Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ever since I became religious, I had some kind of deep struggle and interest with the subject of hair covering.

I grew up with three frum families who lived on my block. They were basically the only frum people I've ever seen. When I was around 8 years old, a relative of mine told me those ladies shave the hair on their heads and wear wigs. Needless to say, I was a bit freaked out. I pictured bald women with itchy heads and fake hair and definitely was not attracted to the lifestyle what-so-ever.

When I started displaying more interest in observant Judaism, a friend of mine, who was also growing religiously, told me that it is halacha for a married woman to wear a wig. Defensive and taken aback, I said “what?! No way am I ever shaving my head.” Looking perplexed, my friend said “no…you wouldn’t have to shave. Most women have hair under their wigs. You can ever see the bump from their hair bun under the wig.”


I calmed down a bit. And so, I assumed, when I’m ready to date and get married to Mr. Right, I’ll wear a wig. Of course, it’ll be a beautiful, long, fancy, and natural looking wig (with bangs.) Afterall, I was (an am :)) a young lady with beautiful long black hair. No way was I giving that up for a short straw-like wig.

FFWD to a few months later. The same friend told me “you know, I heard there’re issues with Sefardim wearing wigs, and some women don’t wear wigs.” I wasn’t sure what she meant. “Why would there be an issue?”
You see, no one told me that wigs were worn because of modesty. For some reason, it just didn’t cross my mind. I assumed that wigs somewhat served the same purpose of a kippa for a man – a reminder that G-d is above us.
My friend was also not sure why there was an issue, so she decided to ask a lady from our Sefardi-nusach Shul – why some people oppose wigs. It probably wasn’t the best idea, since this lady herself wore a wig and didn’t exactly seem like she was too knowledgeable in halacha. She responded with something along the lines of “there is no problem.”

And so, Sefardi Gal being the curious one that she was (and is), decided to start a research project. And boy, did I research. I read countless books, articles, and teshuvot about the topic. Ad Nauseum.
I went to the mekor M'D'oraita (the source in the written Torah), then the Mishna, the Gemara, the rishonim, and achronim. Ashkenazim, Sefardim, Modern Orthodox liberal, Modern Orthodox machmir, Yeshivish modern, Haredi, Hassidish, American, get the picture.
Even though I so desperately wanted to show hair after being married, I wanted to do the right thing. I questioned myself: do I want to fulfill G-d's will or my own will? Is Judaism a shopping cart where I just pick and choose what's convenient for me and drop what isn't? Do I pick and choose the lenient opinion when I please?

Almost all of the reasons and teshuvot of gedolim seemed to completely dismiss most wigs as proper modest haircoverings.
And once I found out that the main issue with wigs was modesty, I decided that I would never wear a wig. No matter what.

When I started dating, if I ever saw potential with the guy, I asked for his opinion on modesty, in general, as well as wigs. The man’s response often told me a lot about his hashkafah in life. Thankfully enough, I didn’t date many men who wanted to be possessive and make sure their trophy wives look like frum Barbie.
It was also important to me that my husband would support and agree with my decision not to wear wigs because it certainly would be a struggle for me, and I knew that I would need his help. Afterall, it's BECAUSE I'm married to HIM that I need to cover my hair, so he should also take part in the mitzvah.
Will I ever find him? I'd sigh. At times, it was even part of my tefillah - please G-d, help my zivug be someone who doesn't want me to cover my hair with a wig.

My husband actually told me something kind of funny. When dating, he knew he didn't want his wife to wear a the point that he'd even break off a shidduch if the girl wanted to cover her hair with a wig. When he told one of his relatives (who is not yet observant) that he wants to marry a lady who will only wear scarves, she responded "do you honestly think you'll find such a girl? A young, modern lady who will be willing to cover herself like the grandmothers of the past? Forget about it."
After we were engaged, I met this relative, and she asked me "you're seriously going to cover that beautiful hair of yours? how?!"
For me, the answer was plain and simple: how does any Jew fulfill a mitzvah?
But I wasn't sure she'd understand that answer.

