Monday, August 11, 2014

Historical Head-Coverings: The Sarma, Algerian Jewish Women's Head-Covering




The Sarma was made of a metal piece with a tall front that could project up to a meter tall, with pieces that fit the sides and the top of head.  Accounts of it date back to 1730.  It was made out of metal lace, which I read was made by cutting away pieces of metal, which made it somewhat cooler and lighter-weight than solid metal pieces would be.  Other images certainly seem to suggest that the metal was shaped into lacework, rather than being made of cut-outs.



It was fastened to head with scarves and strips of fabric.  A woman would place the first one over her forehead and she would tie it at the back of her head.  The second would be placed under the chin, and the ends would be brought up and tied over her head.  A third scarf,  long and narrow, would wing around the base before hanging in two ribbons down the back.  These tails or ribbons would hang all the way to the feet.

At home it was worn uncovered (as much as having three scarves wrapped around your head in various directions qualifies as uncovered), but women would put another shawl over all of this for outdoors.  The illustrations that I've seen show that shawl as a thin, even translucent piece of fabric with what looks like embroidery on it.  It looks gorgeous.  Some women, believe it or not, even slept in their sarma.  It doesn't sound comfortable to me.

Some accounts say that at least in the early 20th century,- unmarried girls, once mature, would also wear the sarma, only with some sort of flower-shaped "tremblers" added to indicate their available status.  I haven't found any pictures of those yet.

I'd love to know how this style developed, but again, no information there yet.  One of the odd things about this research is that there is very little that I can find available online, as of yet.  As usual, as I find more information, I'll definitely be sharing it here.

Information in this post comes primarily from The Jewish Wardrobe: From the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, ed. Esther Juhasz and A History of Jewish Costume, by Alfred Rubens.  


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wigs and Men, or Halakha of the Toupee, Part 1

I forget quite how this one came to my attention, but it's Jewish head covering, of a less-than-frequently-discussed variety.  Having built all that excitement (and as you saw from the title), the question is about men's toupees.  Namely: how do you wear tefillin if you wear a toupee?

Clearly, you can see the connections to women who wear tichels/scarves, sheitels/wigs, hats (hats), etc and still want to put on tefillin in a public space.  This stuff can get tricky to accomplish, so what does the halakha have to say about it?  Does the tefillah shel rosh have to touch the head?

The Mishnah Brurah (27:16, commenting on Shulchan Arukh 27:4 "Nothing should make a separation (חציצה) between the tefillin and your flesh, whether the tefillin for the hand or the head", and the Rema: "This is specifically about the tefillin, but one does not need to be careful about the straps") considers the question, and gives the following comment:
אין להקפיד - והאחרונים כתבו דאין להקל רק במקום הכריכות אבל מה ששייך להקשירה יש להחמיר אף ברצועות בין בשל יד ובין בשל ראש וכתבו תוכחת מגולה על המניחים התפילין ע"ג פאה נכרית הנקרא פארוק"ה ואפילו אם רק הרצועה מונח על הפאה נכרית. ומ"מ משמע מדברי המ"א והח"א דאם יש לו מכה בראשו ורק במקום שהרצועות מונחים ולא במקום הקציצה מותר לו להניח הרצועות ע"ג סמרטוטין שעל המכה או ע"ג כובע דק ולברך אע"ג שיש חציצה בין הרצועות כיון דבמקום הקציצה אין חציצה וכן בשל יד אם יש לו מכה אפילו במקום הקף הקשר שסביב ידו מותר לו להניח הקף הקשר ע"ג סמרטוטין ולברך אך בזה יזהר לכסות מלמעלה כדי שיתקיים לך לאות 
ולא לאחרים לאות:

Translation:
One does not need to be careful: And the Achronim wrote that one only needs to be careful in the place where they come together.  However, since it is pertinent to the knots, one should be stringent also with the straps, both for the tefillin of the hand and of the head.  And they wrote a clear rebuke about wearing tefillin over the foreign hair called a perukeh (i.e. a wig), even if only the straps rest on the false hair.  And in any case, we learn from the words of the Magen Avraham and the Hayei Adam that if one has a wound on his head and it is only in the place where the straps cross, and not where the tefillin itself sit, it is permissible to wear a rag or a thin hat, and to bless (upon putting on the tefillin), even though there is a separation (חציצה) between the person and the straps, since there is no separation where the tefillin itself sit.  Thus too for the tefillin of the hand...

