In last week’s column, a young outspoken wife and mother captures our attention with her engaging recollection of how, on her way to becoming an observant Jewess, she picked up on the ins and outs of what would qualify as appropriate modest attire. Now, some ten years later, our Los Angeles Tichel-Wearing Girl still doesn’t get how a married woman considers herself fulfilling the Torah requirement to cover her hair by wearing a wig — especially in light of the fact that wigs often outshine the real thing, both in glamour and sensuality. She calls this a deceitful practice.
Firstly, rest assured that others share your incredulity. Secondly, it may be of interest to you and other young readers to know that many of us can still recall a time in the not-too-distant (relatively speaking) past when human-hair wigs were almost unheard of, when wigs were mostly made of a synthetic fiber and were easily recognized as – well, wigs. That would partially explain why renown and respected community leaders (some no longer with us) sanctioned the wearing of wigs for married women.
It is highly unlikely that these rabbis, in their endorsement, envisioned the knockout versions that many of today’s young brides find hard to resist. But, and to their credit, they did empathize with a woman’s need to feel attractive and understood that not every female would be agreeable to, or could carry off, hiding her hair under a hat, scarf, or other shmatte, especially in public.
As is inevitable, any human invention that enjoys popularity will in time be updated or modernized, the wig being no exception. Further, buoyed by the Prada and Gucci wearing ladies who have enough change left over to line the pockets of wig makers and stylists, the sheitel trade has become a lucrative enterprise — to the consternation of the average to lower-income household that discovers the purchase of (a minimum of) two custom wigs almost surpassing the cost of the kallah’s entire trousseau.
Though the trend doesn’t show any signs of diminishing, plenty of rabbis have spoken out against it, with similar arguments to yours. To be fair, mention must be made of the communities where women have heeded their leader’s call to dispense with the human hair wigs and wear only the synthetic kind, and of the many married women sporting stylish kerchiefs, hats or wide headbands on top of their wigs, meant to act as a constant reminder (to the wearer) of her married status.
While women who obsess with designer labels and the latest in fashion craze are prone to lose sight of their inner essence, there are simply those who wouldn’t be caught dead without some form of hair on their heads. (Let’s face it: not every girl is blessed with a face that looks good in anything.)
And realistically speaking, there is a marked distinction between wearing a neat, modestly styled do (bespeaking dignity and self-respect) and the drop-dead gorgeous attention-garnering custom sheitel that has the opposite effect of what is meant to be conveyed by a married woman’s head-dress.
I heard a noted wig stylist once confide that when she got married (several years ago), she was able to afford the nicest, most luxurious wig on the market at the time since her parents were in the business. As a newly married couple, she and her husband were out on a stroll when they happened on an old acquaintance of his who had heard of their engagement. Upon being apprised of their marital status, the friend did a double take and embarrassingly admitted that he failed to recognize her as a married woman due to the naturalness of her “hair.”
The woman’s husband promptly had her return the long, stunning wig to her parents and trade it in for a chin-length, modestly styled one – the kind she continues to wear to this very day. Even as a young bride she understood her husband’s concern and complied with his wish.
Unfortunately, some of today’s orthodox males get carried away by the enticements of the outside world and encourage their wives to dress to the hilt, in a misguided bid to exhibit their “catch” to the world.
I suspect that you, our endearing Tichel-Wearer, are one fortunate young woman who has her head in the right place and a mature husband who appreciates what he has. May you continue to grow together in Yiddishkeit and to be an inspiration to your entire family and to all who are fortunate to cross your path.
One of the explanations cited for the biblical directive to “make a Sukkah in which you are to dwell…” is to teach us of the transitory nature of our “residency” here on earth. The sukkah, a temporary dwelling, is supposed to remind us that our goal in this world is to do Hashem’s bidding and thereby secure our place in the lasting World to Come.
Even though Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are behind us, we are given until the solemn day of Hoshana Rabbah to rethink our priorities and resolve to adjust our lifestyles in ways that will endear us to Hashem and seal our verdict for a good year filled with wonderful blessings from Above.
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