Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My Reaction to Rav Elyashiv's Latest Statement on Wigs

The Yeshiva World reports that Rav Eliashiv recently had some harsh words against sheitels. To quote the article:
Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv Shlita had some very harsh words regarding today’s sheitels, stating the women who wear them today are as if they go outdoor bareheaded.

The Rav is quoted as saying there are permitted sheitels and those that are asur, but today’s are strictly forbidden. He called “today’s” sheitels “erva”, stating they are absolutely forbidden.

A participant in the shiur asked Rav Elyashiv how they wore human hair wigs in the time of the Gemara, to which he responded the wigs of those days were different, with the best at that time being comparable perhaps to today’s worst, adding today’s human hair wigs represent “erva” and are absolutely forbidden.

The Rav repeated over and over again the severity of the isur of wearing such sheitels, which the wife and her husband share equal responsibility.

But is this really news? We knew that Rav Eliashiv had this position. I noted that last year, in 2007, in a post which read in part:
Secondly, in recent times, some prominent rabbis such as Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, and Rabbi Nissim Karelitz have declared that even if one says that wigs are permitted, modern wigs are Biblically forbidden since they are attractive and look like hair.
That summary was based on this YNet article from June 2006:
Citing decisions in Jewish law that forbid the wearing of wigs that look like hair, by among others, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, Rabbi Shalom Elyashiv, and Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, three of the most important ultra-Orthodox authorities on Jewish law.


“Modern wigs are forbidden according to the Torah since they are just as much a breach of the law as hair, if not more,” according to the announcement. “

According to the announcement, while there were a number of authorities in Jewish law who permitted the wearing of wigs for married women, they were referring to the older type of wig. The newer wigs, which look just like real hair, are clearly “forbidden according to the Torah.”
Now, one should point out that in this recent shiur (and likewise in that earlier 2006 article), Rav Eliashiv was distinguishing the newer wigs from the ones permitted in the time of the gemara. One could also perhaps continue this line of argument to the various halachic decisors who permitted along the way to the present day, such as e.g. the Pri Megadim, the Rama, the Mishna Brura, etc., including those who permitted a woman to use her own hair as a wig. I personally think this is questionable, and it potentially a cop-out of nishtana hateva to dismiss the poskim who would truly permit. But that is arguable.

However, there are poskim even in recent times who permitted wigs which are prettier than the woman's own hair, and which look like her own hair. This is what I will set out to prove in this next section.

As noted on the Dreaming Of Moshiach blog, Rav Shalom Schwadron apparently said:
I want to tell you a true story and I wish it was not a true story. 25 years ago a girl came to our house and she spoke to my wife for 4 hours. While I was sitting and learning, I thought to myself that any person that speaks for 4 hours must need a drink. I told my wife, "perhaps give this girl a drink and something to eat?" The girl heard me and said to my wife, "it's not necessary. I'm going home and I'll eat and drink at my home." When she said that I realized this girl is married and has a husband. So why does she look like a girl? You think it's funny??? It's not funny!!! They want to look like unattached women. This 'wanting' is טְרֵפָה unfit, not Kosher!

The Torah says, "ופרע ראש האשה …and let him uncover the head of the woman". A woman that was not faithful to her husband, a Sotah, is disgraced. They disgrace her by removing her hair covering and now, women want to look like a Sotah???!!! A married woman wants to look like a Sotah??? She wants to look like a girl, that she's not married and available? A woman that wears a wig is as if she does not cover her hair! Stupid women! How can a woman like you have fear of Heaven? A woman that wears a wig has no holiness. Who gave women permission to wear hair on top of their hair? To wear a wig that looks better than her own hair and it doesn't even look like a wig! 24 Poskei HaDor of Israel forbid wigs. My grandfather ruled that Divrei Torah or even a blessing is forbidden to say infront of women that wears wigs. The only way Divrei Torah or a blessing can be said in such a situation is with closed eyes.
Now, Rabbi Shalom Schwadron passed away in 1997. Assuming he told this in the last year of his life (a very conservative estimate), and this story happened 25 years previous, then it happened in 1972 at the latest. It likely happened earlier than this. And yet, he has an objection to a sheitel because it looks better than her own hair and looks real, not like a wig.

So this type of objection to realistic looking wigs, and wigs that are prettier than the woman's own hair, is not new in 2008. It goes back at least to 1972.

Let us look at some of the statements in favor. We have the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in favor of sheitels. In the course of discussing it, he said:

In the past the custom was to cut off the hair. Later on the custom spread of wearing a sheitel. Wearing a sheitel is especially appropriate now, when one can obtain a sheitel in various shades, which looks even nicer than one's own hair.

Let the woman ponder this matter. It doesn't take an hour or even a half-hour of contemplation. Why doesn't she really want to wear a sheitel but only a kerchief: because she knows that a sheitel cannot be taken off when she is walking in the street or is at a gathering, while a kerchief can be moved all the way up and sometimes taken off entirely, as known from practice.

It is possible that she will say that she will wear a kerchief properly. If she does so, then surely it is well. But experience has shown that this is not the case.

