Friday, June 29, 2012

Sewing Your Own Scarves/Tichels: A Basic Introduction

Here's our first DIY: Sewing your own scarf from a suitably-sized piece of fabric.

1.  Get your piece of fabric.  Cut it into either a square, a rectangle, or a triangle, of suitable size.

2. Hem.  I did my first few with a regular hem.

Then, I tried the last seam on my latest scarf with a rolled hem, using this tutorial: sewing a rolled hem by hand, (or use something else, if you're a machine sewer, as I hope to one-day be.  In the meantime, I'm not going to wait until I learn and  get a machine.)  It's pretty easy, nearly as quick, and a nicer edging, especially for thin/delicate fabric.

2b. Add any decorations you'd like.  These could be ribbons (like in this post) in any number of directions, or cloth flowers or other embellishments.
For example:

Such additions dress up a scarf, but make it less versatile- it stands out more, and is harder to combine with other scarves.

3.  You're ready to use it.  Here's my latest, tied on my head.  (I'm bad at part 1, it isn't quite square enough to fold to a really good triangle, nor rectangular enough to be a "real" rectangle, but so far, it works well enough as a triangle anyways- there's a lot of forgiveness in this.)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

And I'm Back- Or About To Be

Sorry for my absence: I was at a family vacation, celebrating my grandparents' 60th anniversary.  Good times were had by all, I think, and regular content should resume tomorrow...

Monday, June 25, 2012

NOW, 1968

I came across this quote while browsing at this Christian headcovering blog (I venture into interfaith head-covering land, on occasion, to explore styles, comparitive approaches, and the like.  More on that some other time.)
"Because the wearing of a head covering by women at religious services is a symbol of subjection with many churches, NOW recommends that all chapters undertake an effort to have all women participate in a "national unveiling" by sending their head coverings to the task force chairman.  At the Spring meeting of the task force of women and religion, these veils will be publicly burned to protest the second class status of women in all churches.  (National Organization for Women, Dec., 1968.)
I suppose it was the mood of the times, but the thought of having to burn my tichels as a demonstration that I am not repressed really bothers me.  Of course, noticing that it only refers to churches, ignoring all of us non-Christians bothers me too, but that's not the point in this blog.  The point, for me, is that my head-covering is Mine, not anyone else's.  I follow halakha- my husband didn't make, or even ask, me to do this (in fact, he tends to be just a little surprised at how attached to it I feel, and how thoroughly I take it), nor does it feel like subjection in the least, from any source.

Maybe (probably, even), if I lived in 1968, I'd feel differently.  It's amazing how fast cultural attitudes change- and this was over 40 years ago.  In a world where cultural distinctiveness was just becoming acceptable, not a lot of women covered their hair outside of shul, anyway...  I have been to a lot of Orthodox synagogues where you can see the generational divide: older grandmothers come bare-headed, women my mother's age come with hats, and women of my age come with either hat or tichel.  At my own shul, older women come either bare-headed or with those doilies designed for the head, with a little bow in the middle- what must have been the fashion for women to wear to shul probably around this time, if not a little earlier, even.

Looking Jewish wasn't what you did, then.  I get that.  I'm not trying to be totally anachronistic.  But just reading that quote irks me.  I'm a feminist, and being told by a feminist organization that my choice of religious practice is a form of subjection of women really bothers me.   For all that I'm aware that feminism of then is not the feminism of now (sorry for the pun- it wasn't intentional, I promise), it still riles me up.

How do you feel about it?  (If pertinent)- did you feel differently about the topic in 1968 than you do now?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What I Wore: Shabbat Again, Part 1

Friday night:
We were on our own for shabbos dinner, and sometimes it's nice to go easy.  This isn't a style for anyone who covers all their hair, or for anyone with short hair.  But it's a nice, easy variant that covers the head well, and still restrains the hair, without covering it entirely.  While we didn't actually go out this Friday night, I do wear this out, on occasion.

It can also be worn with only one scarf, either using each tail of the scarf as one strand of the braid, or by splitting the hair into two sections, and using the scarf tails as one strand of the braid.  The effects are a little bit more obvious with more differentiated colors of scarves.  Since this week, I went with dark colors, here's a close-up:

And a profile, to show the little headband I added, for a brighter color:
Someday, I should learn some more complex, multi-stranded braids, and try out some of those: it seems like it could be quite pretty.