Comment:
This halakha seems to be somewhat self-contradictory: why should it be okay for straps to rest on bandage, but not on a wig?  Perhaps it is because the bandage is temporary and prevents pain (and possibly blood getting on your tefillin straps), while the wig is likely on-going but more easily removable.  [A historical note: the Mishnah Berurah's author lived from 1839 to 1933, so late for men to be regularly wearing wigs, even when he was young.]

On the one hand, the Shulchan Arukh on its own would seem to open up the wearing of tefillin with the straps over a wig or other covering, as long as one was careful not to let anything come between oneself and the tefillin.  However, the Mishnah Berurah is considerably more concerned, and forbids this, even though it cites what sounds like a permissive precedent, namely the case of bandages under the straps being permitted.

The Mishnah Berurah's reasoning is based on concern that the knots of the tefillin straps Do need to touch the person without any separation, which he extends from the knots to the entire volume of the straps.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Finally Back: Sharing Kippah Reactions

Hello All,
I'm sorry I've been AWOL for so long.  I started out taking a break because I had a terrible first trimester of pregnancy and didn't have the energy for pretty much anything- certainly not for putting anything interesting on my head or writing anything worthwhile.  Since then, I've been out of the habit.

However, I saw a blog post that was worth sharing with you today, sharing the reactions that a (female) colleague received while wearing a kippah in Israel.  So I'm using that to get back into blogging, although I imagine that another break is likely when baby makes their appearance in a few months.  Hopefully, it will be a shorter break.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Playing With Accessories and Trimmings

This is going to be quite a picture-heavy post.  I've been thinking about the incredible things that you can do with some ribbon, so I put on a one-scarf turban, and played with some different pieces of ribbon (and a few other trimmings I had around).  I wanted to take a look at how much of a difference details can make.  I look forward to hearing your input.
Here's what I started with:

First, I did two variations with a narrow navy blue ribbon.
 I particularly like the criss-cross effect in this one.  I'd like to play with more effects in this style- keep your eyes peeled (at least if it goes plausibly well).
Then the effect of adding just one wrap around of different ribbons at different points:

 Finally, a very long, wider ribbon (this one's about an inch or more wide- you can see, this much of it really dominates and transforms what's going on):

And then a few other accessories, since I was already playing, and wanted to show some other effects:

Some of the differences are subtle, others, more dramatic.  How different would the look need to be in order to wear the same scarf two days in a row? I'm thinking that ribbons are a lot easier to pack than whole scarves, especially the larger ones.

Of course, I'm not that efficient or planned-out a packer.  I throw things into a suitcase, and therefore often end up bringing more than I quite actually need.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Colors of the Sunrise Wrap


 This is a re-do of a shabbos day covering I put together.  Somehow, it was just a bit better the day of, but I like the re-do, too.  It was a rainy, dark day, and I was feeling tired by it.  Then I put together an outfit that was all blacks and browns- so I decided I needed something really bright and cheerful on my head.  This is the result.  And since today is cold, if sunny, it felt like a good time to put up something warm and colorful.

One pashmina, two narrow scarves (too narrow to use on their own), and two yards of lace ribbon.

The first time I did it, it stayed nicely.  Then I accidentally mussed it up, and it kept slipping for the rest of the day.  Hence- this is a reconstruction.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sometimes, I Run Out of Titles

Two scarves, one headband here.  The orange scarf is actually tied on first, then the green square one (with the tails tucked in), and the tails of the orange scarf are pulled over- one mostly flat, the other twisted, and the little blue headband is added to show off/differentiate the twist.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Low-Effort Shabbos Style

Even though it's only Tuesday, here's a Shabbos style- from last Shabbos.
I was planning something rather different and more complex when I started this wrap.  It's just a turban with some tails hanging, really.  And the tails just looked so fun, as I went, that I decided to run with it.  \
Then I added a pin to help keep the tails in place, and to dress things up just that little bit.  It's not a pin that I can use on a scarf very often, since it dangles.  This just worked out perfectly.
As you can see from the other side, it's really a very basic thing- one scarf, the other narrow one over, then the tails of the first brought over, and all tied together on the side.  
It's always nice when I have enough time to actually take pictures of my shabbos evening outfit and covering.  Often enough, there isn't really quite the time.  No matter when I start, things do seem to just grow into the time available, don't they?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Talking About Coverings of Different Sorts

