Sheitels

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The viability of a wig as a sufficient hair covering for a married woman is a centuries-old debate that continues to this day. The Mishnah (Shabbos 64b) states that a woman may wear a wig into a courtyard (without an eruv) on Shabbos. The Shiltei Ha-Giborim sensibly deduces from this Mishnah that a married woman may cover her hair with a wig. The Be’er Sheva (Responsa, no. 18) quotes R. Yechezkel Katzenellebogen as disagreeing, explaining that this Mishnah and other related texts refer exclusively to a wig under a scarf or hat. However, a married woman may not wear only a wig.

The Rema (Darkhei Moshe, Orach Chaim 303:6; Shulchan Arukh 75:2) seems to follow the lenient view of the Shiltei Ha-Giborim. Other standard authorities do as well, most clearly the Magen Avraham (75:5) who summarily dismisses the Be’er Sheva but also the Pri Megadim (Eshel Avraham ad loc.) and Shulchan Arukh Ha-Rav (75:4). Even the Sephardic Kaf Ha-Chaim (75:19) follows suit, saying it is the majority view of later authorities.

However, R. Ya’akov Emden (She’eilas Ya’avetz 1:9, 2:7-8) and the Chasam Sofer (Glosses to Magen Avraham 75:5) argue forcefully against the lenient position. The Divrei Chaim (Yoreh De’ah 59) states that the majority of authorities forbid the wearing of wigs alone.

This debate is adequately summarized by the Mishnah Berurah (75:15) — some permit wigs and some forbid them. More recently, R. Ovadiah Yosef (Yabi’a Omer, vol. 5 Even Ha-Ezer no. 5) argued at length to forbid while R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggeros Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 2:12) permitted.

Those who forbid wigs offer a number of different reasons, which include:

  1. Wigs cause the same sexual thoughts as regular hair (kisuy mi-ta’am hirhur)
  2. Women who wear wigs look like they are sinning (maris ayin)
  3. This is the first step toward uncovering her hair entirely

Those who permit counter that the obligation is for married women to cover their hair and they are doing so. If a wig causes illicit thoughts then it is forbidden for a different reason, just like anything that causes forbidden thoughts. You can compare this to a person wearing an anatomically correct body suit. The person is covered from head to toe so there is no issue of revealing his body. However, if the suit looks so lifelike that it causes improper thoughts then it is forbidden. Nowadays, it is hard to say that wigs cause improper thoughts.

R. Moshe Feinstein responds to the maris ayin argument in multiple ways:

  1. A woman covering her hair is an obligation, not a prohibition (it is an issur aseh)
  2. Someone, even if not everyone, can almost always tell when a woman is wearing a wig
  3. People in our community know that women often cover their hair with wigs

The third issue is a matter of communal direction which was time-bound. Today, a woman wearing a wig is not on the path toward irreligiosity.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student recently served on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

81 comments

  1. A sociological (not really a halachic) question:

    How did we move to where covering hair with a wig seems to indicate a higher level of frum-ness than covering hair with a hat or scarf? The latter would seen to conform to more halachic opinions.

  2. You write, “Nowadays, it is hard to say that wigs cause improper thoughts.”

    I would argue the very opposite.

  3. Charlie: It puzzles me as well.

    Baruch: It probably depends on the kind of wig. But I agree with you that some wigs are almost as bad as tight clothing.

  4. “Nowadays, it is hard to say that wigs cause improper thoughts.” Couldn’t the same be said of uncovered hair?

  5. @Charlie Hall: Some years ago I read that the Lubavitcher rebbe declared wigs to be better because they are far less likely to slip off or be blown off in the wind than a hat or scarf. Perhaps this provides one rationale.

  6. thought experiments: 1.if there were no mimetic tradition on this issue, what would the psak be? the eitzah?
    2. is the current treatment of wigs consistent with pants absent the mimetic tradition?
    3.tbd
    KT

  7. Richard Kahn: Yes, but covering hair is still obligatory. The fact that uncovered hair does not cause improper thoughts only impacts whether one may recite Shema in sight of it, at least according to the Arukh HaShulchan and R. Moshe Feinstein.

  8. “How did we move to where covering hair with a wig seems to indicate a higher level of frum-ness than covering hair with a hat or scarf? The latter would seen to conform to more halachic opinions.”

    Two possibilities.
    1. The women just like it better.
    2. Stray hairs.