Stay tuned for Shabbat, part 2: Maya and a hat!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Experimenting With a Cap and a Scarf

 I had some fun experimenting, and here's the results.  I was combining a large crocheted cap/kippah that I made (covering much but not all of my head) and a scarf that's just a little thinner than the width I need to cover my whole head.  Tell me which you think are worthwhile wearing in the real world.  

1. This is the kippah worn the way I usually do, with the scarf wrapped around sort of 1930s turban style.

2. Here I put the scarf on first, then the kippah, then wrapped the scarf over it twice- once, flat, for coverage, and as second time, gathered up, for height.
 3. This looks ok from this and the next angle, but I'm not so sure about the way it cuts across my forehead...

 4. This is maybe the best of the bunch, making use of the fringes on the end of the scarf, and adding a pin to keep the scarf-ends going in the right direction, and making it into a style-feature, rather than a random tie.
 Here's the back of #4.  Maybe braiding my hair and putting the braid in, rather than the bun, would be more successful.
 5. Not so successful- a turban style with twisted scarf-ends.  It would have been more successful if I'd pushed the front of the scarf back just a little, maybe.
6. Similar to 5, but with the twisted ends crossed instead of twisted around each other.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Beit Shmuel on Shulhan Arukh E"H 21:2

The Beit Shmuel was written by Rabbi Shmuel ben Uri Shraga Phoebus, a Polish rabbi, and was first published in 1689, with a much edited second edition in 1694.  The work comments on Shulhan Arukh Even Ha'Ezer, and 

  אחת פנויה: היינו אלמנה או גרושה אבל בתולה מותר ופריעת הראש בחצר ליכא אסור אלא 
משום צניעות ועיין ב"י וד"מ בסי' קט"ו ושם כתבתי בשם הסמ"ג והש"ג דאסור אפילו בחצר 

   "And also unmarried: This is a widow or a divorcee, but a virgin is permitted, and to go with an uncovered head in a courtyard is not forbidden except because of modesty... [ending with some citations, and a note that elsewhere, the author wrote that it was forbidden.  I need to look into this part more.]

In the shiur I went to on college on the topic of women's head-covering, they brought this source- but only the first phrase.  That makes the interpretation seem much simpler than the full length of the comment does, however short that may still be.  Never-married women may go with an uncovered head, the end.  But then the comment goes on, without actually designating another subject.  

However, it then talks about courtyards (space that is not quite public, but also not quite private)- a subject that makes sense only for married women, if going about truly in public (the context stated in the Shulhan Arukh) is permitted for unmarried women.  It makes no sense to require more covering in a less public place than in a more public one.  So this must have to do with married women.  

The question of modesty versus a marriage-related prohibition, which seems to be implied here, is rather confusing for me.  If it is immodest for women to go with uncovered heads, then why do you need to require it separately for married women?  I suppose this is an indication that mitzvot are one thing, and modesty, while also required, is so culturally influenced that you can't rely on it to stay steady.  So perhaps head-covering is more than a modesty-requirement that gets waived for the unmarried.  Or maybe not...  

In summary- this comment raises more questions for me than it provides answers.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

One Year Later: An Anniversary Post

It seems funny to be writing an anniversary post on a blog that's only been in existence for a few weeks, but today is my husband and my first anniversary, on the Hebrew calendar, and so I thought that I would reflect back on some snippets from the first journal entry I made about head covering after my marriage.

Having generally pushed over real decision-making about what I was doing with my head after the wedding, I'm now in experimentation land. There's a significant amount of fun involved, since I really enjoy creative things to do with a length of cloth. In many ways, I'm actually quite excited to experiment, and to play. It's one of those fasion-related things that actually interests me. (There have been some moments of effectively playing dress-up, in the last few months, if that says anything.) 
But dress-up is pretty different from "wear it out on the street, and have other people notice". I'm feeling quite tentative about that, especially since I'm still figuring out to what degree I'm covering out of principle, versus to what degree I'm covering because I like it, and of course, the flip side of "what I think is fine to show when I want to". So when people ask "so, is this what it'll be, now?", combined with gestures to my head- I don't really have an answer yet. 
 Oddly enough, a year later, I still haven't figured out how much of my covering is principle and how much because I like it.  That's some of the reason that I'm writing this blog.  In fact, I feel like I'm in very much the same place: I'm having a lot of fun with this, much more fun than I ever had doing my hair.  I love the incorporation of color and texture that working with fabric instead of hair brings, and also the ability to change the perception of the bulk and height of hair and head shape so easily.

