Saturday, November 28, 2009

A secret garden

In response to this post, Star writes:

"Why do you cover your hair? What possible purpose does that serve? Didn't God give women beautiful hair to show it off? I cannot believe he intended it to be hidden under a scarf all day. How ridiculous! No, you are hiding, hiding from reality. You are hiding from the attentions of men and that is not normal to me, at any rate. Women are the flowers of the field. They should be seen and admired, not hidden away.
Some day, when you are old and grey and your hair is thin and wispy, you will wish that it grew long and thick and glossy again and that all the world could see it."

I already responded in the comments, but very briefly, as time didn't allow at that moment. For those who are curious about hair covering, I suggest you read my post on the subject.

Beauty is one of the gifts the Almighty graciously gave us, and like every gift, it was not meant to "go to waste". Also, like every other gift He chose fit to give us, beauty must be used wisely. My hair is meant to be seen, but now that I am married, it is intended for my husband alone, and I happily cover it out of modesty and as a sign of being a married woman. At home, I leave my hair uncovered for my husband to enjoy, and now that it isn't exposed to direct sunlight, it looks even better than before.

Why would I want any man but my husband to look at me and find me beautiful? What purpose would that serve, except perhaps making another man covet his brother's wife? I don't believe women should be hidden, unseen and unheard, all the days of their life. But together with the gift of beauty, we were graciously given the guidelines of modesty, which are a preventive measure against leading men into sin and women into vanity.

I hardly believe that when I grow older, I will regret not showing off the more beautiful parts of my body to strangers. What I do regret right now are the years when I didn't yet observe the Orthodox Jewish modesty code. From time to time, an ex-classmate tags a photo of me on Facebook and I cringe when I see it. I understand, of course, that those years had to happen for a reason, and I am grateful for the lessons I learned. Particularly about the wise application of feminine powers.

In my eyes, women are not flowers of the field, but rather, flowers of a secret garden, meant to be kept and cherished, not ogled by every passer-by; as it says in the Song of Songs: "You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain."

40 comments:

Ways of Zion said...

Amen! I couldn't have put it any better!

Anonymous said...

Although I consider myself a practicing Jew, I do not cover my hair. It's quite controversial, but the truth is that no where in the Bible does it directly call on women to cover their hair. It's surmised.
However, that is a deep theological discussion, and this is surely not the place for it.

I respect all the women who cover their hair - and I know many. I did want to comment though, that covering your hair does not do it any favours. The sunlight may not harm it, but the friction with the fabric and lack of air makes it go thin and dull. I know many ladies who bemoan how their headcoverings have harmed their hair.

[On the plus side, most women over the age of 60 look better with their hair covered. By that time it is usually thin and wispy.]
Tammy

Millie said...

I love the secret garden analogy. That's beautiful.

While I don't cover my hair, I really don't see why anyone else should have a problem if you want to cover yours. It's a big world with many, many positive cultures and traditions and beliefs, and we're all here to complement one another, not judge one another. Plenty of negative rituals exist to get fired up about... but hair-covering?

You know you can "untag" yourself from your friends' old photos on Facebook, right?

Goldnrod said...

Nice post! As a conservative Christian, I don't have the same 'rules' for modesty as you do, but I agree in principle. In other words, I'm not convicted to cover my hair, but I definitely try not to make a brother stumble by what I wear or don't wear. I especially like your (or Solomon's) analogy of being a secret garden for my husband.

Abigail said...

You are exactly right and very well said.

But I would add that we women are not objects to be oogled at and I find it offensive when men treat women in such a shallow manner.

Brooke H. said...

Lovely post. :) Although I no longer cover my head, I have a newfound and deep respect for those women who do, no matter their reasons. Modesty is always beautiful.

Joy said...

Hello,

This is the first post I have read on your blog. I am a 75 yr. old wife, mother and grandmother, I live in Southwestern Ohio, USA. I am a Born Again Christian.

Although we are worlds apart in our religious beliefs, I understand perfectly what you are
saying in your response.
I would much rather see women do what you are doing and believe as you do about your hair than flaunting their bodies for men to see.

I love Israel and the Jewish people, I don't think anyone who is really born again and knows anything about our Bible could feel any other way.
I fear for your safety, but know that Israel can never be destroyed or wiped off the map as Iran's president has said.

