Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Haircut

Mirror, mirror on the wall...

About twice a year it happens. I generally do not think about cutting my hair until the week before I have to go to mikvah, which means I do not cut my hair at all since we hold that one should not cut one's hair for several days prior to immersion. The end result? Months frequently go by between trimmings, my hair experiences increasing damage from being yanked into a ponytail and being shoved under various coverings until the final straw is reached: my hair is too long when I go to immerse, and I have to keep going under in an attempt to get down far enough so that my hair is below the water's surface. When that point is reached, a few hours if not a few days later, I take the scissors to my head and cut my hair into a '20s mini-bob.

B'H', my husband loves how I look in the baby bob. But that is now my pattern, and when I consider the history of my hair, I find it most amusing. I grew up with a full, thick head of loose, wavy hair. I may have been the shortest child in my class, and may have had to wear horrendous glasses since a baby, but hair- well, hair was my crowning glory if you will. It was the one part of my appearance that inevitably garnered me compliments.

When I got married, I did not find it tremendously difficult to cover my hair. I cannot really say why, since you would think that it would have been much more difficult as I was fond of my hair's appearance. Indeed, when I got divorced, I continued to cover my hair for several months, much to the horror of my family. Finally, at their insistence, I spoke to a dayan who gave me a heter to uncover my hair. Mulling over the public change in my appearance that was about to occur, I began preparing my friends and co-workers for the event. A few weeks later, I mustered up the courage and left the house with my hair uncovered and no covering in my car or in my purse.

I was quite embarrassed. I felt...undressed, and found it difficult to look people I knew in the eye at first. Finally, after one friend saw me and exclaimed "It's beautiful", I began to relax. Nobody was ready to burn me at the stake, and more importantly, nobody added to my already extreme discomfort. After a few days, I began to sink more comfortably into my uncovered hair state.

A good year or so passed, and I got engaged. One day the topic of whether or not I had to cover my hair for the chatunah arose, and since I had heard rebbeim rule both for and against, I decided to pose the shilah to my rav. There I sat at my desk when I heard the verdict: As soon as I got engaged, I should have started to cover my hair. Once again I had mull my predicament over. How was I going to get home? I did not even have a scarf to wrap around my head! I finally decided that Hashem would have to forgive me for the few blocks that stretched between my office and the dollar store, where I would purchase some shmata to do the ob until I got home.

Those few blocks that afternoon, I spotted more frum yiddin than I had seen yet in Manhattan. Relieved does not come to close to how I felt when I finally entered the dollar store and found a suitable item amongst the Ebony hair products. Upon returning home, I relegated my purchase to the "use when cleaning the house" pile, and trotted out my existing collection of hair paraphernalia.

Looking back now, I am still amused by it all. But in the end what the saga underscores is how integral my hair has become part of my spiritual being versus my physical being. And, with Hashem's help, it should never be any other way, bli ayin hara.


  1. I know many women will want to kill me, stone me, or otherwise do horrible things to me for what I am about to say.... but ... I will be brave.

    To me, Tznius is not only what you expose vs what you cover. It is a form of submissiveness. Submissiveness to Hashem.

    As a frum man, the look that I find the most attractive, is the "zoom zoom" or "buzz cut" look. Why? The fact that a women will cut her hair off, as a woman submitting herself to Hashem, obedient to Hashem, shows that she is woman enough to NOT put her wishes/needs/desires above Hashem's commandments.

    This concept, is to me, the greatest turn on for a married woman's hair. Cut it all off, and cover the head in a Tiechel or a very short, chassidish shaitel, and cover the shaitel with a hat.

    Tznius to me is not just what you show and what you cover, it is an act of obedience, a willingness to submit to Hashem.
    The man is similarly asked to cut his hair short, to not be a separation for tefillin, grow payis, wear tzitsis, wear an appropriate suit jacket, a yarmulke and hat, etc., We men are asked to show that we are submissive, always submitting ourselves to Hashem's will. When I see my rebbetzin doing this with her hair, and her dress, it means to me that she too is being submissive to Hashem, along with me. That we are both on the same journey to serve our Creator together.

