Thursday, January 29, 2015

Halakha of the Toupee, Part 2


R. Moshe Feinstein (March 3, 1895 – March 23, 1986) comments on the halakhic permissibility of toupees, and on their interactions with tefillin.

מי שקרח ראשו אם מוטר להניח שערות זרות ודינם בענין חציצה בתפילין

אני לא שמעתי ששייך דבר כזה שלמי שקרחו שערותיו יהיה שייך שיצמחו שם שערות זרות שיניחו על הראש, ואם איכא דבר כזה היה זה דבר מותר לעשות, ולענין חציצה לתפילין קודם שנצמחו אין זה חציצה כיון שאי אפשר לחסירם וכל מי שאין לו שערות לא יסירם, ואם  ליכא דבר כזה אבל הוא רק דביקת השערות זרות להגוף ע”י דבק נמי כיון שכן ישאר לעולם ורוצה בזה לא יחצוץ לתפילין, ואם הוא פאה נכרית שיכול להסיר בכל עת שרוצה אף שהוא לנאותו שהוא בוש מלגלות ראשו בבהכ”נ יניח את של ראש בלא ברכה וכשיבא לביתו יגלה ראשו ויניח תפילין בברכה

Translation:
Someone who is bald: Whether it is Permitted to Wear False Hair, and the Law in the Matter of חציצה and Tefillin.
I have not heard that a thing like this is possible for someone who has lost their hair- that foreign hair that they place on their head will then grow there, but if there is such a thing, it is permissible to do.  As for the matter of separation (חציצה) for tefillin before they [the hairs] are grown, this is not a separation since it is impossible to remove them, and anyone who does not have hair does not remove them.  And if there is no such thing, but rather he just attaches the foreign hair by means of glue, similarly, since they remain forever, and he wants them- they are not a separation (חציצה) for tefillin.  And if it is a wig that he can remove at any time that he wants, even if it is for aesthetic purposes, and he is embarrassed to reveal his head in the synagogue, he may put on the head-tefillin without a blessing, and when he gets home, he reveals his head and puts on the tefillin with a bracha.  
Commentary:
The first thing that I noticed, in this teshuvah, is that one may delay putting on tefillin in the proper way in order to pray with a minyan without embarrassment (בושה). I would then suggest that this is even more so the case when the issue one is dealing with is tzniut/communal standards rather than individual embarrassment without many religious implications. [A little research into textual views of baldness reveals Mishnah Bechorot 7:2, which disqualifies a totally bald kohen (without even a fringe around the edge of the head) from service in the Temple and Bava Kama 60b, where there is the story of a man with two wives- one plucks out his dark hair and the other plucks out his white hair, leaving him bald. However, these don't give a strong implication of shame or inappropriateness about the baldness itself, although the first does cast it as a מום, an imperfection of the body.]

So a woman who does not want to reveal enough of her hair to put on tefillin with all the relevant pieces of the tefillin touching her hair/head directly could put them on over her covering, as long as she put them on without it either before or afterward, in private. Even when one is comfortable showing that much hair (not actually all that much hair if one is wearing a scarf, once you've practiced a little bit- but plausibly a little more than a tefach according to R. Soleveitchik (the two-finger measure, rather than the four-finger measure... I should really find out where he writes that and share it here, at some point.)), getting the tefillin around one's covering can be complicated, depending on style. The chance to just not worry about it and put on tefillin without the whole arrangement (in my case, with a kippah or cap instead of a scarf) gives an additional option for managing one's day, and for praying in public on a weekday.

It also presents an interesting and surprising interaction between one's feelings and one's halakhic obligations. Now I don't Like davening in the morning without my tefillin, but have definitely put them on before davening, then taken them off and gone to shul, when there's a reason for me to go to a shul/minyan where it would be uncomfortable for me and for the people around me for me to wear them. This is a pretty similar circumstance, and R. Moshe seems quite comfortable with the situation. It's a model of handling conflicting needs- everything gets fulfilled, just with some delay.  It is significant because it treats emotional needs as halakhically significant, in justifying non-ideal mitzvah fulfillment.

It's more remarkable because it's letting someone look like they're fulfilling a mitzvah when they are not, and plausibly runs into an issue of marit ayin. That issue would be more significant for someone wearing a scarf, since a toupee might not be known to be a toupee, while a scarf is obviously not a part of the person. That does detract from my comfort in apply R. Moshe's teshuvah for wearing a tichel with tefillin. It would work better for someone wearing a wig, (who would likely need it more- I don't know how one would manage a wig and tefillin at the same time in a kosher manner).



