To Kippah or Not to Kippah – A Meqori Question

[Note: The below is for information purposes only, as is everything on this site. The decision to act upon any of it or not is the personal decision of the reader and any details regarding the observance of any halakhah – especially those laws which are intricate, complicated, and/or severe – should be discussed with a competent rav.]

While learning with my son through the Qissur Shulhan Arukh – Hazon Ovadyah, we came upon a curious passage regarding the [supposed] modern meaning of kippoth. Now, to be sure, we do not learn the Qissur Shulhan Arukh as halakhah le-ma’aseh, but primarily as a guide for discussing halakhah, as some of the time what it puts forth as law is actually latter-day custom and ritual which one may either take or leave. However, since Hakham Ovadyah Yosef z”l was overwhelmingly driven by the sources and by iqqar diyn in his halakhic approach, this particular edition usually does a fine job of spelling out the basics.

In the section of Orah Hayyim, Hilkhoth Hanhaghath Adham Ba-Boqer (siman alef – siman zaan), I encountered the following statement:

TEXT

גילוי הראש לאנשים אינו אסור מן הדין ואין בזה משום בחוקותיהם לא תלכו אלא מידת חסידות היא לכסות את ראשו אולם בזמנינו שהחופשיים הולכים ברשות הרבים בגילוי הראש אדם שהוא דתי עליו להזהר במשנה זהירות לכסות ראשו תמיד שיש בזה יותר ממידת חסידות כי הכיפה שעל ראשו היא לסמל ולמופת שמעידה עליו שהוא דתי

TRANSLATION

“Bareheadedness (giluy ha-rosh) for men is not halakhically prohibited, and there is no relationship between not covering one’s head and the Torah prohibition of ‘you shall not walk in their statutes’ (cf. Wayyiqra 18:3). Rather, it is noted [in the sources] as a practice of the exceptionally pious (middath hasiydhuth). However, in our times where secular people walk around in public bareheaded, it is incumbent upon a religious man to be careful in following the advice of the Mishnah that advises one to cover their head always because there is something more in covering the head than just an exceptionally pious practice, for the kippah upon his head is a symbol and a sign that testifies concerning him that he is [properly] religious…”

Upon reading this, my son and I were both struck with the vast assumption that the final line was making and how, for the most part, it was simply untrue. The kippoth on many people we have encountered in the religious Jewish world are simply not a “symbol and a sign” that they were religious. It seems that in many cases the kippah on the heads of “frum” Jews “testifies” about them, but this testimony is nothing more than `eduth sheqer. With so much blatant dissonance between perceived values and the significance attached to kippoth, I think it is an important question to ask what actual purpose they serve.

In our times, far from being an assurance of actual piety, the kippah has become little more than a sectarian I.D. badge. And I would further contend that, because the Haredi-Hasidic world has decided to focus so much on external modes of dress while allowing spiritual and moral bankruptcy among many of their members, the kippah has essentially become meaningless as an indication of yirath shamayim and instead serves in most cases to project false piety. So it behooves us, in my opinion, to ask the fundamental questions of who, when, where, why, and how Jewish men are supposed to cover their heads after it has been clarified whether Jewish men are even required to cover their heads at all. And, as with most halakhic discussions on this site, we will begin with the statements of Hazal.

Passages from the Gemara

keffiyeh-sudar

A Jordanian Arab wearing a keffiyeh, a garment essentially identical to the sudra/sudar mentioned in the Gemara.

Masekheth Berakhoth 60b – Gives the nosah for the berakhah of “spreading one’s sudar upon his head” as “oter yisra’el be-thif’arah – who crowns each Jew with beauty.” The nosah found in the siddur of Rav Saadyah Gaon, however, is “‘otef yisra’el be-thif’arah – who wraps each Jew with beauty” and he instructs that the berakhah should be said upon donning a [main; outer] garment that is exempt from ssissiyoth (Siddur Rasag, p.89). A sudar that is not too large may be such a garment (cf. Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhoth Ssiyssiyth 3:1). Giving the text of a blessing without an explicit directive to wear a particular garment carries with it the strong implication of “if” a person chooses to wear such a garment, then they must pronounce the appropriate blessing, but if they choose not to, then they [obviously] do not need to do so. However, there is nothing in this Gemara that would suggest that it is required for Jewish men to wear a head covering.

