by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
Recently some quotes from HaRav Ovadia Yosef have been published denouncing the wearing of sheitels (wigs for Jewish women as hair covering). "He called “today’s” sheitels “erva”, stating they are absolutely forbidden." (Dreaming)
Yet, the Lubavitcher Rebbe specifically instructed his chassidim ONLY to wear sheitels, such that the women should never walk out the door of their homes in a hair covering of a snood, kerchief, tichel, hat or turban. Further, they should not wear a half-sheitel (a fall or band that has a decorative bandanna over the front of the head), only a full sheitel, as a full sheitel ensures 100% of the hair is covered.
So which is it? Is the sheitel a form of nakeness that is absolutely forbidden, or is a tichel/snood/kerchief/hat/turban inappropriate and a sheitel the best form of hair covering?
Years ago I had a havrusa (a Torah learning partner) who was a Lubavitcher chossid of sephardi background. He used to run to hear the halacha shiurim of HaRav Yosef, and this same issue was raised back then. So I asked him, having the words of these two tzaddikim in direct conflict with each other, which is it?
He said, Rav Yosef is speaking and teaching to _his_ community. There is no tradition of sheitels in the sephardi community, and for them to begin to adopt practices of the ashkenazi community is inappropriate for their lifestyle and customs. For them, their sensibilities and community standards, a sheitel - per their rav - is inappropriate.
For Chabad as well as modern day orthodox women, the Rebbe determined and ruled that a sheitel is a preferred head covering, doing a better practical job than the alternatives while providing an appropriate modest yet respectful look for a holy Jewish woman.
Certainly their are sheitels today (and there were yesterday as well) that create a look that is inappropriate for a holy Jewish woman. Similarly, there are many other forms of head covering that allow significant slippage, hair to poke out in all directions, or make a woman look downright unpleasant - which is absolutely NOT the intention of halacha.
Some chassidim solve this problem by having their women shave their heads. That's a pretty extreme position that the klal (the general Jewish religious public) is not going to accept. Further, it takes significant cultural infusion to consider this not unpleasant within the marital relationship.
In the final analysis, these are often COMMUNAL rulings, focused upon matching halacha to ones community standards, local challenges, and cultural history. For example, neither the Mishnah, nor Gemora, nor Tur, Shulchan Aruch, or Mishneh Brurah define required STYLES of clothing for modesty or head coverings. Rather, we rely on the rabbis of the community and of the generation to define this appropriately for current modes of dress, climate, styles, etc.
HaRav Yosef is ruling for HIS community, not for the Klal. It is his place to do so. Similarly, the Rebbe set the standards for his community as well as selecting one that would work for the mitzvah of kisoy rosh (covering the head/hair) for Chabad to teach in Chabad houses worldwide.
Which is correct? Both are.
Update: Josh at ParshaBlog adds a halachic review of BOTH positions going back over 50 years.
Illustrative graphic from Sheitals.Com
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
// 11/05/2008 //