Why place oneself in the path of temptation?
Thus, the Lubavitcher Rebbe was in favor of sheitels, despite Rav Shalom Schwadron's objection that it looked better than the woman's own hair. In fact, this was a point in their favor. And this was from a sicha of the Rebbe, on Rosh Chodesh Elul, 5714 -- meaning 1954.

(That site, actually a book, has several pages quoting the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe about wigs.)

Similarly, we have Rav Moshe Feinstein. He also is discussing a sheitel which looks like the woman's hair -- so much so, that he had to respond to questions of whether it was marit ayin. He permits in cases when men cannot tell it is a wig {because they do not look carefully at women, presumably as in the case of Rav Schwadron}; and when men can't tell and even women cannot tell. And even in the latter case, when even women cannot tell, Rav Feinstein permit. Read it here, in the original Hebrew and my rough English translation, on parshablog. And nowadays, even with are modern wigs, women can certainly tell.

This teshuva of Rav Moshe was written in Tammuz 7724, or about 1964. Which again, is pretty long ago.

So this problem of wigs which looked real was pretty old, going to 1964 and to 1954.

You will say that the modern wigs look even more like real hair? This is a claim of nishtana hateva to disenfranchise those who permitted, based on a matter of degree. But we see from the words of those who were trying to permit, and those who were trying to forbid, that the concern was identical. If it was realistic enough back then to fool men (for that is what Rav Moshe addresses, and Rav Schwadron addresses), and realistic beautiful hair is Biblically erva, then Rav Moshe should have forbidden it on that count. It is, rather, clear that Rav Moshe Feinstein did not subscribe to this view. And the same could be said for the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Do not tell me now that because of beauty and realism, they would forbid. This is a matter of degree rather than some new innovative topic which was inapplicable back then.

So at this point, we have a very big and learned Rabbi in Eretz Yisrael saying one thing, and we have our own poskim saying something else. Are we permitted to ignore Rav Eliashiv in this matter and follow Rav Moshe and those rabbis who followed him?

Rav Moshe addresses this very issue, and specifically in terms of wigs, and states that we should rely on our local pesak. See this in this teshuva of Rav Moshe Feinstein, posted and roughly translated on parshablog.

Completely orthogonal to all this, I will just note that last year I posted an essay using a particular methodology Rav Elyashiv is unlikely to use, or likely approve of, to argue why wigs are permitted. This is also an entirely separate argument from the ones used by the traditional halachic authorities who permit wigs. You might wish to check it out.

See also Shirat Devorah's "To wig or not to wig," where she cites a particular sicha of the Rebbe, as well as a book or two culled from statement of the Rebbe, about the importance of wearing a sheitel.

Also, Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths has a take on it, though commenting on Rav Ovadia Yosef's condemnation of sheitels. He contrasts the Lubavitcher Rebbe's support and Rav Ovadia Yosef's condemnation, and says each was ruling for his own community. He also draws a distinction between some sheitels which are inappropriate and others.

I am not so sure that Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rav Eliashiv, et. al., are making these fine distinctions among modern wigs, but rather are contrasting modern wigs from the wigs of the gemara. It is also possible, since in general their community has forbidden wigs, that they are unfamiliar with all the styles of wigs, but are relying on descriptions from others -- or else are hypersensitive to the "sexual" allure of a sheitel because of the lack of this institution in the Iraqi, or Sefardic Jerusalemite -- or charedi communities, where they won't print photos of women in their newspapers. Much as by the sheitel display controversy over at Chaim Berlin a while back, some chareidim saw inappropriateness in the sheitel display (scroll down to bottom of my linked post to see the controversial display). Or much as Biz jean skirts are the tznius mode of dress of Beis Yaakov girls in America, while jeans material is considered horribly untznius in certain chareidi communities in Israel.

I am not entirely sure I agree with him that these Rabbonim are intending to rule only for their communities, but at the very least, I would say, as I put forth above, that this is a dispute between Gedolim and that we have the right to pasken as our community has paskened.

Note: Don't pasken from blogs, one way or another. Consult your local Orthodox rabbi.

Update: And now Emes ve-Emunah picks up the story, with his own take, and the title (since changed) of "wigged out." Heh. His prediction is that people will, by and large, ignore this halachic pronouncement in America; and he contrasts it with pronouncements about Rabbi Slifkin's works. It indeed plays in to this question of independent American psak vs. kowtowing to Gedolim appointed and anointed in Eretz Yisrael. And I can only hope that they indeed will ignore it.

Update #2: If you speak Yiddish, you can listen to Rav Elyashiv from that shiur over at HaMerkaz. (h.t. Danny)

Update #3: See how Hirhurim covers it.


Akiva said...

Nice post. I particularly take issue with those who would CONDEMN TO THE FIRES OF HELL any who may have an alternate position on what is clearly a makloket of the poskim and communities.

Sheitels bring the Holocaust seems just a tad extreme to me.

Akiva said...


joshwaxman said...

which are the facts, and which are the hyperbole?

Anonymous said...

You can listen to the audio of R' Elyashiv at

Anonymous said...