Masekheth Shabbath 118b – Among various hakhamiym stating why they felt that they merited to greater spiritual reward(s), Rav Huna is recorded as saying that his reward will be due to the fact that in his life he never walked even the distance of four cubits with a bare head (giluy ha-rosh). This, too, does not mandate that Jewish men cover their head, and it shows that Rav Huna’s practice was a matter of personal piety, not a universal law.

Masekheth Shabbath 156b – Perhaps the central reference to covering the head within the talmudhiym, in this passage astrologers are said to have informed the mother of Rav Nahman bar Yisshaq that he is destined to become a thief. Because of this his mother famously told him, “Cover your head so that the fear of Heaven will be upon you, and request [Divine] mercy.” The Gemara says that Rav Nahman was unaware of the reason for her instructions (apparently she did not tell him about the astrologers) and that one day while sitting bareheaded under a fig tree belonging to someone else he was so overcome by temptation that he climbed the tree and began eating a cluster of figs using just his mouth. This passage does not address the covering of the head being required, in fact it indicates again that most Jewish men did not cover their heads. However, doing so – when coupled with prayer – can be a tool for personal development and mussar.

Masekheth Qiddushiyn 29b – Rav Hisda is praising the person of Rav Hamnuna, his friend, to Rav Huna. Rav Huna says that when Rav Hamnuna visits he would like to meet him. Upon his arrival, Rav Huna noticed that Rav Hamnuna did not wear a sudar and when he asked him why he didn’t cover his head, Rav Hamnuna responded that the reason was because he was not yet married. Rav Huna is then said to have turned away from him, telling him not to appear before him again until he was married. This Gemara indicates two things: [1] that in some parts of the Jewish world in the times of the Amora’iym men did not cover their heads at all until they were married and [2] that appearing before hakhamiym with an uncovered head was considered disrespectful in the opinion of some, but not all.

Masekheth Qiddushiyn 31a – As mentioned in Masekheth Shabbath, Rav Huna, the son of Rav Yehoshua, is said to have not walked even the distance of four cubits because he stated that he believed that the Shekhinah (the “presence” of God; a created light sometimes accompanied by other physical phenomena to indicate holiness and/or blessing – NOT a manifestation of the Divine itself) resided just above his head and he wanted to be reverent. Again, no directive for all Jewish men to cover their heads.

There are other instances in the talmudh where kisuy ha-rosh (“covering of the head”) is mentioned in passing, but these are the main ones that are generally referenced by the literature. And, as is clearly seen, no universal directive for Jewish men to cover their heads exists as a matter of law.

The Opinion of the Rambam

The Rambam essentially codifies the sentiments expressed in the above sections of Gemara and relates them to the practices of the talmidhey ha-hakhamiym in which they engage due to their exalted status in Jewish society (cf. Hilkhoth De’oth 5:10[6]). In the Moreh HaNavokhiym (III:52), he relates similarly to covering the head, again calling it the practice of Torah scholars, but also noting that – metaphysically – it is a recognition that the Shekhinah hovers just above the head of a person. His reference there is specifically to the spiritually elite who are on a high level of personal piety.

There is one place in the Mishneh Torah where the Rambam requires that the head be covered – during tefiyllah and especially as shaliyah ssibbur (cf. Hilkhoth Tefiyllah 5:5). This requirement is based on the explicit directive in this regard in the minor tractate Masekheth Soferiym (14:15). However, the Rambam is not referring to a kippah, but rather the covering of one’s head with a talliyth gadhol.

The opinion expressed by the Rambam is generally considered as normative across the board, encompassing the views of both Ashkenazi and Sefaradi rishoniym.

