[Avodah] sources for not covering hair

Noam Stadlan via Avodah avodah at lists.aishdas.org
Sat Aug 1 22:55:06 PDT 2015

I initially replied on Areivim to a post reminding women during the summer
to cover their hair.  Mrs. Katz added that there was no support for those
who hold that hair covering in public is not necessary.  Others have
disputed what RYBS's position on hair covering was, in view of the fact
that his wife did NOT cover her hair in public at all times(someone seems
to have the impression that she wore a hat).

Here are the sources I have collected, in addition to the fact that a
significant percentage of Modern Orthodox women to not cover their hair in
public except in shul/davening situations.
In response to those who have stated that the younger more educated women
are covering their hair, I would point out that they have been educated to
believe that it is an obligation, and the permissive sources have not been
shared with them- case in point Mrs. Katz who either is not aware or
chooses to dismiss them out of hand.

In the words of R. Yehoshua Babad: "The principle whether or not an act of
uncovering constitutes immodesty (*ervah*) is: if it is the practice of
women to cover [their hair] and she uncovered it, then this is immodesty (
*ervah*). But if it was not the regular practice [of women] to cover [their
hair] then [going uncovered] is not in the category of immodesty at all. If
they uncover one hand’s-breadth in a place where they are habituated to
cover then it is [a case of] uncovering immodesty and it is prohibited to
read the Shema prayer in their presence... But if their (ladies’) custom is
to uncover their hair (or a hand’s-breadth of the body) – as single women
do who by custom walk around with head [hair] uncovered - then this
[action] does not constitute immodesty (*ervah*)."

If the women in the general society do not cover their hair, then uncovered
hair is not immodest, and therefore routine hair covering is not mandated.

Here is a list of easily accessable sources:

Rabbi Marc Angel(former president of the Rabbinical Council of
America) discusses why hair covering is not mandated:

Massive article by Rabbi Michael Broyde:
I emphaisize that R. Broyde states that his article is a limmud zechut, and
not taking the position that women do not have to cover their hair.
However, the sources and thread of learning speak for themselves and
everyone can come to their own conclusion.

Rav Yosef Haim(author of Ben Ish Chai) writing that hair covering is not
necessary(and how his opinion was altered by others):

See Rabbi Broyde's article(pages 155-158) for citations of those who state
that hair covering is not mandated in the current society:

R. Yitzchak Hurwitz in Yad HaLevi

R. Moshe Malka(late Chief Rabbi of Petach Tikvah)

R. Josef Messas(late chief rabbi of Morocco and later Haifa)

R. Yaakov Haim Sofer

Regarding the position of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, here is the testimony
of Rabbi Yitz Greenberg.

R. Yitz Greenberg reports his question to Rav Soloteitchik and the reply:
"How was it that Rebbetzin Tonya Soloveitchik, *zichronah livracha*, did
not cover her hair? Was this permitted by the *halachah*, or was it not
prohibited on the grounds of modesty? He took out a *Gemara Berachot*,
opened it to page 24A and showed me the Talmudic statement. "Said Rav
Sheshet: [showing] hair by a woman is *ervah *(an act of immodesty)."
Smiling, the Rav said that immodesty (*ervah*) is contextual and that in
this society and time, showing hair was not immodest (*ervah*)."

I have not seen it personally, but R. Gil Student reports that the
artscroll biography of R. Dessler contains photos of rebbitzins with
uncovered hair.

Obviously, not covering hair in public for women was at least somewhat
common.  Some will say that- 'they couldn't control their wives' or other
such statements.  I would point out that RYBS also went to the opera-
perhaps in keeping with an approach that hair wasn't erva, a lenient view
of kol isha, all of which seems consistent.  Furthermore, it seems quite
far fetched that a rav who knew that he had great communal status would
abide by gross violation of halacha in public by his own family, and at the
very least would make it clear that he did not hold by it.  Obviously, the
fact that he did not make a deal of it(certainly not a big deal),
illustrates something.  Do you think he would countenance his wife eating
treif? furthermore, the chiyyuv is also for men not to see hair(if that is
the position that is being taken), and by not protesting his wife's
uncovered hair, RYBS would have been allowing all those men who saw his
wife to sin.  The position seems quite untenable.
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