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VEIL, covering for the face. In the Bible there are several terms usually translated as veil. However, the exact connotation for these terms is not known, and they may refer to other garments used to cover the face as well. The term צָעִיף is used of Rebecca (Gen. 24:65) and Tamar (Gen. 38:14, 19). Other terms used in the Bible for veil – though the meaning is not always certain – are צַמָּה (Isa. 47:2; Song 4:1, 3; 6:7); רְדִיד (Isa. 3:23; Song 5:7) and רְעָלָה (Isa. 3:19); cf. Shab. 6:6, where Arab women are said to go out רְעוּלוֹת (veiled), which implies that Jewish women did not. The מַסְוֶה worn by Moses after descending from Mt. Sinai to screen his radiant face (Ex. 34:29–35) was some kind of mask; the leper had to cover his upper lip (Lev. 13:45), by pulling his head-cover over his face (cf. MK 24a).

The Talmud has no Hebrew word for veil except the Aramaic בייכא or בייבא (BB 146a) and the Persian-Arabic פדאמי or פרמי (Shab. 66b). The word הינומא (Ket. 2:1, and 17b; TJ, ibid. 26a; cf. the Greek ὑμέαιος) describes the bridal litter (see M. Petuchowski's note in Baneth-Hoffmann etc. Mishnayot, 3 (1933), 100f.), but is interpreted by Rashi as "a veil over her (the bride's) head, let down over her eyes, as is customary in our region"; see also *Ḥushi'el of Kairouan, who lived before Rashi (JOR, 11 (1898–99), 649). This custom for the bride to veil her face or, as it is done now, for the groom or the rabbi to cover her face before the marriage ceremony ("bedecken," see *Marriage ), goes back at least to the early Middle Ages. In 15th-century Rhineland bridal veils were part of the groom's presents to his bride (sivlonot). In the late 17th and 18th centuries communal regulations (takkanot) forbade women to wear veils of gold or spun gold with gold or pearls or even braided (Metz, 1692), to visit the synagogues unveiled (Metz, 1697), or betrothed girls to appear in public without their faces covered (Amsterdam, 1747). In Muslim countries Jewesses had sometimes to wear distinctive veils, but Tunisian Jewish brides wore gold-embroidered veils in the 19th century. In certain ḥasidic circles brides have their faces completely wrapped and covered.


Krauss, Tal Arch, 1 (1910), 189, 196; idem, Kadmoniyyot ha-Talmud, 2 pt. 2 (1945), 265f.; I. Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (19322), 108, 304; A. Rubens, History of Jewish Costume (1967), index; L.M. Epstein, Sex Laws and Customs in Judaism (1948), index.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.