As a sign of modesty
According to a Jewish tradition, married women, but also divorcees and widows, should, as a sign of modesty (cnius), cover their hair in public places. This prescription is imposed in various forms. In orthodox environments, women still shave their heads and cover them with headscarves, called tichel, although according to Halakha (religious law) it is not necessary.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the custom of wearing wigs, called sheytl or sheitel became popular. According to some rabbis, wigs, often more beautiful than the natural hair of a married woman, were just a way to bypass the unwanted prohibition and maintain an attractive look also after the wedding.
The custom of covering hair by religious Jewish women came from biblical times and in this interpretation, it becomes a sign of disgrace and shame for Eve’s sin. The explanation associated with the special relationship between a woman and her husband seems more interesting, however. First of all, the public covering of hair becomes a sign for other men that a woman using it is already engaged. Secondly, the real hair of a married woman (if it has not been shaved) is only to be seen by her husband, thus becoming a symbol of the intimacy that exists between them.
The unusually ornate caul presented on our site, located in the collections of the District Museum in Nowy Sącz, is an example of a headwear, which only very wealthy Jewish women could afford, and even then was mostly used during holidays.
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