Sunday, January 31, 2016

Photos! A Style I've Been Playing With

I've been playing around with this lately.
2 scarves, at least 1 of them rectangular
1 rectangular-ish/bar-shaped pin

1. Tie 1st scarf to cover
2. Tie 3 knots next to each other in the 2nd scarf.  
3. Place on head so that knots are off-center.  Arrange the res of the scarf as desired (more examples will come).  Tie scarf.
4. Place pin in front of knots.
I like the asymmetry, and the way that the knots create a frame that makes a long pin make sense visually.  It also works as a component of more complex wraps.
I'm thinking- maybe a tutorial.  What do you think?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Head Covering Source, Talmud Bavli, Nedarim 30b

Translation significantly done by Sarah Mulhern, some additions by me.  

משחורי הראש - אסור בקרחין ובעלי שיבות, ומותר בנשים ובקטנים, שאין נקראין שחורי הראש אלא אנשים

גמ'. מ"ט? מדלא קאמר מבעלי שער.

ומותר בנשים ובקטנים, שאין נקראין שחורי הראש אלא אנשים. מ"ט? אנשים זימנין דמיכסו רישייהו וזימנין דמגלו רישייהו, אבל נשים לעולם מיכסו, וקטנים לעולם מיגלו


Mishnah: He who vows not to benefit from black-haired people may not benefit from bald people and gray haired people, but may benefit from women and children, because only men are called black haired.

Gemara: What is the reason for this ruling?  Since it did not say "from those who have hair" [therefore the bald- who might once have had black hair- are still forbidden].
"But may benefit from women and children" because only men are called black-haired.  What is the reason?  Men sometimes cover their heads and sometimes reveal their heads, but women's hair is always covered, and children are always bareheaded.


This short text is a font of information about norms around head-covering in [at least some part of] the Talmudic period.  The Gemara text, which is where things get interesting for us, begins as an inquiry into the reason behind a somewhat surprising ruling in the Mishnah- that if one vows not to gain benefit from black-haired people, one may not get benefit from men who are either black-haired or might once have been so (which makes hair color an identity that one retains even without hair...  fascinating).

The Gemara continues to elucidate that the reason that someone who has made this vow may still derive benefit from women and children is that women's hair is always covered, while children are always bare-headed- but neither gets called "black-haired".  This makes more sense in relation to women than to children, but oh well...  However, the sense in regard to women is that you can't be expected to identify them by hair color, since you will never see their hair or know its color.  Interestingly, it says that All women have covered hair- seemingly even unmarried ones.  (Admittedly, it seems highly unlikely that there were many never-married women at all.)  It is only men who may or may not cover their head- both women and children have social expectations regarding their head/hair.

This is very much a description of a social reality- there are Jewish communities (like our own contemporary community) where some women are bare-headed, and others (such as the Yemenite Jewish community, historically) where children of both genders also had covered heads.  But the assumption that All women cover their hair, while only some men do, is an interesting perspective, in comparison with what we now presume.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Devotional Head Covering Source: Kiddushin 8a

Translation courtesy of Sarah Mulhern, rabbinical student and friend.


 וכגון דקביל כהן עילויה; כי הא דרב כהנא שקיל סודרא מבי פדיון הבן, אמר ליה: לדידי חזי לי חמש סלעים. אמר רב אשי: לא אמרן אלא כגון רב כהנא, דגברא רבה הוא ומבעי ליה סודרא ארישיה, אבל כולי עלמא לא 


[What is the law in] a case where the priest accepts [an object of insufficient value in return for the redemption of a son] as happened in the case of R. Kahana, who accepted a scarf for a son's redemption, and said to him [the father],‘To me it is worth five selas.’? R. Ashi said: "This is only applicable in the case of a person like R. Kahana, who is a great man and needs a scarf /turban
for his head, but not of people in general."


This text refers to head covering only in passing, as part of a social reality.  The focal point of the text is the question of how to handle an oddly done redemption of a firstborn son, which requires the use of a sum of 5 selas- usually this would involve 5 silver coins, contemporarily.  This text raises the question of relative worth- if something is worth more to you (the receiver) than it is normally, could it count?  The answer seems to be "Yes, but no"- in theory, it could, but we don't really want to go there.

However, the example is what makes this text relevant to our question.  The example is used to indicate that the specifics here make the results of this case is not generally transferable- because Rav Kahana is a particularly important person, therefore he needs a turban.  This suggests that turbans at least are a marker of social status, rather than of religiosity or piety.  (I notice that in stories that talk about head covering as piety in the Talmud, the covering is either of non-specific style or is a robe worn over the head, rather than being a turban.)

Turbans (much) later become the usual covering for men in most of the Middle East, but I'm not sure when that happens.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Devotional Head Covering, Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 118b

Translation courtesy of Sarah Mulhern, a talented friend and rabbinical student at Hebrew College.


אמר רב נחמן: תיתי לי דקיימית שלש סעודות בשבת. אמר רב יהודה: תיתי לי דקיימית עיון תפלה. אמר רב הונא בריה דרב יהושע: תיתי לי דלא סגינא ארבע אמות בגילוי הראש. אמר רב ששת: תיתי לי דקיימית מצות תפילין. ואמר רב נחמן: תיתי לי דקיימית מצות ציצית 


R. Nahman said: "May [reward] come to me for observing three meals on the Sabbath." R. Yehudah said: "May [reward] come to me for observing focus in prayer. R. Huna son of R. Joshua said: May [reward] come to me for never walking four cubits bareheaded. R. Sheshet said: May [reward] come to me for fulfilling the commandment of tefillin. R. Nahman [also] said: May I be rewarded for fulfilling the commandment of tzitzit.


This passage connects statements from various rabbis that indicate that the fulfillment of certain practices deserves reward.  The collection seems united by the phrase "תיתי לי", especially since there is no pttern or unity in the sages' era- they come from several different generations of Amoraim.

 First, this implies that doing so is unusual and/or difficult.  Second, the combination suggests that all have some shared value.  However, some are clear, d'oraita (from the Torah) mitzvot- tzitzit, tefillin. (One wonders that these were seen as deserving of particular praise- it says Something about how little the Jewish people may have changed over time.) Others are pietistic practices/abilities- maintaining focus in prayer, and not going bare-headed.  Yet focus in prayer is really part of the mitzvah of prayer- the best way to fulfill the mitzvah, possibly the only way.  Whereas head-covering is only piety, not a mitzvah at all...

The obvious connection (to me at least) is that these are difficult and/or unusual practices which the rabbis would like to encourage- yet in this context go no further than saying that they will bring eventual reward.   Not exactly a statement of requirement in regards to head-covering, but the way that the statements have been brought together by their common structure begins to give it a weight that it does not have on its own.