I'm once again thinking about how I talk about how and why I cover.  I'm rather waiting for my new Hebrew school class to ask about it (I'm not teaching twice a week at a reform movement Hebrew school, and subbed at another yesterday), and so I'm trying to think about how best to explain it in a way that neither puts down the practice nor implies that their own parents ought to be doing so.  It's a familiar balancing act- I id it a lot when I was explaining wearing a kippah- but not one I've always been good at.

And appropriately enough for the topic, a friend shared this- a performance artist's piece about why she covers her head, although it's pretty much a manifesto about tzniut, where the head covering is just the starting point.

Still, for all that I get uncomfortable with turning my choice about how to perform a mitzvah into a one-message item, the beginning does capture the awkwardness of these conversations.  Also, the opportunity for vulnerability and real human connection.  Asking about a religious symbol is one of the only socially acceptable ways to ask someone about the choices they make about self-presentation.  It's no wonder that I have, on so many occasions, felt vulnerable when people have asked me these questions, and reacted defensively.

What I want to be able to do is to answer in a way that shows that vulnerability and true humanity.  It isn't what the symbol is that matters, so much, as the opportunity it gives to share a piece of human experience and decision-making.  The only thing is, it's hard to do, and even more so when the question comes without preparation or warning.

So I'm rather looking forward to my kids asking about my scarf.  Maybe I can make a real connection when I talk about it, this time.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Favorite Shabbat Style

We're at least in theory (note the likely weather- there's supposed to be quite a bit of snow overnight) heading out for a shabbos at a shul out of state, so before I head off (tomorrow), and only one day late for the StyleCrone's Hat Attack, here's a favorite shabbos style of mine.  You've definitely seen it before, but I like the color combination here.  
 I find this style to be a good Shabbos default for me.  It is simple enough to do that I can put it on in a rush on a Friday afternoon, but between some sparkle in the scarves and the height it adds, it feels formal as well. It has layers and color-contrast, but is less persnickety than a wrap with all the tails layered over the head (making it faster, for me, than a full six color swaps, or layers, or whatever you want to call that).
 These scarves are Israeli ones- bought for quite little while I was in Israel, way back when, and with a coarse enough texture that they stay in place really well.  But I've done this with a pretty wide variety of scarves.  In fact, someone at my husband's internship pulpit asked if I always wore my tichels like this...
And here's one taken with a flash.  Who knows which is "more accurate"?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reaction: What It Costs To Cover Your Noggin In Jerusalem

A couple of friends have been lovely to me and sent me links to interesting articles and blogs pertinent to our topic of choice.  Here's my thoughts about one of them, with grateful appreciation.

Apparently, NPR has been looking into the price of things around the world- and has come to the price of various headcoverings in Jerusalem.  It's a short read, with lots of pictures, many of them well-done.  The result: with the exception of items that are both very expensive and implied to be religiously extreme (wigs, black hats, and shtraimels/the equivalent, which get called a "crown" at one point in the piece)(not that I quite disagree on some of those items, but still- I can think something, and still feel odd when someone outside says the same thing), you can buy a cheap version of anything mentioned for $5-10.


Interestingly, wigs are mentioned in a more significant manner than tichels/mitpachot/scarves ("For religious and Orthodox Jewish women, dictates of modesty can mean a wig after marriage. The more natural-looking, the more expensive. Otherwise, all kinds of hats, caps and scarves are available, at all kinds of prices.") but there's a picture of the latter, not the former.  In fact, the objects that get the wordage- said wigs and shtraimels, don't get the pictures.  It sends a funny mixed message.

Also interesting is that Jewish and Muslim headcoverings are mentioned together- but Jewish ones are called Jewish, and Muslim ones are referred to as Palestinian.  In fact, neither the word Islam nor Muslim are mentioned in the article.  I'm not sure what to make of the mismatch, but it does seem interesting.  Do any of you have thoughts that might illuminate this oddity?