Veiling is important in Judaism, as it is in Christianity and Islam. The veiling of women’s hair is part of Jewish laws on modesty (Hebr. tzniuth). A woman’s hair is considered ervah, or erotic stimulus, which must therefore be covered just as other ervah parts of a woman’s body must also be covered.
The proper coverage of Hasidic women and the manner of their dress is explicitly detailed and regulated by the laws of the Torah, or halakhoth.
Here are the clothing prescriptions for the Torah-observant Jewish woman (according to Rav Yitzchak Yaacov Fuchs, in A Woman’s Guide to Jewish Observance):
This information on clothing regulation of Jewish women is taken from Barbara Goldman Carrel, “Shattered Vessels that Contain Divine Sparks; Unveiling Hasidic Women’s Dress Code,” in The Veil: Women Writers on its History, Lore and Politics, ed. Jennifer Heath (University of California Press, 2008):
“The law requires that the neck (below and including the collarbone), the upper arms (including the elbow) and the thighs and knees (when sitting or standing) of a married woman’s be covered both in public and within the confines of her own house.” (p. 48)
In addition, Jewish law also requires that “a married woman may not appear in public with her hair uncovered. She is required to wear a head-covering that hides all her hair from view. It is proper to ensure that no hair protrudes from it.” (pp. 48-49)
Veiling in Judaism marks both Torah-observant women from others, and married from unmarried women.
Today, orthodox Jewish and Hasidic women dress modestly and practice veiling as a visible reflection of their observance of the laws of the Torah and in order to fulfill her obligation to serve as “redeemer of the Jewish people.”
Ways of veiling in Judaism
There are different ways of veiling, depending on a woman’s strict adherence to Jewish Laws.
Some Hasidic women shave their heads entirely on the day after their weddings, and repeat the shaving monthly to ensure that not a single strand of hair would ever be allowed to show. This is the tradition observed by Hasidic women in Hungary, the Ukraine and Galicia.
Other Jewish women wear a scarf (tikhl) over their hair.
Others still wear a wig (sheytl) in order to cover up their real hair. This form of covering is considered less religious than the scarf because of the appearance of hair.
Some may (or may not) shave their hair underneath the scarf or wig.
Shaving the hair and then covering it with a scarf is considered to be practiced by the most zealous Hasidic women.
Jewish veiling and fashion
Most Hasidic women veil, even as they observe fashion and color coordination. Many have more than one wig and an assortment of hats and scarves in order to match whichever outfit they may be wearing.