Long Hair And Young Girls: A Halachic Analysis

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(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times)

Before we get to any halachic analysis, let us just make a quick point.

The school in question has a remarkable reputation in reaching the highest ideals of chinuch. They imbue their students with pride in Yiddishkeit as well as a very healthy sense of self-esteem. They give their students proper “idud.” This is true from the hanhallah down to the remarkable moros.

When one first sees the video that is making its rounds, the immediate thought is that it is a typical pre-school lice check.

But then you see the ruler. The next thought is, are they measuring the size of the louse?  And then it sinks in. They are measuring hair length. Then you are told of the reaction on social media – some people think that the school is taking things too far. On the other hand, this is the school’s policy. If the school wants to make a rule on hair length – why can’t they?

It all comes down to one point. Is there a halachic basis for having short hair for single and young girls? And if there is such a basis, is this the normative halacha in our circles or not?

THE CONTRADICTION

There may be a shocking contradiction in the words of the Shulchan Aruch between what he writes in Orech Chaim and what he writes in Even HaEzer. In chapter 75 subparagraph 2 of Orech Chaim, the Mechaber rites that one is forbidden to recite the shma before the hair of a married woman. However, in front of single girls, who go with uncovered hair – it is permitted.

In Even haEzer 21:2 it states that daughters of Israel should not go out with uncovered hair, whether married or single.

RESOLVING THE CONTRADICTION

There are a few ways in which this contradiction in the words of the Shulchan Aruch  is resolved. There is the Bais Shmuel’s answer, and the Mogain Avrohom’s answer.

ONCE WERE MARRIED

Rav Shmuel Ben Uri Shraga Feibish (1650’s), author of the Bais Shmuel, states (21:2) that the case in Even HaEzer is discussing divorced or widowed women. They are single, but they were once married. Hence they must cover their hair. Rabbi Moshe Lima, author of the Chelkas Mechokaik, (1615-1670) learns similarly to the Bais Shmuel as does Rav Yoel Sirkes, author of the Bach.

HAIR MUST BE BRAIDED

Rav Avrohom Gumbiner (1635-1682), author of the Mogain Avrohom, has a different approach. He writes (OC 75:3) that the prohibition in Even haEzer is to undo one’s braid and let the hair run loose in the street. The Mogain Avrohom writes that this is forbidden even for single girls. He explains that this is not a Torah prohibition, but rather a midah of tznius.

The practice of many in Meah She’arim is to follow this Mogain Avrohom and that is why one sees long braids in Meah She’arim.

In America, however, most Poskim resolve the contradiction according to the understanding of the Bais Shmuel.

There is another group of people, who learn like the Mogain Avrohom, but claim that if the hair is short then there is no problem. This seems to be the approach of Rabbi Pesach Eliyahu Falk, author of Oz v’Hadar Levusha.  It is this author’s view that the Old Yishuv in Yerushalayim (Meah Sh’arim) has rejected the view of this latter group. [The author’s cousins reside in this neighborhood, by the way.]

NOT FOUND IN THE TALMUD

There is no mention anywhere in the Gemorah that single girls have to have short hair. Indeed, from the narrative of Rochel the daughter of Kalba Sabuah – the indication is that she did not have short hair (although one can answer this question that it was bound – but this is not so mashma).

MIDAS HADIN

There is also the issue mentioned in the Zohar (BaMidbar 151) that long hair is discouraged because it represents Midas haDin. However, this is limited to men and not to women, especially young girls. This is borne out by the AriZal in Shaar HaMitzvos page 23b where he cites the verse, “v’ish ki imrat rosho.”

ADDING STRINGENCIES

The author of the Sidrei Taharah (190:55) writes that he does not wish to add stringencies on Bnos Yisroel. This should be the approach that we take in general for a number of reasons, particularly when the standard of tznius in our communities has always been to follow the approach of the Beis Shmuel.

The Gedolei haPoskim have ruled that we should avoid adding stringencies – especially upon others. This is clearly expounded in the Rosh in Shabbos (2:15). See also the Pri Chadash OC 451, the Kuntrus Acharon of the GraZ (440:1). See also the Ben Ish Chai on Parshas Shoftim letter 27.

WHY WE SHOULD AVOID EXCESSIVE CHUMROS

There are a number of reasons why we should avoid adding excess chumros.

One reason that is not inconsequential is that we do not wish to look down upon others, chas veshalom. Adopting stringencies can at times cause us to incorrectly judge others -chas veshalom.

Another reason is that, often, if the young girls do not conform to these allegedly stricter standards, their self-perception of themselves may at times be lowered. Our jobs as parents and as mechanchim are to build the self-esteem of our children and students – not to lower their own perception of themselves. Now while it is unclear as to whether measuring hair length in this community could do so, some are of the opinion that if it affects even one person – why risk it?

In Parshas Dvarim, the pasuk tells us that Klal Yisroel are the descendents of Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. Rashi points out that this is somewhat extraneous. He answers that it teaches us that Klal Yisroel would have been worthy to enter into Eretz Yisroel just for having descended from even one of them.

