Modesty

Which is Harder to Accept upon Yourself, Keeping Shabbat or Covering your Hair?

You’d think that Shabbat is much harder… or would you?

Which is Harder to Accept upon Yourself, Keeping Shabbat or Covering your Hair?
“You must understand me. I’m a woman and this is not easy for me,” she tried hard to explain herself politely who knows how many times. “I can’t change in one day. It’s not that I don’t want to it’s just that it’s difficult for me. You started keeping Shabbat and I joined you. I kashered the kitchen and accepted family purity upon myself happily. When you wanted to move our children to a religious school I agreed though it was difficult for me. I knew it was the right thing so I did it. But covering my hair is something else altogether. I just can’t do it. You’ve got to understand! Please” she asked, but he didn’t understand.

“What’s there to understand? You keep all the mitzvoth why is this one so difficult?” The husband asked really confused. “Isn’t it much harder to accept keeping Shabbat? This is only a head covering!” He exclaimed and she smiled sadly and said “You men will never understand it”.

He saw he was getting nowhere so he asked his rabbi what he should do. The rabbi told him to go to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach of blessed memory and ask him. The man went in. The rabbi received him with fatherly love and asked “how can I help you?” The man asked his question to the venerable rabbi. “It’s about my wife. We’re already married 20 years and 8 years ago we both came to mitzvah observance and we could say that we basically keep all the mitzvoth to a high degree and we’re careful about the easy as well as the more stringent mitzvoth. We both are very observant of the mitzvoth but in one thing my wife is stubbornly lax, she doesn’t cover her hair.”

“We’ve had many conversations about it and she says that she does understand how important it is but she just can’t do it.  She says G-d will forgive for it. She says G-d doesn’t ask something from a person he cannot fulfill. In short she’s just shirking her responsibility. The truth is I wouldn’t be so adamant about it but our children learn in a Haredi religious institution and they’re embarrassed to bring classmates home, they don’t want their classmates to see her with her hair uncovered. Why is she being so stubborn?”

The rabbi took the man’s hand in his and patted him on the shoulder. He asked him: “My son, do you know how hard it is for a woman to cover her hair? You’re a man and that’s why you can’t understand. My son, you should know that covering her hair is the most difficult thing for a woman to do! For a woman her hair is an intrinsic part of her persona. How would you react if I asked you to shave off your beard with a razor right now? Would you agree?”

The man countered: “But the Torah says? She’s obligated to cover her hair?” The rabbi answered “I know. I’m gully aware that the Torah commands a woman to cover he r hair but for a woman not used to it from a very young age it is the most difficult thing in the world!” “But… rabbi…the children…” the man tried asking again. The rabbi reiterated: There’s nothing more difficult for a woman than to cover her hair.” This dialogue repeated itself a few times and the man understood he wasn’t getting an answer to his question of what to do at home. He thanked the rabbi and left.

He went home feeling frustrated. It’s no great talent to get people to observe mitzvoth and ignore them afterward. So he felt but since he had faith in the sages he chose to say nothing of the matter.

“What did the rabbi tell you, I’m curious” asked his wife sitting opposite him on the sofa. “It doesn’t matter” the man tersely answered. “Tell me anyway, you did after all go and ask about me didn’t you?” said the wife. He tried beating around the bush, “The rabbi didn’t say… he said…”  “What didn’t he say? What did he say?” she asked back when he was hesitant. “Okay, it’s like this… He said I would never understand you… that for a woman her hair is part of her persona… that there’s nothing more difficult for a woman to do than to cover her hair… he said I’m a man and will never understand it.” He concluded and sat quietly withdrawn into himself.

She sat opposite him and smiled. She patted her hair and smiled again. “Is that what the rabbi told you? That’s interesting. At least someone understands me. By the way, this rabbi you went to is he a big rabbi?” she asked. He answered: “Yes, the biggest.” He still couldn’t understand why she was smiling. He thought perhaps she was savoring her victory at his expense but decided to be quiet about it.

 The next morning he came back from synagogue and his wife was preparing him breakfast with an embroidered kerchief on her head. “Is it nice on me, isn't it? The rabbi you asked, he is one great rabbi! The greatest!”

For advice on family purity please contact the Mitchabrot department of Hidabroot at mit@htv.co.il
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