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Woman's Head Cover in Judaism

In the Jewish tradition when a Jewish woman[1]did go out in public, she always went out with a head covering which also covered the whole face, leaving one eye free.

Going out without a head covering was considered so shameful that it was grounds not only for divorce by the husband, but divorce without the obligation to pay the Ketubah[2]. “ These are they that are put away without their Ketubah... if she goes out with her head uncovered.” In fact, Rabbi Meir is quoted as saying that it is a duty for a husband to divorce a woman who goes out without her head covered.

In the Book of Daniel (written after 160 B.C.E.) there is a clear evidence that it was customary for women to cover their heads and faces in public.

"Now Susanna was a woman of great beauty and delicate feeling. She was closely veiled, but those scoundrels ordered her to be unveiled so that they might feast their eyes on her beauty."

A Jewish woman in Palestine before and after the Common Era[3], and probably also later in Babylonia , then always appeared in public with their head and face largely covered.[4]

In connection with the previous resources the Talmud[5] relates the following:

"Kimhit, the mother of seven sons who successively held the office of high priest, was once asked by what merit of hers she was so blessed in her sons. Because, she said: the beams of my home have never seen my hair.” (Yoma 47a)


Veil, a cover for the face, or a disguise, from the earliest times has been a sign of chastity and decency in married women. As the sign of chastity they had to cover their faces with veils in the presence of strangers. The putting on of the veil marked the transition from girlhood to womanhood. Rebekah, the bride, covered herself with a veil on meeting Issac, the groom, (Gen.xxiv.65). A widow did not wear a veil (Gen. xxxviii.19).

In modern times the bride is covered with a veil in her chamber in the presence of the groom, just before they are led under the canopy. This remaining tradition, resembles the idea that as if the groom is the first whose eyes could celebrate seeing the bride's face and hair.!


1. By woman here is meant a married woman. However, since the usual marriage age for a girl was 13, the distinction is not terribly significant.

2. A marriage contract, containing among other things the settlement on the wife of a certain amount payable at her husband's death or on her being divorced. ‘The Jewish Encyclopedia'1909 prepared by more than 600 scholars and specialists.

3. The period coinciding with the Christian era.

4. Leonard Swidler, women in Judaism, 1976 p.p. 121-123

5. The collection of ancient Rabbinic writings consisting of the Mishnah and the Gemara, constituting the basis of religious authority in Orthodox Judaism.

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