Saturday, June 21, 2008

hats on for me

Ok, so although I have never actually gone in to it on this blog, I have mentioned a few times that I always wear a hat of scarf or something on my head. So someone finally called me on it. Why do I do it?

Have you ever seen Fiddler on the Roof? "We Jews have been kicked out of many, many places. Forced to leave with not'ing but the clothes on our backs. Maybe that's why we always wear our hats!" Ok, so thats not really the real reason, but it is a good a jumping point as any.

I am a Modern Orthodox Jew. This is a huge part of who I am and does effect a lot of what I wear and what I do. Through various biblical reference we learn that a married woman should cover her hair. When and how much are questions that people more learned than I have been struggling with for a very long time, but the base fact, that according to traditional Judaism married women wear something on their heads is not really arguable.

From a modesty point of view it is something that becomes private. One of the parts of us that are designated for our husbands. Just as we teach children that "what is under a bathing suit is yours and yours alone, so to does our hair take on this status when we get married. (Why our hair and not, say, our nose or our pinky? I have no idea.) In essence, we cover our hair as a sign both to ourselves and those around us that we are married, and therefore unavailable. In the religious world it is as common a sign of being married as a wedding ring is to the rest of society (Although thankfully for jewelers like myself we also have wedding rings!)

There are a number of ideas of how this should happen. The more traditional streams of Judaism say that it all must be covered all of the time and often use wigs, snoods, scarves etc, that will cover every last strand of hair at all times. Many even sleep in thair coverings of choice. Less traditional streams believe that you should wear a hat or other headcovering for religious rituals (prayer, ceremonies, etc. Along the ideas of wearing a hat connotes respect).

There are also those who have chosen to leave this idea behind all together.

And then are those like me who fall somewhere in the middle. I am a firm believer that there is a God and he did give us the Torah (Bible), but I believe that over the last 2 thousand years it has been interpreted and reinterpreted by human beings. I try to learn what I can and make my own way in this world according to the precept set down in the Torah in harmony with a modern lifestyle and rational thought.

I used to cover it all with a wig or whatever all of the time, but as I figured out more and more who I was, I realized that doing so was not exactly who I wanted to be. I now cover some of my hair most of the time.

I wear something on my head whenever I leave the house, and most of the time when we have men at our place (family, often close friends from before I was married, etc. not included). Most of the time it is a beret, baseball cap, bandana, or scarf. I do still occasionally wear wigs where a hat would look funny our out of place (formal affairs, etc.), but even then I try to avoid it as it makes me feel hypocritical as it is not something I generally do.

(There is a 2nd type of headcoverings in Judaism. A Kippa (Yarmulka) is traditionally worn by men only, but is now being taken up amongst less traditional streams for both genders during prayer or ceremony. It is now being seen more and more in the form of headbands and baseball caps for those who believe that a headcover is a reminder that God is above us. But as I am not associated directly with any of those groups I am going to leave it aside for now).

Ok, now if anyone has any questions on how I reconcile traditional religion with modernity and feminism feel free to ask and I will try to take on any questions posed.


LisaM said...

(hugs) :) Your entry here is so informative and personal. I'm so glad you shared!

happyduck1979 said...

your welcome :)

Honestly, I am quite comfortable with my beliefs and how my husband and I have chosen to live our lives. For the most part I do not consider it all that personal an issue (unless I am being critisized for it, then it is just like, well bite me.)

Ok so I guess it is a personal issue, but not really a not to be talked about issue if that makes any sense!

Shelly said...

i've also heard another interpretation:

an man has a halachic (law) obligation to get married, not a woman. he also has a halachic obligation to have kids, but again, a woman doesn't.

therefore, since a woman is allowing a man to fulfill such a huge obligation, it elevates her status to something higher. and covering her hair is like wearing a crown. wearing something on your head all the time is a sign of royalty and a higher plane.

personally, i prefer that explanation more than "the hair is private now." i never got the whole "ok it's be cool your WHOLE life but now it's private" thing.


rachel said...

Hey, I like that!

Shelly said...

i knew you would :)