  9. A theory on the sociological issue: For most women working in the professional world in the US, there will arise situations where wearing a hat or scarf is simply not an option (or at least, will create extraordinary difficulties). Many women who do not wear wigs will end up, in such situations, leaving their hair uncovered – regretfully, but feeling that they have no choice. So perhaps there is a sense that only if you wear a wig can you be assured that you will cover your hair all the time.

  10. LEAH:

    “there is a sense that only if you wear a wig can you be assured that you will cover your hair all the time.”

    supposedly this is why chabad frowns on coverings other than wigs, because you’re much less likely to feel the need to uncover.

  11. R. Moshe Feinstein responds to the maris ayin argument in multiple ways:

    2. Someone, even if not everyone, can almost always tell when a woman is wearing a wig

    I don’t think R. Moshe adds the caveat “even if not everyone”. R. Moshe bases it on it being fairly obvious to all. Which would seemingly exclude the relatively recent (since R. Moshe’s psak) phenomenon of wigs being made specifically to not being differentiable from going wigless.

  12. I don’t think R. Moshe adds the caveat “even if not everyone”

    He does:

    ועוד משום שברוב הפעמים ניכר שהשערות הם מפאה נכרית, ואף אם אינו ניכר לאנשים שאין מסתכלין כ”כ בנשים עד שיכירו מ”מ לנשים ודאי ניכר ברובא דרובא ואולי גם כולן ניכרות, ולכן בשביל מה שנזדמן לפעמים רחוקות שלא ניכר לא אסרו.

  13. >How did we move to where covering hair with a wig seems to indicate a higher level of frum-ness than covering hair with a hat or scarf? The latter would seen to conform to more halachic opinions.

    This just goes to show that “conforming with halachic opinions” may or may not tell the whole story. It’s not an objective thing, it’s conditioned. Frum women wear sheitels. 250 years ago women who wanted to look like women in Paris wore sheitels.

    To prove that it’s conditioned? In Sephardi circles where R. Ovadya Yosef’s view reigns, sheitel wearers do not project “a higher level of frum-ness.” The opposite.

  14. >“there is a sense that only if you wear a wig can you be assured that you will cover your hair all the time.”

    There can be little doubt that the successful revival of hair covering in the United States was due to the sheitel. Most women voted with their heads before there were nice (or at least acceptable, to them) sheitels, and didn’t cover their hair at all.

  15. If we concede that todays fashion wigs are “almost as bad as tight clothing”,which is assur lekulei alma,this is the end of the discussion. It is true that technically if we say that “seiar be’isha erva means her own hair then the sheital is a covering. But this is not an issur like milk and meat where the reason for the issur is unknown. A woman wearing a “come hither”wig is a classic example of naval bereshut haTorah.

    RJR-Pants can be more tzniyusdik than skirts, although R’Aviner ruled that any women’s clothing that shows pisuk is immodest. There remains the question of whether pants that are specifically made for women are no longer generically “beged ish”.

  16. DT: But not all wigs are “fashion wigs”. From what I can tell — admittedly not much — the people wearing the “fashion wigs” are also the ones wearing the tight clothing.

  17. Charlie Hall: “How did we move to where covering hair with a wig seems to indicate a higher level of frum-ness than covering hair with a hat or scarf? The latter would seen to conform to more halachic opinions.”

    One factor is probably that in the early years of Hareidism, when wigs became associated with Hasidic/Hareidi communities, the wigs were did not look anywhere near as nice as they do today. I’ve read that even more recently, Sarah Schenirer’s wig was made of black yarn. These wigs were not likely to be more attractive than a scarf. And, like other commenters have mentioned, they would successfully cover every single strand of hair and they weren’t likely to slip or to fall off.

  18. As the wigs have gotten much more realistic and attractive looking, it’s gotten more difficult to understand why the right wing would have been the original champion of the wig.

    I’d have to add, though, that nowadays, since wigs are more natural looking and more comfortable, it’s no longer a sign of right-wingedness to wear wigs. I know plenty of people who are not makpid to cover every inch of their hair when dressed casually, but when they want to be dressed up, they opt for the wig. You didn’t see this very much a generation or two ago. It used to be that sheitels were only for women who also wore snoods.

  19. Shalom Rosenfeld

    The quote I’d seen from the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt’l was: “if you were wearing a scarf and President Eisenhower walked into the room, you might get embarrassed and take the scarf off; so wear a sheitel and stand proud.”

