Where in the Tanakh is it extrapolated that females are to cover their heads or hair when praying or reciting the name of HaShem?

I form this question upon reading the following: Women and girls covering their heads when lighting candles

Please note, I am neither assuming that women generally had their hair uncovered nor covered during biblical times. I have no idea. Those who know how to better word my question, in order to accommodate this non-assumption, please do so.

It was suggested that I ask this question as a separate question from Where in the Tanakh is the subject of head-covering or hair-covering for females taught or hinted?

  • 3
    Are you assuming that it's biblically mandated, and want to know the biblical source? Are you assuming it's Rabbinic, and want to know where they saw an allusion to it? Or are you assuming its a custom, but nevertheless may be alluded to somewhere in Tanach? My point is, who says it was ever extrapolated from Tanach.
    – robev
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 18:47
  • 2
    Right. So maybe there is no source in Tanach for woman to cover their hair while praying, as there is no such obligation? I'm not following your extrapolation.
    – robev
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 19:17
  • 1
    Would it be a valid response to say "there is a biblical obligation for a person to pray with a covered head" and then ask for a source which would exempt women?
    – rosends
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 20:09
  • 1
    "according to one answer in the second miyodeya link, there is a Tanach source." that may be their opinion, but I don't see any substance to their answer. They didn't adequately explain how it's a source, given that the premise that there is an obligation at all wasn't addressed. According to (Ashkenazi) poskim, it's merely a custom. Their source would imply at least a Rabbinic obligation, and at most a Biblical one.
    – robev
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 20:16
  • 1
    #@ninameg a face is different than a head Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 0:17

1 Answer 1


Not able to find the original responsa but it is referenced second hand here from the ovadya Yosef https://www.ykr.org.il/question/1253

כך פסק מרן הראשון לציון שליט"א בשו"ת יביע אומר חלק ו' (סימן ט"ו), שאף שהמנהג כיום שהבנות הרווקות אינם מכסות שערות ראשן בשעת הלימוד או שמברכות ויש להן על מה שיסמוכו, מ"מ לכל הפחות שישימו כיסוי על ראשן בתפלת שמונה עשרה ובברכת המזון. לא הבנת את תשובת

Based on some other parts of that responsa https://www.medethics.org.il/article/rn051001a/ it would appear to be a modesty issue

ב. בסימן עה סעיף א. בענין ילדות קטנות אם שייך בהן דין טפח ושוק באשה ערוה, כשהן גדולות יותר משלש שנים, בשו"ת יביע אומר חלק ו (חלק אורח חיים סימן יד) דנתי בזה, והבאתי דברי האחרונים שמיימינים ומשמאילים בזה, והעלתי להקל, עי"ש

As far as tanach goes, at the very least it's included in the verse "everything they tell you, do" referring to the decisions of the sanhedrin and later rabbis

Context for this in the tanach is dvarim chapter 17 (with rashii here)

If a matter eludes you in judgment, between blood and blood, between judgment and judgment, or between lesion and lesion, words of dispute in your cities, then you shall rise and go up to the place the Lord, your God, chooses. חכִּ֣י יִפָּלֵא֩ מִמְּךָ֨ דָבָ֜ר לַמִּשְׁפָּ֗ט בֵּֽין־דָּ֨ם | לְדָ֜ם בֵּֽין־דִּ֣ין לְדִ֗ין וּבֵ֥ין נֶ֨גַע֙ לָנֶ֔גַע דִּבְרֵ֥י רִיבֹ֖ת בִּשְׁעָרֶ֑יךָ וְקַמְתָּ֣ וְעָלִ֔יתָ אֶל־הַ֨מָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַ֛ר יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ בּֽוֹ: If a matter eludes you [in judgment]: Heb. כִּי יִפָּלֵא. [The term] הַפְלְאָה always denotes detachment and separation; [here it means] that the matter is detached and hidden from you.

כי יפלא: כל הפלאה לשון הבדלה ופרישה, שהדבר נבדל ומכוסה ממך: between blood and blood: Between ritually unclean blood [of menstruation], and ritually clean blood. — [Niddah 19a] (See Rashi on Lev. 12:1-5.)

בין דם לדם: בין דם טמא לדם טהור: between judgment and judgment: Between a judgment of innocent and a judgment of guilty.

