Understanding tzniut and women in the Jewish community
When women dress modestly in a skirt or a dress according to the rules of Tzniut, it automatically effects a change inside of them. The clothes that we wear strongly influence the way in which we behave. For example, a person who generally dresses casually will dress more formally for a professional meeting and by doing so will automatically adapt their speech and behaviour to the setting they find themselves in. Similarly, even Jewish men are aware that when they wear a kippah on their heads they are considered to be representatives of G-d and, therefore, that they must be careful not to make mistakes. Dressing as modest Jewish women reminds us to act as such and to carry out our role.
ABOUT THE MITZVAH OF HAIR COVERING
- Regarding the woman suspected of infidelity (sota), it is written in the Torah that her hair should be uncovered as a punishment. Rashi learns from this that it is shameful for a daughter of Israel to have her hair uncovered.
- The Mishna in Ketubot (p72) writes: “The woman must respect Daat Moshe and Daat Yehudit. Daat Moshe are the laws that are deorayta (from the Torah) and Dat Yehudit are the laws that are derabanan (decreed by the rabbis) or minhagim (customs). Daat Moshe, for example, includes taking tithes of Terumot, Maserot and Challah, as well as keeping the laws of niddah… Daat Yehudit includes not speaking to men in the market or showing an uncovered head.”
The Gemara asks: what does it mean by an uncovered head here? This isn’t Daat Yehudit, this is Daat Moshe- Deorayta. We learn from the sota that a married woman must cover her hair according to the Torah! The Gemara responds: here we are speaking about a woman who had only covered her hair with a kalta (a type of cap that covers the majority of the hair according to Rashi; a simple scarf which is tied close to the hair and on which the real headgear is placed [Maimonides, Shulchan Aruch]). In this case, if the woman goes out into the street, she is only transgressing a rabbinic prohibition.
Rashi, Tossefot and the Ran understand from this Gemara that there is no obligation for a woman to cover her hair at home, not even with a kalta, if only other members of the household will see her. The proof of this is that the Gemara states: “so perhaps at home a kalta is sufficient? At home? Won’t you leave the daughters of Avraham Avinu in peace!” The simple meaning of these words gives the impression that even the kalta is unnecessary.
The Gemara in Ketubot specifies that whereas the halacha only requires a woman to cover the top of her head, Jewish women have taken it upon themselves to be stricter and to cover their heads entirely.
3. The main reason for this is undoubtedly Tzniut, since hair is considered to be attractive. Therefore, a woman of Israel should cover it just as she covers the other parts of her body. In addition, covering the hair indicates that she is married and, consequently, should be respected as such. Furthermore, for the woman herself, hair covering causes her to become aware of the importance of the values of modesty. Her beauty is visible, yet inaccessible.