    R’ Joel, sheitel vs pants: I think R’ Moshe writes that the “split of the legs” is also something that should be covered, which would mean sheitels okay pants not; if it’s in the Igros it’s not totally “mimetic”; but I agree tzorech iyun.

    Charlie & R’ Gil: as for sheitels being frummer, I think a lot has to do with the different Orthodox communities’ gender roles and expectations; sheitels are expensive and often uncomfortable. (But necessary for most jobs that support a kollel husband …)

    I think Rabbi Michael Broyde is correct, if we lived in a society where modest non-Jewish women never exposed their hair, a sheitel would be scandalous — and prohibited!

    Has anyone heard R’ Rakeffet’s quote on the subject? “That sheitel made her look like a Parisian streetwalker … better to wear no covering at all, than a sheitel like that.”

  20. Here is a link to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s view, including the Eisenhower quote:
    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=19853&st=&pgnum=214&hilite=

  21. I agree with the comment above that “This just goes to show that “conforming with halachic opinions” may or may not tell the whole story.” Specifically, that this has very little to do with “halacha.” For whatever reason, wigs, and in fact especialyl fashion wigs, conform with people’s ideas, especially “frummer” people’s ideas about jewish femininity.
    My personal view is that this is connected to the idea, used to sell tsnius to women (while also conveniently allowing men to demand trophy-like dress from their wives) that “tsnius doesn’t mean you have to be unattractive” and, in fact, a bas yisroel _should_ look “put together,” just not too sexy. all this, further, is connected to a very strict regime of social control of women, in which the boundaries of acceptable appearance are very narrow. a sheitel is basically a manufactured form of femininity that one dons when one becomes a “real woman” (after marriage). It is uncomfortable and designed to make you think about how you look, which in turn is really the upshot of the entire contemporary tsnius regime – making women think constatntly about how they look.
    ironic, but true.

  22. I have heard Rabbi David Bar-Hayim repeatedly oppose the use of wigs.

  23. Chaim: So does Rav Ovadiah Yosef.

  24. yet the trend among sefardic women, at least in the u.s. (don’t know either way bout israel), is toward increased wig-wearing. the halachic discussion is really a sideshow.

  25. Even in closed communities such as Satmar, the Rebbe (RYT) was not able to make his psak win over fashion (at least during his lifetime. ).

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_cktCgO7QYZg/RvPKDxXEfYI/AAAAAAAAApY/RTjBaajMifw/s1600-h/2007916_215733rt4.jpg

  26. emma: Perhaps because the Kaf HaChaim permits wearing wigs.

  27. Presumably this is not just due to the Kaf Hachaim, but also because his ruling has been reaffirmed by more recent Sefardi authorities (e.g Shu’t Yaskil Avdi 7:16).

  28. >: Perhaps because the Kaf HaChaim permits wearing wigs.

    Right, the women are wearing wigs because the Kaf HaChaim permits them, and not because they’re Orthodox American women who want to/ feel they ought to cover their hair, but bring the same issues to the table as Ashkenazi women, for whom the only compromise solution is to be allowed to wear a sheitel.

  29. Do you really believe that most of the Sfaradiot that started to wear a wig asked their rav(or got it from Yaskil Avdi)? ROY correctly points out that this is a social (fashion) phenomenon that appeared under ashkenazi influence (i.e. “If rebbetzin XYZ can wear it, so can I”).

  30. “A woman wearing a “come hither”wig is a classic example of naval bereshut haTorah.”

    Sorry, the term “‘come hither’ wig” just made me chuckle!

    In all seriousness, though, I find it pretty hard to get excited about this. A lot of people I know are constantly complaining that rabbonim don’t take current reality into account, even when it’s blindingly obvious that it’s relevant. But here, when Rav Moshe and other poskim follow through and actually do what we want, people complain that they don’t go far enough or that they’re inconsistent, or whatever. This indicates to me that it’s not so much that people want poskim to take reality into account as much as they simply want poskim to agree with their opinions.

    In this case, Rav Moshe took reality into account – which is what people wanted – and still concluded that women should cover their hair, albeit with a wig. That’s fine by me.

