Thursday, July 02, 2009

Extreme Hair Covering: Kimchit's reward

Down below, the learned readers of the DovBear community are discussing Hadassah's post about hair-covering. There are over 100 comments, but Kimchit hasn't been mentioned yet. This is something of a surprise, as Kimchit and her extreme-hair covering almost always come up when the subject is wigs and snoods. Who was she? Here's how Ask Moses tells her story: In the Talmud there is a famous story about a certain woman by the name of Kimchit who was careful that “the walls of her house should not see the hairs of her head.” She was rewarded with seven sons who served as High Priests.

This is the popular version of the Kimchit story, though I've heard people say the reward was merely seven sons, and not necessarily seven High Priests. In any event many women, including my own sister-in-law, imitate Kimchit's practice in the hopes of sharing in Kimchit's reward. Unfortunately for the Kimchit copycats, the popular/Ask Moses version is a significant distortion of what the Talmud actually says.

Here's my translation of the passage from Yoma 47a:

Tanu Rabanan: Kimchit had seven sons and all of them served as Kohen Godol. The Sages said to her: "What did you do to merit this?" She replied: "The walls of my house never saw the hairs on my head" Replied the Sages: "Many women have done this, but didn't receive your reward."
See the difference? In the popular/Ask Moses version there's no doubt that Kimchit's sons are a reward for extreme hair covering. A clear cause and effect is implied. In the Talmud itself, however, the idea that extreme hair covering yields a reward is Kimchit's own theory, and the Sages debunk it.

Search for more information about Kimchit at

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