Friday, June 11, 2010

A Tale of a Tichel

Note: A tichel is a head scarf, much like the one I'm rocking in this photo from one of my many adventures at Starbucks. 

I'm so glad that my post on shomer negiah elicited so many comments -- both positive and critical of a sweeping understanding as modesty and separation as a cure-all for wedded bliss. I agree: There is no cure-all, not even the observance of ta'arat ha'mishpacha (family purity) can guarantee that a couple will last as many years as Abraham and Sarah or that they'll be blessed with a gaggle of children and happiness.

But those who warn, Beware, you feel this now, but in a few years? ... I ask you to hold that thought. I know a lot of people who have stopped covering seven or ten years into a marriage, women who have opted to wear pants three years in, or couples that have decided that observing the laws of niddah just isn't working for them. I know women who don't go to mikvah, women who cover their hair in-shul, but cherish their flowing locks outside the walls of the beit k'nesset. And yes, I'm aware that at some point, without knowing it, I might become one of those women. I hope, however, that I always feel as I do now.

The funny thing is that covering, for me, is something I was excited about. A friend commented that at some point, I might miss being able to soak my hair in the fresh rain. Truth be told, I hated walking in the rain before I covered. After all, my hair style limited me from just about any kind of poor weather. I hated walking to shul in the rain, I hated rain jackets, I hated wearing hats (they flattened my awesome hair). Now? Well, it's been raining the past few days and I've relished in it. I've walked outside, looked upward, and almost danced to my car with rain drops on my tichel or hat. At last, I feel comfortable in my skin -- and all because of a simple head covering.

I feel more comfortable walking around Monsey, too. I know it's silly, and I don't seek acceptance, but walking around with Tuvia before I felt like people knew we were dating, shopping together, even, but unmarried! What a shonda! I'll admit that little kids still look at me funny when I'm in Monsey (after all, my jean skirt and colorful tichel with bangs a blowin' in the wind don't exactly scream "Monsey), but I felt like the reason the clerk at the health food store spoke so kindly and willing with me was because, well, I clearly was an observant, Jewish woman.

The funny thing is, I almost feel less comfortable walking around in the general Connecticut population. A man with a gigantic cross at Christmas Tree Shops (oh the humor in that one) looked me up and down, watched me standing at the register. Maybe I was paranoid, but I felt a piercing glance. If anything, covering my hair makes me "look the part" a little more than I used to. In the end, I'm okay with that (I dream of someday living in Jerusalem when looking the part just means looking like everyone else).

I know it's crazy to think that a few weeks into being married I'm so sure about how I feel, where I'm going, and how I will observe for the expanse of our happily wedded future, but my neshama hasn't led me astray yet, and the excitement, passion, devotion, and eagerness I feel about all of the things rolled up into the ideas of modesty and family purity has me thinking positive.

For all intents and purposes, I'm a modern girl. I'm liberal (let's not go into how I feel about women and the GLBT community and how people think it doesn't fit into Orthodoxy), I'm a Democrat, I like funky fashion, I think communication with the outside world and within the greater, global Jewish community starts with Social Media and the Internet, and I see Orthodoxy as awesomely modern and beautiful. I may appear to be a contradiction in terms to many, but in truth I see myself as a positive example of the possibilities of Orthodoxy in the 21st century -- what Orthodoxy should be: halakic, positive, modern, fulfilling.

I hope you all stick around for my journey as a married, Jewish, Orthodox woman ... I'm sure I'll have plenty of interesting things to offer you as life moves on (and I mean that literally, as we're moving at the end of the month to Teaneck, New Jersey!), and I only hope that you read with open eyes and ears and that if -- at any time at all -- you have questions or misunderstandings about something I say, that you'll email me and ask. I'm equal opportunity here, and I want to appeal to every person (Jew or not, Orthodox or Reform or Reconstructionist or Humanist or Lubavitch, etc, etc).

Peace and tichels, friends!