The Opinion of the Taz

The Turey Zahav (pop. “Taz” – Rabbi David HaLevi Segal, c. 1586-1667) was a Polish rabbi whose commentary on the Shulhan `Arukh by the same name is one of the central works reprinted since the 17th Century. Segal was likely an admirer and believer in the false messiah, Shabbetai Tzvi (yimah shemo wa-zikhro), although he passed away before the entirety of his pseudo-messianic charade came to light.

In his comments on Orah Hayyim 8:3, the Taz states that it is forbidden halakhically to uncover one’s head – even for a moment. His reasoning is that being bareheaded is, in his view, an explicit practice of the non-Jewish nations and their cultures, being therefore a violation of Wayyiqra 18:3, which says, “be-huqqotheyhem lo telekhu – in their statues you shall not walk.” Although Rav Mosheh Feinstein z”l rules based on the strict opinion of the Taz that one should do their best to keep their head covered whenever possible (cf. Iggeroth Mosheh, Orah Hayyim 1:1), most authorities – including Rav Feinstein himself – reject the position of the Taz and instead maintain that wearing a kippah is a matter of custom, not law, and that covering the head in general is a middath hasiydhuth for men and is not a halakhic requirement.

The Coup de Gr”a

Perhaps the most famous opinion on the matter is that expressed by the Gaon of Vilna (pop. “Gra” – Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, 1720-1797). After examining all of the aforementioned passages and opinions, the Gr”a states emphatically that there is never a halakhic requirement for any Jewish man to cover his head, even while praying. His conclusion (as found in Biur HaGr”a, Orah Hayyim 8:6) is as follows:

TEXT

Biur HaGra OH 8-6 A

Biur HaGra OH 8-6 B

TRANSLATION

“The fundamental principle of the matter is that there is not a prohibition at all to have an uncovered at any time. Only in front of great Torah scholars and also during prayer is it the astute thing to do from the standpoint of proper character development (mussar). And the rest of the day [i.e. outside of prayer and standing before Torah scholars] is only for those holy ones who stand continually before HaShem.”

The last line is meant as a reference to those who, of their own personal piety, decide to cover their heads continually in imitation of those hakhamiym of the Gemara who were said to have done likewise. But the reiteration of the sources by the Gr”a, and his exposition of them, is generally taken as iqqar ha-diyn, as was initially stated above by Qissur Shulhan Arukh of Hakham Ovadyah Yosef z”l.

What to do?

Let me be perfectly clear: I am NOT suggesting that anyone change their current practice. I am not on a campaign to have anyone remove their kippah. However, what I am certainly suggesting is that we see kippoth for what they are – a Jewish custom that is both expedient and astute in certain religious and social contexts, but also possessing the potential (under the current general mindset) to deceive. Therefore, kippoth are not “meaningless” as a symbol of Jewish identity in and of themselves, but they are “meaningless” as a tool for one Jew judging another.

I was once learning with a close friend of mine – who softly identifies as “Haredi” – and in the course of our discussion, the subject of wearing a kippah came up. My friend related that his rav, a prominent Haredi-Hasidic rabbi under whom he learned in yeshivah for years, once stated emphatically that if a Jew does not wear a kippah in public, then he may be assumed to be a qal (“a lightweight,” i.e. someone who is lax in their observance of the Torah and halakhah; in other words, such a person cannot be trusted with kashruth or other religious duties). I was taken aback. “Just like that?” I said, “Without any halakhic basis or personal knowledge of the individual?!” My friend almost immediately realized how harsh and potentially damaging a statement that was and started to try and find a justification for it. I told him that his rav had no right to classify good Jews as sinners without sound halakhic basis for doing so. I further told him that if his rav truly upheld such a position, then ironically it was he himself that was the “qal.” To treat someone as a sinner when they are not – or for a contrived reason not based in halakhah – is the classic definition of siynath hiynam, or “baseless hatred.”

