The top fashion designers from Paris could never have pulled
it off. A complete style change literally overnight...
Thousands of women around the world, from Melbourne to Modiin
to Manchester to Milwaukee, placed their wigs onto styrofoam
heads and slipped on alternative head coverings. Women who
would never be seen outside with anything less than a
sheitel, women who would never go to work in a snood,
and women who feel like they are walking around in bedclothes
if they're wearing a tichel, fearlessly put aside
their embarrassment. The streets filled up with women donning
the latest, and not so latest, in fabric head coverings. Even
Liz Claiborne would be stunned at the dramatic changeover.
As the weeks go by, we are slowly gaining clarity about which
wigs are problematic and which not. Some women have once
again put on their wigs or bought synthetic ones. Some have
brought their old ones to a laboratory to determine if they
had human hair blended in.
But another phenomenon is simultaneously occurring. Women are
discovering the beauty of alternative hair coverings. After a
few days of wearing their old (nighttime) snoods, many women
wanted to dress themselves up a bit more. With the approach
of Shavuos and the wedding season, they wanted to wear
something more festive and elegant and felt that their black
net snoods did not do justice to their stylish outfits. So
began the search for alternatives.
One woman entered a store with women's hair coverings looking
for some kind of hat. As she opened the door, she
unexpectedly found herself joining several other women with
the same idea. The manageress welcomed her. "Come in. Come
in. Would you like one of our madrichot [not
saleslady, mind you] to teach you how to tie a scarf?"
"Well," she said. She actually wanted a hat, but this sounded
like fun. "That would be great."
So a middle-aged, smiley woman took her under her Yerushalmi
wing and taught her the ins and outs of kerchief-tying.
"Oh, no! That's too Meah Shearim. Don't get me wrong. It's
beautiful, but it's just not me."
They tried a big bow on the side. They tried adding height by
inserting a turban underneath. They tried everything, until
finally she found something that was `her.' And she loved
Look at the streets on Shabbos, never mind the weekdays.
Teeming with women with scarves, hats and snoods, we can
almost imagine Eretz Yisroel -- or the European shtetl -- of
The stereotypes are gone. Before, a scarf implied attachment
to a specific group. A hat, another. With the sudden decree
to forsake our wigs, women have been forced to don coverings
they never thought they would. And many of them are enjoying
it! The sense of female Jewish unity is a side benefit of the
As far as sheitels free of association with idolatry
go, the Poskim differ on this. Some forbid them, while others
permit them, as long as they adhere to the laws of modesty.
However, choosing alternate hair coverings is middas
hachassidus and praiseworthy, provided that they cover
all of the woman's hair. Many blessings are promised to those
who take this upon themselves.
If you can do it for a few days or a few weeks, why not
longer? Why not grasp this higher level of the mitzva
of hair covering?
In the recent Bnos Melochim Tzniyus rally videoed around the
globe [and reviewed in YATED], one speaker told the following
Once upon a time, the yetzer hora approached Hashem
with a grievance. He was trying his best to do his job for
after all, if there were no yetzer hora, there would
be no free will and no reward in the World to Come. Yet no
one appreciated him and he had gotten a bad reputation.
Hashem decided to change his name to sitra achra,
Aramaic for `the other side.' The counterpart of the
yetzer tov, it was more subtle, less confrontational,
definitely more politically correct. And so, the yetzer
hora, alias sitra achra, returned to his important
Some time later, he returned to Hashem, voicing the same
complaint again. "At first, the plan worked. People talked
about me without that hatred in their voice. But after a
while, they did it again. Every time they said my name, they
would clench their teeth, roll their eyes and growl. It's
just not fair."
Then the yetzer hora came up with his own original
idea. "I'll change my name again, but this time I'll be
called `Everybody's doing it'."
He was right; it worked. Because if everybody's doing, it
can't be so bad...
The sheitel issue has stirred us all up. As time goes
by, women are actively considering how to cover their hair.
What each woman chooses is up to her and her husband, based
on the guidance of their rabbi. But we can all rethink the
We are living in a crucial moment in history. This could be a
complete or partial turnabout in the look of the Jewish
woman. Only time will tell. But by attributing the proper
significance to the mitzva of covering her hair, women
will be restoring the crown (whatever that crown is made of)
to its former glory.