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Kislev 3, 5773

Cover hair halacha or minhag


Rabbi David Sperling

Question:
Shavua tov!

-I know that hair cover for woman is a "daat moshe", is not true?

-Why in many communties (orthodox not reform or conservative..) around world (for exemple: France, England, Italy...) many women not cover their hair ? How is justified from halacha?...maybe "cover hair" considerated a minhag?

-I thought that cover hair for an orthodox jewish woman was a fundamental law... just as niddas laws etc...etc.. is not true?

Many thanks.

The question was asked following a personal question

Answer:
Shalom,
You are correct that married women are obligated to cover their hair according to Jewish law. The Shulchan Aruch - Code of Jewish Law - states this clearly. All Orthodox Rabbis I have seen quoted on this subject concur that this is the correct way for Jewish married women to act,
However, you are right that many Orthodox women (especially in the past several generations) did not always cover their hair - though today we see a great improvement in this area, and many younger women have started to cover their hair after their weddings, even when their mothers (and grandmothers) did not. How should we relate to this? Some rabbis have tried to find halachic ways to post-facto justify the non-covering of married women's hair (whilst insisting that even if we can justify the practice, the correct and obligatory way to act is in fact to cover the hair). See, for example Rabbi Broyde's article in the "Tradition" journal, for a learned and well stated argument that these women relied on a minority reading of the classical sources that allowed women to uncover their hair in societies where hair covering was not the norm. He himself holds that the halacha is not like these opinions, but nonetheless it allows us to judge these women favorably.
Other Rabbis disagree, and are of the opinion that the uncovering of hair was without any halachic basis whatsoever. They hold that these women, unfortunately, were lax in their keeping of this halacha - probably because of great social pressure of the communities they lived in. Despite this non-compliance with Jewish law when it came to hair covering, these women are generally very well respected for their efforts to keep Jewish homes, and raise Torah-educated children and communities. Who are we to judge them - and would we have been able to keep even a fraction of the Torah they kept (and keep) in their situation?
In summation - the overwhelming opinion of Orthodox Rabbis today is that hair covering of married women is obligatory. Those women who did not (or do not) cover their hair, are either relying on minority opinions, or are lax in keeping this halacha. Either way, we should be careful to judge our fellow Jews favorably.
Blessings


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