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Tfila and Brachot
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Should I cover my hair at home when saying a Bracha?

Rabbanit Rachel Weinstein

Cheshvan 5580/November 2019
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She'ela

I am married and cover my hair. While I don't keep my hair covered at home, I usually cover it for tefillah. Must I also cover my hair every time I say a bracha? Thanks.

Teshuva

You raise an excellent question. There are several approaches to this question in Halakha and we will discuss a few.

The rulings of Ashkenazi poskim differ from those of Sefardi poskim and therefore the answer to your question depends on whether you are Ashkenazi or Sefardi.

The Shulchan Aruch brings an opinion that one must cover his head whenever he utters the name of Hashem, this seemingly would include tefilla and brachot (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 91:3). The Shulchan Aruch then says that one must not stand in prayer bare headed. This is in addition to other preparations one must make for tefilla, which include being respectably dressed, wearing shoes and being in appropriately clean surroundings. The pasuk often mentioned in this context is     הכון לקראת אלהיך ישראל – “Prepare to meet your G-d…” (Amos 4:12)

There are a number of questions that arise from this Siman in the Shulchan Aruch. There is clearly a distinction in the wording of the Shulchan Aruch between tefilla and other utterings of the name of Hashem.  Is the covering of the head obligatory in both cases?

This distinction is emphasized by the fact that the Rambam (Mishne Torah Hilchot Tefilla 5:5) and the Tur (Orach Chayim 91) only mention the obligation to cover one’s head in the context of tefilla and not in the context of Kriat Shema and brachot.

This Siman does not specify whether it is referring to men or women. Maybe it only refers to men? Are women also obligated by this Halakha?

One might add that there is another component when discussing head covering of a woman. Where women are concerned the head is Halakhically referred to as Erva. The Shulchan Aruch states that a man must not recite Kriat Shema when he is facing Erva (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 75 1) and this includes a woman’s hair.

If a man may not recite Kriat Shema in the presence of Erva, maybe a woman also should not daven or say a bracha when her Erva is exposed?

Among more recent poskim there are different opinions as to whether a woman must cover her hair while reciting a bracha. According to some the answer is yes. Rabbi Akiva Iger (חידושי רעק”א החדשות שי”ל יו”ד ר) states that a woman’s hair should be covered while reciting a bracha. Harav Ovadia Yosef states likewise although he would say that this is the case for unmarried women as well (Yabia Omer 6 Orach Chayim 15).

According to others a woman may recite a bracha without covering her hair. Harav Elyashiv questions the comparison between men and women that this discussion is based on. And as we have seen, there are opinions that a man too must cover his head for Tefilla but not necessarily for brachot.

There are some who say that covering hair for brachot is “midat chassidut” (a pious/meritorious act) but not obligatory (see the Gr”a for example in his commentary on the above Tur סק”ו).

Summary:

As we have seen there are opinions that a woman must cover her hair while reciting a bracha and there are opinions that it is only midat chassidut and therefore not obligatory.

Most Sefardi poskim rule that a woman must cover her hair while saying a bracha, while the Ashkenazi poskim lean towards saying that hair covering for women while saying a bracha is not obligatory.

 

Rabbanit Rachel Weinstein

is a graduate of Hilkhata, Matan's Advanced Halakhic Institute and is a certified Meshivat Halakha. She studied in Migdal Oz, and Nishmat. Rachel teaches in her community and is a Yoetzet Halakha. She gives classes for women, teaches Kallot and runs the Matan Beit Shemesh Kallah teachers certification course. She lives in Tekoa and is the mother of 8 children.