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In regards to the dinim of chatzitza by the tevillah of a Niddah the SA (Rema) in YD Siman 198 Sif 6 speaks about an interesting situation where a woman's hair was tied together by a Shin-Daled ("Demon") and that it's a danger for her to remove this and therefore can be toveled as it is and is not considered a chatzitzah.

A woman who has dreadlocks in her hair and doesn't want to remove them, may she go to the mikveh like this? Although the reason why the case of the Rema is not a problem is because it's a danger to remove the dreadlocks the makor for this din is in the Mordechai who gives other reasons as well which may be applicable in our case. One reason is that since the hair is stuck together so much it comes like "chaticha achas" (one thing) that the hair on the inside is considered to be "baluah" (swallowed) and doesn't need that the water of the mikveh should get to it at the time of the tevillah. Perhaps this could be a heter for the woman to be tovelled without removing the dreadlocks.

What other reasons or heterim (if any) could there be? Or perhaps she simply must remove the dreadlocks. Do the later poskim discuss this issue?

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AFAICT the question applies equally to men with dreadlocks. –  Double AA Dec 24 '12 at 14:15
    
@DoubleAA Do you mean gerim? Or perhaps during beit hamikdash when lack of shampoos and conditioners potentially left certain nappy hairs in a dread-ful state. –  Aryeh Dec 24 '12 at 19:28
    
@aryeh I mean anyone who wants to be actually Tahor for whatever reason. cf. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/17576/… –  Double AA Dec 24 '12 at 19:50

3 Answers 3

Tevilah with dreadlocks is acceptable.

The Rema cited by @Yehoshua is coming from the Beis Yosef ad loc., who is quoting the Mordechai in Shavuos §751, who is quoting a Ra’avyah in Teshuva 991. The Ra’avyah gives three reasons why these plaits (see here for background) are not a problem of chatzitza:

  1. The halacha (see Niddah 67a, Shulchan Aruch YD 198:5) is that one hair tied in a knot is tight enough to be considered a chatzitza. More than one hair is not. This is more than one hair.
  2. Even if it is tight; since whatever it naturally covers is considered “swallowed up” regarding technical laws of tum’ah, one could posit that this also has bearing on the laws of tevilah in that it is not necessary for that area to undergo tevilah.
  3. Since the assumed danger involved in the removal of these locks will cause this woman to want them to remain there, we say “that is the way it grows”; a line of reasoning which says that anything which is intended to be there (not just that one doesn’t mind it’s presence) is considered part of the body itself regarding tevilah.

There is a fourth reason which is really much more basic: Anything which a person does not intend to remove is not a chatzitza unless it covers most of the body, and even then it is only a chatzitza mid’rabannan (see Niddah ibid.). One who examines the words of the Ra’avyah inside will notice that this is a sufficient reason which he only ignored because of the opinion that most of the head is just as bad as most of the body, rendering this point moot.

At any rate, we have at least three reasons why the braids are not a chatzitza, and all of them apply to dreadlocks. Even though the third reason – that “that’s the way it grows” – was clearly said because of the assumed danger in removing it, we find the exact concept applied when something is done for beauty; namely further on in the Shulchan Aruch (s’if 17) where hair dye is not considered a chatzitza for this very reason.

There is a Rema in the first se'if which says that the custom is to remove all interfering items; even ones which would not be considered chatzitzos. However, see the Sidrei Tahara there who writes that this is only an extra stringency, and the Aruch Hashulchan similarly writes that if there is any need whatsoever one should not be stringent about this. So although it is a laudable custom, one should certainly be aware of the letter-of-the-law.

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I'm not familiar with any poskim discussing this issue. There are, however, contemporary teshuvot that allow women to go to the mikveh with dreadlocks. For example, R. Benayahu Broner answered such a dreadlock question:

את יכולה לטבול עם הראסטות, עליך לנקות את השיער במידת האפשר, ובנוסף רצוי לגזור את השערות הבולטות. בצורה שבה את היום מטפלת בשערות כך את יכולה לטבול.

You can immerse with dreadlocks; you must clean your hair as much as possible, and should additionally cut any protruding hairs. In the way you care for your hair these days, so can you immerse. (My translation)

The second sentence is strange Hebrew, which makes the English sound stranger. But the idea seems to offer another idea for going to the mikveh with dreadlocks: This is the fixed state of your hair, so it is considered permanently attached to your body.

It should be noted that this is a kula not every contemporary rabbi follows, as can be seen in this psak.

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First of all, thank you for an interesting question.

According to the answer:

Usually, in chatsitsot we look if most women do pay attention at them (מקפידות) or not. See Ch.O. Yore Dea, 198:1.

אפילו אינה מקפדת עליו לעולם כיון שדרך בני אדם להקפיד עליו חוצץ

Even if it is never matters for her if to leave or remove the chatsitsa, because for most of women it does matters - it is chotsets.

In case of Ramo, that you cited, most of women would leave the hair stucked because of danger, but in case of dreadlocks I think most women do not leave them at hairs.

In addition, if most of the body is covered with chatsitsa we have a problem from the torah (חציצה דאוריתא) and hair is taught as a different body for that matter (like we see from Gemora Nida 67:1-2), so that most hair must always remain revealed during the tvila. From this I conclude that it is much more difficult to find heter is this case, since this is דאוריתא.

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I don't have time for a full length answer right now, but two quick points: 1) the ge'onim, cited by the Rambam and the Beis Yosef in the beginning of the siman, hold that the head is judged separately from the body, i.e. that if most of the head has a chatzitzah it is also a problem even without makpid. 2) The fact that most is covered is not necessarily a problem here if you analyze the source of the halacha in the Mordechai, or better yet the Ra'avya which is the Mordechai's source (which frustratingly it seems nether the questioner nor any of the answerers cared to do). –  Dov F Dec 25 '12 at 13:09
    
Rov is only a deoraita problem if it's also makpid. If eino makpid then it's only a derabanan. –  Double AA Dec 25 '12 at 15:07
    
A problem mid'rabanan is a problem, too, @DoubleAA. –  msh210 Dec 25 '12 at 23:29
    
@msh210 Yes, but mislabeling it is a problem too. Particularly if your main argument is: "From this I conclude that it is much more difficult to find heter is this case, since this is דאוריתא." –  Double AA Dec 25 '12 at 23:39
    
@DoubleAA, yes, I didn't mean your comment was irrelevant. I was just commenting for the benefit of those who might construe your comment as meaning there's no problem. –  msh210 Dec 26 '12 at 5:02

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