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Link And Thoughts About Partial Covering


Finally, a tutorial I can share that involves partial covering.  I should make some of these, but haven't had a chance, and don't know when I will- so it's very exciting to be able to share someone who is thinking about partial covering and sharing some methods.  Also, she uses a ribbon, which is a favorite decorative strategy of mine (as you've seen in the past).

I generally cover all my hair.  But a lot of my friends and peers cover partially- it's an approach that I'm still looking for more sources about (I have some, but they're long, so I haven't gotten to translating and reacting for the blog yet).  There aren't many tutorials online for how to do so though.  Most of the folks I see wear hats, or the "standard" Israeli/Pirate-style (I look like a pirate in it, although it flatters many other folks quite well)- meaning a triangle with the ends tied over the back corner and all left to hang, with hair showing below it.

However, most of the more elaborate styles are actually pretty adaptable for leaving hair showing.  It's just a matter of leaving the back open, and pulling the hair through (basically, tying the scarf underneath the hair, then not closing off the back)- especially easy with rectangular scarves, where it barely makes a difference.  As long as you aren't aiming for something that needs/is aided by a volumizer (something I still haven't acquired), it's all nearly the same.  But there's no one there to show you how to do it, nearly- except this one video, which is much more elaborate than many styles require.  Nevertheless, it is something, and worth the sharing.

I believe in options being available, and a plurality of style options make any practice more appealing, since with more options, one is more likely to find one (or more) that suits your own taste and appearance.  I do wonder what it is about wrapping elaborately that seems to appeal mostly to those invested in very complete coverage.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

My Reaction to "My Wig Was Beautiful and Expensive, and Everybody Loved It—Except Me"

This woman writes about her journey and struggle with hair covering.  She begins with the sheitel that she didn't really want to wear in the first place, and presents it as The Symbol of Orthodox commitment.  It was something she didn't want, but came to love- then came to hate.  It was difficult, and she presents it as tremendously important to other people- her mother and her husband, not to her.

She ties covering almost exclusively to tzniut, modesty.   Then she objects on the logical reaction that there are women all around who have hair showing- so how sexually attractive can it possibly be?  After all, people are used to seeing women's hair in our society.  It's a familiar issue, and one taken up by several teshuvot, especially that of R. Mesas (which is not yet on this site, as it is long- someday).  She translates ervah as "Sexually erotic", which seems to be a bit of an oversell to me, although plausibly accurate- lots of things are ervah that are not so very erotic in our society- for example, thighs.   Yet no one presumes that it should be okay to show one's thighs, because other women in our society do so quite often  (albeit less than hair).  A nuanced reading of what ervah means might have changed her experience.

Although she does acknowledge that covering is also a visibly sign that she's married, she insists that her wedding ring does that just as well.  My sense is that a covered head (although less so with a wig, I admit) is more visible than a ring, to those who know.  To those who don't know, it doesn't communicate at all (otherwise, we might dispense with the wearing of wedding rings).   I must admit, my scarf was not enough to prevent a gentleman I met at work a couple of years ago from asking me out (a staff member from a different department)- I had to point out my rings in order to communicate that his offer was flattering but mistaken.

As her story progresses, she switches from the uncomfortable-although-sexy wig to "bandanas", but feels frumpy, and misses her own hair, which had been a source of pleasure in her own appearance, before she married.  And yet, once she starts to later show some of her own hair, that doesn't feel like enough- she ends up going bare-headed- yet she pays only glancing attention to this part of the story, giving me the impression that once the "hair barrier" has been breached, that's the end of the story.  (I still have something of a hard time adjusting to that notion, since I spent years with a small head covering before I got married, as longer term readers here know.  My ideal still involves the chumra of some sort of covering/kippah for Jews old enough to understand or begin to.)  She pairs the move from wig to scarf to headbands to nothing with a move from skirts to "leggings and jeans".  I'm not so sure that one has much to do with the other, outside of cultural commonalities.  But okay.

I'm rather amazed at the way that one mitzvah comes to represent one's entire stand on Judaism, to both the self and the outside world.  For me, covering entirely is most likely a chumra, at least given some of the teshuvot that I've seen.  At the very least, it is perhaps the best way of fulfilling a mitzvah, with other ways also acceptable.  And yet it communicates so much- often more than we might want it to.  Visual cues are so powerful, especially when we have little else to go on.  It's both a useful short cut and sometimes a blinder, preventing us from seeing the inner complexity, unless we consciously look for it.  I wonder if a little more nuance would have given this author her chance to experiment without throwing the whole practice overboard- or at least feeling less pressure to do so or not do so for the sake of what it communicated to other people.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Some Thanksgiving for Headbands