There is something else to note here that might have bearing on why poskim in E"y differ from poskim in the US. In the time of the gemara, it seems that all married women covered their hair and hair covering signalled marital status. The gemara in sanhedrin says that a nonjewish woman is divorced when she walks in the marketplace in uncovered hair. Therefore, a married woman who uncovered her hair was passing for single, somewhat similar to someone taking off their wedding ring in a bar. However, in Western society, a woman in a hat, or kerchief, or even a wig is not signalling that she is married (outside frum enclaves) and when she removes her hair covering, again outside frum enclaves, she is not signalling that she is single.

I think that this is what the Lubavitcher Rebbe is getting at. In our society, hair covering does not signal marital status and so does not prevent arayot. What can mimic the purpose of hair covering in our society? A kerchief or hat can be removed and it presence or absence indicate nothing to most people. But a sheitl, maybe even especially a nice one, is uncomfortable to remove and requires explanation. So a sheitl in our society, while not signalling marital status, at least preserves some of the function of hair covering, in that women will be reluctant to remove it, would have to explain why they are wearing it and so on, and serves as some kind of barrier to arayot. At any rate, it is not worse than a kerchief, in that a kerchief does not signal that the woman is married to most observers.

However, this may be different in Israel, where even hilonim know that a woman wearing a kerchief or hat is probably married. As such, hair covering may serve its original purpose in Israel in a way that it does not in the US.

Also, sheitls have been good enough to pass for hair in the US for decades, as you indicate by posting the teshuva of RMF. It took longer for nice sheitls to reach Israel, and the situation may really have changed there in a way it has not changed in the US, where sheitls have only gone from pretty good to even better. I think it is important to note that many of the poskim in Israel come from communities in which women either did not wear sheitls, or only wore them on top of shaven hair and with kerchiefs. I think it is OK to rely on the tradition of psak of those who were used to sheitls, rather than on poskim who stem from the yishuv hayoshon where there is no tradition.

My question is whether an American visiting Israel or moving to Israel can continue to rely on American poskim.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, I also suspect (Theory!) that the ban against "long" sheitls comes from Ger, which is one of the main charedi groups that had a tradition of wearing sheitls in Israel, and Ger also had a ban on long sheitls dating back to the beis yisroel. (At least R falk cites the beis yisroel to ban sheitls). My theory is that there were fewer women wearing sheitls in israel, and when people looked for rules, they turned to Ger, which had some tradition of sheitls, and a rule against long ones.

IMO all things being equal it is actually easier to distinguish a long haired sheitl than a short haired one from real hair. (But the women wearing long sheitls are more likely to be fashion=conscious and wear expensive ones, they are younger, and etc and so "long" sheitls came to be seen as "Worse" than short ones because of these confounding variables. A twenty two year old wearing a custom human hair sheitl is more likely to be confused for single than a sixty five year old in a short sheitl. But when the tweny two year old puts on a short human hair sheitl, does anyone know she is married any more than they did in the long one? I think not. Though they may look less pretty - is the purpose of sheitls to prevent histaklut or rather arayot mamash? Or both? I assume it's to prevent arayot. I'm curious if you agree.

Anonymous said...

"At least R falk cites the beis yisroel to ban sheitls)."

should be to ban long sheitls

the above two comments are from me

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Yasher koach on this post. I like your arguments and balanced presentation of both sides of the issue. Much appreciated.

-Dixie Yid

joshwaxman said...

thanks for the info. I'll try to add the link a bit later.

Thanks as well.

interesting points and ideas. certainly possible. at this point, on this post, i don't want to get bogged down in the background theory at play, but am content (and think it important) to let the "big guys" duke it out. Indeed, while a posted a response to this, I am now editing it out. Perhaps in a week, ask me again.

Interesting point, and question, about an American moving to Israel as well.

Kol Tuv,

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Josh: Fantastic post -- thanks for an excellent roundup of the issues.

Its really a non-issue for the dati leumi and chardal community. Most women here cover their hair with hats/snoods/whatevertheycallthem and wigs are not nearly as popular as in the US.

My wife doesn't own a wig...but has tons of hats and hair-covering-things.

AidelMaidel said...

I think there are a few issues here that should be separated out:

First, what is noticeable to a man vs. a woman and what is noticeable to a frum yid vs. the average joe-shmo on the street. I have worked in non-jewish offices for years (I know I'm going to burn in hell for it), and I have an "average sheitel". My coworkers have always been CLUELESS as to the fact that I am wearing a sheitel until someone told them as such. They often don't believe it. In fact, at one point I worked at company full of non-frum Israelis and they all thought I was not covering my hair until someone got up the nerve to ask me.

In contrast, any frum woman can look at another woman and know in an instant if she is covering her hair. I think in the almost ten years there have been maybe 3 times I wasn't sure if it was a wig or if it was someone's real hair.