בין דין לדין: בין דין זכאי לדין חייב: between lesion and lesion: Between a ritually unclean lesion, and a ritually clean lesion.

בין נגע לנגע: בין נגע טמא לנגע טהור: words of dispute: whereby the Sages of the city [the judges] differ in their opinion on the matter, one declaring it impure, the other pure, one ruling guilty, the other innocent.

דברי ריבות: שיהו חכמי העיר חולקים בדבר, זה מטמא וזה מטהר זה מחייב וזה מזכה: then you shall rise and go up: [This] teaches [us] that the Temple [the seat of the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court] was on a higher elevation than all other places. — [Sifrei ; San. 87a]

וקמת ועלית: מלמד שבית המקדש גבוה מכל המקומות: 9And you shall come to the Levitic kohanim and to the judge who will be in those days, and you shall inquire, and they will tell you the words of judgment. טוּבָאתָ֗ אֶל־הַכֹּֽהֲנִים֙ הַֽלְוִיִּ֔ם וְאֶל־הַ֨שֹּׁפֵ֔ט אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִֽהְיֶ֖ה בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֑ם וְדָֽרַשְׁתָּ֙ וְהִגִּ֣ידוּ לְךָ֔ אֵ֖ת דְּבַ֥ר הַמִּשְׁפָּֽט: [And you shall come to] the Levitic kohanim: i.e., the kohanim, who are descended from the tribe of Levi.

הכהנים הלוים: הכהנים שיצאו משבט לוי: and to the judge who will be in those days: Although this judge may not be [of the same stature] as other judges who preceded him, you must listen to him, for you have only the judge [who lives] in your time. — [R.H. 25b]

ואל השופט אשר יהיה בימים ההם: ואפילו אינו כשאר שופטים שהיו לפניו אתה צריך לשמוע לו. אין לך אלא שופט שבימיך: 10And you shall do according to the word they tell you, from the place the Lord will choose, and you shall observe to do according to all they instruct you. יוְעָשִׂ֗יתָ עַל־פִּ֤י הַדָּבָר֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יַגִּ֣ידוּ לְךָ֔ מִן־הַמָּק֣וֹם הַה֔וּא אֲשֶׁ֖ר יִבְחַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֑ה וְשָֽׁמַרְתָּ֣ לַֽעֲשׂ֔וֹת כְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר יוֹרֽוּךָ: 11According to the law they instruct you and according to the judgment they say to you, you shall do; you shall not divert from the word they tell you, either right or left. יאעַל־פִּ֨י הַתּוֹרָ֜ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר יוֹר֗וּךָ וְעַל־הַמִּשְׁפָּ֛ט אֲשֶׁר־יֹֽאמְר֥וּ לְךָ֖ תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֑ה לֹ֣א תָס֗וּר מִן־הַדָּבָ֛ר אֲשֶׁר־יַגִּ֥ידוּ לְךָ֖ יָמִ֥ין וּשְׂמֹֽאל: either right or left,: Even if this judge tells you that right is left, and that left is right. How much more so, if he tells you that right is right, and left is left!- [Sifrei]

ימין ושמאל: אפילו אומר לך על ימין שהוא שמאל ועל שמאל שהוא ימין, וכל שכן שאומר לך על ימין ימין ועל שמאל שמאל:

These verses are codified by the Rambam hilchos mamrim beginning, as follows:


The Supreme Sanhedrin in Jerusalem are the essence of the Oral Law. They are the pillars of instruction from whom statutes and judgments issue forth for the entire Jewish people. Concerning them, the Torah promises Deuteronomy 17:11: "You shall do according to the laws which they shall instruct you...." This is a positive commandment.

Whoever believes in Moses and in his Torah is obligated to make all of his religious acts dependent on this court and to rely on them.


בֵּית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁבִּירוּשָׁלַיִם הֵם עִקַּר תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה. וְהֵם עַמּוּדֵי הַהוֹרָאָה וּמֵהֶם חֹק וּמִשְׁפָּט יוֹצֵא לְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל. וַעֲלֵיהֶן הִבְטִיחָה תּוֹרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יז יא) "עַל פִּי הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר יוֹרוּךָ" זוֹ מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה. וְכָל הַמַּאֲמִין בְּמשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ וּבְתוֹרָתוֹ חַיָּב לִסְמֹךְ מַעֲשֵׂה הַדָּת עֲלֵיהֶן וְלִשָּׁעֵן עֲלֵיהֶן:


Any person who does not carry out their directives transgresses a negative commandment, as Ibid. continues: "Do not deviate from any of the statements they relate to you, neither right nor left."

