- Question: [Wednesday, 12th Menachem Av, 5781]
For some time now, there has been a lot of commotion regarding the wearing of lace front Sheitels, which is a Sheitel that contains a very thin lining into which the hair is sewn. The issue with the Sheitel is that it makes it appear like the actual hair of your head, and when you wear it, people will not know that you are wearing a wig unless someone personally knows you and your hair color and hair style. I personally was once by a Sheva Brachos and thought that the Kallah was one of the unmarried friends of the Kallah, as I could not tell at all that she was covering her hair. While many women are naturally buying this new style Sheitel, there are Rabbanim who have come out to prohibit it. I would like to know your opinion on the matter and if it is truly forbidden according to Halacha, or not, and if it is recommended.
In my opinion, while this type of Sheitel fulfills the biblical command of covering the hair [Das Moshe], it can be argued that it transgresses the accepted laws of Tzenius of Daas Yehudis and in general can mislead women to not wear a Sheitel at all, and thereby I personally do not recommend it, if indeed it is very difficult to tell that the woman is covering their hair. However, being that there are arguments to permit it, I believe this matter is dependent on community custom, and it is the job of the Rabbanim of each community to give rulings and clarifications on this matter, and the people in each community should abide by the rulings of their Rabbanim. Obviously, however, it is better that a woman wear this type of Sheitel than to wear nothing at all, and hence you must know your crowd and know what level of observance they are willing to keep. [This of course voices no opinion, and neither condones, those who take advantage of this most delicate and sensitive issue for political gain and to besmirch the honor of Bnos Yisrael.]
Explanation-The Biblical Mitzvah [Daas Moshe]: From a pure halachic perspective, so long as the natural hair of a married woman is covered, she fulfills the mitzvah of covering her hair irrelevant of how she facilitates this covering, whether with a nontransparent plastic bag, a handkerchief, or a wig, irrelevant of color or style, and irrelevant of whether it disguises her hair covering or not. The fact that people cannot tell that her hair is being covered, does not change the fact that indeed her hair is covered, and if in the end of the day her hair is covered then she fulfills the mitzvah. We do not find anywhere in the Poskim [that I’m aware of and I will be grateful if anyone can offer sources who state otherwise] that a precondition for a Biblically valid hair covering is that people can tell that the hair is covered, and neither do we find it stated that the entire purpose of the hair covering of a married woman is to tell that she is married. [While many people claim this, I believe it is a misconception, and I’m not aware of any source in the Poskim to back it up.] This also fully fits in with the position of the Arizal who states that the reason a woman must cover her hair is because the hair is Gevura, and hence the sole issue with a married woman’s hair is the fact that it is revealed and nothing further.
Explanation-The issue of Maaras Ayin: Now, although a camouflaged hair covering contains Maaras Ayin, as people may think that a married woman is not covering her hair, and therefore should be rabbinically forbidden, practically, the majority of Poskim learn that the sages never made a decree of Maaras Ayin by a hair covering of married woman [unlike a Yarmulka of a man in which we are stringent], hence permitting her to wear a wig made from even her own hair, and therefore this worry, even if true, is Halachically irrelevant. Now, although there are Poskim who do prohibit such a wig due to Maaras Ayin, in truth, they prohibit all wigs due to this reason, and those communities who have accepted this ruling to prohibit the wearing of wigs as a valid head covering due to Maaras Ayin, would certainly prohibit the above new Lace Sheitel. However, the majority of world Jewry is accustomed like the lenient opinion, which is the majority opinion in the Poskim, which is not to suspect for Maaras Ayin. Thus, in my opinion, there is no intrinsic Halachic impediment against wearing such a Sheitel, so long as your community abides by the lenient opinion. However, there are Rabbanim who are stringent and differentiate between regular sheitels in which it is possible to tell that they are a wig, and hence do not contain Maaras Ayin, versus the new lace front sheitels which do contain Maaras Ayin. Likewise, one can argue that even if one were to rule that there is no intrinsic prohibition of Maaras Ayin when wearing a camouflage Sheitel, since it practically may mislead people who are not of such strong Jewish background to not know that they are wearing a wig, and thereby will weaken the important concept of covering the hair, therefore it is not recommended. This is similar to the response of the Rebbe regarding wearing a hat on top of a Sheitel, that it should not be done because people won’t know that she’s really wearing a wig and will think that simply wearing a hat suffices. The words of Torah need strength and publicity, and hence why abstain from doing a very simple Mivtza of publicizing the mitzvah to cover the hair, by wearing a wig that is apparent that it is a wig, and not one that is camouflaged. We should not be embarrassed to fulfill our Mitzvos in public, and show them off.