And so…
now that I'm married, I wear scarves every day. I own two subtle hats, but my husband isn’t such a fan of hats, so I mainly stick to scarves. Being that I like fashion and always aim to look good and presentable, I often mix and match different colors, add flowers, lace, headbands, pins, etc. to the scarves. I match my jewlery and make-up with the scarves. Earrings are crucial when wearing scarves! (It happens to be, that I nearly never left the house without earrings even when I was single. Ears look so bare without earrings, and the earrings add such beauty and life to the face. But perhaps that's my own meshugaass. :))
There’s absolutely no reason that scarves need to look shlumpy or raggy. A Jewish woman should ALWAYS look like a queen. Her hair covering is her crown.
I’ve received many compliments, which really helped with my hair covering confidence. (I was VERY attached to my hair when I was single. It was one of my challenges with modesty.)

Sometimes it is difficult – like at weddings or job interviews. But often times, the right thing to do in life isn’t easy. I think of the pasuk from Shlomo Hamelech’s “Eshet Chayil” --“oz v’hadar levusha.” Loosely translated, that means “strength and splendour are her clothing.” I once heard a beautiful and powerful short dvar Torah about that pasuk. Why does it say “OZ” – strength – to describe the way a Jewish woman is dressed? Because it takes a lot of strength to dress modestly. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s even like war. But once a woman can pass that nisayon – then her clothing is described as “hadar” – splendorous, magnificent, brilliant, and majesty-like.

I might or might not post more about specifically WHY I chose to never wear wigs. (And, of course, which sources. Everything needs a source in Judaism.) I have many stories involving Hashgacha Pratit that helped me decide…as my decision was not easy, nor was it convenient.

Hair-covering (and tzniut, in general) is definitely a sensitive subject that many women seem to take to heart, but at the same time, it’s also an extremely important matter with very little written about the subject in English.
So we’ll see :)

Chag Pesach kasher v’sameach to all!


  1. Although I am Ashkenazi, and it was my people who gave the heter for wigs, I find it a complete farce.

    I frankly don't see how long, perfectly styled, magnificent quality hair is less noticeable than one's own hair which has major frizzing tendencies. And to say if someone doesn't cover their hair at all means they are untzniusdik, I find that ridiculous since they are most definitely not getting as much attention as flowing wig-wearers are.

    Meaning, if one is serious about covering their hair, there is only one right way to do it: hats or scarves.

    My mother wears a wig (one that was definitely better quality than my grandmother had in Europe) and according to the concept of "Daas Yehudis," I will probably wear one too. But it will be a short, severe bob, and my own long hair will be pinned down underneath.

    An Ashkenazi neighbor of mine married a guy with a Moroccan background. His sisters and family took to the dance floor, all of them wearing head scarves with their gowns.

    Sephardim never permitted the wig, which Ashkenazim needed a heter to allow. I commend you for sticking to your background's guns.

    As an aside, there is a Pakistani Muslim woman who does makeup tutorials on YouTube who always has her hair covered in pretty funky ways. Most of them are typical hijabs, but others are very interesting scarves and such. And frankly, her makeup is done so amazing I haven't even noticed what she has on her head.

  2. Its kind of interesting to see the way different people look at things in such opposite ways. Lubavitchers hold just the opposite, we under no circumstances wear a hat or a scarf - only sheitels. The Rebbe spoke about it many times, and specifically mentioned the idea that a shietel can look as nice if not nicer than the actual hair. The page I linked to has some excerpts from letters and sichos of the Rebbe explaining his opinion on the matter. Rabbi Wolpe (a Lubavitcher Rav in E"Y) recently wrote a sefer called לקט שכחת הפאה where he addresses the whole sheitel issue. Its a rather interesting read. It was written as a response to a letter by Rabbi Meir Mazuz.

  3. Princess Lea - according to some, the heter is actually not originally given by Ashkenazi Rabbanim. A "pea nochrit" is mentioned in the mishna. However, there's a debate with what that term actually means. Some say (Shilte Giborim) that it was an actual wig - made of horse or animal hair. And others (Beer Sheva) say that it was a hairpiece (made of that same material) that was worn under a scarf or hat in order to make the scarf look fuller.
    If one follows the first opinion, then, well - which sheitels are made of horse hair today? Almost all are made of human hair - be it short or long wigs.
    If one follows the second - then no sheitels are allowed.