I hope you will welcome me to read your whole blog as I find time and to comment occasionally. If I say anything that offends you, please know it was unintentional.

My blog is by invitation only, if you should ever want to see it I would be happy to send an invitation.

Best Regards,

Joy

Anonymous said...

Although I don't consistently cover my hair, I may someday. I do not like the attention given to me and my hair. I have had a few married male friends comment on it and it made me feel uncomfortable. And I am no spring chicken(smile). As the path I am on narrows, I understand the modesty principles in Orthodox Judaism, and it makes me feel safe.
Mrs. G

Otter Mom said...

Very well put! I have often wondered if maybe people like your commentor are insecure about themselves, and when tbey see someone who follows a standard of modesty or dresses more conservatively maybe that makes them feel defensive? Or at least that is what I've noticed when I've been asked why my skirts are a certain length and why I don't wear pants.

A Joyful Chaos said...

You answered very wisely and kindly.

I also cover my hair in public but don't at home. I was wondering if I should start going into public uncovered because of the many people who have been telling me it's not necessary to wear something over your hair. But this post was just what I needed to continue what I felt in my heart was the proper thing to do.

I always enjoy my visit to your blog.

Gothelittle Rose said...

The first thing I thought when I read this person's comment was to replace the word 'hair' with the word 'breasts' and wonder if that person would still feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

Mrs Anna -

Your response for a woman of your age 22-23? was wise and mature above your years.

I think the person in response to your posting is looking for attention and trying to justify "showing off" to prove that she is beautiful and worthy of attention. She also sounds extremly immature and young.

God calls us to be different in our walks or chosen faiths - But we all need to respect each other's convictions and callings - I think that this young lady missed the point - do her actions bring Glory to God? This is the final determination and judging by her answer - no.

If you feel that wearing a headcovering is what God wants do it for his glory and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Your response explains it clearly.

I pray that Star realizes that her beauty will fade but soul and her relationship with God is the only thing that is eternal

Mrs. Anna T said...

Tammy, I think my hair might look better than other hair-covering women's because I actually spend most of my time with my hair uncovered. I don't work outside the home, and I only cover when I go out, so there's plenty of time to "air my hair". I know it's preferable to cover my hair at home as well, but so far, I cannot bring myself to do it - except when praying, of course.

Millie, yes, I know this, but even just looking at the photos once is unpleasant, as is thinking they are circulating among my friends.

Abigail, you are right of course. Men are not supposed to ogle women no matter how women dress, and purses aren't supposed to be stolen even if they are left unattended. However, *I* wouldn't leave my purse lying around, if you get my drift.

Joy, welcome and thank you for introducing myself. Please feel welcome to read and comment on my archives, I moderate each comment that is left here so it doesn't matter how old the post is, I will still read it. I'd love to receive an invitation to read your blog - you can send it to domesticfelicity@gmail.com

Anon, Star is supposed to be 58 years old according to her profile, but it doesn't really matter. This attitude towards modesty is prevalent.

Gothelittle Rose, I have wondered the same thing. Many issues of modesty are largely cultural, but the principle remains, if we have something beautiful to show, we won't necessarily show it.

Thursday's Child said...

Anna- While I don't cover, I do sometimes toy with the idea of covering while praying. Also I live where I'd easily be assumed to be Muslim if I did wear a covering so that's another deterrent for me. However, I do agree with the argument you made. It is something that many women in my area need to read and take to heart.

Rachel said...

Hi Mrs Anna T.
That was a great post. My mom covers her hair and I think she looks more beautiful than when she left her hair uncovered.I am going to cover my hair when I get married.
But that was a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing. :)

Rachel

Scarlett said...

Also, I noticed in Star's profile that she is Wiccan and that's sad. :-( With that sort of lifestyle, she will never know the "the peace of God, which passes all understanding".

Paulina said...

Amein!

While I do not cover my hair, I highly respect women who do. Your explanation was beautiful. I love the analogy of the secret garden!

In Him Alone,
Paulina

Nea said...

Very well answerd, Anna.

I'm covering my hair only partially, but I always keep it up at a bun when public. I also wear modest clothes and long skirts. And it really matters.

One thing I've noticed, is that men treat me differently. Even our male friends who visit us (I'm married), avoid touching me (like clapping at shoulder, hugging) quite automaticly, I think. The also avoid watch their speaking more carefully now. (I've been dressing like this for 1,5 years).

