I have covered my hair for many years now, but underneath, was always a long, full head of hair. My husband asked me to keep it, even if only he saw it. He enjoyed running his fingers through it after I took off my wig or scarf and let it down at night. It was his secret garden, a delight for him alone. Keeping it was pretty high maintenance, particularly as I moved from scarves to wigs. Every morning, I had to wrap it and curl it up onto my head and secure it there with pins, then put on a wig cap, then a wig. I was limited in what wigs I could buy because I needed such a large cap to contain it all, but it was worth it to see his happiness when I would let it down and my hair would tumble down my back.
Today, he chose to cut it for me. With wigs, it’s generally easiest to have either long enough hair so that you can pull it easily up onto your head and secure it…or completely cropped close to the head. After watching me wrestle with my hair this Shabbos, he told me he was ready, that he wanted to try my hair cropped short, to see if he could learn to love it that way and if it would be easier and more pleasant for me.
And so, I met him in our backyard, my hair freshly washed and tied in a low ponytail. He waited, with scissors and his beard clippers. As he cut the pony tail off, I half-expected it to hurt, for that hair to have feeling. Instead, it cut off easily and painlessly, my head suddenly lighter. Then, he asked me to lean over and he began, very gently, tenderly, trimming my hair close to my head, being so careful not to pinch.
As the fluffy clouds of my hair fell I realized the weight of this. This was more than just my hair, which of course could always be grown back. This was him making a sacrifice, him surrendering to his faith. This was something that would at least take years to undo, if we chose to. Even more so, this was making a very conscious choice. Up until now, if I’d wanted to, I could have taken off my wig or scarf and walked out as anyone else. Now, it wouldn’t really be possible. This was making a even stronger commitment to our lives together as an Orthodox Jewish couple.
The clouds of hair that fell to our feet were grayer than I expected, grayer than they would have been years ago when we first began this journey. I began to feel the cool morning breeze on my neck, on my scalp. As he finished, he tenderly placed a hand on my head, pulling me to him and I leaned into him and we both just breathed deeply. It wasn’t sadness…it was a weight of significance we both felt. There was very much a feeling of him making a sacrifice and commitment to our path in a way he hadn’t been ready to before. There was a feeling of lightness, like during a fast, a feeling of having let go of something at last that was weighing us both down. Whether I grow my hair back or not, there was a feeling that this changed something deep and integral and the way he had lovingly and carefully done it himself was moving.
It felt right to do this the week before Rosh Hashanah, the morning after we first said Selichos. It felt like this was his way of affirming Hashem’s Kingship and showing that he’s ready to take the next step forward. For me, it felt like he was showing me that he loves me, hair or not that there is a kind of unconditional acceptance of me that is awe inspiring and in return, I was showing my willingness to follow him, hair or no hair.
I am proud to be married to such a man and so grateful to be walking this path alongside him. I sometimes wonder how many men would have the faith to undergo what he has, but I also wonder if what he has had to go through has in part strengthened that faith, like iron in a fire.
Wherever life takes us and whatever happens to my hair, I will never forget that moment, his loving care cutting it all and his embrace after that told me that I am loved beyond anything external, that I am accepted no matter what form this world gives me, and that we are together, both just as committed to not just conversion, but a life of Torah after.
I can’t think of any better way to prepare for this Rosh Hashanah.