There's all this complicated stuff going on, emotionally, about not wanting to seem too frum, or too whatever-the-social-opposite-is...
Emotionally, I feel a lot more settled, a year later.  I'm still occasionally uncomfortable with sending inaccurate signals, but it feels so right that I've adjusted to that.  I still think about that balance, especially for job interviews and when meeting people for the first time, but it isn't emotionally tricky, most of the time.
This gets more complicated considering my line of work, and H's impending matriculation at an Orthodox institution.
 The complications with my line of work have actually appeared, on occasion.  My husband's institution turns out to be more open to a wider variety of head covering practices than I expected.  When I go to programs for spouses, I often cover my head in a more thorough manner than most of the other women there.  (Some don't cover their head at all.  On the other hand, one wears a wig.)  It's almost funny.
Then there's the issue of what things I think look nice. And of course, what I can do and still get my tefillin on appropriately. 
I've found that tefillin go on over many more varieties of covering than I expected, with a little shimmying and adjustment.  As for what looks good- well, you're seeing my taste develop as we go.
It all leads to doing a lot of looking in the mirror and being a little confused. It's a real change in self-presentation, which I hadn't quite expected, after all the people who've seen me and presumed that I was married, for the last 6ish years. 
 I feel less confused at my own image: it has become quite a comfortable view, in the mirror.  While I see a very different face before and after I finish getting dressed and putting my hair up, I'm still very attached to covering, and also to keeping my hair rather unfashionably long, underneath it all.  I really enjoy the way I look, both ways.

In retrospect, it has been a year of significant exploration when it comes to my appearance and self-presentation.  Being able to show that I'm married in a really visible way has somehow come to mean quite a lot to me, I think without detracting from the value that head-covering has had for me in the past.  It has also become routine- a pleasant one, but also just a regular part of getting dressed in the morning.  There's only so much attention one can give to it on a constant basis.  The issue crops up, here and there, but it isn't always on my mind- even if it is on my mind more than it might be for some other folks.  We'll see what another year brings.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Missed "Coming Out" Moment?

A friend once heard me describe the experience of acknowledging to my mikveh lady that I was a rabbi (and my relief when she was not disapproving), and called it coming out.   I'd never heard the term applied to anything other than telling someone about your sexual preferences before, but I'll take the broadening of the term.

The week before my wedding, I had a similar sort of experience with a mikveh lady- except that I botched it.  The particular mikveh lady who "did kallahs" (and was really very lovely, helpful, and everything you want a mikvah lady to be) in my hometown offered an hour-long shmooze sometime before the actual immersion.  During that time, while she was trying to inspire me about mikveh and offered me a chance to talk about last-minute questions and worries, I brought up that I would like to have a shmatta for my bracha- although I knew that customarily, brides didn't use one (contradicting my sense that such a covering is more kippah-like than marriage-linked, as I suggested in this previous post.)

I explained that I had grown up in a non-Orthodox community, and that women frequently covered their heads for prayer, and that, because of that, I didn't feel comfortable without covering my head when making blessings.  I didn't say that I was still "not Orthodox".  She saw that I came there with a small kerchief on my head, but I don't know what assumptions she made.  Something about it left me feeling a little bit dishonest, for all that I never quite lied- I just didn't tell all the truth.

It was a sort of obscuring of my identity that I could rarely do- and never when I wore an actual kippah.  Sometimes I longed for such a way to hide, when I didn't feel like explaining myself.  Now, I blend in as Orthodox all too easily.  Maybe that's why I now feel as if I oughtn't do so.  And yet, there's such a desire to hide...