Lashes are not given for the violation of this prohibition, because it also serves as a warning for a transgression punishable by execution by the court. For when a sage rebels against the words of the court, he should be executed by strangulation, as the following verse states: "A person who will act deliberately...."

We are obligated to heed their words whether they:

a) learned them from the Oral Tradition, i.e., the Oral Law,

b) derived them on the basis of their own knowledge through one of the attributes of Biblical exegesis and it appeared to them that this is the correct interpretation of the matter,

c) instituted the matter as a safeguard for the Torah, as was necessary at a specific time. These are the decrees, edicts, and customs instituted by the Sages.

It is a positive commandment to heed the court with regard to each of these three matters. A person who transgresses any of these types of directives transgresses a negative commandment. This is derived from the continuation of the above verse in the following manner: "According to the laws which they shall instruct you" - this refers to the edicts, decrees, and customs which they instruct people at large to observe to strengthen the faith and perfect the world. "According to the judgment which they relate" - this refers to the matters which they derive through logical analysis employing one of the methods of Biblical exegesis. "From all things that they will tell you" - This refers to the tradition which they received one person from another.


כָּל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ עוֹשֶׂה כְּהוֹרָאָתָן עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יז יא) "לֹא תָסוּר מִכָּל הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יַגִּידוּ לְךָ יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאל". וְאֵין לוֹקִין עַל לָאו זֶה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁנִּתָּן לְאַזְהָרַת מִיתַת בֵּית דִּין. שֶׁכָּל חָכָם שֶׁמּוֹרֶה עַל דִּבְרֵיהֶם מִיתָתוֹ בְּחֶנֶק שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יז יב) "וְהָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה בְזָדוֹן" וְגוֹ'. אֶחָד דְּבָרִים שֶׁלָּמְדוּ אוֹתָן מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה וְהֵם תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה. וְאֶחָד דְּבָרִים שֶׁלְּמַּדוּם מִפִּי דַּעְתָּם בְּאַחַת מִן הַמִּדּוֹת שֶׁהַתּוֹרָה נִדְרֶשֶׁת בָּהֶן וְנִרְאָה בְּעֵינֵיהֶם שֶׁדָּבָר זֶה כָּךְ הוּא. וְאֶחָד דְּבָרִים שֶׁעֲשָׂאוּם סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה וּלְפִי מַה שֶּׁהַשָּׁעָה צְרִיכָה וְהֵן הַגְּזֵרוֹת וְהַתַּקָּנוֹת וְהַמִּנְהָגוֹת. כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מֵאֵלּוּ הַשְּׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה לִשְׁמֹעַ לָהֶן. וְהָעוֹבֵר עַל כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה. הֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים יז יא) "עַל פִּי הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר יוֹרוּךָ" אֵלּוּ הַתַּקָּנוֹת וְהַגְּזֵרוֹת וְהַמִּנְהָגוֹת שֶׁיּוֹרוּ בָּהֶם לָרַבִּים כְּדֵי לְחַזֵּק הַדָּת וּלְתַקֵּן הָעוֹלָם. וְעַל הַמִּשְׁפָּט אֲשֶׁר יֹאמְרוּ אֵלּוּ דְּבָרִים שֶׁיִּלְמְדוּ אוֹתָן מִן הַדִּין בְּאַחַת מִן הַמִּדּוֹת שֶׁהַתּוֹרָה נִדְרֶשֶׁת בָּהֶן. מִכָּל הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יַגִּידוּ לְךָ זוֹ הַקַּבָּלָה שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ אִישׁ מִפִּי אִישׁ:

  • please put a reference (or exact passage) to the "everything they tell you, do"
    – ninamag
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 9:40
  • @ninamag added .. Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 9:52
  • do we today have a sanhedrin that we recognize as such?
    – ninamag
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 4:05
  • @ninamag once the sanhedrin was dispersed they appointed other rabbis to act on their behalf, so the commandment to listen to the sanhedrin applies to those rabbis too, especially when they all unanimously accept something, see Rambam later in the section Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 4:07

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