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?


  1. HI, this is a wonderful blog, Thank you! I really appreciate your insightful comments.
    I wanted to add to them.
    There's a thing called "experiential truth" It's a concept brought out by Rav Dessler. That there are things you know because you feel them to be true. He brings that up in context of talking about Free Will. And its a valid part of judgment.
    Can a tichel make your relationship better. Of course not. (That was just a provokotive title) But as far as the other difficulties
    you mentioned, it really is so many women's experience that they feel more authentic when they put one on. I hear it all the time - unsolicited. And from an outsider, it also looks more authentic. I speak with non religious people every day who love it.
    About your hair being for your husband. That's just a ta'am, a taste behind the mitzvah. And we're supposed to try to find the taste behind the actual nourishment of the mitzvah. So you're right. It's what we do. Period. But I think its ok to find meaning and siginifance in it as well.
    Anyway, thanks for giving me a chance to make this clarification. And thanks for this beautiful blog for women everywhere.

  2. Rivka Malka-
    It's a pleasure making your electronic acquaintance. Thank you for taking the time to read my post, and for the lovely compliment to my fledgling blog.

    I too feel "more authentic" in a tichel. I don't disagree with that at all, although I can't quite figure out the why... Maybe that's part of why I'm writing this blog.

    I think a large part of my concern is really just a general one in reaction to any compelling exposition of ta'amei hamitzvot: people get attached to the reasoning, and start to think that if the ta'am doesn't fit them, the mitzvah doesn't either... I know that it's one of those lines you have to walk, because if you never contemplate ta'amei hamitzvot, things are tasteless and hard to keep up- we can't all be Dr. Leibowitz. Do you have any feelings about walking that line?

    1. You're so right. It's not really a relationship with Hashem when you do things because they "feel right" to you. That's more like a relationship with your ego, ie. I want to feel like a good person, or I like this practice in my life. I understand ta'amai hamtzvos htough to be important though b/c we'r ehuman. And just like G-d made an apple taste good even though we need to eat in just for nourishment, He still wants us to enjoy it.
      But I'm with you, I love your concern. it shows a fighting spirit for real Judaism.:)

  3. For me, my hair is in a way just for my husband, since I differentiate between head and hair covering. When I'm at home, I make sure that my head is covered, but sometimes just by a kippah, which I don't consider a hair covering. If I'm making a berachah, I make sure I'm modest enough to go outside - except the hair covering. So my husband sees me in an in-between state that no one else sees - modest enough for berachot but with my hair uncovered.