Monday, June 18, 2012

What I Wore: Shabbat With Mom

My mother spent the weekend with us, so this Shabbat's pictures are courtesy of her photography.  So they'll be more artistic than I manage on my own, or even my husband's helpful photography- especially since she just gave me a beautiful hand mirror, and we decided to incorporate it into our little just-before-shabbat photo shoot.
First off, what is fast becoming my classic angle:
 And seen through a mirror (hopefully, not darkly):

 Here's the back view.  This is one rectangular scarf, tied first, containing my bun, with a decorated (by hand) triangular scarf on top.  Then I twisted the ends of the two scarves together, and criss-crossed them over my bun, to create a loose ponytail effect, showing off the extent of the rays of turquoise ribbon I'd sewn onto the scarf.
 Here's a (slightly fuzzy) view of some of what I was wearing with it, and the general gestalt.
And finally, a quick view, through the looking glass, of my photographer.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

חלקת מחוקק: This is one source I can't transliterate

The Helkat Mehokek, R. Moshe Lima, (the link is to a Hebrew Wikipedia article, since there doesn't seem to be one in English yet), was born in 1604 in Poland, and died in 1658.  He served as a rabbi in Slonim, Vilna and Brisk.  Here's what he has to say about our favorite piece of Shulhan Arukh (i.e. Even HaEzer 21:2)

אחת פנויה ואחת אשת איש: פנויה בעולה קאמר, אבל בתולה אמרינן דיוצאה בהינומא וראשה פרועה, וכן הוא בב"ח ועיין במרדכי
Both an unmarried and a married woman (the citation from Shulhan Arukh): this means an unmarried woman who has had sex, but we say that a virgin may go out with only a hinuma and an uncovered head, and thus in the Bach, and see the Mordecai.  

What a hinuma is, I'm still working on.  According to Jastrow (p. 348, right column), it is either a curtained litter on which a virgin bride is carried or a slumbering couch.  This seems unlikely to be any sort of reality in 17th century Poland, so he must mean something else.  According to my pocket dictionary, it's a bridal veil.  Neither seem like regular clothing for anyone...  Even-Shoshan has the same two definitions, although expands the latter to any sort of face veil, as well.  Still, that doesn't seem to make a lot of sense with what I think I know of 1600s Poland- I don't think face-veiling was normative there.  I'm wondering if it isn't some sort of babushka for the outdoors, worn over loose hair.

Checking in the Arukh HaShalem sent me to the place where the Talmud discusses exactly this question (I seem to be in extremely good company): Ketubot 17b.  The two options given are, 1. a dome of myrtle branches, and 2. a veil she can doze in.  Rashi suggests that this second interpretation involves a scarf over her head that can hang down and cover her eyes, and says about it "as they do in our place".  I don't know if that's talking about young women in general, or about brides... (Also, Rashi lived several centuries before R. Lima, and in a different country.)

What I can tell is that head-covering for unmarried women is at the least less stringent than for married women, but there is some item that seems to be required for public places.  Any further insight into the identity of the hinuma in the view of Ashkenazi Acharonim (or anyone else, for that matter) would be welcomed...

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Head and The Mikveh

I've put a thing of some sort on my head for brachot for years.  And then I got married, and started going to the mikveh.  One makes a bracha in the mikveh, so of course, I ask for the shmatta (rag/cloth) they keep for the purpose, beforehand.  I've just gone along with a general sense of consistency.

However, it's been brought up that there are other differences.  In other words, I am not usually otherwise naked while making those other brachot.  Given that difference, does it still make any sense to cover my head?  Conceptually, the question is- are head-covering and body-covering related?

When it comes to real experience, I don't know if the theory matters.  I feel awfully strange about the idea of not having that shmatta there, for all that my body is covered in nothing but water.  I haven't looked at the halakhot yet, but for myself, the thought of carrying out an important mitzvah with a completely bare head just bugs me.

Maybe it's that covering my head has always had a spiritual component, for me, while covering my body has to do with other people.  My clothes aren't relevant to God, but having a head-covering is about acknowledging God's presence, and reminding myself of it.  It's about recognizing that God is watching.  In other words, that shmatta is a kippah, not an "I'm married" sign.  Maybe then, if that sort of head-covering wasn't part of your practice before, it doesn't feel so odd to make a bracha without it.  But for me, I really connect to that symbol.