From other women I've only reseaved positive comments about how feminine and beautiful my skirts and clothes look like.

Do you cover your hair at home if you have some male visitors?

Wordy Wife said...

Wonderful post. Covering my hair is not part of my faith, but I can appreciate it as a different form of the modesty I also employ. Of course women shouldn't be hidden away, but we also shouldn't flaunt our bodies and beauty with the intent of inspiring lust.

Anonymous said...

Proverbs 31 says, "She will do him [her husband] good and not evil ALL THE DAYS OF HER LIFE" (emphasis, mine).
What do you think about this? Could this verse be taken to mean that a woman should cover her hair while single...to show respect to the man who will one day be her husband?

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. I love your distinction between flowers of the field and a secret garden.

Becky said...

Very beautifully said.

This brings to mind a situation I had just this morning. My husband and I were walking into church and ahead of us were a young man and woman (in their 20's). The woman was wearing a tighter, above-the-knees skirt and boots that came to the top of her calf. It was a very trendy outfit in the US, and she looked "great" (by American society standards), but she made me so uncomfortable. My husband DOES NOT need to see that, especially at church! Aren't there enough temptations in the world without having to cringe at the sight of what women wear to church? *sigh*

Don't get me wrong, I trust my husband. And I know he needs to do his part in not lusting after women (I have no idea if he even noticed her, though I'm not sure how he could NOT have). I just think women need to do our part in helping our brothers in the Lord to remain pure in thought and deed.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon, there has been a discussion about whether single women should cover their hair or not. I definitely see nothing wrong with that, but I also see an advantage to a woman being easily "marked" as married, by her covered hair.

Nea, yes, I cover my hair when there are male visitors.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,
I have been reading your blog for a long time and find your maturity refreshing. I have never commented before, but this subject is a difficult one for many women who are trying to figure out how to draw lines between being attractive for their husbands without being too worldly and so on. I do cover, and, in fact, am a Plain christian. I have struggled on and off for years with giving up enhancements and sat around thinking about vanity and what it really and it amazes me how deep this subject can go. Anyhow, my husband has told me quite often that he finds me beautiful in a very different sort of way from the way I used to dress and make myself up. He says my skin looks healthier and finds the real me appealing. I am not in favor of being a slob, just because I am plain. I try to take care of myself and be neat always.

A Marriage After His Heart said...

Anna,

I haven't commented very much bc you always write with wisdom and I could go on for days commented on how much I agree with you.

I am a saved Christian who believes strongly in modesty and although I don't cover my hair and I have tried ( I am african american and my hair texture won't allow me to constantly have fabric on my hair as it will break off bad) I do agree with the foundation of keeping one's hair for your husband.

when I was single I used to always wear my hair in an upsweep. one day I was in a convo with a fellow brother and good friend about modesty and what should and shouldn't attract a man because I felt that things like forearms and shins shouldn't be attracting anyone and he said to me that you never know what Satan will use to tempt a man. He even told me that some men could be attracted to the way a woman's neck looks when her hair is swept up... and once he said that I felt so convicted bc I had just met my now husband and he was new to salvation and of course battling wants and desires of the flesh.... I knew I wasn't looking for marriage but wasn't thinking about the possibility that there were men out there who were praying for a wife. The thought that something as simple as a hairstyle could cause them to look in the flesh instead of focusing on God humbled me so that I made it a primary effort to keep a meek and modest spirit in all forms of dress and apperance....

I say all that to say that we must always bear in mind that just as God uses us and our modesty as vessels to present his glory the devil will take that same effort and try to use it as enticement and temptation, so therefore we must always keep in our minds and hearts in the mindet of head to toe modesty. I don't mean being covered in a veil from head to toe, I simply mean a veil of modesty in mind and heart. By doing so we leave ourselves open to God and his quickening power to let us know how to be modest and beautiful.

I didn't mean to say so much but I LOVE your posts on modesty!

Mrs. Lady Sofia said...

Anna,

Although I disagree with you regarding why you cover your hair, I can respect you for your decision.

Although I do believe that when women marry, they should not dress in a way as to try and attract other men. Furthermore, their hearts should be devoted to their husbands, and they should not let their eyes look upon another man. However, I don't think the showing of a woman's hair in public alone means that she is trying to "woo" another man besides her husband. I don't wear a head covering (I do wear scarfs on occassion when my hair isn't at its best, or while I am cleaning the house) and I don't feel I am being immodest for doing this.

