Thursday, July 12, 2012

Halakhic Prequels

In my anachronistic exploration of halakhic texts pertaining to head-covering (currently, women's head-covering), I went to look at the Tur, and found that in bringing you the Shulhan Arukh, I have already brought you the Tur on this topic- the wording is identical.

(Here it is, as a reminder:  לא תלכנה בנות ישראל פרועות ראש בשוק, אחת פנויה ואחת אשת איש
The daughters of Israel should not walk with uncovered heads in the marketplace, both unmarried and married women)

While I was looking through the Tur to find it, I found that earlier in the same siman, there's another relevant snippet of halakha- "אסור לשמוע  קול ערוה או לראות שערה"  It is forbidden to listen to the voice of a sexually-forbidden-woman, or to look at her hair.   The same thing is brought in the Shulhan Arukh, again word-for-word (E"H 21:1).  

This is presented in the context of a variety of prohibitions on male attention to women, much of which I am, at the least, quite uncomfortable with- as you can probably tell by the beginning of the sentence.  Nevertheless, it presents an interesting balance to the following se'if, which somehow changes the feeling of the thing, for me.  I shouldn't show it, and they shouldn't look.   If I fall through, they're still not allowed to enjoy my error.  

Somehow, I manage not to react to this text by putting my head-covering into that category of "do this to protect your too-easily-tempted men from sin", a philosophical approach to modesty that often irks me.  I don't know why it doesn't press those buttons, since it would be logical enough.  The chain of reasoning would be: 1. they oughtn't look.  Therefore 2. I should have to keep it out of sight.  I dislike the one-sided responsibility for someone else's obligation that goes on in this approach.  Expressing the requirement for women to cover their heads as a separate requirement helps prevent this from being my dominant reading of the rule.  The other meanings that head-covering has both for me and in the text, also keeps it from falling into this hole for me.  

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