Judaism is forthcoming on moral issues, never attempting to change the human mentality. The Israeli debate about legalizing prostitution is ridiculous: the patriarch Judah used Tamar’s services, taking her for a prostitute. The Torah carefully prohibits Jews from giving out their daughters for prostitution, but enjoins them to have foreign prostitutes. Jews are barred from running after foreign women, lest Jews be turned away from Judaism, but there is no question of running after a prostitute: they need not be courted and therefore don’t threaten Jewish religious attachments. For married men though, visiting prostitutes may translate into deceiving a wife, the ultimate neighbor.
The Orthodox dress code was fashionable when introduced three centuries ago. It was never meant to be an outdated garb. And it is not Jewish in any way: gentiles dressed similarly at the time.
Rabbis demand that married women cover their heads because in the Torah a woman under investigation for unchastity had her hair let down by the priest (Num5:18). But the Torah is explicit: the hair was let down, not uncovered; there was no head cover. Besides, a woman was likely acquitted in the ordeal, as the “bitter water” test is harmless. Therefore her hair was let down not as a sign of shame (for she was proven innocent) but as a cross-culturally standard sign of humility and submission to judgment. If appealing to the Torah regarding head cover, know that the scripture relates modesty to flowing hair rather than to hair covered with a hat or wig.
The Talmud agrees that disheveling her hair is a sign of shame, but offers an illogical conclusion: therefore, to bare one’s hair is shameful. Why so? The disheveling only suggests that the hair was normally neat; there is no implication that it was covered. If female cover had been so important as rabbis suggest, the Torah would have surely mentioned the priest removing it.
Lev 21:10 prohibits a high priest to dishevel his hair as a sign of mourning. He is not obligated to cover his head at all times, thus the woman’s disheveling also does not imply head cover. Rabbis avoided the contradiction by reading the very same word which means “dishevel” in Num as “grow” in Lev.
The rite in Num5 also suggests the absence of hair cover: the priest let her hair down, but taking the hat off is not mentioned. If wearing a hat symbolizes modesty, it would be surely appropriate to specify that the priest also takes off the symbol of modesty. Apparently, ancient Jewish women did not wear hats.
Flowing hair is sexually attractive, and in the ancient times of (widely violated) sexual taboos women tied their hair just as they covered their ankles and elbows. The Torah wisely avoids legislating dress code: fashion and customs are fleeting while religion deals with eternal values. Untying a woman’s hair humiliated her just like uncovering a child’s butt for flogging humiliated him. This is no longer true in the modern convention: flowing female hair is the least of the sexually explicit displays on our streets and beaches. There is no problem with it whatsoever; if there were any problem, the Torah would have told us how to dress.
Judah mistook Tamar for a prostitute specifically because she had veiled herself, a custom for Canaanite women or prostitutes specifically. King Solomon’s beloved’s “eyes are as doves behind your veil,” but had she been Jewish? “Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, with me from Lebanon.” The secret love described in the Song of Songs also suggests a foreign environment; King Solomon had no reason to hide in Jerusalem. By the way, Shulamite is not her name, as it’s prefixed with the definite article ha-. Rather it means, the one of Shlomo (Solomon).
Even in Islam, the head cover is superfluous: Mohammed’s visitors spoke to his wives from behind a curtain, a semi-wall in his house. That tradition gave rise to hijab, the every woman’s curtain. It is unreasonable for Jews to be more backward than the Koran suggests.