The point is that Moshe Rabbeinu is pointing out to us that we are descendants of all three – the simple understanding of this is that he is trying to build up our self-perception of ourselves.

If a young woman likes her hair to be a certain way, and that is the normative halacha as codified by the vast majority of our Poskim – then why deny her what she defines as her beauty?

CONCLUSIONS

We should not be judgmental in what different schools in different communities do. We should also be very careful when discussing the reputation of a wonderful model school.  There is a basis for long unbound hair to be considered not tznius. However, it is a position that is not the normative halacha in American circles. It is, however, the normative view in the old yishuv in Eretz Yisroel. The measure of four inches below the collar bone as embodying the definition of non-tznius hair seems to be without a source in halacha. We should avoid adopting chumros that go against halachic and communal norms – particularly when they may affect others negatively. Of course, as in all matters, a school should pose their questions to Gedolei haPoskim as to what and what not to implement.

When these incidents come up, we should look at them as teaching moments in Torah, halacha, and hashkafah rather than an opportunity to be judgmental and bash.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)




30 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this article. It seems to me that if this community holds of the opinion of Rabbi Falk then they are following their Rav and doing what they are supposed to be doing.

  2. In my opinion, it’s not the long or short hair issue, it’s the measuring. This is so Krum. If the school wants to make a new rule (I would prefer guidelines) about hair length, then it’s OK. I’m not so sure this is such an important halachic issue, but the school has the right to issue rules. However, the measuring is not going to teach the girls anything. The issue should be taught subtlely all year long and the idea will become part of the girls’ hashkafah. Measuring is not going to give over the ideas of tznius. As a senior citiizen I remember, in my Bais Yaakov, in the 60’s, they gave us guidelines for the length of our skirts, but did not teach us the beauty of tznius. Guess what! We girls used to bring longer skirts to school for Limudei Kodesh and change into shorter skirts for Limudei Chol. That’s what happens when you teach inches instead of ideas and hashkafah. You accomplish nothing.
    Reply

  3. BTW, this hair measuring took place during lice check. If the school wants to do things the way they do it in E”Y, they wouldn’t even be having lice check! Those who know how lice problems are treated in E”Y know what I mean. This is not E”Y and even though many things done in E”Y are praiseworthy, they do not fit in Chutz Laaretz. It’s a mistake to try implementing them here. It will only backfire.

  4. Just FYI: I personally know a few people who were there when the video was taken, and are even in the video. The school was being super realistic and sensitive, and the woman with the ruler happens to be a mother of a student, not a member of the school faculty. The incident was not at all as portrayed in social media, as anyone present can tell you! The school has specific guidelines, based on the p’sak they have from their Rabbonim. That being said, the faculty was checking – visually only! – to see that the girls’ hair was not longer than the guidelines in their rules. If there was a girl whose hair was iffy, the mother was welcome to measure for herself to see if her daughter needs a haircut. The school is incredibly reasonable and understanding, and does not at all have, or encourage, “extreme stringencies”!

  5. It seems like the girl wasn’t uncomfortable in the least! Perhaps she may have even volunteered to allow herself to be used to show the class.

    The article by Rabbi Hoffman, is, as usual, very well developed and laid down with clarity and wisdom. Thank you YWN, yet again!

  6. Thank you Rabbi Hoffman for giving the school the benefit of the doubt. They deserve at least that much, after the years of service to the community.

  7. What’s next? Schools already regulate the length of skirts, earrings and necklaces; leg coverings & shoes; a choking “tznius button” on a school shirt…is there anything left for them to dictate about?

    Oh, I forgot. Color/size/style of schoolbags & what is acceptable covering for books – brown paper or white.

    Would that the schools cared more about educational standards, meeting all the needs of their students & bullying than how long the girls’ hair is.

  8. Let’s get some things straight here.

    The school, ANY school, has rules and they must be followed. If anyone has such problems with any school rule, they should find another school for their kid. And if they decide to stay, the parents better keep that mouths SHUT and not complain because making nasty comments about the rules only undermines the authority of the school. It teaches the young skills full of mush that they could, or SHOULD, go against authority and you know what happens then.

    The next thing is that anyone who complains and makes negative comments here or elsewhere about this and how it’s horrible for the girls etc., is only projecting their personal feelings onto the girls. Most of the girls probably don’t even care because they want to follow the rules. It’s the people with the agendas and attitudes that have the problem and NOT the kids.

  9. Well said!! Based on the fact that I personally know one of the women in the video, as well as bystanders, I know for a fact that this whole thing was taken out of context by people who have galactic sized chips on their shoulder!

  10. To hml your standards are perfect for public school not a bais Yaakov. In public school they teach education. In our schools we teach education in the context of Torah. The standards can vary from school to school, but a jewish school needs standards.