Furthermore, I feel that modesty is important for women regardless of rather they are married or single. Modesty is a heart issue, and unless the woman practicing it does so from the heart, all outward appearances (e.g., modest ones) are for naught.

At any rate Anna, I hope that you don't find my response offensive. If you don't like it, you don't even have to post it. Again, even though I don't agree with your head covering beliefs, I do respect you for them, and I don't find you a disagreeable person because of this practice.

Holly said...

Anna, my first time commenting! I appreciate the words that you wrote and most of all, the principle behind them. I am a Christian, so of course I don't follow Jewish customs, but you are right that we must be careful with our outward appearance as women.

Mary said...

I agree with Lady Sofia. I don't think God created hair for women as the sole purpose to attract men. The men that I know don't look at a woman's hair first. What if a man has thick wavy hair? Does he need to cover his? Some women I know look for a man with a "good head of hair". I think men are more attracted to a woman's heart more than anything, then the eyes, lips, body-type, etc. My husband told me he first noticed my eyes when he met me. So do I only show my eyes to my husband? ... if that's possible. ;)

Question: About the hair covering as being marked for marriage, isn't a wedding ring the mark for marriage? I'm assuming male visitors who come to your house know that you're married since you're inviting them in. So why the need for an extra "mark"? Just trying to understand more...

Blessings!

leah Burks said...

Well said, Anna! So gracious. I pray for a gracious spirit such as yours when someone feels the need to talk down to me in such a way! I applaud you for your modesty and wonderful response to this person.

Kaleanani said...

Hi Anna,

If you don't mind my interjecting, I'd like to reply to Scarlett's comment. I am a Wiccan as well and I cover my hair out of modesty. I also pray, fast, read the Bible (and other holy works) and am very close to God. My husband and I are teaching our kids to be devout individuals with good morals. I'm not sure what sort of "lifestyle" she believes Wiccans lead, but it hurts me to read that she thinks that spiritual path is "sad." Yes, there are many people who call themselves Wiccan who do questionable things in the name of their religion, but hmm. That goes for some people of other religions as well! Please don't judge a whole spiritual group by what SOME individuals do!

Sorry for the soap box rant, I meant it in gentle tones, but I just had to speak up nontheless.

Jeree B said...

What a gracious response to such a rude comment. I am a christian who does not practice head coverings, but admire and respect your choice to do so. Your husband must feel very special.

Charis said...

I cover my hair, and did so even before marriage. As a Christian, I apply the passage in 1 Corinthians 11. It says "woman" rather than "wife". I had never thought of this in light of "Anonymous's" reference to Proverbs 31. Thought provoking...
Anna- Out of curiousity, do you know of any instances where an unmarried Jew chose to cover her hair?

To me, the fact that Judaism practiced/conitinues to practice this and Paul finds it important enough to bring out in his letter to the Corinthians says to me that this is a part of modesty and respect for God's order of leadership that He wants me to keep. It is interesting if you study in history, up until about half a century ago, almost ALL women wore a covering, at least when openly worshipping.

Thank you, Anna, for being open about your convictions.

CappuccinoLife said...

Well-answered, Anna.

Persuaded said...

Anna... I see I am a bit "late to the party" commenting on this post, but as a woman who covers I wanted to put in my 2 (or 3 or 4!) cents.

My hair is long and thick, and now that it is white, it's even more beautiful than it was when it was dark... contrary to what many of the others have said about older women's hair getting then and wispy! I admit to being a bit vain about my hair- perhaps this is why the Lord has convicted me to cover my hair, lol.

I cover my hair virtually all of the time I am out of the house, except when I "forget" to wear my covering (in other words, when I am being disobedient to my conviction) Some may think this is a bit odd, as I am a single woman. But as a single woman, I cling to the Scripture that says "your maker shall be your husband." I cover to show my submission and devotion to God, and to show myself set apart for Him. When I cover I am reminded that I am loved and cherished by Him, even if by no man. And my cover is a constant reminder that I am exceedingly blessed indeed♥

Suzanne said...

Very good post, Mrs. Anna T. I especially liked this: "Why would I want any man but my husband to look at me and find me beautiful? What purpose would that serve, except perhaps making another man covet his brother's wife?" Excellent point. Why WOULD a married woman wish to attract a man other than her husband?

