they brought me to today? Such a huge gift.

I guess I am big into symbolism, and I had to do what I needed to do for me to get through the last few years. Now I am ready to get on with my life, to find myself a worthy man, one who understands my journey and accepts it, but also one religious enough that he gets the symbolism of hair covering and would expect it of his wife.

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  1. Z says:

    Very thoughtful posting!

  2. What a good place to be! This is true happiness – איזהו עשיר? – May it always be yours!

  3. Leora says:

    I always love the “upbeatness” of your posts. How wonderful that you have found covering your hair on your terms.

    I really like this new template. Much easier to read than the last one.

  4. It seems that covering hair could hinder dating potential. Have you found this to be the case?

  5. hadassahsabo says:

    thanks, everyone for stopping by!

    Mother in Israel – its interesting. most guys that i dated when my hair was not covered still wanted me to cover it after marriage (they kinda understood why i hadnt until then), but now that its covered all the time more guys (more religious guys) are willing to date me. there is a big taboo in the religious community here about keeping a bare head once divorced. i am the only woman that i know in my community who ever uncovered her hair post divorce. my other friends who are divorced told me i had guts to do so, but they would never dare. it did impact my kids – and thats another reason i had to reconsider.

  6. ShiraSimcha says:

    My son always wants me to cover my hair and wear a skirt when we’re hanging with our Orthodox friends in the O community…it means a lot to him not so much that I fit in but what it represents in terms of that’s what Moms do.

  7. Claude Wolf says:

    I know this might seem like an obvious point but won’t covering your hair send potential suitors flying back to their bachelor pads?

  8. hadassahsabo says:

    actually no, it doesnt. its seen as respectful to the community in which i live. most men i date – it doesnt bother them either way, so long as it will be covered after marriage.

  9. Jack says:

    I have never quite understood the whole hair covering thing.

  10. Lion of Zion says:

    “Pigeon asked that I wear a sheitel and not a hat”

    what’s the difference to him?

  11. Gavi says:

    Like any other mitzvah, there are two things to think about:

    1) The basic halacha, which all Jews have to keep, all the time.
    2) The more difficult part: to find the sincere motivation to keep the halacha “on our own terms.” Observance must come from within.

    Food for thought coming up to yom kippur: this theme is echoed (somewhat) in the kinnos after seder avodah, and in the selichos after the viddui proper.

  12. Baila says:

    One of the reasons I cover my hair is the pressure I feel from one of my daughters. She has never said so, but I think she would be extremely dissappointed if I stopeed covering my hair. (I did not cover my hair when I got married, started two years ago–I’m still married, BTW). I have much ambivalence about it. I realize that in many communities, a woman would never even consider for one second “un”covering, but for me, well, I feel it’s a choice I could make. For now I stay covered, mostly because of guilt, not because I believe it’s who I am.

  13. Moishe A says:

    Have you talked to your daughter about this? Covering your hair out of guilt (or doing anything out of guilt) will only lead to hard feelings. About the Mitzva and even about the person making you feel guilty. If you daughter doesn’t want you to uncover your hair, maybe a compromise can be made. Uncover it only in your house. Or use a hat or snood. I am not trying to tell you if you should or should not cover your hair. But PLEASE talk to your daughter about it.

  14. M says:

    I really appreciate reading your essay. I am recently divorced; I started covering my hair when I got married, but during the course of my marriage my then husband connvinced me (coerced) me to stop covering my hair when we moved to another more modern community. I did so for shalom bayit, but I have always felt ambivilant about the whole hair covering issue. Since we have become divorced I am even more confused what my obligations are and doing serious research as part of a graduate project – accompanied by a photo essay with women covering their hair. Needless to say this is a important issue in our community.

    Thank you for sharing your own personal feelings about this matter.

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