Monday, July 09, 2007

Wig Bans... It's Not Just For Indian Hair Anymore

An alert reader brought to my attention a matter being discussed on a women's only message board regarding wigs.

Apparently, a pashkivel is being circulated in Israel (see images at right) decrying the use of wigs by Jewish married women. We're not talking about Indian-hair wigs, where there might be a danger of Avodah Zara (idolatry), but rather any and all wigs.

The posters gives quotes from about a dozen gedolim regarding the severity of wearing a wig. Some of the quotes are rather harsh. A sampling (translation mine -- parts in brackets are not in the text but are implied):

  • This sin [wearing a wig] brings a plauge [that causes] you to descend to the seven levels of hell. This is an issur d'orissa (Biblical prohibition) of pritzus the same as having a completely uncovered head. [This applies to] even an uncovered wig. [A woman] who transgresses this is to be divorced and not receive her kesubah. -- R' Ya'akov Weiss

  • I say, a woman who wears a wig (peah nochris) is herself not-Jewish (nochris). Wigs are for non-Jews. -- Mordechai Sharabi

  • One time in my life I saw a woman with a wig and I said [to myself] Heaven has showed me this that I should strive to fix this problem of women wearing wigs with the hair like that of young girls'. This is forbidden. -- the Beis Yisroel from Gur.

  • Any woman that wears even a piece of a wig prepares herself for the fires in which they will burn her in hell. -- Baba Sali (note: my translation here may not be exact... but it's pretty close.)

Harsh words indeed. Divorce without receiving her kesubah? Burn in hell??

Now, I have no idea if the quotes presented are accurate or not. But one thing is fairly certain... the poster is lying about one important fact. The opening paragraph contains the following sentence:

Even the minority that allow a wig only did so regarding wigs made of goat's hair which can be discerned from afar...

Now, one thing is for certain... among Orthodox Jews, it is not the minority who permit wigs; it is the minority that prohibit it. There are many women, who are the wives of established rabbonim in communities all over the world, who belong to just about all varieties of Orthodox Judaism... chassidic, litvish, yeshivish, modern orthodox, centrist, etc. that all wear wigs. To state that is the minority who permit it is downright false.

Furthermore, it's interesting how the pashkivel uses "scare tactics" to make its point. It urges men to make sure that other men won't find their wives attractive. It tells women that they are harming others (opening paragraph) by wearing wigs. It tells them that they are going to be driven from their homes without a kesubah and burn in hell. In short, do as we tell you, or else you're going to suffer for it.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. On the one hand, it seems to me that this is the work of a lone nut or a small group. A proper pashkivel would probably have had a formal text and signatures of the gedolim, which this lacks. On the other hand, do the gedolim listed really maintain these positions? And if so, then how do you account for the large number of women who do wear wigs?

The Wolf

P.S. There is a phone number for more information at the bottom of the page. Anyone want to call for more info?


Anonymous said...

Woaw! I'm taking off my wig right now, and not covering my hair. (R' Weiss says its the same thing)

Larry Lennhoff said...

Certainly Rav Ovadya Yosef does not believe wigs are acceptable for Sephardic women. In point of fact, I believe wigs only gained widespread acceptance within the past 150 years or so. The late Lubavitcher Rebbe z'tl was one of the major influences in allowing wigs.

Anonymous said...

You underestimate how much wigs were a bottom up phenomenon. It was something that became so popular with the am that the (very real, too late) rabbinical disapproval was steamrollered. It doesn't get brought up any more for obvious reasons, but someone with an axe to grind can dig up the quotes. Lots of halacha was born that way: the people changed, the legal justification followed.

Anonymous said...

I'm against wigs too (for the standard don't-cover-your-hair-with-someone-else's-nicer-hair reasons), but let's not get carried away. Whatever happened to being melamed zechut on communal traditions?

Anonymous said...

Wolf, you sure you didn't confuse the Hebrew word for "wigs" with the Hebrew word for "face paint." If you did, then that would explain everything.

