I’m feeling a strong desire to cover my head. The traditions of my religious upbringing don’t tell me I must, but they don’t tell me I shouldn’t, either. I’ve been studying Judaism more and more in the past few years, and I know if I was an Orthodox Jewish married woman I would be expected to cover my hair with a tichel (hair covering) if I was out in public. At a minimum, I should be covering my hair when I light the Sabbath (Shabbat) candles.
I’ve been lighting the candles for Shabbat for a year now. At the beginning I was only lighting them when it was time for supper, which was always long after sunset. In the past few months I’ve been making sure to be home to light them before sunset (yes, there is indeed an app for that). The more I learn and practice Jewish prayers and customs, the more of them I want to do. So should I cover my hair or not, in light of the fact that I am not only not an Orthodox Jewish woman, but not even officially a Jew at all?
When I was in college I covered my hair all the time. I wore a bandanna or a snood every day. This lasted for a few years afterwards as well. It wasn’t for religious or modesty reasons. In part it was because I liked it, but in part it was to hide the fact that I had a Mohawk. I was happy with my hair that way, but teachers and managers weren’t. So in a way it was for modesty. My real self was hidden, and I covered my hair (or lack thereof) in deference to others. Even now I cover my head when I am outside, unless I am on a walk and trying to soak up a little vitamin D. I wear a fedora daily unless it is windy, and then I wear a hat that I can cinch up. So covering my hair isn’t a new thing for me. It is just the motivation that is different.
There are New Testament verses telling women to cover their hair, but all of them are from Paul. The verses are a little confusing. Some of them seem to indicate that a woman’s “covering” is her husband. Some of them say that a woman should cover her hair if she is praying or prophesying – but the same writer says in other books that women shouldn’t talk in church at all.
Jesus, however, said nothing about woman covering their hair, and I feel that he wouldn’t care one way or another as long as it was done out of a sense of mindfulness and respect for God and others. Jesus did say that we are to make sure we don’t advertise our piety, however, and that is the biggest reason I’ve not gone ahead with this.
If I were to start wearing a tichel at work, I’d be questioned. Co-workers, managers, and patrons would ask about it. There is actually a policy at work saying that employees cannot wear head coverings except for religious reasons. They know that I’ve been studying Judaism for a while now, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise. But I feel that this would call a lot of attention to me, and I would stick out. I’d have to explain it. It wouldn’t be for modesty at that point – it would be the opposite. I’d be cancelling out the whole idea of modesty and piety by calling attention to my modesty and piety.
So at what point should I follow my convictions or follow the world?