There is a fear, I think, that if rabbis assert the actual laws regarding kippoth and headcovering in general that people will become even more assimilated into non-Jewish culture and eventually leave Judaism as a result. I have seen many great rabbaniym, including Rav Ratson Arussi shlit”a, assert that today “it is different” and that we are now obligated by popular [Haredi-Hasidic] custom to cover our heads, especially when making a berakhah or mention a Divine Name, even though no such halakhic obligation exists. But this begs the question that if not wearing a kippah was somehow some sort of a fast track into apostasy, why didn’t either Hazal, the Geoniym, or the Rishoniym address it? With all of the persecutions and the outright practices of idolatry by the non-Jewish nations around them which historically led to assimilation and apostasy among Jews, yet never was there a decree by Hazal made that Jewish men need to cover their heads in order to solve the problem. And if they did not see it as a solution, then why should we?

The fear is that as secularism encroaches daily upon our faith and our morality, we need every bit of sanctity and personal piety that we can get as religious Jews. Ergo, so this line of thinking goes, giving orthodox Jews the room to choose whether they will wear a kippah or not puts us in danger of losing spiritual ground.  We must make a para-halakhic decree and force everyone to abide by it! In my humble view this is a mistaken philosophy. Not mistaken as in a misunderstanding of the sources, has wa-shalom, but rather a misunderstanding of social reality. As noted above, the orthodox world has unfortunately developed into a situation where dress, not (or, at least more than) deeds or manners, dictate one’s level of devotion to Judaism, and where the presence of a kippah – or lack thereof – can determine how someone will be treated and how their family will be treated. Even the mere color or style of a kippah leads others to make grotesque personal judgments – all completely divorced from an actual examination of moral character. Le-`aniyuth da’ati, it would serve the spirituality and moral atmosphere of Kelal Yisra’el if such empty, external, and ultimately baseless ways of relating to fellow Jews were discouraged, not reinforced. Not placing so much ill-founded emphasis on the wearing of a kippah would eventually force orthodox Jews to relate to actually relate to the person and not their choice of hat.

A Possible Way Forward?

I think that if a significant number of orthodox Jews returned to the practice of carrying a kippah with them to wear at times of prayer, religious ceremonies, or for showing respect to prominent Torah scholars – while all other times being without one – it would eventually cause the Jewish world to be forced to redefine their values. A person who is meticulously shomer shabbath, is careful with kashruth, and in all other ways follows halakhah, yet does not usually wear a kippah while in public might be a moral force to be reckoned with. Perhaps.

So, “to kippah or not to kippah?” is a meqori question – with an answer that definitely comes out on the side of not needing to wear one, but the social impact such a decision makes is potentially complicated and someone who chooses to take that option should think carefully about this.

More later,

Kol tuv,

YB

10 thoughts on “To Kippah or Not to Kippah – A Meqori Question

  1. You wrote that the Rambam (Hilkhoth Tefiyllah 5:5) is not referring to a kippah, but rather the covering of one’s head with a talliyth gadhol. I think a more simple reading would be that he’s referring to anything that covers one’s head, not a specific covering.

    You explained that you think the assertion of today being “different” is due to a fear that not wearing a kippah is a fast track into apostasy. In my humble opinion, it’s not so much (if at all) due to that fear but rather because, in the words of HaRav Yosef Qafih z”l, כל דבר שנתקבל על “הרבים כזלזול ואפקירותא”… דבימינו שנתקבל גילוי הראש כפריקת עול וכו’ ע”ש (Hilkoth T’fillah 5:5 note 15). As such, the reason “why didn’t either Hazal, the Geoniym, or the Rishoniym address it” is because it was not seen by the masses as זלזול ואפקירותא or פריקת עול in their times.

    As to your hope that the Jewish world redefine their values, הלואי that would happen. Personally, I’m hoping our messiah comes before that distant future. It’s pretty bad when that seems about as likely to happen as it does for respect to be accorded to single women covering their hair as required by Talmudic halakhah and codified by Maimonides (Issurei Biah 21:17). On second thought, that’s probably not a great example, but you get the idea.

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    • לק”י

      Shalom, Talmidh.

      Thank you for your valuable comments. I will answer them in the order that you have written them.

