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Does a married woman need to cover her hair in the privacy of her home?

by Rabbi Yosef Resnick

  

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The Short Answer:

While there is a Halachic disagreement amongst Jewish scholars regarding this law, all seem to agree that it is preferable and highly praiseworthy for a woman to cover her hair even in the privacy of her own home. 

The Askmoses Answer: 

In the Talmud1   there is a famous story about a certain woman by the name of Kimchit who was careful that “the walls of her house should not see the hairs of her head.” She was rewarded with seven sons who served as High Priests.

We see from this story that a woman’s covering her hair in private is highly praiseworthy. But is it a Torah mandate? Or is it simply a chumrah, a stringency? Must a woman cover her hair at home? King David says,2   “kol kevudah bat melech p'nimah.” All the glory of the King’s daughter is internal.

One of the expressions of this inner glory is that, in general, married women must cover their hair. But is there a halachic difference between going out in public and being at home? In the privacy of their own homes, seemingly, they should be able to “let their hair down.”

By covering her hair (even with a wig, which may be mistaken for real hair) a woman is expressing her exclusive devotion, love for, and unique connection to her husband
In order to fully answer this question, it is important to address two issues at play here: a) why does a woman need to cover her hair at all? b) Does the Torah expect (and allow) us to act differently in the privacy of our own homes than when we are outside in public?

Once a woman is married, she enters into a completely unique relationship with her husband. This transformation is alluded to by the Hebrew name for the wedding ceremony, “Kiddushin,” which means sanctification or holiness.

Through this act, the bride and groom are totally and utterly dedicated to each other in a holy coupling. This dedication manifests itself in both an internal and an external form, in many ways, and for both partners.

One of these ways is by a woman covering her hair, which is viewed by Judaism as a sensual and private part of a married woman’s appearance. By covering her hair (even with a wig, which may be mistaken for real hair) a woman is expressing her exclusive devotion, love for, and unique connection to her husband.

Even if others do not realize that she is covering her hair, she has the constant awareness and consciousness that she is one half of a unique and profound relationship, sanctified by G-d Himself.

Now, normally, the laws of modesty are not loosened in the privacy of home. The Code of Jewish Law,3   acknowledging human nature, states that it is natural for people to act differently when they are in the privacy of their own home then when they are around a group of people.

Footnotes

  • 1. Yuma 47a.
  • 2. Psalms 45:14.
  • 3. Beginning of Orach Chaim.

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COMMENTS

Kimchit

Posted by: Anonymous on Nov 28, 2007

I have always found the example of Kimchit to be very confusing. As you said, "She was rewarded with seven sons who served as High Priests." But while it a kavod [honor, ed.] to have a child who is a High Priest, to have seven of them all serve in that role suggests that each of those sons died at an early age, allowing for the other sons to succeed as High Priest. Certainly this is not a desirable situation for a mother! The story of Kimchit, therefore, has always left me puzzled, as it does not paint an entirely positive picture.

Editor's Comment

Good question! In Tractate Yoma 47a, it talks about Kimchit's merit. The Talmud relates two different occassions in which Yishmael, son of Kimchit, became ritualy impure on Yom Kippur, which precluded him from serving in the Holy Temple, and a brother took over for him the job of High Priest. One time it was his brother, Yeshevav, and another time it was his brother Yosef. Therefore, it doesn't mean that she witnessed her children dying, but rather merited to see each serve as the High Priest, even as the other brothers lived.

RELATED CATEGORIES

Women & Judaism » Women's Issues
Daily Life » Clothing » Modesty

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Halachah
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Zohar
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
David
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.