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