      [1] You are correct that Hilkhoth Tefiyllah 5:5 does not necessitate any particular covering per se, and that it could be fulfilled with a hat, etc. and not necessarily a talliyth gadhol. However, in historical context, the Rambam was likely referring to a talliyth since it was worn by all males in earlier times, not just married adult men, including young boys who attended prayers with their fathers and unmarried men. Further, in the Mishneh Torah itself it states that during prayer it is especially important to be wrapped in a talliyth (cf. Hilkhoth Ssiyssiyth 3:12), which would cover the head.

      [2] I don’t buy this explanation. With all due respect to kevodho ha-rav Qafih z”l, this principle applied as it is would have ruled out his own ability to follow the pesiqah of the Rambam over that of the Shulhan Arukh. It also would not have allowed Rav Qafih to question the veracity and scope of the Zohar literature. He and his students being branded as heretics and apiqorsiym during his lifetime bears out this fact. And today, many baseless things are considered “casting off the yoke” of Torah by the masses which are completely permitted by halakhah, such as: the eating of qitniyoth during Pesah, eating perfectly kosher food without a hekhsher, using electricity on Yom Tov, not wearing a sheitel, working for a living etc. Should we then dismiss the Rambam, embrace the Zohar, and begin to villainize properly religious orthodox Jews because “the masses” dictate this type of behavior to us? I don’t think so. As Rav Arussi shlit”a is fond of saying אין למדים דינים מהמון העם אלא מתלמידי חכמים – “We do not learn halakhic rulings from the masses, but rather from Torah scholars.”

      [3] I do indeed get the idea, but I it is my view that women’s headcoverings should simply no longer be on our radar as meqori’im. Young girls, unmarried women, even married women, do not need to cover their heads according to halakhah in our times. It may not be how the Rambam understood the issue, but others do. The hardcore “Rambamist” elements who hope with all of their hearts to see Jewish women and young girls in hijaab only serve to undermine religious productivity, in my opinion. The fact is that many of the problems in orthodox Judaism today stem from men not properly conducting themselves as men, leaving women feeling uncared for and shouldering much of the practical and religious burden. Before orthodox men work to change women, they need to first work to change themselves.

      All the best,

      YB

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    • לק”י

      Shalom, Hawa.

      Thank you for your comment.

      I would be happy to elaborate on the last comment, however I am not sure what you are referring to exactly. Is it the statement I made about headcoverings for women not being halakhically necessary in my opinion, or is it the comment that men should quit worrying so much about women and work on themselves.

      Further, I detect a bit of possible frustration in your suggestion that my wife respond to your question. I hope that I am mistaken. My wife is modest, proper, and wears a scarf, bandana, or hat on her hair when out side of the house (she does not cover her hair while inside our home, not even at meals) because she desires to do so, not because I force her or even desire her to do so.

      Please let me know what you would like me to discuss and I would be more than happy to oblige.

      Looking forward,

      Kol tuv,

      YB

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  2. Dear Yehudah,

    Thank you for your request for clarification.

    I just want to know what the halakha actually is. I know that there is a passage in the book of Sota; but is there anything else?

    I also wear many kinds of head coverings, except a wig (except for Purim, when it is worn as part of a costume) and, so far, cover all my hair (except in the house, where my husband encourages me to show it and only when we’re alone. For company of either gender I cover.). I see some young married women covering their hair except a ponytail in the back, or leaving their hair down with a bandana. I think it’s cute. But I cannot allow myself such things because I consider myself under judgment, or at least severe observation, from HaShem on this issue since I had cancer and lost my hair as part of the treatment over a decade ago. And I’m not so young either.

    My questions are many and I might have to take up a blog post with them. But I don’t like to get so personal on my own blog.

    I asked whether your wife would comment because I think I would feel more comfortable if at least part of the answer came from a woman. Some things are like that. I would take it from you as well and anything she would add would be welcome.

    I do agree that men should work on themselves and our teachers shouldn’t give excuses why they can’t – it’s not really because we’re more spiritual, but because they can’t control themselves – but that wasn’t my focus. I also agree that we shouldn’t flaunt at them and make it worse for them!

    Many thanks.

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    • לק”י

      Shalom, Hawa.