Second, the quality of wigs (at least in the US) has rapidly changed over the last 30 years. You look back at the pictures of those sheitels from the late 60s and 70s and you have to laugh at how obviously FAKE they look. If you want a semblance of what I'm talking about, check out the Paula Young website. Your bubbie has probably been wearing the same style since then. They were made from horse hair, they were one size fits all (hardly) and they frequently had lice (even the human hair ones still do sometimes). When synthetics came on the scene things improved a bit. In the 90s the big thing was half and half or 100$ human hair Georgies and Judys. Over the years the quality of wigs have vastly improved because of: 1. the consumer demand for something better, 2. the global marketplace has changed - you can get beautiful, well maintained human hair from places like Russia and Northern Europe, instead of questionable hair from China and India, and at much better prices and lengths, 3. there are more and more women working with the "public" and require something that doesn't make them stand out. It is not uncommon for a frum NY kallah to drop $2-3,000 on a custom Shevy or Freeda - with the length, color, and texture that they want, not to mention a cap that is made to fit her head exactly.

And I have to agree with the Lubavitcher Rebbe that when you are wearing sheitel you want NO ONE to know that you are wearing one, and make sure all your hair is covered, which is the point behind covering your hair in the first place. There is nothing worse than when your own hair is showing while wearing a sheitel. And if you're going to wear a sheitel all the time, you DEFINITELY want it to be comfortable.

All that being said, it depends on where you live. I think in EY, where everything is lived at a much higher level of kedusha, there is a greater sensitivity to these things. The waist length sheitels that are de rigeur in Flatbush would never fly in EY, even in Har Nof. I don't know the quality of wigs in EY now, but surely they are not as bad as the ones from the 60s and 70s.

I personally know of an American Ashkenazi woman married to an Israeli Sefardi, both chozer bteshuvah, who consider Rov Ovadia Yosef their Rov. They agree that when in America, she wears a sheitel. When at home in EY, she wears a tichel most of the time and a sheitel on the occassions which warrant it. They have married children already and it is still an uphill struggle for her.

All that being said, I agree as a woman, you must speak to your LOR and hold by the standards of your community. **The Lubavitcher Rebbe also gave this advice, and I have read at least one letter he wrote to a Sefardi couple asking for his advice in the matter and he told them to adhere to the customs of their community where they lived and the LOR.


joshwaxman said...

good points.

I agree that as the technology and availability improved, the quality of sheitels has improved. but perhaps there were cheap wigs which fooled no one, but still also expensive wigs back then which could fool people.

From a random internet search, here is a wig, from 1971:
It looks real enough to me. But then again, I am a guy.

And here are some photos of actress Wendy Richard, from 1967 and 1966. The last two look pretty real to me:

(She is wearing a short skirt in the last two, so tznius warning in viewing these photos. The last one is in color, which might give a better sense.)

And after all, Rav Moshe *does* refer to the occasional wig which even women could not tell was a wig.

And even there, he permits. Also, Rav Eliashiv contrasts with the wigs of the gemara. I wonder what he would say of the wigs of the 50's.

Thus, I believe that the structure of the dispute has been set up already back, with complaints on one side of looking like real hair and on the other side of it not mattering lehalacha, which we can apply today, *if* it is all a matter of degree. And indeed, we are not operating without halachic guidance here in America, and our poskim can decide one way or another. (and thus far have decided, at the very least by their silence.)

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Everyone seems to be ignoring one major problem. "Uphra'ah rosh ha-isha" doesn't mean "uncover". The correct translation of the word "uphra'ah" is "to make wild". The point was to make her look like the wild and loose woman that she was accused of being. If her hair was covered, it was because all women covered their hair then.

Kinda renders the whole wig thing moot, doesn't it.

joshwaxman said...

nice jewish guy:
i'm all in favor of mechkar, which sometimes involves understanding early texts in different ways, which also has the side effect of severing a lot of the growth in the subsequent literature based on other assumptions.
however, ufara may be peshat in that verse. but it was used by one Tannaitic source (tana de-be Rabbi Yishmael) to (perhaps, according to many understandings in Ketubot) set up a Biblical prohibition of what would otherwise be a "Das Yehudis" restriction, based on the conduct and dress of frum Jewish (married) women. And within that requirement, whether Biblical or Dat Yehudit, Rabbi Yochanan discusses different head gear - a basket-hat in Bavli, and a wig in Yerushalmi.

And there is also the gemara about the hair of a woman being erva; and the Yerushalmi (IIRC) about a woman whose head-covering was pulled off by a man, such that he had to pay her X amount as a fine for her embarrassment.

There are multiple ways to understand the sources, which different Rishonim and Acharonim took, and though I personally do not agree with Rav Elyashiv's explanation of these sources, it is a legitimate one. Elu ve'Elu, and all that. :)

Kol Tuv,

Deborah Shaya said...

Hair Coverings – It is time to UnCover

I am writing to raise a simple and very important question:

Where is the codified Halacha that a married woman must cover all her hair, all the time, whenever she steps out of her house, whether it is summer or winter?

There is NO CODIFIED HALACHA that a married woman must cover her hair totally and constantly whenever she steps out of her house.

The halachah has been totally MISINTERPRETED, and in fact, relates ONLY to a married woman covering her hair when she lights the candles to welcome in Shabbat and Yom Tov – lechavod Shabbat ve Yom Tov, and when she goes to the Synagogue.

