Our newest Lady Wrap Star is a wizardess with scarves, deep, talented, brave, and genuine. You may remember her face from the zig-zag criss-cross post:
This is Naomi. When this photo was taken she wasn’t yet covering her hair publicly.
Additionally, she also happens to be a very special friend, and most recently she became my sister! Yes, less than two weeks ago, my brother married this beautiful woman! My husband and I were lucky enough to be able to stay in their area for the week after the wedding, and therefore I got to experience her ethereal head wraps. These photos were taken during the sheva brachot (meals eaten for the week after a Jewish wedding), one for each day.
Day Two (the first day was the wedding!)
Day Five – Morning
Day Five – Evening
The only one we didn’t get was from Friday night (day six) where she paired a colourful sari scarf wrap with a black dress.
And finally, Day Seven – taken after Shabbat!
So yes, her wrapping skills are out of this world and she is a stunning woman. However, she is so much more than these pictures can even begin to convey. You’ll see. I will now hand the writing over to Naomi so you can get to know her better.
The Weight of the Crown: Thoughts on the Visibility of Hair-Covering
My name is Naomi and I became Jewish by my own choice. I want to write about hair covering, not conversion to Judaism, but I had to put it on the table. A lot of the practices of orthodox Judaism don’t mesh very well with secular American culture, and hair covering is definitely one of them. When you are born Jewish, most people understand, even if they don’t agree with your religious reasoning, that you have a cultural practice of covering your hair. However, when you are not born Jewish, you can’t fall back on “it’s my cultural heritage,” at least not with people who knew you both before and after. For the rest of your life, you will have one foot in your Jewish community and the other foot at home with your non-Jewish family and secular childhood friends. You have to be ready to explain why you would obligate yourself to do all these frustratingly complicated things when you could have had a perfectly easy non-Jewish life.
Andrea and many other married Jewish women liken covering their hair to wearing a crown. Now that I’m doing it, I think this analogy is apropos on more than one level. It’s not just that both crowns and scarves are beautiful and royal-looking. It’s that by covering my hair, I become a public figure: a visible ambassador of an entire culture. To my non-Jewish friends, colleagues, and even to strangers, my behavior gets filed under “How Jews Act.” Like a queen’s crown, a judge’s robe, or a policeman’s badge, my head covering is not just an accessory. It has weight; it puts me under scrutiny. I carry on my head the heavy responsibility of giving people a positive impression of Judaism.
This certainly didn’t sink in for me right away. Even before getting engaged, I was spoiled rotten as far as preparation for hair covering goes. I poked through all of Andrea’s posts and videos. I sneakily collected scarves for months from thrift shops and piled them in a box at the back of my closet. When I was stuck at home doing laundry, I would have a complex, fancy triple-scarf wrap on my head just because. At this point, I loved hair covering in the same way that I loved cute shoes or nail polish. It was FUN, and I quickly became pretty good at it – even though I was secretive to avoid scaring my not-quite-fiancé. This period of girlish excitement persisted through most of our engagement, until about two weeks from the wedding. One day, I looked at myself in the mirror, and I realized that married me could never leave the house without a hair covering again. And then the old righteous I-should-be-allowed-to-do-whatever-I-want instinct and the why-should-“organized religion”-tell-me-what-to-do instinct kicked back in. I hadn’t heard from either of them in a while, but we all deal with them. Even those of us who stand strongly by the decisions we’ve made. It’s part of human nature to fight against obligations and limitations that make our lives more difficult, and maybe even more so when the only one to blame for the obligations is ourselves.
While I struggled to make peace with hair covering in the little time remaining before my wedding, other parts of my Jewish life blossomed in ways I had never imagined. The community around us came together and literally made our wedding. In the same sense that people say “it takes a village to raise a child,” it took our whole village to marry us. Our food was home-cooked by a couple of powerhouse local women who’ve personally catered over 150 weddings for couples who are still students or just starting out financially. Our florist lent us 30 vases and gave us a bunch of floating candles for free. I bought my dress for next-to-nothing from a Jewish vendor on Etsy who was getting rid of old inventory. Friends from the synagogue drove us around everywhere on errands since we don’t have a car.
Never before had I felt so welcome in the Jewish community, but I still had difficulty with the notion of becoming so visibly religious. What eventually helped me reconcile all of these feelings was this: When someone you trust with your life gives you a piece of advice, even if that advice is very strange, you don’t throw it out immediately. It might be hard. It might not fit the picture of what you grew up with, or what’s popular right now. Though the advice isn’t easy to take, the source of the advice is so important to you that you’ll follow it anyway. When we’re little, we think we should be allowed to eat cookies every day. Maybe we even have a friend down the street who does eat cookies every day and we resent the carrot sticks that we get in our lunches instead. But in the end of course, our moms were right – the carrots are healthier. We just weren’t in a place, as children, to understand.
My G-d and my community, collectively, represent a force of kindness, caring, and pure knowledge far greater than I possess alone. Even though it is hard to look different, hard to explain to someone on the street, when a piece of wisdom comes from Judaism, I listen. The morning after my wedding, I did that same fancy triple-scarf wrap that I’d secretly worn while doing laundry. It used to take me five minutes. That morning, my hands shook and it took me over twenty. My husband was looking on in curiosity, but I had to ask him to go away because he was making me even more nervous.
In the end, covering my hair has been both easier and harder than I thought and feared it would be. In this and many other areas of Jewish life, I am still very much a child. I struggle with wanting to eat cookies instead of carrot sticks. But the weight of the queen’s crown, the responsibility of my visible presence as a Jewish woman, reminds me that I must make the best of myself. I’ve only been married a week, and already I’ve made a concentrated effort to greet people with a smile (Should a stranger’s only contact with an observant Jew consist of a distracted frown?). I try to show up earlier, tip more generously, and listen more attentively so others know that I value them. It takes effort to push myself like this, but I’m so glad my covered head is forcing me to do it.
It is tempting to live life pursuing comfort instead of growth. But if you stay comfortable, you will never find your full potential. Cover your hair beautifully, with inner commitment, and you will literally turn heads in the street. You are in the limelight now. It isn’t going to be comfortable at all, but you just might change the world.