      Thank you so much for your willingness to clarify and I appreciate your candor on such an important topic. Important, I think, not because of concerns related to ssani`uth (modesty), but because many women are misled by other women with regard to the issue of covering their hair, and many also suffer at the heavy-handed manner of the Haredi-Hasidic world and its leadership on this issue.

      I will respond to your questions and comments in the order that you wrote them, but first I would like to share a story from my personal experience. My wife has never worn a sheitel, as both she and I believe that wigs do not fulfill the directive to cover the hair found in the Talmudic ruling, but she did used to wear scarf wraps or hats over the entirety of her hair at all times, except when in bed or in the shower. About four years ago, she confided in me that she had begun losing a lot of hair and that several of her friends that covered their hair constantly (with wigs, turbans, or otherwise) had gone almost completely bald. She was depressed and afraid that this would happen to her. I immediately got on the phone with one of my rabbaniym, explained the situation, and received the answer that my wife should stop covering her hair while in the house and in private, should only wearing a minimal head covering while outside of the house, and should allow her head and hair to “breathe.” I then took it upon myself to purchase restorative and strengthening hair products and supplements (e.g. biotin supplements, special paraben-free shampoos and conditioners, etc.). Barukh HaShem yithborakh, her hair became strong again, it grew back, and stopped thinning – all within three or four months. We are both very grateful and she feels much better about herself.

      But I did not stop there. I undertook a massive project to learn all of the primary sources connected to this issue, beginning with Hazal and moving through the Geoniym and Rishoniym, and then into the modern poseqiym. What I discovered is that there are a wide variety of views on this halakhic issue, ranging from fairly simple and straightforward to incredibly complex – even to point of splitting semantic and linguistic hairs. What I also found is that the obligation is inextricably linked to the broader culture and sentiments of modesty related to the hair in each era. I further found that while in Middle Eastern and North African communities it was assumed, because of the wider cultural sentiments in those areas, that women would wear head and neck scarves (and even sometimes face scarves), in many Western communities it was completely normal for women to not cover their hair at all. In fact, this was the case in America up until a few decades ago. Even the wives of prominent rabbis and roshey yeshivah did not cover their hair at all. Those few women who did were mainly Hasidic. The current practice of covering – and also using sheitels to do so – is due to the efforts of Chabad and the Haredi-Hasidic world in general. The post-Talmudic sources are also difficult because they tend to co-opt the rulings of earlier rabbaniym and simply add strictures on top of them. In the end, it became clear to me that there was in our times no longer any real obligation (halakhically) for women to cover their hair at all. And this opinion is shared by several commentators and poseqiym.

      I also found that it was common, even in places where Jewish women historically covered their hair, that they would not cover it completely. The practice was to allow some hair to show “for beautification” and women would use non-opaque cloths and materials to cover their heads. The current obsession with covering every hair under threat of [supposed] Divine judgment comes directly from the Zohar, “kabbalah,” coupled with a wide mis-use of a particular passage of the Gemara in Masekheth Yoma.

      Now, to your specific comments/questions:

      [1] Yes, there is much more written on the subject than the one passage in Sotah. No, there is nothing else on which the directive stands Biblically. It is one of those areas halakhah referred to in the Mishnah as כהררים תלויים בשערה מקרא מועט והלכות מרובות “As mountains suspended by a hair – minimal Scriptural mention, but a great many halakhoth.” (cf. m.Haghiyghah 1:8)