Here are some photos from Thanksgiving.  I went with a very simple covering: one scarf and one headband (the white is just a cloth headband).  Headbands have been a nice way for me to give some excitement to my coverings as I try to get dressed pretty quickly with the baby.  This scarf is black on the sides and striped down the middle, which also jazzes things up a bit.
 Hopefully these photos will be a good return to the Style Crone's Hat Attack, after many months' absence, even if they're not taken today- that probably wouldn't get done in time...
 I don't usually include other people n these photos- but here is both the front view of my tichel and a photo I adore- 4 generations of eldest daughters- even if the youngest is just a bit blurry.
I found a Mishnah that is really interesting to consider in light of what I've learned about Middle Eastern and North African Jewish head coverings.  I've learned it before, years ago, but having done that bit of research, it means much more to me now, and makes more sense- when I first saw it, it seemed quite hard to understand. I'm not sure when I'll be able to write that up, but I'm hoping to do so, as I think it will be really worthwhile.  

Also in the coming attractions: an interview (done rather a while ago), more on toupees and tefillin (and the impact that source might have on wearing scarves and tefillin), and eventually more historical head coverings.  Maybe there's interest in very fast coverings that still look exciting?  I can't be the only one short of time and still hoping for some aspect that I can make look snazzy...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Baby, and a Link

Our daughter was born nearly a month ago, so we're just settling in to our new family configuration.  I'll be back here as I can, but in the meantime, here's a link that's relevant to our subject, and I'll add my own comments when I'm not typing with one hand,

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Neither Fish Nor Fowl?

I came across this quote in the midst of a piece about mikvah, and it resonated with me in a very uncomfortable way.

"At one salon, a woman asked if my husband was home and when I responded no, she sighed in relief and pulled off her sheitl, wig. Women around the living room followed suit, pulling off sheitlstichels, scarves, and hats, a collective shedding of our inhibitions. This was a safe space to open up and be in solidarity as women."
-http://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/the-torch/2014/08/27/jewish-women-deserve-better/

It highlights the ways in which I am both part of the Orthodox community and in which I am specifically not.  I too would not remove my scarf if the host's husband were home- but without knowing in advance and packing a kippah or cap of some sort, I'm not going to take part in that collective intimacy of relaxing from the public face of hair covering- because I don't have a way of covering my head without my tichel on.  The issue is only accentuated since I presume some of this was a discussion of Torah, about which I feel even more strongly about doing with a covered head.

I don't think I've ever actually been in one of these situations.  But the thought of spoiling some sort of connection, or being excluded from it, because I am fulfilling two different Jewish values with my covering, is painful.  Yes, it's a pair of choices that I made- but out of a sincere attempt to follow halakha diligently.  Changing my mind would be a rejection of that.  But it can be something of a lonely place.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Experimental Tichel

This is something I put together a while ago, quite different from anything I usually do.
I started with the orange base scarf, then braided one side of that with a doubled-over scarf (the multicolored one).  Then I pulled the braid over my head.  But I now had some of that doubled scarf left over, and another orange tail.  So I twisted the orange tail with the dark red scarf, pulled it over my head, and braided the leftover red end with the leftover multicolored scarf.
Altogether, it felt like french braiding, only with scarves.  I liked how secure it felt.  It also reminded me of my mother doing my hair when I was a kid (which went on for quite a long time- through the end of middle school), so there was something nostalgic about it, too.
It made a higher and broader "crown" than many of the other styles I tend to wear, and at first I was a little insecure about it, but I did end up wearing it all day.  It held up well, and I might well do it again, if I can manage duplicating it.
What do you think- something worth practicing, and eventually making a tutorial for?  Something you'd try, or not?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Finally, Some Photos Again

I haven't been feeling all that inspired lately (as seems to happen frequently in the summer, when it's too hot for much in the way of layers on the head, for me), but yesterday I had some actual motivation, wherever it came from, and here's the result.  I have like twists lately, when I do anything creative.
Also, welcome to the first photos I'm sharing taken in our new apartment. I'm still learning how to set myself up so as to get enough light without setting the windows behind me.
Look out for an experiment from a while back, coming soon (it's worth seeing- I'm not sure if I could recreate it precisely, but it was quite a different look), hopefully photos from a family wedding coming up, and of course, more history and halakha posts when I get them written (there are some in progress).

Monday, August 11, 2014

Historical Head-Coverings: The Sarma, Algerian Jewish Women's Head-Covering




The Sarma was made of a metal piece with a tall front that could project up to a meter tall, with pieces that fit the sides and the top of head.  Accounts of it date back to 1730.  It was made out of metal lace, which I read was made by cutting away pieces of metal, which made it somewhat cooler and lighter-weight than solid metal pieces would be.  Other images certainly seem to suggest that the metal was shaped into lacework, rather than being made of cut-outs.