  31. BaruchFriedman

    A woman’s obligation to cover her hair is not a “chok”. It is clear from the sources that the Torah wants a married woman’s hair covered because of the sexual appeal that it generates. See, for example, Rashi Ketubot 72a s.v. Azhara; Shittah Mekubetzet, ad loc s.v. Ufarah; Rashi, Shabbat 60a s.v. Vetihavei; Terumat Hadeshen #10; Rambam, Ishut 24:12; Beit Shmuel, Even Ha”ezer 115:; Responsa Shnot Chaim (R. Shlomo Kluger) #115; Gittin 90a (last line on page,see context). It is therefore exceedingly difficult for me to imagine how the Torah’s wish for a woman to withhold that particular element of physical attractiveness can be satisfied by decorating oneself with hair that is usually more attractive than the wearer’s own hair.

  32. BaruchFriedman

    My reference to Beit Shmuel should read: Even HaEzer 115:1.

  33. >A woman’s obligation to cover her hair is not a “chok”. It is clear from the sources that the Torah wants a married woman’s hair covered because of the sexual appeal that it generates.

    Our frum society deludes itself into thinking that no level of generating sex appeal is ever appropriate. According to you some kind of lower level sex appeal is alright for unmarried women of any age. Maybe, but that idea is going to be a hard sell.

  34. BaruchFriedman

    Wow, Anonymous – You must have looked up those sources in under a minute!!!

  35. BaruchFriedman

    Make hat – “You must have looked up all those sources -and formed an alternative opinion regarding their interpretation -in under a minute!!!”

  36. Baruch, maybe he knows them by hearth, like the rest of us…

  37. I don’t like sheitls – why cover your own hair with someone else’s hair, esp styled – kinda defeats the point of wearing a hair covering in the first place. Also, they’re really expensive.

    Debbie fortunately agrees – the only reason she’d get one is for work, and she’s not in a job that requires one. She gets by with hats and scarves. Which are much cuter, in my book. Also, she stands out in a crowd at a wedding, which is hard, for a short person – Oh, there’s Debbie, isn’t she cute? (It’s our 20th anniversary today, btw).

    Once I was in the Dr’s office, sitting next to a Breslover guy from Boro Park. This was during the Indian Hair scandal. The two of us were smugging it up because “our wives wear teechls” – so the scandal didn’t affect us.

  38. BaruchFriedman

    Oops, that must have come across as condescending,as if I know them by heart. Rest assured that I don’t – I had a previously researched list in front of me.

  39. baruchfriedman – please show me a quote from the torah – i assume you mean the chumash – that obligates a married woman – again you must ask why only a married one and not a single woman – to cover her hair. always thought it was a daat yehudit vs daat moshe issue – but again i am the local am haareretz.

  40. Why didn’t you mention the opinions of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auberach and Rav Elyashiv?
    Rav Shlomo Zalman Auberach on sheitels: (translation from http://mishmar.blogspot.com/)
    Halichos Shlomo 20:(12)
    “A wig, although they allowed going out wearing one, nevertheless regarding a significant portion of the wigs available today, which are exceptional in their appearance and their salience, there is no Hetter to wear them, because they are in complete opposition to the spirit of Tznius. And the rule is that it is not the manner of Tznius that the appearance be similar to that of a Penuyah, rather it must be easily [emphasis in the original] recognizable that it is not natural hair.”
    Rav Elyashiv on sheitels:

  41. I wasn’t aware of their view. I also didn’t mention R. Mordechai Willig’s view that a wig can’t look too real because you have to be able to tell she is married: http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/754864/Rabbi_Mordechai_I._Willig/Women_in_Halacha_#7:_Hair_Covering_(Cont%27d)_&_Kol_Isha
    Beginning at 24 minutes

    I quoted two views on the extreme. There are certainly other views in between.

  42. Apology in advance

    Ruvie, if I misunderstood your question (show me the quote in the torah…”) leet me apologize in advance. However, the question as I understand it goes to the heart of the value of Torah she-be-al peh.

    The question can be asked on many mitvot. Example: where does it say one cannot eat milk and meat together? Well, it says something about cooking a kid in its mothers milk, but nothing about eating it afterwards. It is the rabonon who taught us how to translate the threepeat of that pasuk.

    If a mishna or shulchan aruch are not good enough for you, and you need a black and white pasuk for any mitzvah, then I guess I need to question your yeshiva eduation.

  43. MiMedinat HaYam

    if uncovered hair is “ervah”, why are unmarried women permitted?

    (and how does RMF allow a divorced woman to uncover her hair in a limited case, yet it has become completely the current procedure in ALL cases?)

