Why Married Women Cover Their Hair

August 2, 2019 | by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld

Why must married women cover their hair?

The Aish Rabbi Replies

The simplest answer, of course, is that it is a Torah commandment, and we are obligated to observe all of God’s mitzvot whether the Torah provided us with the reason or not. This obligation is based on Numbers 5:18 – which describes part of the punishment of the unfaithful wife (sotah) as that her hair is uncovered in public. See also Song of Songs 4:1 which (allegorically) praises the beauty of a woman’s hair – implying it is alluring (Talmud Brachot 24a).

However, as with all the mitzvot of the Torah, it is proper to attempt to understand the underlying reason for this in order to gain a better appreciation of it.

Before we continue, I will strengthen your question by noting that according to almost all authorities, single girls, before marriage, are not obligated to cover their hair. Thus, unlike other parts of the body which the Torah considers alluring, a woman’s hair itself is not so attractive that it is forbidden entirely. The day before a woman marries, her hair is uncovered, while the next day it may never again be exposed to others. If so, what is the obligation based on?

There are a number of suggested reasons. I will list a few of them below.

(1) Women’s hair is slightly but not extremely attractive. Thus, when a woman is married and off limits to all men, she must observe a higher level of modesty so as not to appear too attractive to others. A single girl, however, who still must find a spouse, keeps her hair uncovered so that potential suitors will be interested in her.

(2) Covering hair serves the practical purpose of communicating to others that a woman is already married and spoken for (heard from R. Mordechai Willig). By covering this most visible, external part of herself, a woman states that she is shielded from and not available to the public (seen here).

(3) When a woman marries, she has a higher position is society. The Torah obligates her to dress accordingly. Covering her hair is a sign of importance – required headgear which reflects her higher station in life (heard from R. Yitzchak Berkovits).

Although the reasons above are only suggestions, not based on specific sources, it is worth noting that according to all of them, nothing is accomplished when a woman wears a wig which is indistinguishable from her natural hair, to the point that no one can tell her hair is covered. Wearing a nice wig is fine and is no different from wearing a nice dress. (Of course, in both cases the distinction should be drawn between looking nice and being flashy.) However, it should be clear – at least to most people – that it is not the woman’s actual hair.

We have several good articles on the topic of women covering their hair. See below for a sampling.





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