Therefore, for religious men/women to impose hair coverings on other women, whenever they step out of their houses is against the Torah. This misinterpretation of the Torah is completely ASSUR, and a TWISTING of the Torah.

In ancient times, a woman would only cover her hair upon entering the Beit Hamikdash. Similarly for the Sotah - otherwise she would not cover her hair ordinarily, day to day.

It is very important for people to know and realise that when a married woman covers her hair with 'REAL HAIR' the woman is covering herself with 100%TUMAH. This is TOTALLY AGAINST the Torah AND IS 100% ASSUR.

She can never fully be sure that this 'hair' has not come from MEITIM - despite any guarantee by the seller.

This 'real hair' is doubly and in some circumstances, triply TUMAH. FIRSTLY, it will contain the leftover dead hair cells from another person - however much it has been treated, the tumah is still there.

SECONDLY, this other person (likely to be a non-Jew who most likely was involved in some kind of AVODAH ZARAH) may have eaten bacon, ham, lobster etc, all of which are totally forbidden as unclean and non-kosher foods in Halacha.

THIRDLY, if the woman happens to be the wife of a COHEN, then she is bringing her husband into close contact and proximity with meitim and Tumah Every day, and throughout their married life - clearly strictly against the Torah.

Men have degraded women in order to suit their own sexual desires and needs. Some men actually prefer to see their wives in wigs because they look more sexually attractive to them than their real hair.

There is nothing more degrading and demeaning to a woman than to make her cover her hair upon marriage. Frankly it is an abhorrent practice. By quoting feeble non-starter arguments like 'Tzniut' - 'Modesty' not backed up by clear Halacha, the Rabbis and Rebbetzins are making a complete MOCKERY of the Torah, and all the good values that they stand for.

It is extremely unhealthy and unhygienic for a woman to cover her hair constantly. The hair needs oxygen to breathe.

In addition, hair covering is a form of oppression to women by men, and doing so, can undoubtedly cause a certain type of depression in women, once their hair is covered so permanently for life. It is a vile and abhorrent practice.

A woman's hair will lose its natural beauty and shine, she may have scalp problems, some of her hair may fall out, she may get headaches, and she may end up cutting it short like a man, when she always wore it long, in order not to have too much discomfort from her hair covering.

Do you think that HaKadosh Baruch Hu commanded this of women? I can assure you that He did not.

The commmandments are not meant to cause so much repression and oppression in women.

The Goyim also look at us in disgust when they know that Jewish women cover their hair and wear wigs. They think that we are going against all the light and the beautiful principles that we, Am Yisrael, brought into the world.

And therefore, for a woman to start doing this nonsensical act of covering her hair, all the time, in all seasons and temperatures, is against the Torah, and is also a form of CHILLUL HASHEM. Exactly the opposite of all the arguments put forward for this unnecessary sacrifice.

For a married woman to cover her hair is a Chillul Hashem, and is in no way, a Kiddush Hashem.

It is also against all common sense, apart from anything else, otherwise why would Hashem have created women with hair on their heads in the first place?


To all the women reading this: Please think about all that I have said above. As there is NO HALACHAH for a married woman to constantly cover her hair once she steps out of her house, PLEASE have the intelligence and moral strength of character to remove your wigs, and hair coverings, other than to bring in Shabbat and Yom Tov, and to go to the Synagogue.

It is totally AGAINST THE TORAH for any married woman to be covering her hair constantly, ( e.g especially in the hot summer), when she steps out of her house. This is a MISREPRESENTATION and TWISTING of the Torah.


It is far better to admit a wrong and do Teshuvah now, whilst there is time, than to leave it until it is TOO LATE - AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT.

That is precisely why Yehuda was rewarded with the Malchut.

For a woman to cover her hair with REAL HAIR is to cover herself with complete TUMAH, and also against the Torah. If she happens to be the wife of a COHEN, then she is bringing her husband into close contact and proximity with meitim and Tumah every day - clearly strictly against the Torah.

Deborah Shaya,

London, England.

joshwaxman said...

A quick google search reveals that you have been spamming this message all over since at least January. But to partially respond:

"Where is the codified Halacha that a married woman must cover all her hair, all the time, whenever she steps out of her house, whether it is summer or winter?

There is NO CODIFIED HALACHA that a married woman must cover her hair totally and constantly whenever she steps out of her house.

The halachah has been totally MISINTERPRETED, and in fact, relates ONLY to a married woman covering her hair when she lights the candles to welcome in Shabbat and Yom Tov – lechavod Shabbat ve Yom Tov, and when she goes to the Synagogue."

This is, unfortunately, not correct. Are you really suggesting that Rav Ovadia Yosef and Rav Elyashiv, who are geniuses in Torah and terms of sharpness and breadth of material are misunderstanding this? And did you go through the sources yourself, or did you hear this somewhere. (This is not the first time I have heard this false claim.) It is mentioned in Talmud Bavli - in Ketubot daf 72, where the topic is going out to the marketplace with uncovered head. And it is brought down lehalacha in Shulchan Aruch, Even haEzer, siman 116.