    2. so looking at XXXX movie star is permissible, since they wear hair extensions (from india, or more probably, european hair).

  44. MiMedinat HaYam

    to Shimon S on March 10, 2011 at 11:42 am

    in those circles, women dont have to daven or hear tkiyat shofar, so the chazan doesnt have to “motzie” them.

    but i will agree that in my travels to williamsburg, kiyas yoel (this morning), satmar women nevertheless DO wear sheitels. wont comment on fashion sheitels (i dont think so.)

  45. Fotheringay-Phipps

    Note to Gil: I believe it’s R. Yehuda Katzenellenbogen, not R’ Yechezkal

  46. Rav Shlomo Zalman began by writing in a footnote in a piece on maras ha’ayin that he doesn’t know on what basis rabbonim are matir contemporary wigs (I don’t have the source to hand, but I think he wrote this in the seventies or at the latest early eighties, i.e. before custom hair wigs took off, certainly in Israel). He writes that he personally can’t distinguish wigs from hair; perhaps other men can and this is why the poskim are matir. RMF explicitly doesn’t rely on men distinguishing wigs from hair (or even most women! He goes beyond even the short clip provided by R Gil to say that the reality that it’s known that women wear wigs is sufficent)
    Sometime in the nineties, when the activism regarding sheitls began, RSZA was informed that he wrote that back then, but NOW there are new, terrible wigs that men can no longer distinguish. His reasoning was fine then, but today? And RSZA signed the pashkevil.
    I gleaned this history from the kuntres “the mitzva of kisuy rosh authored by Rav Falk as an addendum to his work “oz vehadar levusha”
    Those familiar with R Falk’s style will know that he is quite frank about what RSZA had said previously, up until he signed. Therefore, IMO it is simply unknown what RSZA would have said had he been told what RMF and other poskim actually said on the topic of maras haayin. I think the odds are slim that he’d have signed a pashkevil against RMF’s opinion whatever his own opinion.

  47. There’s nothing clear about the “torah’s purpose” in having married women cover their hair being to minimize hirhur. Indeed, the gemara in sanhedrin declares non-jewish women (simple meaning) divorced when they begin to walk in the marketplace in uncovered hair – implying that for nonjews too, haircovering was a sign of marital status.
    Women may have begun covering their hair once married as an additional measure of modesty, however, full head-covering is required because this is what married women did. The ideas that women cover their hair to prevent hirhur – as opposed to preventing being taken or trying to be taken for single – is an imposition. Hair-covering is a symbol of marital status and they cover their hair to be identified as married. Wigs don’t serve this purpose, neither do hats or berets or scarves in western society.
    the campaign to get women to wear shorter wigs and whatnot enjoyed a brief fling, but has been singularly unsuccessful. Most of us don’t live in communities in which single women are not permitted to have long hair or wear hairstyles identical to those the married women sport in their “Fashion wigs.”
    The lubvaticher rebbe had, as one of the reasons he favored wigs, that they are more attractive than other head-coverings. He viewed this as a positive, not a negative.

  48. apology – i am sorry i was misunderstood too. when you say:
    “A woman’s obligation to cover her hair is not a “chok”. It is clear from the sources that the Torah wants a married woman’s hair covered because of the sexual appeal that it generates.”

    i assume that you think its a mitzvah with a reason as oppose to chok. please tell me which number of the taryag mitzvot is it? you have switch from a torah law with a reason – as oppose to a chok which has no reason- to something that from torah she bel peh. is it a darabanan or a minhag? how do you understand the mishnah what a rosha paruah? what is also equated in that misnah in ketubot as equal to going risha paruah? how about speaking to all men? sounds like a torah law to you? i am just your local am haaretz asking folks to specific when they talk about halacha so i can learn from them. it seems your statement has too many holes and no water left. please accurate for those less learned than you who do not know what chazal intuit on a daily basis.

    also, its not clear from the rishonim that your reason is THE REASON – i believe like most things its machloket.
    shabbat shalom

  49. It is my understanding that originally it was learnt from the sota “ufara et rosh haisha as the main reason.”That the married woman’s head was covered.But and uncovered by the sota.

  50. “R. Mordechai Willig’s view that a wig can’t look too real because you have to be able to tell she is married: ”

    I assume “you ” refers only to males. (you should maybe be more careful with that if this blog is ostensibly for both genders.)
    essentially all women in wig-wearing cultures can spot them a mile away.

    more to the point, though, the best way to tell if a woman is married in the u.s. is to look at her left finger.

