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Weekly Halacha

Parshas Naso

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.

MARRIED WOMEN WITH UNCOVERED HAIR

QUESTION: A married female guest at the Shabbos table does not have her hair covered. May Kiddush be recited in her presence or not?

DISCUSSION: According to Torah law, married women must cover their hair(1) whenever they are outside their home(2). Although a woman who fails to do so forfeits her kesubah and should technically be divorced by her husband(3), 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 sin unwittingly(4).]

Since the hair must be covered, when it is not covered it is considered an ervah, an uncovered area. No male may recite Kerias Shema, pray, recite a blessing, or learn Torah when the uncovered hair is visible to him(5). 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(6). 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 a halachic problem. The previously mentioned halachah that a woman's uncovered hair is considered an ervah regarding Kerias Shema and all blessings, made it practically impossible for men to recite tefillos and blessings or to learn Torah in their own homes. A situation developed which was impossible to live with.

Because of the prevalence of the problem, the Aruch ha-Shulchan(7) ruled that in a locale where the majority of married women do not cover their hair, we can no longer consider hair an ervah. In his opinion, only in a locale where most women keep their hair covered can uncovered hair be considered an ervah. This controversial ruling was accepted by some poskim(8) and strongly rejected by others(9). Harav M. Feinstein(10) ruled that one can rely on this leniency only under extenuating circumstances.

Concerning our case in point, therefore, the following guidelines are recommended:

1. If it is possible to explain the problem to the woman in private without embarrassing her, then that would be the preferred solution.

2. If it is difficult to do so, one should avert his face from her or close his eyes before reciting Kiddush.

3. If that is difficult, one can rely on the poskim who rule that under present-day conditions, women's hair is not considered an ervah.

4. If the woman sitting at the table is not Jewish, her uncovered hair is not considered an ervah(11).

5. 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(12). The Aruch ha-Shulchan's leniency does not apply to immodest dress.

FOOTNOTES:

1 Divorced or widowed women are also required to do so, although some poskim hold that their obligation is Rabbinic; see Igros Moshe E.H. 1:57. See Machazeh Eliyahu 118-120 for a complete discussion.

2 According to the Zohar and many poskim, women should cover their hair even in the privacy of their own homes; see Mishnah Berurah 75:14 and Beiur Halachah for more details.

3 Kesuvos 72a; E.H. 115:1-4.

4 See Igros Moshe E.H. 1:114; Doveiv Meishorim 1:124; Lev Avraham 1:105 quoting the Chazon Ish.

5 O.C. 75:2. This halachah applies to one's own wife, sister, mother, etc. as well.

6 There are some communities that have allowed women to expose the small portion of hair that protrudes from beneath the head covering. See Modesty, An Adornment for Life, pg. 236-240, who explains that this custom has no basis in Halachah and should be discontinued. It must be stressed, that even those who are lenient do not allow more then a total of 2 tefachim by less than half a tefach of hair to show (a tefach is approximately 3.5 inches). See Igros Moshe E.H. 1:58 and O.C. 4:112.

7 75:7.

8 Ben Ish Chai, Parashas Bo 12; Seridei Eish 2:14; Yabia Omer 6:13.

9 Mishnah Berurah 75:10; Chazon Ish O.C. 16:8 and most other poskim.

10 Igros Moshe O.C. 1:39,42,43; O.C. 3:23,24; E.H. 1:114.

11 Igros Moshe O.C. 4:15.

12 Mishnah Berurah 75:1; Chazon Ish O.C. 16:8. Not all poskim agree that closing one's eyes is sufficient in this situation.


Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross jgross@torah.org.

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra


 


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