Now that you know that it is indeed codified halacha, will you retract?

If you are going to argue on halacha established in the gemara on the basis of your own deductions, then it is close to Karaism, rejecting our Oral Law. And that is a worse concern than covering hair, not covering hair, tumah, etc.

The rest of this argument, in terms of tumah because of eating bacon, and chillul Hashem, is "unconvincing" to me -- and I say (non-humbly) that I have learned halacha and gemara for many years, enough to detect when an argument is silly. Halacha has various rules in a well-developed system, just like constitutional law, and you can't just pull things out of you hat (or wig, as the case may be).

If I recall correctly, there *is* a discussion in terms of wigs from the dead, in a teshuva from Maharatz Chayos, whether it is forbidden in benefit if it came from a dead body. But in the end he comes to a conclusion of permissibility.

I could debunk what you write point by point, but I won't.

But I would encourage you to seek out a rabbi who will carefully and slowly learn through the development of this halacha with you.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

Rav Yosef is correct, and hopefully soon, one will correct this entire excersise in futility for the klal. When will we figure out enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

I'm finding it hard to believe that wig hair comes from dead bodies. Doesn't it come from women who cut and sell their hair while alive? Is there any evidence that wigmakers today take hair from the dead????

Anonymous said...

oops. i keep forgetting to use a pseudonym. non

Looking Forward said...

"It is mentioned in Talmud Bavli - in Ketubot daf 72, where the topic is going out to the marketplace with uncovered head. And it is brought down lehalacha in Shulchan Aruch, Even haEzer, siman 116."

This is not correct. actualy this is the one actual woman=specific tznius halacha found in the shuchan aruch and tur.

it says, and I quote "assur for a women to go out with an uncovered head, whether penuya or aishes eish"

it doesn't say to cover the shok, it doesn't say to cover the arms, or anything else. but it does say to cover the hair.

its in even haezer 21:2

(you're welcome)

however it is true that it does not require you to cover all of your hair, although some twist it to mean that.

joshwaxman said...

I think Rav Yosef is following the majority of poskim, as he counted them, about wigs in general, and is thus different from from Elyashiv's opinion. This is a machloket, and there is room for an elu ve-Elu approach. May mashiach indeed come soon.

I do not believe it comes from dead bodies nowadays. Much of the comment is silly.

Don't give Devorah Shaya the false impression that I am incorrect, with the implication that she is correct.

Indeed, I knew of the citation you just referenced, but it is not the only reference. (And I did not wish to confuse people with the reference to penuya.) See the place I referenced, even haezer, siman 116, seif 3, and you will see the words that I wrote, in Shulchan Aruch.

IIRC, covering the shok is mentioned elsewhere in Tur in terms of Keriat Shema, and Shulchan Aruch then does not mention it as a separate item from an uncovered tefach. This is in terms of whether one is permitted to recite Shema opposite it, but many understand that this then extends to the fact that in general, in public, a woman should be covering that area.

How much of the hair to cover, or how much may be uncovered, is something I will not address here. But it need not be a twisting to understand it as such.

Kol Tuv,

Ariella's blog said...

I just left a comment that got zapped. I do think the zero tolerence idea though rather rewrites history. Didn't the Aruch HaShulchan have to permit benching, etc. in the presence of a marrie woman with uncovered hair because it became such a common phenomenon in prewar Europe?
Anyway I put up a link to this post along with my article on the topic, “The Advent of the American Sheitel.” Queens College Journal of Jewish Studies. Vol. VI (Spring 2004) 93-101. at

joshwaxman said...

thanks. very interesting.

in terms of zero tolerance, do you mean what i wrote? to clarify, i was just reacting to the claim that there is no halachic basis for a requirement to cover hair and therefore that women who do so are acting incorrectly. i could (and elsewhere have) argue in defense of not covering hair as a defensible position, though I tried to keep it out of this post.


Ariella's blog said...

I meant it with respect to the strict position against today's wigs, saying they are absolute erva (sounds like one of the ads the vodka company used to run).

In the comment that got zapped I spoke a bit about the Lubavitcher Rebbe position on sheitels. A Chabad woman once called me and read me selections from the collection of his words on the subject in "The Sheitel Advantage." He went so far as to criticize a woman who wore a hat over a fall of only properly covering half her hair -- the sheitel half. As for the idea that the woman who wears a sheitel keeps all her hair covered, that is no longer the case with falls designed to have a woman's own hair brushed over the front for a truly natural (because it is) looking hairline.

Deborah Shaya said...

Rabbi Waxman,

A married woman is required to cover her hair when she lights the candles to bring in Shabbat and Yom Tov, and when she goes to the Synagogue. That, is the correct interpretation of the Halachah. Nothing more.

The Halachah has been MIS-INTERPRETED i.e. it has not been interpreted CORRECTLY. And this should be corrected now.

How can u say that it is ok for a Jewish woman to cover her hair with hair from a non-Jew? I am quite amazed at your responses.

