Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Sivan 5764 - May 27, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

Righteous Women
by Naomi Brudner

It came as quite a surprise and immediately became the subject of conversation -- wigs made from hair used for idol worship. Very quickly, it moved from a topic of conversation to a subject of concern. If it were verified and the rabbonim said that it was forbidden to sell, buy or wear such sheitels, in addition to being a very immediate subject of interest, it would cause a considerable loss of money for tens of thousands of women.

The Financial Loss

Regarding the financial loss, first there's the average chareidi woman who usually has a minimum of two wigs, one for weekday and one for Shabbos, etc. Then there is the mother of the kalla who is struggling to come up with the sizable sum to buy her daughter the two wigs. There are the more veteran wearers who laid out a good part of their salaries to buy their present wigs.

There are those enterprising women who have invested many thousands of dollars for a large stock of sheitels for their home business or salons. There are the distributers and wholesalers who also have large amounts of extremely expensive wigs, all of which may now be headed for the garbage or bonfire. And of course, there is not only the matter of having to possibly destroy the wigs, but also of replacing them with permissible ones. A woman who is used to wearing a thousand dollar wig is not going to replace it with a scarf. So besides the loss of the investment, there will have to be a kosher replacement, which is not going to be cheap, either.


Many women think they look just fine (if not more than fine) in a sheitel and absolutely terrible in a scarf or hat. Some of them are correct and others just feel that way, whether it is true or not. The truth is that in many cases, the wigs are more flattering than other head coverings. Those women who "for a million dollars" wouldn't go out of the house in anything other than a wig, have no choice pending a definitive psak.

With these givens, let us take a look at how today's chareidi women are responding. Throughout the frum world, women are going out with scarves, snoods or hats. Those who think they look less presentable than they'd like, put their egos aside and do what the rabbis say. They are wearing head coverings that were previously worn only in the comfort and familiarity of their home and family. Of course, some would suggest that priorities be reversed but that's another subject.

One teacher didn't show up for school because she was embarrassed. The newly married substitute, wearing a beret, took a roundabout route to school in order to be seen by as few people as possible. Then there was the woman who called her relative to wish her "Mazel Tov" and excuse herself for not coming to the Bar Mitzva. She was embarrassed to come without a sheitel. A pity that some women are so connected to their external identities... Nonetheless, they are sacrificing for the sake of the halocha.

Wherever you go, this is the subject of conversation. I got a happy phone call -- "The rabbis said my sheitel is kosher! I can take off this hat and wear it again!" Half an hour later -- "My mother-in-law reminded me that though the company I bought it from is kosher, I had `baby hair' added. Who knows where that came from? So I have to wait until I can find out." And another half an hour later -- "The wigmaker said the baby hair is O.K. but the rabbis say I have to have it in writing. I'll keep you posted."

I asked a friend what she had to say about the issue and she said matter-of- factly, "I'll probably throw mine out," adding, with sadness in her voice, "I'm just sorry that I transgressed avoda zora. I hope that Hashem forgives us all since it was unintentional." Who would have ever dreamed we would be burning artifacts of idolatry! How fortunate we are to have become aware of it, to have been given this opportunity to sanctify Hashem's Name!

In shul this Shabbos, elegant women including the rabbi's wife were also wearing scarves or hats previously reserved for the informality of the home. The wide variety of women usually wear sheitels but this week some wore knit hats, felt hats, snoods, scarves. Some looked less "beautiful" than usual but all glowed with a special Yiddishe chen that was more noticeable without a stunning coifed wig vying for attention. And the woman sitting next to me remarked, "The level of tzniyus has increased tenfold as a result of all this."

I could not help being reminded of our ancestors in the desert. When the women refused to give up their jewelry for the eigel, maybe the motive was not clear, but when they divested themselves of their mirrors with enthusiasm and joy for the kiyor in the Mishkan, it became retrospectively clear that they were thoroughly righteous. Perhaps their precedence gave us the courage this time round to relinquish our finery.

My gaze swept over the women in shul -- each different from the other. Some more educated, others less, some better dressed, some wealthy, some simple, some F.F.B., some baalos tshuva, older, younger and sundry other differences. But I realized they all shared something that united them more than differentiated between them: they are all doing Hashem's will with simple determined faith and with self-sacrifice.

I thought of the financial loss, of the strain and the unpleasantness and the other inconveniences and I realized that there are thousands of women like these right now throughout the world. This is no coincidence, not at a time when our people are in such desperate need of merit. Who knows if it is not the merit of these noshim tzidkoniyos, yes, even those who are too embarrassed to leave their homes, which will save our people.

I was roused from these wandering thoughts during the Torah reading with a rush of people rising up. And suddenly I heard,

"Chazak, chazak venis'chazek!"

And we all repeated in one voice, "Chazak, chazak venis'chazek!"


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