How do you feel about it?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What I Wore? An Experiment

 This is me trying out using a pashmina shawl as tichel.  I've seen it done, but they've generally been too bulky for me to actually pull it off.  I decided to just try it, skipping my usual double knot at the back of the head.  So far, so good.  We'll see if it actually comes outside the apartment with me, or if it doesn't stay well enough, with all that weight at the back of my head.  What do you think?  Worth perfecting?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What I Wore 5: Pretty, But Not Good for Clothes Shopping...

 This is two scarves, layered a la what the Style Underground calls "the urban wrap", if moified, as I can't quite manage to get all my layers to stay, so I just wrapped my last one around my bun.  It was the most successfully I managed to carry off the style.  It was helped by the addition of two bobby pins behind the ears, besides my usual 2 clips.
 It stayed wonderfully for regular life.  However, my sister was in town, and we did some thrift shopping.  This is not a good head-covering style for trying on clothes, even with both scarves being cotton ones designed for the purpose of head-covering.  But it is pretty...

Ramblings About Ambiguity, Ethnicity, and Law

When we looked at Shulhan Arukh Even Ha'Ezer 21:2, I really only addressed the main text, that by R. Yosef Karo...  Today, I opened up the book to see if I'd missed any comments by the Rema on that halakha.

There's nothing.  Not a word.

In other words, this is something where Sefardim an Ashkenazim were in agreement.  When the Rema wrote his gloss to adapt the Shulhan Arukh for Ashkenazi audiences, he didn't have anything to say to alter what he saw on the page.  That speaks pretty loudly, to me, for a community whose current practice is for unmarried women to go sans any head-covering, almost across the board (I know some Haredi communities have unmarried women braid their hair, a la the other interpretation of  BaMidbar 5:18, where the term "" means to 'unravel one's hair', i.e. braids, rather than 'uncover one's head').  However, if the same source phrase was supposed  to mean different things for married and unmarried women, you'd think that a halakhic text would say so explicitly.

How this came to be is a real mystery to me, for all that the usual theories have to do with the practices of surrounding cultures.  Nevertheless, the "uncovered head=unmarried woman" equation is deeply coded into current Ashkenazi culture, and putting on a head-covering for the first time after you get married is a big deal.  Heck, it was a (quiet) big deal for me, and I'd been wearing a kippah/etc for over half a decade already.

So I am all in favor of a broader sort of head-covering practice for women as well as men (someday, I'll start talking more about men, kippot, and the like), but I don't want to deprive people of a social practice that speaks to people so deeply.  I liked my own transition from kippah to full-head covering.  But would it work more broadly?  Is this a change worth pushing for, for that matter, or is it just a spiritual practice that works for me, and shouldn't be socially supported?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Yalkut Yosef on Women's Head-Covering

The Yalkut Yosef is a Shulhan Arukh-based work of halakha, consisting of the rulings of R. Ovadia Yosef as compiled by his son R. Yitzhak Yosef.  (Wikipedia article)  Here's what he has to say about women's head-covering:

אשה נשואה חייבת על פי הדין לכסות את ראשה, ואין לה לצאת לרה"ר כששערה מגולה. ועל פי הדין מותר לאשה נשואה לילך בביתה בגילוי ראש (כשאין שם אנשים זרים), אבל ראוי מאד לנהוג שלא לילך גם בבית בגילוי ראש.    [אוצר דינים מהדו"ק עמוד שנט

ט פשט המנהג שבנות רווקות הולכות בגילוי ראש ברשות הרבים, שמעיקר ההלכה אשה שאינה נשואה אינה חייבת בכיסוי ראש. ורק בעת שמתפללות או מברכות ומזכירות שם שמים, תכסנה ראשן. [אוצר דינים מהדו"ק עמוד שסא. יביע אומר ח"ד אהע"ז סי' ג'. וחלק ה' סימן ה אות ב]

8. A married woman is obligated by law to cover her head, and she should not go out into the public domain with her hair uncovered.  According to law, it is permitted for a married woman to walk in her house with an uncovered head (when there are no unrelated men present), but it is very appropriate to also not go about with an uncovered head at home as well.  

