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What is the Halacha with a divorced woman and hair covering?

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I am in the middle of a divorce and was wondering what the Halacha is in terms of divorced women covering their hair. I don't plan on not covering my hair after the divorce and I have heard opinions on both sides, but I would appreciate the Halacha. Thank you.


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4 answers!

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With reference to the question if divorced women are required to cover their hair, I’m happy to note that you’re savvy enough to differentiate between “opinions” and Halacha. You are absolutely correct about this, because Halacha is based on a strict legal process, and isn’t based on opinion polls.

The Halacha in this case appears to be that divorced women ARE required to cover their hair.

The source for this can be found in Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha’ezer 21:2) [See the comments of the Beis Shmuel (ad loc. 5), Chelkas Mechokek (ad loc. 2), and Daggul Mervavah (ad loc.). Also see Perisha (ad loc. 3) and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 4].

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein also ruled this way. However he made lenient exceptions in two separate situations:

The first was the case of a widow, who needed to support herself and her children. The only job that she was able to find that paid the level of salary that she required, was a secretarial job. The problem was that the boss demanded that she come to work with her hair uncovered. Rabbi Feinstein ruled that she was permitted to take the job under the boss’s terms [Iggros Moshe, EH I: 57].

[Rabbi Feinstein notes (ibid.) that this leniency can only be applied to the case of a widow, who isn’t married currently married (Eishes Ish). However if the woman was currently married (Eishes Ish), we would need to rule stringently, even at the expense of losing such a job].

The second case where Rabbi Feinstein ruled leniently was posed to him as a hypothetical question, regarding an imaginary divorcee who desired to remarry. While the woman planned to eventually reveal the fact of her previous marriage to any potential husband, she felt, however, that this information should only be shared later; after meeting the person, and giving him a chance to get to know her and her qualities. Premature disclosure about her previous marital status, would seriously impact her potential for remarriage, and she wouldn’t stand a chance in the dating process. Rabbi Feinstein validated such a type of concern, and ruled (in theory) that the potentially negative impact on remarriage would be sufficient grounds to permit her to uncover her hair [Iggros Moshe, EH IV, 32:4].

It’s important to note, that despite his liberal dispensation, Rabbi Feinstein nevertheless qualified his ruling, and stated that this shouldn’t be misconstrued as a blanket dispensation for the hypothetical divorcee to always walk around with her hair uncovered. The exception was only applicable, he said, if and when, covering her hair would negatively impact her matrimonial prospects. Otherwise, she must cover her hair.

[I add, that logic would dictate, that Rabbi Feinstein’s qualification would also assumedly apply to his other ruling regarding the widow, in that she would only be allowed to uncover her hair if doing so would endanger her job].

For further discussion, see Shut Lev Avrohom (#107) and Shut Machzeh Eliyahu (#119) who dispute Rabbi Feinstein’s leniency. See also “Halichos Bas Yisrael”, by Rabbi Y. Y. Fuchs (Chap. 5, note 8) who records a personal written communication from Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, that preferably one should not rely on this leniency if they have other options available; for example, wearing a wig. He also records a ruling that he heard from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, that divorcees are required to cover their hair. If they find this difficult, they should at least wear a wig.

For Sephardic readers: Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer IV, EH:3) posits that ALL women must cover their hair, regardless if they are currently married or not. He also takes a strict stance, and opposes wearing “shaitels” (wigs) in public. He deplores the recent trend of Sephardic women who have adopted this “flawed custom” (“mekalkalta”) from their Ashkenazic counterparts who conduct themselves “lightheadedly” (“kalut rosh”) in this matter. Nevertheless, with reference to widows or divorcees, he rules that one may be lenient, and that they are PERMITTED to wear a WIG!


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    Thank you. I appreciate the detailed answer. - ChangingStatusJul 01  '15 at 11:05
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I am not able to find the answer to this question. It says one answer but I keep getting the "personal" message. Can you help?


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Thank you for your message.

No one gets married with a plan to get divorced, but unfortunately it is sometimes necessary. I got my first sign that something was wrong in the yichud room! I subsequently found out that there is a lot of pathology there and after years of verbal and emotional abuse and a few indiscretions with other women, my husband "met" someone on Facebook and wanted out. As hurtful as that was, it was my ticket out and I'm grateful. I went for individual therapy and feel like a new person. What's amazing is how many people are not surprised when we tell them, including my husband's parents and siblings.

As painful as amputation is, dragging a diseased limb around can be worse and can end up infecting more than just the limb...

I appreciate the advice and the offer to be of help.

Good Shabbos.


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Not knowing any background facts about your particular case, I’m sorry to hear about your impending change of status.

My message to couples encountering marital strife has always been that if marriage represents the fusion of man and woman, then divorce is akin to amputation.

Sometimes, an amputation may truly be necessary. However it obviously should only be used as a last resort, for example, when a person’s life is in danger due to a gangrened limb. The same attitude should be about divorce.

Marriage can sometimes be a proverbial pain in the backside, but quite often, divorced people discover that their new situation brings with it a slew of problems, which they never envisioned before they decided to do the dastardly deed, and they would have been better off staying in the marriage, as bad as it was.

I can’t forget a former acquaintance of mine, who I knew from my yeshiva days. He married late, and divorced early. I met him one day, and asked him how things were going? He smilingly answered, “Still happily divorced!” Unfortunately, a few months later, he was dead; in a suspected suicide.

While I’m not in any position to judge his actions, several decades have passed, and the memory of my last encounter with him has stayed fresh in my memory. Would he have been better off staying married? Only Hashem knows.

Again, I know zero facts about your particular case, and it’s not in my place to judge other people. Remember, it’s not over until the “get” is given. Until then, there can be hope of reconciliation.

If you feel that I can be of help in any way, please feel free to reach out to me, privately and discretely: webberebbe (at) gmail (dot) com.

(to be continued, vis a vis the halachic question...)


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