≡ Menu

Why Charedi women shave their heads

There is a gemara about the man who captures a woman in war and wants to take her as his own. He must shave her head and if at the end of a certain amount of time he still wants to get with her, he could. The whole concept of shaving her head was to dispel any wrongful ideas he may get in his head, and to make sure he had good reasons for wishing to marry her.

I could never figure this thing out, because he obviously took her because lobbing boulders and spears at folks trying to kill you can stress you out real bad and there is nothing like some war encampment sex to relieve the stress. This brings me to my next question, why is it the custom of some Chassidic ladies to shave their heads? If anyone knows the real answer, by all means send it over.

I understand that the generic answer is that they do not want any hair to show, God forbid a bang fall out, and so they shave. But I don’t like this answer, why do they then proceed to add to the ugliness of the shaved head thing by wearing turbans, plastic looking hair and those dorky little nurses hats instead of a nice sheitle or hat? It seems to me as if it is their rebellion against their scruffy unclean shaven husbands. It is almost the opposite, women shave and the men just grow it out, but then again do the women shave everything or just their heads, and use their so called “bullet proof” stockings to cover up the fields growing on their legs and other unmentionable body parts.

There are some advantages to having a shaved head, it is cooler in the summer and you know that shabbos robes combined with bullet proof olive colored stockings must be a nightmare, so they figured shaved heads which cannot be seen can provide a much needed respite from the Catskills heat waves. We must also not forget that much money on shampoo and hair care products was saved by making this the minhag. Think about all the room on the sides of bathtubs and medicine cabinets that was saved from sticky bottles of hair spray, gel and shampoo. Water is also saved, becaue most of the time a women spends in the shower is devoted to hair, and no hair means more time for important things like making cholent and babies.

Another very important aspect of the frum community being wind resistance and speed which have been discussed many times on this blog also comes into play. Although the ladies who have shaved heads cover them all the time, there is one aspect in which the shaved head may actually help speed them along. This is when the women go swimming, someone even suggested that the minhag may have started when women needed to escape the pogroms of Europe quite quickly and the best way to do this was by swimming far distances. Like the sleek shell of a submarine a shaved headed women can escape undetected by having no hair to produce a wake and by being able to move more stealthy under water. There have been other theories made about an Olympic swim team bid or making a Chasidic Synchronized swimming team, but these just sound foolish since the robes they swim in would certainly weigh them down.

We can all agree that it’s a minhag, since the Maxwell house hagadas display women with hair, so it must be a newer custom, and since minhagim always come from weird places, like shuckeling during davening appeared because an influential Rabbi had terretz syndrome. Shaved heads may have come from the early Chassidic feminists, which have all but vanished, but custom holds strong and the minhag of shaved heads to prove that women are equal to men prevails. I hear that Sinead O’Connor was really named Bracha Leah Freidlandovitz.

Any ideas?

Comments on this entry are closed.