Ask the rabbi

  • Family and Society
  • Head Covering

Wife refuses to cover hair


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Adar 6, 5775
BS"D Shalom, My wife and I are both in the process of becoming more observant (didn’t grow up in religious households). We are Shomer shabbat/kashrut/taharat mishpacha, etc, all very much so b’simcha. I feel often that I am a little bit ’ahead’ of her though in terms of ’outward’ observance. I wear kippah/tzitzit out, have beard and long peyot, and have done so for a few good years now. My wife on the other hand has not taken on the mitzvah of covering her hair, and will still wear pants during the week (not on Shabbat). She did try out a tichel on a few occasions, but doesn’t seem to want to stick with it. This has really started to eat away at me inwardly, as I become very sad and frustrated both on a superficial level (i.e. her not ’outwardly’ looking ’observant’) as well sad that she is missing this wonderful opportunity to connect with Hashem through observing this mitzvah. I know that these issues I am having are my own to deal with, however my question(s) are: Should I say anything at all to her about this? If so, what? If not, how do I come to a place of peace and more acceptance? She knows that I would prefer her hair be covered, and that she not wear pants, but she also knows that I support her need to do things in her own time, and I’m not the kind of person to want to control what my wife wears, despite everything I mentioned above. Any thoughts/advice would be helpful. Thanks!!! Kol Tuv
Shalom! I admire your patience and tolerance very much, for that is the key to shalom in the family. It may be important to know that until about 50 years ago, most of the wives of orthodox rabbis in America, even of the greatest rabbanim, didn’t cover their hair (outside of shul), despite it being an issur d’oraita! Most famously, Rav Soloveichik’s wife, who even to the very end, even after most rebbitzins started returning to the halacha to cover, never did so. Upon being asked why she doesn’t, Rav Soloveichik answered simply, “She doesn’t want to!”. This by no means is to excuse the transgression, but nevertheless, is important to know how these many rabbis dealt tolerantly with the issue, in the meantime, until their wives were “ready”. Rav Kook stresses that in our generations, mitzvot should be done out of identification, not force, and that may be why Hashem has decided, in the meantime, not to renew the Sanhedrin. How much more so regarding those who weren’t raised observant, where pressure can “boomerang” and be counterproductive. Nevertheless, just as regarding almost anything in marriage, it’s important to be open and honest with her, just as she is (hopefully) open with you about her feelings. It may be worth mentioning (not just halachically, but also logically), that a woman’s modesty and dress clearly affect her husband, as well. She doesn’t live in a vacuum and neither do you. Her actions may affect the way some people relate to you, as well, not to mention, may be confusing to your children and their friends. It’s good to bring this out into the open, if she may not be aware of it, but not as pressure, and not very often, just as part of your open and honest relationship. We must emulate Hashem’s perfect traits, and He surely has always been very patient with Am Yisrael!
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