Does a married woman have to cover her hair based on a biblical commandment or a rabbinic decree?

  • I feel like this must be a dupe, but I can't find it.
    – Seth J
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 2:04
  • What do you mean? And what can't you find? Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 2:06
  • 2
    @SethJ there are several questions that ask about covering hair in specific situations (see related questions at right), but I couldn't find the general "is it d'oraita or d'rabbanan" question, so probably not a dupe. (David, he meant that this might be a duplicate of an existing question; if so we would link it to the other, which may already have answers that you could use.) Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 2:39

2 Answers 2


The gemara in Ketubot derives the requirement from the laws of the Sotah in bamidbar 5:18. As the woman is required to UNcover her hair, there must have been covering on it.

The discussion is much more complex, but you can read about it here.

  • That doesn't really answer whether it's mid'oraysa or mid'rabanan. (Is it a d'rasha or an asmachta?)
    – msh210
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 5:50
  • the linked page discusses that and gives the options (paragraphs 2-4).
    – rosends
    Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 11:36
  • you can however interpret the gemara and pasuk to teach us that it is tznius. Because the jews lived in the middle east, they were living with arabs and people with similiar traditions. So the torah might be teaching us that it is forbidden to be less modest than the people which we live among. Look at Sarah avraham's wife for example, the pasuk says he didnt see her face, because she always had it covered. probably very similiar to modern day muslem woman. I believe the torah is commanding us in an inyun of tznius, not ervah. Commented Mar 3, 2014 at 13:58
  • @msh210 That is an Asmachta. An alluded support from written Torah for the Rabbinic prohibition of a married woman going out in public with hair uncovered. Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 14:04

It depends on who you ask, and how they interpret the sources.

The Mishna on Ketubot 72a list it as Das Yehudit (which the gemara contrasts with DeOraysa):

מתני' ואלו יוצאות שלא בכתובה העוברת על דת משה ויהודית ואיזו היא דת משה מאכילתו שאינו מעושר ומשמשתו נדה ולא קוצה לה חלה ונודרת ואינה מקיימת ואיזוהי דת יהודית יוצאה וראשה פרוע וטווה בשוק ומדברת עם כל אדם אבא שאול אומר אף המקללת יולדיו בפניו רבי טרפון אומר אף הקולנית ואיזוהי קולנית לכשהיא מדברת בתוך ביתה ושכיניה שומעין קולה:

"And these go out [of marriage] without their ketuba -- those who violate Dat Moshe and Dat Yehudit... And what is [a violation of] Dat Yehudit? She goes out with her hair uncovered..."

Yet the gemara there presents another Tannaitic source which (as per the gemara's interpretation) regards it as Biblical:

ראשה פרוע דאורייתא היא דכתיב (במדבר ה, יח) ופרע את ראש האשה ותנא דבי רבי ישמעאל אזהרה לבנות ישראל שלא יצאו בפרוע ראש

"But with her hair uncovered is Biblical, for it is written [Numbers 5:18] 'And he uncovers the head of the woman' and they taught in the academy of Rabbi Yishmael: this is a warning to daughters of Israel not to go out with uncovered hair."

The gemara then harmonizes it by explaining that there are two levels of requirement and how different levels of covering, in different locations, satisfy the different levels. See inside.

That is the normative halacha. (Though see how various Rishonim and Acharonim might interpret that gemara, perhaps moving it from this fixed point.)

What follows is my own chiddush in the matter. I would point out that one might disagree with the gemara and interpret that "warning" in Tana deVei Rabbi Yishmael as something other than a Biblical requirement.

And that if one looks in the Sifrei, a close but not identical picture emerges:

ופרע את ראש האשה: Another explanation: This teaches regarding daughters of Israel that they cover their hair. And though this is not a proof to the matter, there is a reference to the matter, in [II Shmuel 13]: 'And Tamar put ashes on her hair'"

One might argue that this is evidence of the true intent of the derasha, even as it appears in Tana deVei Rabbi Yishmael, that this is revealing the Dat Yehudis, the tznius practice of women even back then, rather than instituting a Biblical requirement.

  • Reminds me of והזרתם את בני ישראל מטומאתם מכאן א"ר ירמיה אזהרה לבני ישראל שיפרשו מנשותיהן סמוך לוסתן which many take as an Asmachta.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 20:33
  • Regarding your chiddush, see Benei Vanim 3:22 at the very end.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 2:57

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