      [2] What you and your husband choose to do is, of course, between you and him. However, it is perfectly acceptable to wear either a bandana with your hair down or a baseball cap with a ponytail out the back. And as far as covering indoors, the only time it would make sense to do so is in front of men who are not directly related to you beside your husband. Covering in the house in front of women is simply not required. As for the idea that you are under judgment or close observation by God because you are a cancer survivor, I would encourage you to dispense with that notion. I simply do not believe that God looks for opportunities to hurt people, capriciously giving them cancer or other ailments and then holding their blessings of healing and recovery perpetually over their heads. I have a son with a birth defect that disables him physically. We have had this talk many times, and he has heard the most inane and stupid explanations for his disability and health issues. He has been told that he is a reincarnation of a wicked person, a reincarnation of a righteous person, that his “neshamah” needs a “tikkun,” and that he was especially chosen to have his disability – all of which both he and I roundly reject. They are all nonsense answers. The Rambam in the Moreh HaNavokhiym explicitly says that the idea that disabilities are really blessings in disguise or are actually good and positive for the person afflicted with them is absurd. My son and I agree. So, what is the answer? That he lives in a world where this happens and he is not the only person to deal with pain, sickness, and tragedy. Count your blessings and be strong – this is what we are able to do and it is what God asks us to do in this world. The idea that God is up in Heaven handing out diseases as punishments to “ordinary citizens” is also rejected by the Rambam and others. Yes, God has afflicted people with diseases in the Biblical era – and He may well still be doing so – but you have to be quite the evil person who is central in the worldwide struggle between good and evil to rank among those who are personally and specifically targeted by God. Even without knowing much about you, I am fairly sure that you are not on that short list. Cancers, like birth defects, happen in our imperfect world. Most likely what causes them is either human ignorance or accident – not individual ignorance necessarily, but corporate ignorance among humanity as a whole. With the chemicals and food processing and pollutants that we subject our populations to on a daily basis in the developed world, we know from our own data that there is a small percentage chance that illness and disease will result. So, the next time you hear about X amount of children, or X amount of adults, or X amount of women, etc. with cancer or diseases, realize that even a few hundred thousand is just a small percentage when compared to the entire population. So, why do people get cancer and why are they born with birth defects? Or, for that matter, why are there car accidents? Plane crashes? Or shootings? Because these are the statistics produced by how we live in this world. It is the outcome of human behavior in aggregate over time. That’s all. God is not handing out diseases – as the Gemara says, since the creation of the world “`olam ke-minhagho nohegh – the world continues to operate on its natural course.” What should our response be? To take personal responsibility as humans and as Jews for the state of the the world and work hard to improve and repair it. Some of these tragedies and unfortunate occurrences can be remedied or prevented, while others cannot. But we do our best. Be-ezrath HaShem.

      [3] Ask as much as you would like and I will do my best to assist you in obtaining answers.

      [4] I understand completely, but I am doubtful that my wife would write anything for the site. She is a fairly private person.

      [5] I agree in principle, but men need to quit harrying women about modesty and start the process of repairing the trust and the damage done to Jewish women and the Jewish family by all but vacating their posts.

      You are, of course, very welcome.

      Kol tuv,

      YB

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    • לק”י

      Shalom, Talmidh.

      Thank you for the link.

      I have read these sentiments from Rav Ratson shlit”a before. Basically, he holds that there is a requirement min ha-diyn for all women and girls above a certain age to cover their hair while in public, not just for married women. However, he also acknowledges that doing so is difficult for a variety of reasons, including a young girl who would be made to do so getting myriads of questions from her young peers and being made to feel very uncomfortable socially.

      With incredible personal respect for kevodho ha-rav Arusi shlit”a, I simply do not see the utility of his position. From the standpoint of the legal tradition once active in Yemen, I completely understand, but from a modern halakhic standpoint I do not see why it makes sense – especially when there were early opinions based on the Gemara that did not require unmarried women and girls (rewaqoth) to cover their hair in public – to hold the position of “we should, but we can’t because it is too complicated.” If it were a misswah de-oraytha that had fallen into disuse because of extenuating circumstances and realities (e.g. laws of the beth ha-miqdash, et al), then I could see such a position being useful to inspire us to rebuild, but it would seem that this is more akin to the Amish saying that although we really should be traveling in horse-drawn carriages, it’s just too complex in the modern world so we compromise and drive cars. Covering the hair is more related to convention than law, and there is even room to interpret the Rambam as relating to these halakhoth on that basis as well.

      More later,

      Kol tuv,

      YB

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  3. I look forward to the post on hair covering.
    By the way, Yesha’ayahu Leibovitz would say he covers his head in spite of no obligation to do so, so as to ‘belong’ to the mitzvah observant.

    Like

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