Michelle said...

Anna, this was a beautiful post! The best one I've ever read on hair coverings:) I don't practice hair covering but I completely agree with you in theory.

I do have a couple of questions though...

1.) If a woman's hair is "ugly" can she leave it uncovered?

2.) Is there a difference in the Orthodox Jewish mindset between finding beauty in something and sinfully desiring something? In other words, if a man appreciates a woman's hair but does not lust at all for her, is this immodest?

3.) Could this same concept be applied to a woman's face? Must she keep her face covered to prevent men from desiring her? What about her feet...what if a man is...uh...strange and likes "feet"...or hands, etc. I'm just wondering where the line is between immodesty on the woman's behalf and personal problem on the man's behalf.

I do not ask these questions facetiously. These are all questions that I have thought about myself as I have examined the issue of modesty. I ask them in all seriousness because I wish to be pleasing to my heavenly Father. If He asked me to wear a Burqa, I would!

I guess overall my thoughts, as if you care, lol, is that men don't sinfully desire a woman because of her hair. It's one of the few uniquely feminine features a woman has that I think that overall men may think is beautiful, but it does not cause them to lust or sin, by desiring another man's wife. I see hair very innocently. I wonder if that's because of my "western" mentality?

Val said...

Interesting post. I do have one question...and please realize that this comes from someone who does not cover. You mentioned that you do not cover at home, unless you are praying. Does that mean that you may not pray until your head is covered? I know that I pray two types of prayers most days - those scheduled for certain times of the day, and those that I offer up when the thought strikes me. Would it be a sin for an Orthodox Jewish woman to offer up those little prayers when her head is still uncovered? Thanks for clearing up my confusion!

Anonymous said...

Michelle - according to Jewish law, it's outlined quite clearly what needs to be covered in order not to actively attract the male eye. Sleeves to the elbow; knees covered; no cleavage. The overwhelming majority of rabbis would say a married woman must also cover her hair, although that is not mentioned in the Old Testament itself, only in later writings. Most also say a woman must wear a skirt, although again, that is never specifically stated; women and men are just told to dress in gender specific clothes (let's not forget that once upon a time men were the ones wearing robes). In any case, no tight clothing.

There is no real history of unmarried Jewish women covering their hair. They may have put kerchiefs while working, or hats to go out, but it wasn't out of religious conviction. Single Jewish women in Yemen and some Arab countries did cover their hair at some points throughout history, but that probably had a lot to do with the Muslim culture they were living in.

Personally, I think it's dangerous to decide one won't attract men at any cost. Men and women are sensual beings, we can be attracted to the smallest things - a smile, a glimmer in the eye, a nicely formed hand. One would truly have to wear a burqua with eye slits to prevent all that. I'm also not sure there's a clear cut line between considering something beautiful and being attracted to it. We are not asexual or asensual, it's all connected; at some point, we have to recognize that. There's no need to actively try and attract other men, but it's crazy to try and deflect their gaze at any price. It's unnatural, and ironically, defeats the purpose; the more you hide, the more curiosity is aroused.

Tammy

Michelle said...

Tammy,

I think you misunderstand my questions.

I realize that some men may be attracted to a woman's hand. There will always be men with some sort of abnormal (meaning not normal for the majority of men)desire. If all men were attracted to women's hands, and the women began to wear burqa's, then the men would become attracted to a woman's voice...or burqa...or whatever.

I'm at peace with the convictions that God has given me concerning dress, as I think they would prevent MOST men from having any sinful desires. However, the key here is *most* men.

I was more interested in understanding if Jewish beliefs allowed for women to apply the "spirit" of their laws rather than the "letter" of their laws. Is there room for women to recognize that if their hair is terribly unattractive, it's not necessary to cover it? I know this is an extreme example, but it is certainly not an uncommon example.

I enjoy learning more about the Jewish beliefs and perspectives. I find that it is helping me to appreciate and understand more of the New Testament.

American Niqabi said...

If something like that happens again, tell the person what my Muslim friend told me when I asked about her bead covering. She said that everything valuable is covered and hidden (pearls are hidden by oyesters, diamonds are hidden by rock etc) and since female beauty is even more precious than those things it too must be covered. When my friend told me that, headcoverings automatically made sense to me and I can't wait till the day I start to wear one too! I can't do it yet because my family doesn't approve, but maybe someday soon I will. Anyway, good response!