Thursday, December 13, 2012

Shulhan Arukh on Going Bareheaded

Shulhan Arukh 2:4
ולא ילך ד' אמות בגלוי הראש (מפני כבוד השכינה) ויבדק נקביו... 

And one should not go/walk 4 cubits with an uncovered head (because of the honor of the Shechinah [God's presence]), and one should check one's openings [i.e. keep yourself clean].  

This text codifies into what law (or what seems to be law- opinions differ, as we'll see at some point) the story from Kiddushin 31a- both the action (covering the head), the distance (4 amot/cubits), and the reason (respect for God's presence).  It does not reflect the reasoning from Shabbat 156b - there is nothing here about a covered head having any effect on our yetzer hara.  (Well, once could create a connection pretty easily, something about not sinning being how we show appropriate respect to God, but while it works, it's pretty obviously a created connection, just to weave in all the ends.)

I find it fascinating that head-covering is paired with basic hygiene.  It gives the practice this very basic feeling, as if it were something about general basic decency.  It isn't an sense that I've gotten anywhere else, yet, but it sure gives a different sense to things.  It makes me wonder if the honor of the Shechinah might be understood as "don't look like a shlump who can't take care of himself", or "don't be disgusting"- although that might take it a bit too far for me.  

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