Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tefillin challenge: Surprise ending (I hope)

Once upon a time, I tried to meet the challenge of laying tefillin without uncovering my head in synagogue by using a pre-tied scarf. This is a challenge specific to Orthodox women, as many Orthodox Jews hold the opinion that halachah/Jewish religious law forbids a married (some say divorced and widowed, as well) woman from baring her head in public.

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Just a few days ago, I had one of those [smack-forehead-with-palm]-“Why-didn’t-I-think-of-that-before?” moments. So, this morning, I tried out my idea with my husband as my witness, and he said it worked, though it did make me look as if I were “duchening."

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Here’s the procedure:

  • Put on your tallit as usual.
  • Put on your hand tefillah/shel yad as usual, up to, but not including, the hand-wrapping part.
  • Before putting on your head tefillah/shel rosh, put your tallit over your head, covering it completely.
  • After your tallit is over your head, remove your kisui rosh/head-covering (hat, pre-tied* scarf, or snood), and put it on your chair. Don’t worry, you won’t have any opportunity to sit on your hat by accident! Note that you cannot wear a sheitel/wig with tefillin, as it is not permissible to have any item of clothing between the tefillin and the body.
  • While your head is still completely covered by the tallit, put on your head tefillah/shel rosh, adjusting the bayit/box and retzuot/straps as required. When you have completed all adjustments and are ready to continue wrapping the hand tefillah/shel yad, and while your head is still completely covered by your tallit, put your kisui rosh/head-covering back on, adjusting it so that the scarf or snood, or the crown of the hat, sits just behind the bayit of the shel rosh.
  • After you put your kisui rosh back on and adjust it, remove the tallit from your head and continue laying tefillin, wrapping the shel yad around your hand.

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After the end of the service, reverse the procedure. At no point will your head be uncovered.

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It may be harder not to trip on the tzitzit of a nearly-knee-length tallit, but a nearly-knee-length tallit has this advantage--it's easier to pull one over one's head.
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Friday, November 26, 2010 update: I've revised this post to make it clear that my suggestion is intended for my female readers. (No, I didn't "revise" the font, and I haven't a clue why that happened.)
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I've also done some further experimentation. I tried this method with a brimmed hat, a plain scarf, a pre-tied scarf, and a snood. It worked for all of these kisuiei rosh/head-coverings except the plain scarf--*I found it impossible to tie a scarf behind my head while my head was covered by my tallit. So those who like to feel the wind in their hair and prefer untied scarves or bandanas/kerchiefs would need to wear a different kind of kisui rosh when laying tefillin in public. I assume that it would be possible to use a baseball cap or other visored hat, but be sure to turn the hat backward, to get the visor out of the way of the bayit.



Anonymous jdub said...

This is much ado about nothing. Every guy I know will adjust his hat or yarmulke as necessary. You take it off, adjust the straps, put it back on. As long as you aren't saying the brakha, taking off your hat or kippah for a second is not a problem.

Wed Nov 24, 07:18:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oy. JDub, thanks for pointing out that my post is in serious need of clarification: The instructions that I gave were intended for my *female* readers, since many Orthodox Jews hold the opinion that halachah/Jewish religious law prohibits a married woman from baring her head in public.

Wed Nov 24, 10:58:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Let me clarify further by copying from a comment (in reply to Mordechai Y. Scher) to the second linked post:

" . . . My goal is to put the shel rosh on without completely uncovering my hair in the process, but you're on target in asking whether I'm not covering my hair that thoroughly--I'm not covering much more than would be covered by a kippah. According to a comment by rabbinical student [now rabbi] Steg on the same linked post [link #1 here], “2. it was reported to me by a rabbi i know, that one of my and his mutual rebbeim described the area of a married woman's head that she is obligated to cover as (paraphrased) "where the tefillin straps go"; any hair that sticks out below the place of the knot in the back no longer counts as "head hair" that must be covered. in that case, a large kippa-like headcovering that covers the head to the point of the tefillin straps' circle would be enough.” That’s pretty much the amount of head-covering for which I’m aiming, . . . "

My instructions are appropriate for those women who accept that interpretation of the minimum amount of head-covering that's permissible. Many are of the opinion that most, or all, of a married woman's hair must be covered. Married Orthodox women who hold that point of view (hashkafah?) would have to lay tefillin in private, if my understanding is correct--as far as I know, the shel rosh must be left uncovered, and, therefore, the front of a woman's hair would be uncovered as well.

Wed Nov 24, 11:13:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Too Old to Jewschool Steve said...

Since in all likelihood the vast majority of your female readers who lay tefillin are not Orthodox, nor trying to be, I suspect the hair covering issue is totally inconsequential. To the extent necessary, they briefly remove the headcovering of their choice, put on and adjust the shel rosh, restore the headcovering of choice (frequently a kippah or something like it) and proceed to daven. Just like the guys. This is what I have observed among the several women rabbis who lay tefillin.

Wed Nov 24, 03:19:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Since in all likelihood the vast majority of your female readers who lay tefillin are not Orthodox, nor trying to be, I suspect the hair covering issue is totally inconsequential."

TOTJ Steve, you're probably right, but it can't hurt to help those Orthodox women who might be interested.

Thu Nov 25, 02:20:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Batya said...

