When I started covering my hair it was something I felt I needed to do. Not because of shame, not even for pride but just needed to. For a very long time I felt like everyone was staring at me and judging me negatively for what they viewed as succumbing to religious oppression. However, it recently occurred to me that modesty, including hair covering, is not about oppression and it is not about shame of being a woman. It is about the value of my soul.
I grew up in Southern California where beauty is the key to unlocking virtually every door in society there. If you are not the right size, shape, or type of person life is very difficult and this is true in many places in many cultures. Therefore, in my mind I had this mentality ingrained in me that being pretty and attracting attention from my looks gave me value. This value made people act nicely to me, I got jobs, I was assisted, and even made friends. If you are ugly or frumpy you are unpopular, you are an outcast, and therefore isolated and sometimes bullied. These types of negative things make you feel less valuable in society.
However, after becoming religious I realized that God values me and others who value God's opinion and definition of value. Women have a particularly difficult time in figuring out what our value is. On one hand we have a feminist movement that has taught us that succumbing to "traditional" gender roles is an offense to every female. On the other hand we have a Western media worship of the goddess figure of youth and beauty. Many women fall in the vast canyon in between these two plateaus of social definition of how a woman's value should be measured.
Therefore, in studying Torah and swimming in the teachings of Judaism, my values have evolved and my goals in life have adjusted. No longer do I feel the need to be perceived by people as "pretty" and I no longer feel like I should be ashamed of enjoying living in a traditional gender role of wife and mother. These things are privileges! What a blessing it is to have an amazing life partner to grow old with; someone who is there for me and our children no matter what. That is very valuable. For those of us who are blessed with children should be free to proudly enjoy the era of motherhood because we are shaping the lives of future generations. The experiences our children have will influence their entire lives for sixty or seventy years! That is what I call a long-term investment! Not everyone finds a life partner or has children and that only means that God has a different plan for them!
As a woman my value is not in my looks or my ability to attract men; my value is what I declare it to be. My value is the soul within me. No matter what job or role I fill, my soul is shining and guiding me. My soul seeks the attention and attraction of holiness.
Let's say for a moment that our looks and our physical obsession is a lot like an appetite for food. If we only ate sugary and extra fatty foods we would become unhealthy, especially if we expressed no restraint in our hunger for binding on sweets and fats. Our souls are hungry but in modern Western society we tend to only feed it empty calories and therefore we are spiritually starving. We need to feed our souls nourishment or we shall fill this hunger with junk food or even sell our souls for what might seem like a good meal. This is much like Esau who traded his birthright for a pot of stew. We need to value what is right and see ourselves through the lenses of God's definition of attractive qualities.
These types of qualities are much less temporary such as looks or sexy figures, but more long term like loyalty and righteousness. I used to value myself according to what people complimented me on and I sought out compliments without even realizing it. Today, my goal is spiritual beauty and soulful health which eventually positively effects my physical health and radiates something much more valuable than an aesthetic defined by others. I challenge you to take a good look within yourself and see what your worth is? We ought to often look within and clean the crumbs out; those crumbs of all the cakes we've indulged in and go on a spiritual diet. Can we help others more? Can we learn more? Can we grow more? How do we measure our worth; our value? In Torah we find the treasure chest by which we can become wealthy. AT one point or another we come face-to-face with our own mortality and it's a lot like stepping onto a scale. If we binge and do not care for exercise or restraint of appetite, our weight will be unhealthy. Or as another example if you wait until your retirement age to invest in your pension, you will have very little when it's time to stop working. Begin investing today, there are many peaks and valleys but over the long term you will develop spiritual wealth if you continue to invest. Don't follow the fad diets, follow sound and wise spiritual nutrition guidelines. It takes a while to change our eating and exercise behaviors and this is true as well for spiritual religious exercise and behaviors but if we know our value to God, if we could even glimpse it for a second, we would desire this far above the newest iPhone, Audi, or video game. All of these things are fun, but they are much like the sweets and fats on the food pyramid: taken in small increments and not the bulk of our intake.
May Shalom and the peace of Heaven rain on you and nourish your soul.
Some people want you to think that the Kingly Davidic or Priestly Levitical covenants can be done away with by means of a human sacrifice. That is simply untrue.
The Beyond the Matrix online weekly talk show just hosted the two Tichel Queens, Rivkah Malka Perlman and Andrea Grinberg and if you are interested in tying headscarves, already do, or know someone who does, you will definitely want to hear this show to know why women in tichels radiate!!
It's been a year since I started covering my head 99% of the time with tichels, or scarves. I have nothing against hats or wigs, I just prefer the scarves for now. I've had mixed feelings about it and some days were harder than others. Yet here I am, one year later, still here to tell the tale.
What I've Liked
I love the scarves, I love the various colors, textures, and patterns. I love learning to tie them in different ways. I love how fresh I feel wearing them. I love that I'm following a beautiful mitzvah. I love that even though some women don't wear them, they have still been supportive along my journey. I love coordinating my scarves to my clothes and that getting dressed each day includes the scarf or tichel on my head. It feels like I'm swaddled and comforted. I feel more secure and focused and am reminded all the time of the Holy One, B"H!
What I Don't Love
Though I love the scarves, wrapping, and especially the way it looks, there are things that I don't love. The main thing is the general public. People still stare and I've learned to hold my head up, proud that I'm doing something that is important to me, and happy because my husband actually does like it. I have taken advice of a wise woman who told me to just smile. I haven't loved the fear I have of being treated differently because of the scarves. Also, some of my non-Jewish friends and relatives find it odd and oppressive and cannot seem to understand or respect it at all. I can't do anything to change other people's mind but hopefully in time they can learn to tolerate it at least. That's it, those social aspects are the only things I don't love about wearing scarves.
What I've Learned
I've learned some interesting things during this year of transition. This discussion and concept of head covering can be quite controversial. It seems to automatically label someone as a "certain type" of person. It seems to me that many people have misunderstandings about head coverings and the people who wear them. A religious person is valuable and intelligent. Just because a woman or man covers their head does not mean they are dumb, prude, mindless creatures. It is actually a reflection of respect and dignity. On the other side of the token some people think head-covering-people judge non-head-covering-people. This is simply not true! If you see me joyfully wearing tichels, it's not any kind of judgement about people who don't wear them. It simply is my personal observance and expression of this aspect of my beliefs and practices.
I have learned to be more confident about standing for what I believe in. I still have growth on this point. I don't know of anyone who is immune to the fear of judgement and of being different. Sometimes though, we can positively influence the world around us by being true to who we are and what we believe. Standing up for what we stand for in a constructive way can bring a positive change and even help others to feel free to venture out of their comfort zone.
So go ahead, get out of your comfort zone and try something you have wanted to try. Just because it's not popular now doesn't mean you shouldn't lead the way. We must remember that we are all free beings and respect our differences peacefully. If you don't understand something, ask questions, research the topic but please don't prejudge someone based on assumptions. Get to know the person you are tempted to judge then you can decide what you think of them.
So in conclusion, 1 year later I'm still tichel tying and going strong.