Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

27 Sivan 5764 - June 16, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Hair Today, Gone Today
by Bayla Gimmel

Hair seems to be a focus point of the Yetzer Hora. We encounter Eisav -- full of hair. Hair comes into play with Yosef Hatzaddik, who, the Midrash tells us, curled his hair, which aroused the evil inclination. Hair is an issue with the Nozir, as with Shimshon and again, hair comes into play with Avsholom. It crops up with a fascinating episode concerning `bald' Eliyohu and with Elisha.

What better Parsha than Korach for some more thoughts on the sheitel issue? When Korach came home completely shaven (from whence he got his name, `bald') so as to qualify him for the Levite service in the Mishkon, his wife ridiculed him and thus began the controversy between Korach and Moshe.

The wife of Ohn ben Peles, on the other hand, rescued her husband from the dire outcome of an association with Korach by actions again connected with hair.

Plenty to be said on this subject.

Hair Today, Gone Today

by Bayla Gimmel

As I write this, the sheitel issue is still evolving and I do not know what the final outcome will be. However, I must say that in the past few weeks, we have all learned a great deal about ourselves, about others and more.

It was a beautiful, uplifting experience to go out on the Shabbos morning right after women had been asked by our Torah leaders to refrain from wearing human hair wigs -- and to see a snood, scarf or turban on every married woman passing by. It fostered a sense of camaradarie, as if to say, "We are all in this together."

When I was living in Calfornia, I would often see non-Jewish neighbors driving their morning school car pools with their hair done up in rollers, usually with a scarf or turban wrapped around them. But the Jewish women would usually wear their wigs to drive their nursery car pools or to even to water the plants in their front yard.

Here in Israel most of us dress more casually within our neighborhoods. Snoods are just fine for wearing pretty much all day long, whether in the house, the street, the health clinic or to the grocery. However, women do like to get more dressed up when they go into town and a wig has usually been part of that.

To some extent, for stay-at-home women as well as their at- work counterparts, there has been an element of sacrifice in giving up the wigs. The amount of sacrifice varies greatly from individual to individual.

And that is one of the lessons we have all learned from this entire event: `Don't judge your sister until you have walked in her snood."

I personally was not affected in the least by the ruling. My usual hair covering is a tichel. I have a deal with my sons that I wear a wig for each of their bar mitzvas and their weddings. Sheva brochos are negotiable. Aside from those occasions, if you see me in a wig, it isn't me.

I keep my small collection of wigs, all 100% synthetic and priced way below $100 apiece, in plastic bags in my closet. After my youngest son gets married, I will probably donate them to the neighborhood gemach, since I don't have the same arrangement with my grandchildren.

I have learned over the years that by wearing solid colors during the week, my cotton and polyester kerchiefs match every outfit in my closet, according to my taste and choice.

Most of today's women cover their hair according to someone else's choice. Whether it is their husband's taste, their neighborhood's standard or the tradition of their particular Chassidus, most women do not get to select what should be a very personal part of their wardrobe and they end up wearing the same style and price as the other women around them.

A young woman whose husband is involved in kiruv told me recently that she got a new fairly long, flowing human hair wig for the first time a year ago Pesach. During the summer vacation, a non-observant distant relative was touring Israel and was invited to spend a Shabbos. After all, shouldn't kiruv begin in your own family?

They went for a walk on Shabbos afternoon and all of the women were wearing their expensive long human hair wigs, many with `skin' parts, which had become the standard in that neighborhood. As they returned to her building, the visitor said to her hostess, "Tell me something. I used to think you religious women were supposed to cover you hair. When did that change?" After that, our hostess did not feel so comfortable in her new wig!

My dream is to see the following happily-ever-after ending to the sheitel story: firm guidelines from our Torah leaders on the modesty aspects of the wigs that are acceptable in our communities [Ed. Rabbi Falk has itemized these guidelines and YATED printed them. Now who is going to implement them?] and price limits on how much one can spend on a wig [Ed. According to income or absolute?].

If we are addicted to keeping up with the neighbors, please let's make sure that everyone can participate in the sheitel party. I don't know if they were exaggerating or not, but people told me that some cost over $1000.

I know for a fact that there are people in my neighborhood, Neve Yaakov, who eat little more than bread and white cheese, and drink nothing but water all week long, and can only buy Shabbos food with the help of vouchers from our local chessed organization. How do these women feel when someone walks by in her human hair extravaganza?

Can you blame someone for looking at her neighbor's new `hair' acquisition and calculating how many portions of fresh fruit and yogurt, let alone gefilte fish and chicken soup, that wig could buy for her children...

[Ed. And to think that a decent hat, kerchief or snood can be gotten at your local clothing gemach for two or three shekel...]


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