Very logical if you accept 1 and 2 of it. It reminds me of the chuppah, use of tallit as symbolic home.

Sun Nov 28, 01:21:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Schvach said...

I don't get it. You're doing something the Orthodox would never (?) do - female with tefillin, yet you're concerned about not violating an Orthodox practice while performing this non-Orthodox act. Why don't you just write a hecksher for peperoni pizza?

Sun Nov 28, 11:40:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Susan B said...

Schvach -

Of course this is something Orthodox women would do. Doing so is not in violation of halacha, so why wouldn't they do it?

I appreciate Shira going through the trouble of descibing the process in detail, which I am sure will be a big help to those women who keep their hair covered in public, even though I am not one of them.

Sun Nov 28, 02:53:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with what one commenter said, that the majority of women reading this probably wouldn't be orthodox, but I also agree with you that it's good information to have out there for any who are. Even though I'm liberal and this isn't an issue for me, I commend you for working through it and sharing it with us.

Sun Nov 28, 09:20:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Maya Resnikoff said...

I am neither Orthodox nor yet married, and do wear tfillin, but when I marry I will be "upping" my head-covering practice to something a bit more thorough than my current folded scarf/large kippah. But I've had a lot of luck putting on my tfillin on around my scarf- I leave my scarf on, put on my tfillah shel rosh, and push it down and my scarf up until the tfillah and its straps are against my skin/hair, and my scarf barely has to be moved. It wouldn't work if you're not ok showing about a tefach of hair in front, but otherwise, there's very little issue- just a moment or two of fuss.

But other readers of this blog- there are women who care both about kisui rosh in a serious way And about laying tfillin. I do. I know other people who do too.

Mon Nov 29, 05:17:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Batya, I hadn't thought of the chuppah-like appearance of such a tefillin-laying method. That's an interesting perspective.

Schvach, I assume that there are *some* Orthodox women who lay tefillin, especially among those who attend Partnership Minyamin, though certainly they're in the minority at this time. I also assume that you're capable of phrasing your thoughts in a more courteous/derech-eretz-dikeh manner, and would appreciate it if you would do so in the future.

Susan B. and Techelet, thanks for your support.

Debka_Notion, I tried using my scarf this morning without much luck--it was such a project to get the half-knot of the scarf out from under the shel rosh strap-circle and knot that my tallit fell off in the process! That may be because the only square scarf I own is a large one, which a female JTS rabbinical student taught me to tie turban-style so many years ago that no one's using that style anymore. (I haven't figured out how to do that bun-in-the-back version that's so popular now.) I'll have to buy a bandana when the weather warms up and the local stores start selling them again, to see whether laying a shel rosh around a smaller scarf is possible.

Mon Nov 29, 11:01:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

For those not acquainted with that style, here's an illustration of what I call the bun-in-the-back version of scarf-tying.

Mon Nov 29, 05:22:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

For reasons unknown, this comment showed up in my e-mail but not on my blog:

Just_D has left a new comment on your post "Tefillin challenge: Surprise ending (I hope)":

If "haven't figured out how" implies that you'd like to know, I noticed that at the top of the page you linked to illustrating the "bun-in-the-back" look is a link to a youtube video (here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-Cun1aJg-Y ) that shows how to tie it that way (the bun part is at appx 1m55s in, though you may want to start from 1m20s to get the lead-up)

Posted by Just_D to ON THE FRINGE—AL TZITZIT at Mon Nov 29, 05:54:00 PM 2010

Tue Nov 30, 12:55:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks, Just_D! I followed the instructions for creating a bun out of a scarf, but without much success. On a hunch, I measured my scarf, and found that it's 32 inches square, whereas the ones shown in the link are 36 inches square. It may very well be that I simply don't have enough scarf to tuck under, and, therefore, not enough of a lump of fabric to wind the ends around to create a bun. Either that, and/or my hair's too short. :)

Tue Nov 30, 01:17:00 AM 2010  
Anonymous Tzadik said...

It's so obvious to me now why Mashiach hasn't come. The successful overturning of everything by people who just can't leave well enough alone is the root cause of all the evil that befalls us.
Women rabbis, women wearing tefillin and taleisim, the questioning of Gedolim and their rightful status among us, the comparisons of our kavod for Gedolim to Catholicism and their pope, the new "rationalist" approach of kofrim like Slifkin, the secularist govt in Israel, it's all the result of 1 thing: EGO.
Women dont put on tefillin because thats just how it is and always has been. There is no room for such shtoos in yiddishkeit. We do not evolve like the rest of the world with nuances and other such apikorsis. You want to learn? Good, get an Artscroll and learn quietly by the fireplace in a rocking chair like your bubbe did.
Don't you get it yet? Torah and God do not care about how you feel when it comes to doing what He says. Just DO it and behave already. Always upsetting the applecart only is to serve yourself and your own egos. You convince yourselves it's l'shem shamayim to bring u spiritually closer, but it's far from it. It's about how YOU feel. A SHANDE!!!

Wed Dec 29, 11:19:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

My bet: Whatever, who commented here, Justa Joo (and maybe Gaon), who commented here, and Tzadik, all of whom published their comments yesterday, are all the same person.

Thu Dec 30, 06:02:00 AM 2010  

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