Please just think about what you are saying: The non-Jewish woman has gone to places of IDOLATRY like churches, Hindu temples and Buddist temples. She will have eaten non-kosher food like bacon, pork, shellfish, snake, alligator etc etc. And you are telling me that it is OK, and this is “unconvincing” to you?

I can assure you that Hashem never commanded a married woman to cover herself with this Tumah from non-Jews. And you dare call my argument “silly”, and “spam”?

Furthermore, you have missed the whole point about COHANIM. Cohanim cannot come into contact with ANY meitim whatsoever.

And the wife of a Cohen is not allowed to bring her husband into contact with Tumah via her wig, especially if it is made of real hair, for all the reasons I previously explained.

In your reply, you referred to a teshuva from Maharatz Chayos, that it is PERMISSIBLE if a wig has come from a dead body.

I am seriously concerned at your blatant lack of understanding of what Tumah is, even though you have been learning for many years.

Would you like to wear a wig? And would you like to wear a wig that came from a non-Jewish woman who went all her life to worship in a Buddist temple or a church, and who ate bacon, ham, alligator, snake and whale? And would you not mind if the hair covering your own head came from a dead person?

Lastly, the wig has caused tremendous suffering to women, and you only have to look at the internet to see how much they are suffering internally. You cannot heartlessly dismiss this suffering. And the reason is, that the Halachah has not been interpreted correctly – and no one is doing anything about it.

Rabbi Waxman: Not only will I not retract my comments, stating the correct interpretation of the Halachah– but I am asking you to retract your comments and your incorrect interpretation of the Halachah in relation to the covering of hair for a married woman.

Deborah Shaya

joshwaxman said...

how ... interesting.

could you please elaborate? Exactly *who* has misinterpreted it? Was it the Tannaim? The Amoraim? The Geonim? The Rishonim? The Acharonim? Precisely at which stage has it been misinterpreted?

And how are *you* privy to this correct interpretation? Have you learned through the sources? Or did you receive this information from, e.g., voices in your head?

Unless I know your basis, I will be quite inclined to dismiss your statements are ill-informed and perhaps a bit off-the-wall.

No, I will not retract, and neither would any rabbi be likely to, nor anyone who has actually read through the sources, IMHO.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

I personally do not see the proof from either the Lubavitcher Rebbe or R' M.Feinstein. The Lubavitcher Rebbe is clearly addressing people that if not for the sheitel would not cover their hair properly, for this he praises sheitels, even R' Elyashiv and R' Ovadia would agree. R' Moshe is discussing only the aspect of mari's ayin not of tznius, that is to say many sheitels can look identical to real hair but still be tznius, just as real hair can be made up tznius or not tznius. The concern of R' Elyashiv is the tznius of many sheitels today, that is to say that if they made in a way that is sexually alluring this is a serious tznius violation. I am not embarrased to admit that women wearing a 'stunning' sheitel attract me much more than any real hair, and I can usually tell that they are sheitels because they look so much better!

joshwaxman said...

Feel free to argue. But I don't agree with you, or think your alternatives are compelling. And unfortunately, both the Lubavitcher Rebbe and Rav Moshe Feinstein have passed on, and cannot defend their positions and themselves, such that all sorts of rationalizations can be attributed to their positions.

But quickly:

1) Rav Elyashiv is claiming it is a *Biblical* prohibition, no less than if the woman's hair were entirely uncovered, not a violation of some level of Das Yehudit. If so, they would *not* agree that in general, for an entire community, everyone should clearly violate the definitely Biblical over the Tichel which does suffice, because of a concern that they *might* come to expose their hair, which is Biblical. There is a clear dispute here.

Whether the Rebbe was *only* "clearly" addressing people who would otherwise not cover their hair properly -- I do not agree that this is so clear. While he gives this as *a* reason (one will show some hair, or pocket the hat) to prefer the wig over the hat, that does not mean that absent that, he would consider the wig to be *inappropriate*. You must demonstrate *that* if you want to claim that. And see the paragraph above.

In terms of Rav Moshe, he actively paskened that sheitels were permitted. And that took into account maris ayin (which was the objection raised in his day) and any other concerns. What you are saying in terms of "moshech," first show that Rav Moshe subscribes to this idea in the general case. The nishtaneh hateva was between our wigs and the wigs in the time of the *gemara*, not to the wigs in Rav Moshe's time. And as noted, if it enough to fool everyone, and if it "looks better than the woman's own hair," then it is not just maris ayin (which was what was being dismissed) but would fall under the type of sheitel being forbidden, and yet Rav Moshe permitted it as a psak (which would take into account all sorts of factors). You want to distinguish between them, but comparing to the time of the gemara is to effectively say that the gemara's wigs were not well-made such that they did not look like real hair. And you can understand statements that they made about this in terms of the Biblical nature of the violation, and that it looks like real hair, and is thus erva, in terms of the gemara in Ketubot. And to cite the declaration:

"The newer wigs, which look just like real hair, are clearly “forbidden according to the Torah.”"

There is clearly a dispute going on here.