Ichabod Chrain

Anonymous said...

Just once I'd like to see a sign like this which states the world's evils and Judaism's problems are due to the fact that men smoke and thereby harm their God-given forms.

This continued track of 'sin of Eve' - where once again, it's the women's fault for whatever is getting tiresome.

Anonymous said...

p.s. that's not to say women don't smoke, but the majority in the frum world are probably men.

Anonymous said...

I'm not trying to be mean here, but it occurs to me that you're just giving these people free publicity and preaching to the choir. Why bother?

Avrum68 said...

"Lots of halacha was born that way: the people changed, the legal justification followed."

Like pre-marital relations in Modern Orthodoxy.

Mordechai Kaplan (founder of Reconstructionist Judaism) stated this has, and would always be the case.

Chana said...


My mom is Sephardi and yes, she and those of her community/ background do not wear wigs.

However, there's no way these quotes would ever be attributed to her (or her fellow Bukharians.)

These are just...extreme.

Anonymous said...

Well,if we're all doomed to hell,anyway,( funny how machmirim seem to have a curious knowledge of gehinom),may i suggest we go to the communist side...the heat never works.

BrooklynWolf said...


Sometimes extreme radicalism needs to be shown; if only to help keep the rest of us grounded.


SaraK said...

So women who wear wigs are damned to hell, etc., but major sins d'oraita are OK. Yeah, I get it, uh huh...
So I can just stick a hat on my head when I get married and then talk as much lashon harah that I want and be mechalel Shabbat and I'll still be OK?

Anonymous said...

Actually, when wigs first became common (IIRC, it was around 300 years ago) rabinnic opinion was pretty uniformly negative.

You have to admit the sense of it: what purpose does a $5000 wig that looks better than the hair of 99% of women serve, except to waste money.

On the other hand, I have to admit that the emphasis placed on women's hair covering sesms entirely out of proportion and a little creepy--it has become almost a "K'neged kulam"

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

reminds me of the posters claiming that it's absolutely 100% asur for men to do anything at all to their facial hair.

Lion of Zion said...

i was going to say what larry lenhoff mentioned above. i just wanted to add an anecdote about how sheitels were perceived in earlier generations. in her autobiography, gluckel of hamelin (17th c.) writes that when she moved to metz (?) she knew it was a holy city because the women did not wear sheitels.

Lion of Zion said...


it's funny you mention bukharians, because i always thought of them as an exception in the regard (at least in new york). i see quite a few of them who wear sheitels.

Zach Kessin said...

One more point, getting halachic advice off of random flyiers seems a bad idea to me. I mean you have no idea who really put them up and why.

Chana said...


That's pretty strange. My mom is a pureblood Bukharian Jew straight from Margilan in Uzbekistan and nobody in her community every wore wigs. Kerchiefs, silk scarves and now in the USA, hats or berets, but wigs? Never.

New York proves an exception to every rule. :-) Perhaps your Bukharians have "assimilated."

Orthonomics said...

Many Sephardim are going the way of the sheitel if they cover outside the house. But the machmir ones still remain.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the more intellectually honest approach would be to say that wigs are a circumvention of the law.

Those women who are truly serious about the laws of kissui rosh would do well not to wear sheitals.

Lion of Zion said...


"Perhaps your Bukharians have "assimilated.""

i do i see a certain trend among sephardim in general becoming more ashkenized, and this has definitely hit the bukharians as well. i have a friend who is militantly bukharian and is a mohel/shohet/future rabbi (i.e., he knows his stuff), yet even he holds by upsherin, sheitel and other "mainstream" practices.

"New York proves an exception to every rule."

i'm sure this is predictable, but imho new york is the rule; everywhere else is the exception.

Orthonomics said...

I went to a large Bucharian Beit Knesset a few years ago. The sheitals were prominent with a younger crowd, although there were also younger people my age sans sheital besides me.