9. The tradition spread that unmarried girls go with an uncovered head in the public domain, as from the essence of the law, an unmarried woman is not obligated in head-covering.  And only at the time when they pray or make brachot or say the name of God, they should cover their head.  

In his view, married women should always have their head and hair covered when men can see it- and preferably, pretty much always, even when there aren't unrelated men around.  Unmarried women seem to have no need to cover their hair at any point (I think- it seems a little unclear, honestly, given how consistently the covering of hair and head are not really distinguished), but should cover their head for the full range of prayer/blessings and presumably for study as well (which I want to find implied in "say the name of God", although it is certainly isn't explicit- do you think that's a reasonable interpretation?).  In other words, unmarried women should cover their head in the same way that I began wearing kippot- for religious behaviors.  I wonder how much this is halakha is followed in practice...  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What I Wore 4: Shabbat

So, I'm a little behind on photos (there are photos from today that you'll see probably tomorrow), but here's what I did for Friday night.  It's a combination of a scarf, an shawl and a small headband, and one of my more creative assemblages...  The scarf is rather too small for full coverage, and I've always wanted to do something with the shawl, and the outfit I was wearing made the combination perfect...
 The shawl isn't tied, just held together with a ponytail holder, over my bun (to give it something to hold it up, and also for the way the lines work).
 Here's a quick glimpse of the outfit it went with...

Friday, June 8, 2012

"My Hair Is For My Husband"?

I was recently looking at some videos on, with the aim of seeing a tichel style tutorial that had been recommended.  Indeed, the style itself and the ideas presented with it was very nice (for that, I can recommend the site), but it also presented a certain sort of ideology about head-covering that I find both tremendously attractive and uncomfortable and possibly even dangerous, all at once.

This ideology includes a variety of claims, coming down to something like this:
1. Covering my hair gives me something that I share only with my husband, and that is its main purpose
2. Covering my hair makes me beautiful, and one can't be beautiful and sexy at once
3. More of who I am shows when my hair is covered
4. Covering your hair inherently makes your relationship better

The thing is, a lot of the ideology really works for me.  I feel really good with a tichel on, and I think that it is beautiful.  And I would rather be beautiful than sexy, out in the world.  But I don't like the sort of claim that tries to make beauty exclusive.  It's a hard enough thing without such limitations.  If being sexy is what makes someone feel beautiful, I don't want to deny that experience, for all that I personally wish that they would save that sort of beauty for private.  This point is something of a contradiction for me.

Am I "more me" to the world with my hair covered?  I don't think so.  At least, nothing seems so different in how people react to me, so far.  I'm perceived as more Orthodox than I had been.  But is that "more like myself"?

The real issue that I have is that last claim.  It's a lot like the claim they make about niddah: keeping taharat hamishpacha will make your marriage better and stronger.  Sometimes that's true.  Sometimes- not so much.  It's a mitzvah, and so you do it, and if there are rewards, then good, and if not, then that's a gift you give to God, or something of the sort.

I also question the first claim, going back to basics.  If one keeps tzniut in any way, there's a whole bunch of body that your husband is the only one who sees, so making hair one more of those things just seems like more, not something special in particular about covering your hair.

And yet, I'm very attached to this practice, and I find it meaningful.  If this ideology doesn't work for me, what makes it so compelling?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What I Wore 3: For Cooking and a Party

Today, although it is set to be a day full of cleaning, cooking and then hosting a sheva brachot meal (i.e. I may well change later), somehow inspired some creative scarf-tying, perhaps because my dress is rather hard to match to (it's a sort of purply-brown with yellow and chartreuse designs).  This is another 3 scarf combination- I was watching some videos on (more about that later) which have inspired me in that direction, lately, although I haven't quite tried her effect yet.  I want to- sometime soon.  There are actually a few styles that I want to play with in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled...

In any case, this is 3 triangles, with the smallest thereof (the bright green, which is silk, but bandana-sized) folded up like a headband, and all layered over eachother- blue, green then red.  The red I made myself- meaning that I got a yard of fabric from a store specializing in African fabrics, cut a triangle out of about half of it, and then hemmed it.  Pretty easy (probably easier if you have a sewing machine), and cheap...