And as noted in a later post, there are *modern* poskim who agree that this is a matter of dispute, exactly as I described above. For example, see this post at Geulah Pespectives.
Then a relative of mine who is engaged calls me. She is about to buy her first sheitel and her chosson, who is learning in Yerushalayim calls, telling her that perhaps she should not buy one because Rav Elyashiv just came out against them! Both I and she agreed that she should call her rav, a posek in Yerushalayim.

So she calls Rav Katz (name changed) and he says that she should absolutely still buy a sheitel! First of all, he asked her if she knows of any rabbonim whose wives wear sheitels. Her response was summarily affirmative. He also asked her if she waits six hours between eating yellow cheese and eating meat. She responded in the negative. He told her that Rav Elyashiv has many stringencies that are not per se accepted universally, and she need not worry.


Anonymous said...

I never once said there is no dispute or that I claim to know what the position of R' Moshe or the L.Rebbe were, all I said was there is no proof from their words. It is also not clear if what you have quoted "The newer wigs, which look just like real hair, are clearly “forbidden according to the Torah.”" is the words of R' Elyashiv, or the words of the newspaper. If of the newspaper, it is quite possible R' Elyashiv only meant to say the wigs which are not tznius are a biblical prohibtion, maybe of lifnei iver, and I also wonder what he would answer if someone asked him what they should advise to a non frum jew who agrees to put on only such a sheitel or will not cover their hair, I would think he would probably say to put on the sheitel as although they are both biblical prohibitions, one is an issur mefurash "uporah es rosh ho'isha" and the other is not mefurash and is not clear cut. It is somewhat similar to asking if it preferable for a woman to wear a body suit that completely takes the shape of her body, or not to wear clothes at all, both are ossur, but the first is not as bad as she has not technically uncovered herself and been megaleh ervah.

joshwaxman said...

well, the newspaper puts it in quotes and attributes it to the announcement from the Beis Din. And the fact that they are specifying "according to the Torah," to me that says that it is a message to those who have learned through the sugyas, and know of the distinction in Ketubot 72 of Das Yehudis vs. Das Moshe/MiDeorayta, which is a major point there. So he is saying that it is Biblical, not Das Yehudis. (Read the first half of my article linked above as "my essay" for why I would disagree with this assertion that it is Biblical and not Das Moshe.) If it *just* meant erva, as based on the other relevant gemaras, I do not believe he would have used that terminology.


joshwaxman said...

I should add that this does not preclude other interpretations... I can think of a few myself, but don;t consider them as viable.


Anonymous said...

I apologize in advance if someone mentioned this already as I did not take the time to read all the comments.
You say that the Lubavitcher Rebbe was in favor of sheitels.

This is an often a misquotation of the psak of the Rebbe and an excuse for many women to continue wearing sheitels.

60 years ago when the Rebbe came to his decision about Sheitels it was a time when a frum woman was either not covering her head at all or would be so embarrassed to wear a scarf on her head especially if someone of importance was in her presence (he said "President Eisenhower" so you can see the time reference here) she would take off her head covering so she would look presentable. So he decided that although a scarf is "CERTAINLY THE BEST OPTION" it is better to wear a wig than to go bear-headed. So this was taken in as a Lubavitch minhag.

These days especially in religious communities, especially in Eretz Yisrael, where I live, there is no excuse and it is purely that a woman wants to look nice when she goes out, this is the biggest breach of tznius I can think of, how many men look at her? How many issurs does she cause by placing a stumbling block?
Not to mention the clinicle death stories that women have described what happened to them when they went up and had to face all the black angels they created by wearing a sheitel.

Rav Kaduri also says that the cancer increase among the klal is because of sheitels. Who wants to take that responsibility? PLEASE this is a serious aveia that affects all of us, stop wearing sheitels even if your rav says its ok it surely is NOT!

joshwaxman said...

please choose a pseudonym.

i have certainly heard that explanation, and it is readable into his words. other readings are also plausible.

"Rav Kaduri also says that the cancer increase among the klal is because of sheitels. Who wants to take that responsibility?"
I want to take that responsibility. If Rav Kaduri said that, then he is simply wrong. (And one should then question every kabbalistic pronouncement he made about reality.) He came from a community where sheitels were not the accepted hair covering, and he interpreted reality like that.

We are not supposed to listen to magic-men. We are supposed to listen to our rabbonim. And it is MUCH *more* problematic to say that one should discount rabbanim, who are our halachic leaders, who define for us what is a serious aveira, than to say that an arbitrary hair-covering is OK or is not OK.

With a wig, the biggest violation is Das Yehudis (and it is not, because the communities in question have accepted it). With deliberately discarding the pesak of rabbonim and poskim, it is a Biblical violation of Lo Sasar. That is a more serious aveira.

please don't encourage violations of deOraysas.

"Not to mention the clinicle death stories that women have described what happened to them when they went up and had to face all the black angels they created by wearing a sheitel."
Those stories are fake, just like clinical death stories of Christians seeing Jesus. Our halachic practice is defined by rabbis learning halacha, not by random superstitious women who have had visions.

Hashem would not punish religious people for following their poskim as to the proper halachic conduct.

kol tuv,


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