The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
The Kohen... shall uncover the woman's head... (5:18)
It is disgraceful for a married woman to be seen with uncovered hair. (Rashi)
MARRIED WOMEN WITH UNCOVERED HAIR
A married female guest at the Shabbos table does not have her hair covered. May Kiddush be recited in her presence or not?
According to Torah law, married women must cover their hair (1) whenever they are outside their home (2). A woman who fails to do so forfeits her Kesuba and should be divorced by her husband (3).
Since the hair must be covered, when it is not covered it is
considered an Erva, an uncovered area. No male may recite Krias
Shema, Daven, make a Bracha or learn Torah when the uncovered
hair is visible to him (4). Accordingly, if such a person happens
to be at the Shabbos table, Kiddush may not be recited.
Many theories have been postulated as to why some women--although meticulous in keeping other Mitzvos--are lax in regard
to covering their hair. Some do not cover their hair at all and
others do so partially. It must be stressed that this practice
is roundly condemned by all Poskim. There is not a single,
solitary authority who finds a leniency for married women to
have their hair uncovered (5). Indeed, in recent years there has
been a gradual improvement and many women who did not previously
cover their hair, have begun to do so.
In the last century or so, the many women who did not cover
their hair presented an Halachic problem. The previously
mentioned Halacha that a woman's uncovered hair is considered an
Erva regarding Krias Shema and all Brachos, made it practically
impossible for men to recite Tefilos and Brachos or to learn
Torah in their own homes. A situation developed which was
impossible to live with.
Because of the prevalance of the problem, the Aruch HaShulchan
(75:7) ruled that in a locale where the majority of married
women do not cover their hair, we can no longer consider hair an
Erva. In his opinion, only in a locale in which most women keep
their hair covered can uncovered hair be considered an Erva.
This controversial ruling was accepted by some Poskim (6) and
strongly rejected by others (7). Harav Moshe Feinstein (8) ruled
that one can rely on this leniency only in a She'as Ha'dchak, a
time of urgency.
Concerning our case in point, therefore, the following is the correct reaction:
If it is possible to explain the problem to the woman in private without embarrassing her, then that would be the preferred solution.
If it is difficult to do so, one should avert his face from her or close his eyes before reciting Kiddush.
If that is difficult, one can rely on the Poskim who rule that under present-day conditions, women's hair is not considered an Erva.
If the woman sitting at the table is not-Jewish, her uncovered
hair is not considered an Erva (9).
If the woman at the table is not dressed properly [according to
minimum Halachic guidelines], then, too, the man saying Kiddush
must avert his face or close his eyes (10). The Aruch
Hashulchan's leniency does not apply to immodest dress.
1 Divorced or widowed women are also required to do so--although some Poskim hold that their obligation is Rabbinic, see Igros Moshe Even Haizer 1: 57. See Machazei Eliyahu 118-120.
2 According to the Zohar and many Poskim, women should cover
their hair even in the privacy of their own homes, see Mishna
Berura 75:14 and Biur Halacha for a complete discussion.
3 Kesuvos 72:1; Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 115:1-4; Many Poskim
hold that nowadays, when many women erroneously, but sincerely,
believe that they are not required to cover their hair, the
husband is not required to divorce them since it is their
ignorance, not their disregard for the Law, which leads them to
conduct themselves so--see Igros Moshe EH 1:114; Doveiv
Meishorim 1:124; Lev Avrohom 1:105 quoting the Chazon Ish.
4 OC 75:2. This Halacha applies to one's own wife, sister,
mother etc. as well.
5 There are some communities who have allowed women to expose
the small portion of hair that protrudes from beneath the
covering. Even those who are lenient in this do not allow more
then a total of 3.5 inches of hair to show--See Igros Moshe EH
6 Ben Ish Chai Parshas Bo:12; Sridei Ish 2:14: Yavia Omer 6:13.
7 Mishna Berura 75:10; Chazon Ish OC 16:8 and most other Poskim.
8 Igros Moshe OC 1:39,42-43; OC 3:23-24; EH 114.
9 Igros Moshe OC 4:15.
10 Mishna Berura 75:1; Chazon Ish OC 16:8. Not all Poskim agree
that closing one's eyes helps in this situation.