Anonymous said...

What I find funny is that in the American yeshivish community, you are not considered very frum if you do NOT wear a wig, but merely hats/snoods/scarves. People assume if they see you on Shabbos in a hat that you only cover your hair on shabbos. But if they see you in a wig, you must be frum.

Also, the more expensive the sheitl/fall, the more frum you are.

Anonymous said...

The posters are really intended to reduce the community's financial burden, but used a convenient other argument as cover.

Deborah Shaya said...

There is No codified Halacha that a married woman must cover her hair totally and constantly whenever she steps out of her house.

The Halachah has been MISinterpreted. When the Halachah refers to "Covering hair," it does not mean "Cover your hair with hair!" and "constantly for life." The Halachah is that:

A married woman is required to cover her hair when:

(1) she lights the candles to welcome in Shabbat and Yom Tov – lechavod Shabbat ve Yom Tov, and

(2) when she goes to the Synagogue, because that is the place of Kedusha.

The Halacha does not require anything more from married women. This is the true interpretation of the Halacha.

The misinterpretation of the Torah is completely Assur, and a twisting of the Torah.The Torah must remain straight.

Deborah Shaya said...

In ancient times, a woman would only cover her hair upon entering the Beit HaMikdash. Similarly for the Sotah-otherwise she would not be required to cover her hair ordinarily, day to day.

It is very important for people to know and realise that when a married woman covers her hair with 'Real Hair' the woman is covering herself with 100% Tumah. This is totally against the Torah.

Nothing could be more nonsensical than for a Jewish woman to cover her hair with someone else's hair -who was not Jewish as well! She can never fully be sure that this 'hair' has not come from meitim-despite any guarantee by the seller.This 'real hair' is doubly and in some circumstances, triply Tumah.

1.It will contain the leftover dead hair cells from another person - however much it has been treated, the tumah is still there.

2.This other person (likely to be a non-Jew who most likely was involved in some kind of Avodah Zarah) may have eaten bacon, ham, lobster etc, all of which are totally forbidden as unclean and non-kosher foods in Halacha.

3.If the woman happens to be the wife of a COHEN, then she is bringing her husband into close contact and proximity with meitim and Tumah Every day, and throughout their married life. This is clearly strictly against the Torah.

Deborah Shaya said...

There is nothing more degrading and demeaning to a woman than to make her cover her hair FOR LIFE upon marriage.It is an abhorrent practice.

Any man who makes such a ridiculous demand on his wife, or wife-to-be, should similarly also be required by his wife to wear: long white stockings, even in the summer; a fur streimel; grow a long beard; wear a black hat and coat constantly, and cover his face when he speaks to his wife.Wigs -"la perruque"- were merely a fashion item in the time of Louis XIV-they are not for the Jewish woman!

Rabbi Menachem Schneeersohn tz”l, gave the directive that a married woman must cover her head with a “sheitel.” This needs to be corrected. Rabbi Schneersohn a"h, was a Tzaddik, – but on this – he was, unfortunately not correct.

It is extremely unhealthy and unhygienic for a woman to cover her hair constantly.The hair needs oxygen to breathe.A woman's hair will lose its natural beauty and shine, she may have scalp problems, some of her hair may fall out, she may get headaches, and she may end up cutting it short like a man, when she always wore it long, in order not to have too much discomfort from her hair covering.

Do you think that HaKadosh Baruch Hu commanded this of women? I can assure you that He did not.The commmandments are not meant to cause so much repression and oppression in women.Was Chava created with a wig? Of course not! Did she start wearing a wig? Of course not!

Please Wake Up.

Use the spark of intelligence that Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave to you and blessed you with.

And give your wig back to your husband if you wear one.

Deborah Shaya said...

1. To all the women who are wondering about the sources:

We have all been created, "Betselem Elokim" - "in the image of Elokim."
This means that we have been given something called "intelligence." The source is the very first Parsha, Bereishit - 1:27. It is time that people use the spark of intelligence and Kedusha with which Hashem has blessed them.

