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!