Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Igros Moshe on Wigs -- part ii

Besides applicability to wigs, this teshuva has great relevance in terms of laying down rules for understanding local minhag and local pesak. Interestingly, a private correspondent by email, specifically in this matter, tried to claim to me that there is no such creature as local pesak. It would certainly appear that Rav Moshe Feinstein holds otherwise.

Consult your local Orthodox rabbi for any practical pesak.

The following is a rough translation.

Igrot Moshe, Even haEzer Chelek 4, siman 100, seif 4:

4: On the comment about what I wrote in Igros Moshe Even haEzer Chelek 1, siman 59 about the custom to shave the hair of married women, and in Igros Moshe Even haEzer Chelek 2, siman 12 in the matter of wigs:

And that which you {kevod Torato} asked about the matter of shaving the {head} hairs of a woman after marriage, that I wrote in Igros Moshe, Even haEzer Chelek 1, siman 59, that it is in the realm of minhag, and that since the woman is in her husband's domain, she needs to conduct herself like her husband's minhag, for it is comparable to one who goes to another place and his thoughts are not to return, that whether towards leniency or towards stringency, he needs to conduct himself like the minhagim of the second place.

And in the matter of wigs, where there are those who forbid because of marit ayin, I wrote in Igros Moshe Even haEzer chelek 2, siman 12, that the husband is not able to impose his stringencies upon his wife.

Behold there is certainly a distinction between a stringency of an established minhag in a certain place, on the one hand, and a stringency which the husband wishes to accept upon himself, as I have written. For even if the husband conducted himself multiple times in accordance with the minhag, such that it would have the status of a Rabbinic vow, this is not within the realm of minhag in terms of that his wife and children would be obligated to keep it, for this is only applicable to a minhag of the residents of the city which they were accustomed to keep based on the say-so of the chachamim of the city. However, a single individual, even if he is the Gadol haDor, does not have in terms of this the status of a minhag so as to obligate others, not even those in his own domain.

And the questioner there wanted to impose a stringency upon himself in accordance with the opinion that she is forbidden, and not from the side of the minhag of the city from which he came.

However, besides this, even for the minhag of the city it is dependent on how the minhag came about. For behold, we find two types of minhag: a minhag in some matter in which they were stringent in some location more than what is the law, such as this in Pesachim perek makom sheNahagu (50a) that by one who left from one place to another place, that if it is not his intent to return, he must conduct himself like the place to which he comes, whether leniently or stringently. And a minhag which arises from a dispute on a Biblical law, such as the fat which is upon the flat side of the stomach, upon which Rav and Shmuel argue with Rabbi Yochanan, and so in Bavel they practiced {nahagu} in it prohibition like Rav and Shmuel, while in Eretz Yisrael they practiced in it permittedness, like Rabbi Yochanan. That in this, as well, there is to this the law that where it is not his intent to return, he practices like the place that he comes to, whether leniently or stringently, as is in Pesachim daf 51a, and by the magrumta {where the knife slipped and the last part of the shechita was outside the tabaat} of Rav and Shmuel in Chullin 18b, but they are for other reasons:

A minhag of stringency more than the law is because there is permission {/authority} for the place, when they see that there is some fix to fence in a matter, or to greatly strengthen matters of faith and keeping of commandments, while there are other places which do not see a need to enact this, or even if they also see that there is some need, they do not wish to be stringent about it.

Meanwhile, a minhag which is a matter of dispute in law is from the domain of ruling {law}, that Rabbi Yochanan ruled for his students, who are residents of Eretz Yisrael, and for all who asked him, that the fats upon the straight side of the stomach are permitted. And Rav and Shmuel ruled for their students, who were residents of Bavel, and to all who asked them, that the fats upon the straight side of the stomach are forbidden. And they need to act in accordance with them, for before halacha was paskened in the Chamber of Hewn Stone, each Chacham was permitted to rule in accordance with his opinion, and those who asked him are required to act like him, whether leniently or stringently. And since the residents of the place are his students and those who ask him, as such the law for all the residents of the place

even for later generations, the law is as he ruled, so long as a Chacham did not arise there greater than him in wisdom and number. And thus, even one who comes afterwards, and he does not in and of himself rule, the ruling of the Chacham like whom they conduct themselves comes upon him, when he establishes his dwelling in that place. And since it was not clear the matter of the minhag, I did not wish to explain it in this, since in that teshuva it did not have any impact, as discussed above.

And since the minhag in disparate places in a matter which is a dispute in law is from the realm of ruling, for I have already explained that someone who issues a ruling is absolutely able to decide the halacha, see in Dibrot Moshe Shabbat siman 10. That therefore it depends if the minhag to forbid going in with a wig is one which comes from a ruling of a Chacham who decided that such is the law, then it is in the status of a minhag in which one who comes to there permanently is also forbidden. And if it is only because the law is in doubt to him, and he is stringent because of doubt, there is not in this the status of a minhag, such that others are not obligated to be stringent, since the majority of our Rabbis, from those upon whom we rely principally upon for ruling, permit. However, the minhag to shave the hair of married woman, that the entire world known that there is not any prohibition as a matter of law, but rather this is from those places in order to fence in the matter, so that they will not come to go out with uncovered head, and for other reasons, it is within the status of a clear minhag.


Devorah said...

I'm searching for part 1 of this article.... but you've blocked off the search box with an advert and I can't get to it.... so if you could let me know, I'd be grateful.

joshwaxman said...

sorry about that.

Part 1 is a much longer teshuva from Rav Moshe on wigs. And he mentions the issue of marit ayin not being a problem, with the clear implication that the wigs he was speaking about looked just like human hair.

It is available here.

There is also a relevant sicha by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in this regard, where he recommends wigs as unlikely to be removed in embarrassment (unlike tichel), for they look better than the woman's own hair, which I can track down if you are interested.

I also have a long article proving sheitels permitted based on some very different halachic methodology than the ones Rav Moshe Feinstein et. al. (meaning e.g. Pri Megadim and Mishna Brura) used to permit, of the sort that Rav Elyashiv shlita in all likelihood did not consider, for methodological reasons. See here.

I would note that there is nothing new in Rav Elyashiv's recent statement; he had an identical statement about sheitel being erva and assur deOrayta, because it differs from wigs of old, back in 2006.
Kol Tuv,

Devorah said...




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