If your rabbi will tell you to go and jump into the depths of a glacier, presumably you would do that too – and give me a source for it?

“According to the Zohar”, I should also be covering my hair with a wig when I have a bath. “According to the Zohar and the Gemara” and all the sources that have misinterpreted the Halachah, and MIStranslated the Zohar, I should also have been born with a WIG on my head.

These sources and translations are incorrect, as they have deviated very far from the true and correct interpretation, of the Halachah.

Deborah Shaya said...

2.Remember that the Jewish women are very, very holy. They are much more holy than the men. Look at the exemplary behaviour of the women at Har Sinai.

The women never sinned at the Eigel, and so are greatly elevated. Many of the men, unfortunately, ran after a calf made out of a lump of gold – after they had just been given the Torah, and seen the greatest of all Revelations. The women refused to give their gold for the avodah zarah of the men.

The women were greatly elevated after such a wonderful display of Emunah, and they are regarded very highly in Shamayim.

That is why women are not even required to pray. They can pray at home on their own. Nor do women have to make up a minyan. That is how holy the Jewish women are. Men have to pray 3 times a day to remind them of their Creator.

The men are telling the women to put the hair of a non-Jewish woman who may have eaten things like snakes and sharks and alligators, and has worshipped in churches, Buddist temples or Hindu temples : on their own Heads. They had better wake up.

If the men don’t want to wake up to the truth, and the true interpretation of the Halacha, the women will wake them up – whether they like it or not.

3. Many righteous women influenced their husbands for the good at the Chet Haeigel and at the time of Korach.

It was these righteous women who succeeded in bringing their husbands back to their senses.

And because of these great women, the lives of their husbands were saved. Those men therefore turned away from the madness of avodah zarah, and the rebellion of Korach against Hashem's choice of Aharon, as Cohen HaGadol.

Deborah Shaya said...

4. Look at the Jewish women in history, and remember how holy they are.

(a) Yaakov, who was the greatest of the Avot, came to marry the 2 daughters of Lavan, Rachel and Leah. Lavan was not exactly a tzaddik. Yaakov went to Lavan, of all people, to marry his 2 daughters – not 1 daughter, but his 2 daughters. Nothing could be greater than that.

(b) Rut, who came from Moav, became the ancestor of David Hamelech.

(c ) Batya, the daughter of Paroh, was given eternal life because she rescued Moshe from the river. No one could have been more evil than Paroh.

(d) Devorah, was a Neviah, and also a Judge.

Women who came from such adverse backgrounds, were able to become builders of Am Yisrael. That is how holy the women are, and how much more elevated they are than the men.

This was never the case with men. It never happened the other way round.

Don't tell me it is holy for me to wear a WIG! Hair over my own hair? This is ridiculous!

Similarly, don’t tell me it is holy for me to plonk a permanent head covering on my head for the rest of my life. This is equally vile.

Please Wake Up.

Use the spark of intelligence that Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave to you and blessed you with.

And give your wig back to your husband if you wear one.

5. Remember: Not a single “dayan” or “rabbi” has the slightest bit of interest in correcting the situation for the women. Therefore, the women will have to correct the situation................for ..................themselves.

Whether you wish to accept the correction – which is true – is up to you. Are you going to live by the truth? Are you going to use the spark of intelligence that Hashem gave to you and all women? Or are you going to follow rabbis and dayanim who tell you to wear a wig in a Heat Wave – and you thank them for it as well?

William Dwek said...

The next things the ‘rabbis’ will come up with is to tell the woman to wear a CARPET on her head. Not a sheitel AND a hat, but a Carpet.

Or you could go for 5 shaitels on your heads and a rug.

And do you know what the Jewish woman will say to her husband?

‘Yes, husband! I am now wearing a carpet on my head!’

You women must either be extremely thick, or petrified.