Ahhh, my hair. I really miss it. Maybe I should send it a card to let it know I still love it and think of it. You know, one of those postcards with a picture of some tropical island and a margarita: “Dear Hair, Just wanted you to know I still love you and think of you often. Love, Me.”
Seriously, though, for me, covering my hair is by far the greatest challenge of being religious. But you know what they say- the harder the mitzvah, the greater the reward! I’m extremely selfish in that way; I want to rack up as many mitzvah points as possible. I’ve heard there is some prime real estate in Olam Haba, and I’m gonna make sure I get in on that!
Throughout my married life, I have spent a good number of years bouncing back and forth on the whole hair covering thing. It was a big debate in my head that I couldn’t, or rather, didn’t want to resolve. I was looking for a reason good enough to convince me to relinquish the crown of my beauty. In the meantime, I went from wasting waaay too much money on overpriced wigs, to never being completely happy with the way they looked, to a bandana with my hair hanging out the bottom, to letting all of my hair show. And then back again. Over and over again. It was ridiculous, really. (Wigs are a very controversial topic that much can be written about- therefore I will not discuss them here. I will just mention that many rabbis do not consider them as appropriate head coverings for a variety of reasons.)
Ladies, if you’re in that undecided territory, I feel for you. I really understand your dilemma. But let me share a few inside secrets that will hopefully convince you to fully commit to covering your hair. Warning: this is not going to be sugar-coated...
First, let’s begin with a little Zohar on the subject. In Parashat Naso, it is written: “A woman who lets her hair be seen in order to appear attractive causes poverty to her home, spiritual inferiority to her children, and causes a negative spiritual influence to reside in her home.” Kabbalah explains that man and woman have complementary roles. A man is considered to be the “light”, the one who draws down the blessings through his spiritual actions, and the woman is considered to be the “vessel”, the one who contains all of the blessings. (Of course women draw plenty of blessings through their own actions, but I’m referring to a very specific spiritual aspect of the husband/wife dynamic.) When a man brings down spiritual energy, but the wife’s vessel is not properly covered, what results is a “leak of energy”, like pouring water into a cup with a hole in the bottom. No matter how much water you pour in, you’re never going to end up with a full cup. Your husband could be the Tzaddik of the Generation, but if your hair isn’t covered, your family isn’t enjoying all of the blessings they could be.
Next- the giving of the Torah. Hashem commanded us: “Kedoshim Tihiyu (be holy).” Where is the essence of our holiness? Not in our Torah learning, and not in our good deeds. The essence of our holiness in in our modesty. This is true for men, but especially true for women. A woman’s modesty is the foundation for every single blessing in her life. Tznius (modesty) is a concept that is totally misunderstood today. Everyone has their own take on it. Generally speaking, among the less observant world, it is looked down upon as an archaic and outdated tradition. However, it is not a tradition at all. It’s a halacha, a Jewish Law, that is not subject to change because we live in modern times. Just the fact that most Jewish women think modesty is a foreign concept should be a big red warning flag to show how far we have veered from the path that God intended for us. But for some reason, non-observant Jews function under the bogus impression that halacha doesn’t apply to them. I know- I used to be one of them. It’s one of the master tricks of the Yetzer- put people into a deep spiritual sleep, to the point where they reject their very own Torah before even trying to understand if, in fact, there is some wisdom to be found within.
What is holiness? Look around- do you see it anywhere, in anyone? Look in the mirror- do you see it in your face? Look in your eyes- do you see that spark within? Most likely not. Why not? If we’re Hashem’s children, we must have a spark of holiness. So where did it go? What have we done with that precious spark, the part of us that connects us with the divine? Why aren’t we even asking ourselves such questions? Why don’t we even care that we can’t find that spark anymore?
Can a woman be sexy and holy at the same time? Absolutely not. It’s like oil and water- they don’t mix. A woman can be beautiful and sexy, but at what price? I recently watched a great lecture from Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak. A secular Israeli woman was complaining to him that she wasn’t blessed with children yet, and she was married in a traditional Jewish wedding. Rabbi Amnon held up a white handkerchief and replied: “Do you know what’s been stopping you from having children? See this white piece of fabric?” Yes, ladies, he was saying that the reason she couldn’t have children was because she didn’t cover her hair.
“Objection, your honor!” I can hear you say. “There are plenty of religious women that also don’t have children, and they cover their hair!” Okay, we can’t know the spiritual reasons for everything. I can only tell you that the connection between hair covering and fertility has been pointed out repeatedly by many sages and rabbis throughout our history. You can do your own research on the matter. Rabbi Amnon has a great track record, though. He promised her, “If you commit to covering your hair, I will give you a blessing that you will have a baby this year.” She could barely hold back her tears as she reluctantly placed the covering over her hair. Next thing you know, I was the one who couldn’t hold back the tears as the video cut to her holding her baby boy at his brit milah, as Rabbi Amnon sat down in the Sandak’s chair. There are many, many cases of infertility that have been resolved in this manner.
There was another video in which a woman who was childless for many years was very reluctant to cover her hair as well. Rabbi Amnon asked her, “Do you want the shechena (neighbor) in your home, or the Shechina (Divine Presence) in your home?” That was enough to convince her!