  51. Most of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s reasons for weaing a sheitel grew out of the 1940-1960s. Does anyone honestly think that a good frum girl in 2011 would be tempted to slip off her hat in the street out of embarassment?

  52. Of course, until even after the 1960s many (if not most) Modern Orthodox women only covered their hair in shul. Some still do.

  53. I reccomend rav Broyde’s article in tradition where he gives a rationale, described as a limmud z’chut, for why women do not have to cover hair in public in a society where hair covering is not the norm. This is also the opinion of r mesas and r Horowitz and a few others as far as I recall. It is interesting to note that it seems part of this halacha is dependent on local minhag. Therefore, by claiming dogmatically that hair covering is absolutely mandatory, the hair covering advocates have managed to change the facts on the ground by persuading more and more women to reject the custom of their mothers and to cover their hair.

  54. daat y – i understand that. i was curious in how baruchfriedman/apology understood it. i try to have my wife carry a basket on her head in street per the mishnah’s minimun but to no avail.

  55. apiat-From the connection that CHAZAL make between haircovering and mtizvat Sotah, it is clear that haircovering is to minimize hirhur aveira.

  56. Above comment is by DAVID TZOHARnot Risa!

  57. “Therefore, by claiming dogmatically that hair covering is absolutely mandatory, the hair covering advocates have managed to change the facts on the ground by persuading more and more women to reject the custom of their mothers and to cover their hair.”

    This is true, but there was complicity as well. In the same way as young Muslim women took on the hijab as symbol of identity, young Dati l’Umi women took on hair covering also as a symbol of identity (just as the Kipa Sruga was a symbol for the young men).

  58. @Noam stadlan
    If you read Rabbi Broyde article carefully, you will see it is ONLY a limud zchus and not an endorsement of married women going out without kisui rosh. Rabbi Broyde makes it clear in the article that when determining whether a women should wear a haircovering or not (lichatchila) we should follow what the major achronim (who hold that it is a diyoraisa)

  59. “a very strict regime of social control of women,”

    You should see how strictly charedi MEN are controlled. At least the women are allowed to vary their dress, and do anything with their free time and life other than learn gemara non-stop.

    “I assume “you ” refers only to males”

    If the issue is marit ayin, it applies equally to women.

    “Of course, until even after the 1960s many (if not most) Modern Orthodox women only covered their hair in shul. Some still do.”

    You could say the same about MO women going to the mikvah.

  60. @Noam stadlan

    If you take your line of reasoning, we should all be wearing robes and wandering in the desert.

    At some point in history, women stopped covering their hair due to personal and societal reasons. At some point in history, their daughters decided to cover their hair due to religious, societal and personal reasons.

    Why you see one as being OK and the other and being problematic is beyond my understanding.

  61. ““I assume “you ” refers only to males”

    If the issue is marit ayin, it applies equally to women”

    (1) the issue was not marit ayin per se (looking like you are not doing what you should = covering hari) but looking married – i.e., looking noticeably different. (2) in any case, neither applies equally to women if (frum) women can tell what is a wig. then they know you are covering your hair and know that you are married.

  62. “At some point in history, women stopped covering their hair due to personal and societal reasons. At some point in history, their daughters decided to cover their hair due to religious, societal and personal reasons.”

    Moshe: some did, as I wrote. The problem is that this was then leveraged by Rabbi’s pushing a right-wing hashkafa to delegitimize women who who didn’t cover their hair. The brouhaha over R. Broyde’s article illustrates this well.

  63. MiMedinat HaYam

    “apiat-From the connection that CHAZAL make between haircovering and mtizvat Sotah, it is clear that haircovering is to minimize hirhur aveira.”

    and there is no hirhur aveira of single women. your reasoning is therefore off.
    (though perhaps a little hirhur is necessary to solve the supposed single problem.)

  64. Emma wrote:

    “all this, further, is connected to a very strict regime of social control of women, in which the boundaries of acceptable appearance are very narrow. a sheitel is basically a manufactured form of femininity that one dons when one becomes a “real woman” (after marriage). It is uncomfortable and designed to make you think about how you look, which in turn is really the upshot of the entire contemporary tsnius regime – making women think constatntly about how they look.
    ironic, but true”

    One need not read more than the above to see the influence of feminist based theory, and its take on Tznius.

