Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Sivan 5764 - June 9, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Restoring the Crown
by Perach Mosseson

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 it.


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 old.

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 newfound headgear.

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 story:

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 mission.

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 issue.

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.


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