Teshuvah of Rav Yosef Messas z”l on Women Covering Their Hair

When it comes to the discussion of whether or not women are required by halakhah to cover their hair in public, there is perhaps no teshuvah (halakhic responsum) more referenced or discussed than that of Rav Yosef Messas z”l (1892-1974), who served as a rav in Morocco, Algeria, and Israel (Haifa). The reason for this is that he presents a cogent and cohesive argument on the basis of the Mishnah, Gemara, and the works of several rishoniym that Jewish women today are not halakhically required to cover their hair.

Its Hebrew text has been transcribed on a host websites and forums, but the content has been largely inaccessible to most due to both language and learning barriers. Written in a thoroughly rabbinic style and containing text in both Hebrew and Aramaic, this brilliantly written letter in its original form is a challenging text even for those who are able to read and understand Hebrew. But now, for the first time ever, the entire teshuvah has been translated beautifully into English, complete with supplementary and explanatory footnotes. This expansive translation is extremely readable and easy to understand with all Biblical, Talmudic, and halakhic references noted.

The PDF is available for download HERE

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5 thoughts on “Teshuvah of Rav Yosef Messas z”l on Women Covering Their Hair

    • לק”י

      Shalom, Gabriel.

      Thanks for your comment.

      It’s interesting that you bring up this word from the teshuvah of Rav Messas z”l. I am fully-aware that its most obvious meaning is “hypocrisy,” but I am unsure how such a translation would fit in context. I struggled over the meaning of צביעות here, but ultimately decided that Rav Messas must have intended it in one of its secondary definitions, such as “painting” or “coloring,” which I then understood to mean “decoration.” This is the best sense I could make of it in context since he is contrast צביעות with צניעות, and modesty generally indicates a state of being withdrawn and not drawing attention to oneself. Besides, earlier on in his letter, he makes the statement that hairstyles are not shameful but are actually what makes a woman “beautiful” and proceeds to use four different words in Hebrew for physical beauty. It seems that he was re-emphasizing that idea again here with a clever wordplay.

      If you or anyone is able to suggest a cogent meaning here based on the translation “hypocrisy,” I am certainly open to it. In fact, it would be welcome as I much prefer translations that are more clear than strained.

      All the best,

      Kol tuv,

      YB

      Like

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