  65. steve, i made empirical observations that boil down to: contemporary tsnius culture (1) causes women to think about how they look all the time and (2) asks them to aspire not just to being covered, but to looking nice.

    Those are either correct or incorrect. if they are correct it doesn’t matter that I am feminist-influences, and if they are incorrect you should say why rather than just yelling “feminist!”

  66. Emma-I think that your observations in this regard both reek of feminist theory and influences and do not discuss the Halachos and Hashkafah of Tznius. How do you understand the statement in the Talmud that women accepted upon themselves Zayin Nikkiiyim?

  67. again, not a substantive response. i am commenting on social realities as i see them, not “the halachos and hashkafos of tznius.” furthermore, as a woman i think i know more about how tsnius is taught and how it makes women think and feel than you do. on the basis of my own experience i made a simple empirical claim. you haven’t said anything about it other than that it smells like feminism, which is not dispositive as to whether it is right or wrong. at this point i am done beating this horse unless you have an actual response.
    shiva nekiyim is a complete nonsequitor.

  68. Emma-I am not sure which institutions you are referring to, but as a father of two daughters, I would challenge your perspective that MO girls only high schools, seminaries such as Michalala and SCW teach Tznius in the stereotypical way that you claim. Viewing Shiva Nikiyim as a complete nonsequitor adds nothing to this discussion.

  69. Thank you for making me realize I was not clear. I was not talking about MO. (I entered the discussion during talk of why sheitel = “frummer,” socially, and was responding with that in mind. But I understand that was not clear.) I have experience in non-MO settings and I assure you that the “stereotypes” are real. (Though of course there are also exceptions.) I still don’t know whether you think they are problematic.

    As for shiva nekiyim, I brushed it off because I was just confused – how was it supposed to relate to the rest of the dicsussion such that it could “add” anything? I mean, sure, it is an interesting topic, but why is it relevant here, other than generally having to do with females? What bracha did you make when your daughters were born, and why? (I don’t expect you to answer that. just illustrating how something vaguely related can be a total nonsequitor.)

  70. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Emma / Steve,

    I think the “tznius” to which Emma is referring is something like the one discussed (and very sharply critiqued by a SCW product) here:

    http://curiousjew.blogspot.com/2010/02/book-review-6-diaries.html

  71. Emma-I recall that I had an aliyah when we named each of our daughters, that we made Kiddushes in our shul, a Bat Mitzvah in a shul where each spoke before a mixed seating audience, and a chasunah for our older daughter.

  72. I read the above mentioned book from cover to cover and found pluses and minuses in the same. I am not sure that it warranted such a strong condemnation.

    I think that author , who appears to have been a Charedi trained person teaching in a women’s only but definitely MO high school was walking a fine line between struggling with Halacha and interacting with and being affected in a spitually deleterious manner with modern culture and society. Viewing Tznius as something more than adherence to a school dress code or Shomer Negiah as more than a Midas Chasidus are areas of Halacha, that need reinforcement in a positive manner. I see the issue and the issues posed therein as identical to the issue of teens texting on Shabbos-which is capable of being addresed in a positive and non-judgmental manner while allowing for spiritual growth and increased adherence to Halachic norms.

    I would suggest that any such author consider using portions of Wendy Shalit’s “A Return to Modesty” coupled with a tour of checkout counters to see the constant focus on “less is more” and dieting that can lead to eating disorders in women’s fashion, sexuality, etc as well as obtain the superb Mareh Mkomos from Mrs. Abby Lerner , whose “Women in Jewish Law” has been a required course at YU’s Central for a long time.

    I would not reccomend the use of R Falk’s book on Tznius, inasmuch the same reflects a POV that what governs in Gateshead is the only appropriate method of dress. I do recall that at least at Michlala, none of our daughters’ instructors viewed the same from a favorable POV.

  73. Emma wrote:

    “As for shiva nekiyim, I brushed it off because I was just confused – how was it supposed to relate to the rest of the dicsussion such that it could “add” anything? I mean, sure, it is an interesting topic, but why is it relevant here, other than generally having to do with females”

    I thought that Shiva Nekiyim was eminently relevant because it was a chumra that women adopted by themselves.