    That is the "hair turn on" to me.

    When the woman looks for ways to do less, to take short cuts, to find an easier way, a way to keep her own will, to keep her hair, it appears (to me) as a flaw in her submissiveness to Hashem, a touch of willfulness that is upsetting.

    Now, of course, today's woman is programmed by all Media to NOT be submissive, but to be independent, and to have a strong sense of self. But that is not what Hashem wants. He wants BOTH of us to be submissive to Him.

    When I walk through Williamsburg, or Kiryas Yoel, and see all the women dressed this way, it makes my heart warm.

    Okay, your turn, now beat me up... (smile) [covering head with arms]

  2. Note: When I use the word “shave”, I simply mean using a haircutting machine with no comb attachments. This means a zero or one setting. It is not shaved smooth like with a razor.

    Having my hair almost shaved, NOT bald, but close to it, for the first time was a challenge, and somewhat traumatic, until I got used to it. Baruch Hashem it got easier. With time, I felt having my head almost shaved is a rite of passage, like an upsherin for a 3 year old boy. It felt like hair is for girls, not married women. So it made me feel like a true married woman when it was cut off.

    It would bother my dear beloved husband very much if I wouldn't cut my hair off or at least keep it extremely short. I would be extremely unattractive to him if I allowed my hair to get long. My dear husband is NOT repulsed by my almost- shaved head. He likes when I have a nice short haircut, almost shaved, & it makes me feel good.

    I like my teichels & make sure to always look good & “put together.” I always feel good about myself. I cut my hair so short that it’s almost shaved and am proud to do so. As a matter of fact, when it grows too long, it bothers me and I can't wait to cut if off. I consider it as extra hair. In fact, when my hair is about 5-6 weeks in length, (just before Shavuos) I start getting headaches. I am a bas melech & need to look (& act) as one. I must maintain a proper Jewish sense of decorum. I know many consider it a chumra or hiddur, but it is a beautiful one.

    The deep connection that so many of us feel with our HAIR is our physical beauty. It’s related to EGO on a deeper level, the more we remove ourselves from this superficiality, the closer we connect to Hashem. I feel a new-found Ruchnius. I feel a sense of freedom and greater connection to Torah, and am less focused on my physicality. Having my hair almost shaved, and covering my head completely, puts me in a more spiritual mind set.

    Doing this hiddur of having my hair almost shaved makes me feel the true beauty that Hashem has gifted me to do. To me, this Mitzvah is NOT in the least bit burdensome. I keep my hair almost shaved for this is my way of life. I view it as something very holy. I do this with gratitude to Hashem.

    I also remove my hair because it is a lot easier to cover a shaved head or really short hair than it is to cover a full head of hair with a sheitel. Having my hair almost shaved keeps me cooler and more comfortable in the summer.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming that this is halacha, and I am neither criticizing nor putting down people who have hair under their sheitels. Each group has its own minhagim and they should all be respected as long as no hair is shown.

    There are a great many z'chusim attached to this particular mitzvah because it is such a sacrifice. There are many stories of people being helped in having children, of having a Refuah Shleima in this zechus. I once heard of a story of a Litvish lady who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She went with her husband to the Skulaner Rebbe,ZT”L, who promised her that if she shaves her hair, she will be helped. She did it that night and when the time came for her to have surgery, lo and behold, her tumor was gone. Needless to say, all her siblings shave their hair since then.

    The Satmar Rebbe, Zechiso Yugein Uleini, also said it brings many Bruchos. I was informed that there are tremendous concepts which are brought down from the Zohar which says not a piece of one strand of hair should be visible even in one's home. The simplest way of adhering to the Zohar is cutting off one’s hair.

    For someone whose minhag it is to shave, it's a beautiful thing, and it’s truly admirable. There is beauty and uniqueness within. If it is not someone's minhag to shave, it is very important to check with your husband (and rov if necessary) before you do so. I know someone who decided she would shave and when she told her husband, he objected. They consulted with a rov and she was told not to. So before spending that emotional energy deciding if you should, first talk to your husband.