Is it enough to convince you?
Here’s another interesting tidbit: back to Kabbalah. Men are created with a wild, unbalanced energy. Since hair is a spiritual antenna, men keep the hair short in order to tame this energy and draw it down in a more balanced way. Women, on the other hand, were created with a perfect balance of energy. The problem is that the balance is so sensitive, that any leak in the system causes it to fall to dangerously low levels. Once such a weak and “darkened” energy exists, the dark side forces swarm like vultures to consume it. Unbeknownst to the woman, these forces wreak havoc on her and her family as well.
It’s a snowball effect of magnanimous proportions. I would call it an “avalanche effect”. An attractive married woman has a marriage that could use a serious boost in the romance department, kids that are rebellious, wild, and generally disrespectful, and her- maybe she’s on anxiety meds or a lifelong diet. There’s serious financial trouble- sky-high credit card debt and downsizing at her husband’s office. Her life is anything but happily-ever-after. Does this sound too simplistic? Why does it need to be complicated? By covering her hair, everything will begin to fall into place. Of course, she must do her part and make every effort to correct her issues- but covering her hair will bring the energy of holiness into the home and everyone will be positively affected by it.
It took me a few years to make the connection, but I did realize that the point in my life when I was suffering from major anxiety corresponded exactly to the time when I did not cover my hair. Even when I did start covering it again, it took a long time to get over the anxiety. I would compare it to a person who didn’t eat for a very long time. What happens to such a person? Their blood sugar drops, they get shaky and faint, and they may pass out. The same thing happened to me spiritually. My spiritual sugar got so low, I felt physically and mentally wasted.
The Zohar praises a woman who keeps her hair covered: “Your children shall be blessed like olive plants...” Why olive trees? An olive tree never sheds its leaves, even in winter. Therefore, the children of a woman who covers her hair will excel above others in every way, and be blessed with health, longevity, sustenance, and every blessing Above and below. As mothers, we know what it means to sacrifice ourselves for the sake and well-being of our children. We are prepared to give up so much of ourselves just to see them healthy and happy. But when it comes to our beauty, many say, “Stop right there, partner. That’s more than I bargained for.” Really? Hashem Himself is giving us a promise that our children will have the best spiritual advantages in life if we simply cover our hair, and we’re saying, “No, thank You!” It would seem to me that many women value their looks over their children’s welfare.
I told you this wasn’t going to be pretty...
Here’s another reason to cover your hair: imagine a woman walking down the street. What is the first thing everyone notices? Her hair, of course! If she has beautiful hair that looks like she just stepped out of the salon, doesn’t she draw much attention and jealousy everywhere she goes? One of the big problems with us women is that we don’t stop to think about how other men might look at us. If we could see the thoughts going on in other men’s mind- thoughts of lust and other perversions- if we could actually see what they were thinking about us, do you think we would like what we saw? Do you, a married woman, want another man having lustful thoughts about you? Would your husband be happy about that? Do you want your husband having lustful thoughts about another woman? Would you be happy about that?
Any woman who knows how a man thinks understands that men do not need a lot to fuel their imaginations. A beautiful head of hair is more than sufficient. Even if your hair is not beautiful, it is considered a private part of your body that is reserved for your husband’s eyes only. The problem is that our generation has become so desensitised to anything sensual, we can’t understand why hair should be kept private.
The Talmud states: “Do not place a stumbling block before the blind...” Ladies, if you’re walking around with your hair uncovered, I am sorry to say that you are the stumbling block. You are the one causing other men to sin, either in their minds or in their actions. I understand your initial reaction: “Why should we have to suffer because men are like animals?” Rav Arush explains very clearly that it takes two- men must do their part and guard their eyes. But women don’t have to go around like bait, enticing them to do the opposite!
Have you ever walked right past a crew of construction workers? For me, it was one of the grossest experiences ever. The way they leer at you, whistle, say things in some unintelligible slang- it’s disgusting. But you know what? Did I not provoke them with my looks and my dress? So why would I have any right to roll my eyes at them if I was the one that initiated it? You don’t hold a piece of steak in front of a dog and get mad at him for slobbering all over the floor! What’s the difference, then?
The Talmud tells the story of Kimchit, who was the mother to seven High Priests during the time of the Holy Temple. When the sages asked her what she did to merit such blessings, she simply replied, “I never let the beams of my house see my hair.” Now, dear ladies, we don’t need to jump to such extremes. The point is that we make every effort to build ourselves, our husbands, and our children up to reach our full potentials. Because when you think about it, is there anything else that is really more important?
Ladies, you are all holy and righteous inside. But that’s not where the challenge is. We need to express our holiness, our exalted spiritual status, through our actions. Sure, covering your hair will be difficult. You may feel ugly and even humiliated. But be strong- this will be a battle that is well worth winning. Imagine your joy when you see how much your children have been blessed throughout their lives because of this simple, yet difficult action. You have Rav Arush’s personal blessing: May you and your family enjoy health, longevity, sustenance, and everything your hearts desire, Amen.