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Jewish Head Covering

A jewish woman praying

Head covering in Judaism is common for women, but only once they are married. There is a ceremony called the Sotah ritual that was described in the Torah to test for fidelity or adultery in married Jewish women. Numbers 5:18 which is in both the Christian Bible, as well as being part of the Torah, specifies (NIV): “After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse.” The Jewish Talmud (Berakhot 24) claims that the hair is of “erotic nature”, in reference to the Torah/Biblical verse from Song of Songs 4:1: “Your hair is like a flock of goats, trailing down from Mount Gilead.”

Technically speaking, a woman who appears in public with her hair loose and uncovered, or who speaks to a man other than her husband (or, one should presume, relative such as father/brother) is giving her husband grounds for divorce within the Jewish faith. Obviously, as with many other cultures and religions, there are more women who are questioning this, more women who are not covering their heads, because of the idea of it being “submissive”, however at the same time, there is a definite trend of some women to go back to this aspect of their faith as head covering has been made somewhat more popular in today’s era due to realizing how many faiths do incorporate it somehow.

Jewish women who cover their heads do so in one of several ways. First, there is the Sheitel. This is a wig. The idea basically being that it is not the woman’s own hair which is showing. Traditional sheitels would be made with heavy bangs to obscure the natural hairline. Second, some women wear a hat or a Snood. Various types of hat may or may not be acceptable to a woman depending on how orthodox she is. A snood generally speaking would be similar to a hair net used in cooking, but thicker, more like a knit cap that covers properly. Beanies, tuques…if it covers all the hair, some women would prefer this style. Lastly, a scarf tied on in many various intricate ways, is called a Tichel. Intricate means intricate! There are women who make their head covering out of 3-4 scarves of different colour, who braid 3 together, or twist 2 together. It is as flashy sometimes as an African Gele (see: https://gosikh.com/african-gele/ ), but in an entirely different way!

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