Explanation-The issue of Daas Yehudis-Tzenius: There is an additional issue with the wearing of Sheitels and that is the aspect of Tzenius, otherwise known as Daas Yehudis. Now, it could be argued that if the wig looks too eye turning, or disguises the fact that one’s hair is covered and looks like natural hair, then it transgresses the laws of Tzenius and of Daas Yehudis, and indeed there is Halachic basis to this claim. This seems to also concord with the Rebbe’s response to the question of Rabbi Moshe Weiner as to what the differences between regular hair and a wig that looks like your hair in terms of the matter of Tzenius, to which the Rebbe replied that the former is Peritzus of the body while the latter is Peritzus through a secondary item. Thus, regarding this matter, all community customs and local rabbinical rulings must be abided regarding the standards of sheitel allowed to be worn, and hence many communities and their Rabbanim rule that very long Sheitels transgresses this rule and therefore are forbidden, and so is my personal opinion. The same would possibly apply also to Sheitels which are camouflaged and do not appear like a wig, as it is with the lace front Sheitel, that they may transgress the accepted customs of Tzenius for married woman, and so is my personal recommendation to avoid such Sheitels. Now, this does not necessarily mean we can unequivocally decide that lace front Sheitels are automatically prohibited due to Daas Yehudis, as the Poskim explicitly permit wearing a Sheitel made of one’s own hair, and this type of Sheitel is arguably no different. Thus, in my opinion it is to be left to the rulings of the local rabbis and community, and hence in each community, the local Rav is to give a ruling and set the standards of dress in their community, and is not something that can be considered intrinsically forbidden upon all.
Sources: See the following Poskim who permit or defend the general wearing of a Sheital: Admur 75:4; Rama 75:2; M”A 75:5; Shiltei Giborim Shabbos 29a; Levush 75:2; Perisha O.C. 303; Divrei Chamudos Brachos 24a; Olas Tamid 75:4; Elya Raba 303:18; Beir Heiytiv Kadmon 75 and Achron 75:8; Halacha Berurah 75:2; Divrei Chachamim 75:1; Beis Yaakov 152; P”M 75 O.C. A”A 5; Machatzis Hashekel on M”A ibid; Shulchan Tamid 75; Shulchan Shlomo 75:2; Sdei Ha’aretz 3 Y.D. 10; Hagahos Baruch Frenkel 75; Yad Aaron O.C. 75, E.H. 1:21, 2:115-16; Biur Hagr”a 75; Amudei Arazim 1:12; Shaagas Aryeh in Maoreiy Or Kan Tahor Nedarim 30; Magen Giborim 75; Pesach Hadvir 75:1; Siddur Beis Oveid; Kerem Shlomo 75; China Vechisda Kesubos 66b; Eidus Beyehosef 29; Pnei Yitzchak 6:6; Derech Hachaim 26:32; Minchas Shabbos 84:2; Aruch Hashulchan 75:6; Toras Chaim Sofer 75:7; M”B 75:15; Kaf Hachaim 75:19-20; 303:55 and 58; Igros Kodesh Rayatz letter 1,853; Mishpitei Uziel 7 E.H. 94; Poskim of today: Igros Moshe E.H. 2:12; Doveiv Meisharim 1:124; Chazon Ish in Dinim Vehanhagos 2:88; Har Tzevi E.H. 1:89; Yaskil Avid 7 E.H. 16; Rav Mashash in Otzer Hamichtavim ; Shaareiy Halacha Uminhag E.H. 50; Shulchan Shlomo 1:303; Or Letziyon 1:11; 2:45; Az Nidbaru 11:50; 10:28; 12:41; 13:55; 14:58; Das Vehalacha 1; Revivos Efraim 6:460; 7:243; 429; Rav Tzinner in Or Yisrael 36; Halichos Bas Yisrael 5:8; Kevuda Bas Melech [Weiner] p. 64; Mibei Midrasha 18; Poskim who rule that even her own hair is allowed, thus negating worry of Maras Ayin: Darkei Moshe 303:6 in name of Shiltei Giborim Shabbos 29a “It is permitted for a married woman to walk around with a revealed wig, whether it is made from her own hair or from her friends hair, as the hair of a woman is considered an Ervah only if it is actually attached to her skin”; Perisha O.C. 303; Beir Heiytiv 75:8; Ateres Zekeinim 75:3 in name of Darkei Moshe ibid and that so is implication of Rama 75:2 who does not differentiate; P”M 75 A”A 5; Shisilei Zeisim 75:5; Hagahos Baruch Frenkel 75; Kaf Hachaim 75:20; Taharas Hashulchan end of Pischeiy Olam 75; M”B 75:15 based on Peri Megadim to be leninet, although he brings in name of the Magen Giborim to be stringent; See Nachalas Binyamin 26 and Yaskil Avdi E.H. 7:16 regarding that immoral thoughts only are suspected for when attached to the head; Poskim who rule that her own hair is forbidden: Ateres Zekeinim ibid in understanding of Levush 75:2 [however, see Hagahos Brauch Frankel who disagrees with this understanding in the Levush, and states that even he agrees that her own hair is permitted]; Magen Giborim 75 Alef Hamagen 8 in name of Levush; M”B 75:15 in name of the Magen Giborim; Poskim who prohibit Sheitals due to Maras Ayin and other reasons, and certainly would forbid the lace front Sheitals: Beir Sheva 18 and Beir Mayim Chaim 3, brought and negated in M”A ibid; Mur Uketzia 75; Hagahos Chasam Sofer 75; Lachmei Todah; Baal Haflah made a Cherem; Divrei Chaim Y.D. 1:30; 2:59; Kinas Sofrim p. 24b; Yeshuos Yaakov 75; Yehuda Yaaleh Y.D. 366; Daas Torah 75:2; Nimukei O.C. 75; Yabia Omer 4:3; 5 E.H. 5; Poskim who discuss issue of Daas Moshe and Tzenius: Kevuda Bas Melech [Weiner] Introduction p. 1-9 regarding the differences of Daas Moshe and Yehudis in this matter; Letter of Rav Ashkenazi prohibiting long Sheitels;
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