So here it is.  Front:
 And a not-very-clear shot of the back.  Sometime I'll do this with the camera and not my webcam, and then there will be slightly better-quality pictures, I dearly hope.  (Also stay tuned for such a re-do of the way I did my tichel for the wedding we went to on Sunday.  There wasn't a chance to photograph it properly then, but it was deserving of documentation- I was pretty proud of the effect, and done with all hand-me-down items from family too...)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What I'm Wearing 2

Today's head-covering involves two scarves, one triangular, one short and rectangular, folded into a sort of thick headband.  The triangular scarf goes on first, followed by the rectangular one.  Then the tails of the triangle are criss-crossed over my head, mid-way on the rectangular scarf.

Here's the front view.  Unfortunately I can't seem to look straight at the camera and show the top of my head at once...

And now the side.  This should give the best view of the general scarf arrangement.
Sorry for the messy view of the table behind me.  Maybe this is my motivation to clean it up.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

An Instance of Interpretation

One of my favorite pieces of Shulhan Arukh is the following:

 לא תלכנה בנות ישראל פרוענות בשוק, אחת פנויה ואחת אשת איש (Even HaEzer 21:2)
The daughters of Israel should not walk with uncovered heads in the marketplace, both unmarried and married women.

It has always sounded pretty definitive, to me.  In fact, when I was in college, I had fairly strong feelings that I was "doing it right" in contrast to my Orthodox peers, in this matter.  Of course, nothing stays that simple- halakha expands and comments and interprets, and as you'll see later, the term פנויה/unmarried woman gets interpreted in rather surprising ways in this case.  I don't want to jump ahead of myself, but the interpretations lead to what is normative practice today, which very clearly does not involve all Jewish women wearing a head-covering of some sort.  Although, before I was married, this source was one of the ones that gave me support in choosing to wear a kippah or the equivalent all the time, without feeling like it was inauthentic.

I'm also told, although I haven't researched it myself yet, that there are Sefardi/Edot HaMizrach communities where unmarried women do, or at least did, cover their heads.  And I've heard of Sefardi rabbis who promote the idea that all women should have a head-covering of some sort to pray.  It'll be an interesting area to explore...  I expect that the fact that women in the broader society in which those Jewish communities were living did cover their heads influenced this halakha and its interpretation.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Liberal" Head-Covering And Israel

When I was contemplating my mandated rabbinical school year in Israel, along with all the other concerns on my mind (I'd never been before), I spent a bunch of time worrying about how I was going to cover my head while I was there.  I didn't have the guts to wear kippot of the normal variety.  Friends of mine had already shared plenty of stories ranging from awkward questions to accusatory statements.

So I planned to go significantly with the folded-scarf route.  However, I wanted some other option, and so I started playing with the idea of larger kippot.  I knew that plenty of liberal Orthodox married women wore hats that looked similar, although placed slightly differently.  

So I set to crocheting.  I took a lot of inspiration from various doilies that I was working on at the same time.  By the end of that year, I had quite a number of different colored, lacy kippot that cover a good majority of my head.  

These actually seemed to work out pretty well for what I wanted: I  don't know what my neighbors thought of me, but no one asked me awkward questions, and I got several requests from my Israeli peers at Machon Schechter for their own kippot of similar sorts. 

These days, I am a little unsure about how I feel about this level of coverage.  In theory, I think that I'm ok with it, paired with a braid/bun (instead of loose hair), but I haven't actually worn them as such outside.  In fact, except for a couple of my largest, they've gone to my "sell/give this away someday" pile.  It's a journey, as they say.  

In any case, here's an example: 

Friday, June 1, 2012

What I'm Wearing this Shabbos 1: Friday Night

Here's my first "what I wore", head-covering style.
Here's a side-view of the rather complicated arrangement (but fun, and actually pretty easy) that I put together for this Friday night.   It consists of 3 fairly small scarves, one of which has been folded into a headband, and a small headband.  The use of three scarves let me create a subtly shaded braid.  (I have long hair- I'm fond of having something to hold on to and play with...)

 Here's a back view.  This really is a different scarf from what you see in front.

And here is the full interplay on my head- and a little glimpse of the dress that I'm matching my scarves to.

And with that, I'm off.  Good Shabbos!