  74. Noam Stadlan wrote in part:

    “I reccomend rav Broyde’s article in tradition where he gives a rationale, described as a limmud z’chut, for why women do not have to cover hair in public in a society where hair covering is not the norm”

    However, R Broyde was careful to describe the article as a Limud Zcus excursion into a few views of a few Poskim, as opposed to a rationale for permissibility permitted by the majority and mainstream of Poskim. Unfortunately, the above post is indicative of what happens when one takes a Limud Zcus on a Bdieved basis and attempts to elevate the same into a Lchatchilah. I would suggest that one should read R Broyde’s article together with R E B Shulman’s critique of the same for a more complete view of the issues raised therein.

  75. ” it was a chumra that women adopted by themselves”

    OK. I am not sure that most of contemporry tsnius policy really counts as “chumras that women adopted by themselves.” But more importantly, 7 nekiyim has nothing to do with dress, thinking about your appearance or yourself from the perspective of the male gaze. it does not purport to be the single most important thing for a woman to focus on (See book cited above, which i have not read but which sounds like what i have observed elsewhere). those are/were my critiques tsnius-as-practiced, so what does that have to do with extending the period of menstrual separation out of (alleged) doubt? i am not critical of every “chumra,” just pointing out the costs of a view that tsnius is a one-way ratchet in which one can and should always be more tsnius. at some point, women have to be allowed to stop thinking about how they look and start thinking about other, dare i say more important, things.

    i should also be clear that this critique of tsnius-culture in no way implies that secular culture has all the answers. Just that tsnius-culture participates in the very same evils it sometimes claims to protect against.

    I also can’t help noting that it is not clear that women actually adopted the “chumra of r. zeira” themselves – different sources have different views. It’s been a while but I believe the yerushalmi and possibly the rif do not attribute the chumra to the women, but just to r. zeira himself.

  76. Emma-Please provide sources for the Yerushalmi and Rif that you cited. AFAIK, the Bavli, which I don’t have on my fingertips assumes fairly clearly that Zayin Nikiyim was adopted by Bnos Yisrael by themselves ( Machmir Al Atzman IIRC is the critical phrase), without the need for any formal Takanah, etc. as a means of ensuring that there was no possibility of a Safek and confusing Dam Nidah and Dam Zavah. I am sure that you know that Poskim and Yotzaot Halacha work very carefully with those women who have issues as to the operation of Zayin Nikiyim , ovulation time, etc.

    Referring to the same as “alleged doubt” unfortunately illustrates feminist thinking at work as opposed to comprehending why Bnos Yisrael adopted the same. I think that it can be argued that Taharas HaMishpacha and Hilcos Nidah are areas of Halacha that are totally dependent on a woman’s sight, senses, etc.

    As far as the book is concerned, I think that is important to consider that the book consists of the journal entries of six students in a MO women only high school and their observations as they wrestled with the fact that Tznius is more than an in school dress code.

  77. as for who created the chumra, see niddah 67b – “the rabbis have made them all safek zavot.” the yerushalmi i was perhaps thinking of is brachot ch. 5 halacha 1, which just states the halacha of always keeping shiva nekiyim but does not attribute it to r zeira as i had remembered. nor does there seem to be a rif ad loc. nor do i even know where i put the sourcesheet for the shiur in which i learned this re: niddah. so for now i am afraid all i can say is i know it exists. if some other astute commentor is still reading perhaps they can help.

    i say alleged doubt because any actual doubt was removed by the prior takanah of rebbi (see niddah 66a). the move to 7 nekiyim across the board is more of a move to standardize than to remove doubt. recall also that the jews of bavel at the time were living in a surrounding culture that had a very strong menstrual taboo.

    “I think that it can be argued that Taharas HaMishpacha and Hilcos Nidah are areas of Halacha that are totally dependent on a woman’s sight, senses, etc.”

    It can be argued, but there is also contrary evidence. For example, halachot that explicitly undermines women’s senses, e.g., “women don’t have hargashos anymore,” and the serious reluctance of rabbis to teach women mar’os. Or the fact that at many mikvas women aren’t even trusted to inspect their own fingernails! (sure, it’s done by another woman, but the woman actually responsible is not trusted.) But I know that’s just my feminist sensibilities talking. Niddah is no more entrusted to women than kashrus. If anything, it is less.

  78. Married women are supposed to look less attractive and take on an extra level of tzniut, as they are only for their husbands. They should not be wearing attractive, long flowing wigs. If they wear a wig, it should be less attractive and less natural than their own hair.

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