    Oftentimes, when Ashkenazi Rabbanim - from the 17th or 18th century are quoted regarding sheitels - it's like comparing apples to oranges. The nicest sheitels of then are NOT even similar to the ugliest, most unnatural sheitels of today.

    Countless Ashkenazi Gedolei Hador, including HaRav Elyashiv, have come out and said that the sheitels of today are immodest. (He didn't specify long or short wigs)

    That video is really cool! I also like watching make up tutorials. I'm kind of obsessed with the ones that use the urban decay make up palette.

    The Professor - it really is interesting. The Lubavitch Rebbe was one of the only Rabbeim who came out and said that a sheitel is preferable. This teshuva is unusual for a number of reasons:
    1. Most chassidim hold that the opposite is true (because they follow the Beer Sheva's view of the "pe'a nochtrit", and not the Shilte Giborim's view.)
    2. He doesn't really have any previous sources that support the opinion
    3. According to many, he was not a posek halacha.

  4. Interesting!

    As for the second (Beer Sheva) I guess chassidishe women and the shpitzel are in the clear.

    I'm going to start stocking up on kerchiefs.

  5. Princess Lea - lol!

    "I'm going to start stocking up on kerchiefs."

    Apparently it's a segulah. Like everything else these days!

    If you do buy them, don't get ripped off too severely. I bought most of mine in Israel for 10 shekels. A friend of mine bought me one for $50. I was like WHAT?!
    It's super pretty one though :)

  6. You know how hard it is to find a 100% cotton kerchief that is large enough in the US, for a reasonable price? Incredibly rare! Everything is made from polyester which just slides off the head.

  7. Thank you for bringing attention to this subject. It's a pleasure to hear from of a woman who had made this decision for herself enthusiastically.

    Whenever I mention to anyone that this is what I'm looking for, the reaction is "Maybe I know one person who maybe you could talk into it, but she'd only do it for a really amazing guy and even then she wouldn't be too happy about it." I politely explain that I'm not interested in bullying anyone and that I'm probably not amazing enough for her. (Though, by the time she decides to marry someone, doesn't that mean that she thinks he's amazing?)

    In the Ashkenazic, Yeshiva community in New York, they take it a step further. "Maybe someone Sephardic," to which I laugh and then count on one finger EVERY Sephardic woman in Brooklyn who wears a scarf full-time. Then they suggest moving to Israel, which I'd like to do eventually, along with an American wife.

    Is there any network of girls in America who've already made this decision for themselves? How do I connect with individuals in that network?

    1. One typo in my post above: When I wrote "count on one finger" I meant "count on one hand." Close enough...

  8. Nezek - thank you for the kind words.
    Even though you're a male and your search is different than what mine was, I sympathize and understand where you're coming from. You want to get married to someone who won't just do it because you tell her to, rather, someone who understands and values tzniut and knows why she's doing what she's doing.

    I wasn't part of a circle that unanimously prohibits wigs. Among my married friends, I have a few friends who cover their hair without wigs, but they do so because their husbands had that preference.
    Among my single friends, there are those who are set on covering with a wig, and those who are more open to either way.

    My best advice to is to daven every single day to HaKadosh Baruch Hu for an isha tznua. I think that's the best way to go because HaShem knows who your zivug is.
    I wish you a lot of hatzlacha with your search, and may HaShem bless you with your zivug hagun as soon as the right time is possible.

  9. Also -
    I'd like to add that I was fortunate enough to be at a friend's wedding on Thursday, and I saw so many young women covering their hair without wigs. I think there were more women covering with hats/scarves than the fingers I have on my two hands.
    So, there may not be a whole community (yet) in America of such ladies, but there definitely are young women who are willing to cover their hair as you'd prefer.

  10. It's funny- I was more sure that I wouldn't wear a wig than I ever was that I would cover the bulk of my hair. Before I got married, I thought I'd cover my head extensively, but probably just braid my hair... Instead, I cover most of my hair, the vast majority of the time (I do wear a hat and a braid hanging out on occasion- we'll see if I keep that up or not). But wigs always felt a little dishonest to me, for all that I respect the ideology behind them. It just isn't for me.