  11. If one does not like this approach, don’t send your daughter there. Easy enough…
    interesting and informative write-up by Rabbi Hoffman, as usual!

  12. Please let us respect one another. Reb. Schneur ztl said, that with a good word one can accomplish anything. Children thrive on the positive. Adults thrive on the positive.
    We need moshiach and Achdus is the way to get what we so desperately need.
    Ksiva vachasima tova to all of klal yisroel.
    A Yiddish neshama is precious.

  13. The issue here is not whether the school has the right to make this rule. Of course they do and as a PRIVATE school one can choose whether to send their daughters there. There is no monopoly here and there is freedom to choose other Bnos Yaakov type schools. However, it is fair to question, not judge, the motives and more importantly the effectiveness of such rules. like it or not kids today are exposed to more than ever. I agree that kids mostly aim to please, but they are also inquisitive. 30 years ago it was acceptable to answer a child’s question with “because I said so” or ” those are the rules” today hair length is not the standard halachic norm in America and I would be concerned that this could have the opposite effect of what the school is trying to accomplish.
    Thank you Rabbi Hoffman for another wonderful article.

  14. Very well articulated article. However there are things in tznius that have to do with refinement. They are not necessarily brought down in early achronim halacha. Ex. Long droopy earnings. There is no shiur on length of shaitels in halacha as far as I know. Even so most later poskim say coler bone area. This is tznius, and any refined person knows that. Not always is their a precedent in early halachik poskim.

  15. You should be ashamed of your self writing such an article if you relay meant it Lshem Shmayim you would write your name .

    Moderators Note: Rabbi Hoffman signs his name to every article he writes.

  16. Totally LOST!!!

    Why are we discussing HAIR?!
    We should be discussing the chinuchbin general!!!

    When I was a kid no one dreamed of saying OTD, yet today, it is a loose word. Very Scary!!!

    Schools are getting teachers that are thought by the college professor “special education”. Let’s see how well their way of chinuch worked out for them, shall we?

    Look at the public schools, is this how we want our kids growing up?

    What happened to real chinuch??

    Our schools have turned to academia, much like the yevunim, rachmona litzlan.

    Even the HEBREW teachings have become “subjects” not Torah!!!

    Scary times! We should talk about what chinuch is our schools giving. And what chinuch do parents today demand from the school. According to many school principals, it’s the parents who demand high “academic” standards. Little do they realize they are hurting their own children’s future!

  17. The problem with adding chumros is that they end up being perceived as the law of the land. Once that happens and the chumros become normal, then some new chumroh needs to be added on top of that.

    Then another serious problem occurs: ein l’davar sof.

  18. To Ah yid – very true. Absolutely, we must adhere to Torah values and standards. Do standards include permitting/ignoring bullying? How about teacher abuse (ear grabbing, slapping, hair pulling?) Restricting bathroom breaks for little children? Withholding food?

    As a teacher who ONLY taught in frum schools, I can tell you these practices still go on today. My own children were victims and my colleagues (some, not all) would put their own unique spin on how they “controlled” their students.

    But they must have the correct notebooks and book covers, and if they have the 2010 version of a sefer, they are punished for not having the 2016 with the blue cover. That is far more important than instilling a a warmth and love of learning in our children.

  19. Burkas and Hijab’s are next – what is happening to the yiddeshe velt have become that weak that a child’s hair is a issue – I know separate shopping centers/grocery stores/streets for men/women/married people – what is the next chumrah –
    Klall Yisroel is suffering under a magaifah – young people are DYING, CHILDREN ARE BEING RUN OVER, the shidduch crisis – the loss of Rabbinical LEADERSHIP and we worry about HAIR!!!!!

    The inmates have truly taken over the asylum

  20. What is going on here? A bunch of baalei batim hocking around if its good for chinuch or not!That is like me giving advice to an accountant, I have no idea anything to do with an accountant, you think you know anything about chinuch lets leave it up to the gedolim.

  21. I am not worried about hair lengths….I am worried about the dresses those young girls wear to schools which have NO uniform codes. Look at those dresses being sold in the hundreds of dollars and the competition in school is ridiculous.
    This world is full of problems but we have NO real leaders to fix them.

  22. starts off with LH on the schools, now we are up to mottzi shem ra on gedolei yisrael. YWN, why do you egg pple on? Every school has pros and cons: even parents who might HATE this must have knows that there is a school rule about hair length, so now the school is enforcing rules you knew about when you decided to send your kid, and that’s an issue?

  23. Tenuiz starts from home, regardless if what was dose is the right way to do it or not, the mother’s and the thatcher’s wigs should be the ones to be checked and cut, then the daughter’s will fallow happily

  24. When some frum women for Shabbos buy magazines such as, People Magazine, Vanity Fair, Vogue
    That’s where they get the fashion ideas, and the daughters fallow,
    In Flatbush they would just go up to the news stand and buy them, with no busha, in Lakewood some of them just probably get it mailed.
    The Rabeinim don’t even talk about the subject, they lost the war