It was fastened to head with scarves and strips of fabric.  A woman would place the first one over her forehead and she would tie it at the back of her head.  The second would be placed under the chin, and the ends would be brought up and tied over her head.  A third scarf,  long and narrow, would wing around the base before hanging in two ribbons down the back.  These tails or ribbons would hang all the way to the feet.

At home it was worn uncovered (as much as having three scarves wrapped around your head in various directions qualifies as uncovered), but women would put another shawl over all of this for outdoors.  The illustrations that I've seen show that shawl as a thin, even translucent piece of fabric with what looks like embroidery on it.  It looks gorgeous.  Some women, believe it or not, even slept in their sarma.  It doesn't sound comfortable to me.

Some accounts say that at least in the early 20th century,- unmarried girls, once mature, would also wear the sarma, only with some sort of flower-shaped "tremblers" added to indicate their available status.  I haven't found any pictures of those yet.

I'd love to know how this style developed, but again, no information there yet.  One of the odd things about this research is that there is very little that I can find available online, as of yet.  As usual, as I find more information, I'll definitely be sharing it here.

Information in this post comes primarily from The Jewish Wardrobe: From the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, ed. Esther Juhasz and A History of Jewish Costume, by Alfred Rubens.  


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wigs and Men, or Halakha of the Toupee, Part 1

I forget quite how this one came to my attention, but it's Jewish head covering, of a less-than-frequently-discussed variety.  Having built all that excitement (and as you saw from the title), the question is about men's toupees.  Namely: how do you wear tefillin if you wear a toupee?

Clearly, you can see the connections to women who wear tichels/scarves, sheitels/wigs, hats (hats), etc and still want to put on tefillin in a public space.  This stuff can get tricky to accomplish, so what does the halakha have to say about it?  Does the tefillah shel rosh have to touch the head?

The Mishnah Brurah (27:16, commenting on Shulchan Arukh 27:4 "Nothing should make a separation (חציצה) between the tefillin and your flesh, whether the tefillin for the hand or the head", and the Rema: "This is specifically about the tefillin, but one does not need to be careful about the straps") considers the question, and gives the following comment:
אין להקפיד - והאחרונים כתבו דאין להקל רק במקום הכריכות אבל מה ששייך להקשירה יש להחמיר אף ברצועות בין בשל יד ובין בשל ראש וכתבו תוכחת מגולה על המניחים התפילין ע"ג פאה נכרית הנקרא פארוק"ה ואפילו אם רק הרצועה מונח על הפאה נכרית. ומ"מ משמע מדברי המ"א והח"א דאם יש לו מכה בראשו ורק במקום שהרצועות מונחים ולא במקום הקציצה מותר לו להניח הרצועות ע"ג סמרטוטין שעל המכה או ע"ג כובע דק ולברך אע"ג שיש חציצה בין הרצועות כיון דבמקום הקציצה אין חציצה וכן בשל יד אם יש לו מכה אפילו במקום הקף הקשר שסביב ידו מותר לו להניח הקף הקשר ע"ג סמרטוטין ולברך אך בזה יזהר לכסות מלמעלה כדי שיתקיים לך לאות 
ולא לאחרים לאות:

Translation:
One does not need to be careful: And the Achronim wrote that one only needs to be careful in the place where they come together.  However, since it is pertinent to the knots, one should be stringent also with the straps, both for the tefillin of the hand and of the head.  And they wrote a clear rebuke about wearing tefillin over the foreign hair called a perukeh (i.e. a wig), even if only the straps rest on the false hair.  And in any case, we learn from the words of the Magen Avraham and the Hayei Adam that if one has a wound on his head and it is only in the place where the straps cross, and not where the tefillin itself sit, it is permissible to wear a rag or a thin hat, and to bless (upon putting on the tefillin), even though there is a separation (חציצה) between the person and the straps, since there is no separation where the tefillin itself sit.  Thus too for the tefillin of the hand...

Comment:
This halakha seems to be somewhat self-contradictory: why should it be okay for straps to rest on bandage, but not on a wig?  Perhaps it is because the bandage is temporary and prevents pain (and possibly blood getting on your tefillin straps), while the wig is likely on-going but more easily removable.  [A historical note: the Mishnah Berurah's author lived from 1839 to 1933, so late for men to be regularly wearing wigs, even when he was young.]

On the one hand, the Shulchan Arukh on its own would seem to open up the wearing of tefillin with the straps over a wig or other covering, as long as one was careful not to let anything come between oneself and the tefillin.  However, the Mishnah Berurah is considerably more concerned, and forbids this, even though it cites what sounds like a permissive precedent, namely the case of bandages under the straps being permitted.

The Mishnah Berurah's reasoning is based on concern that the knots of the tefillin straps Do need to touch the person without any separation, which he extends from the knots to the entire volume of the straps.