Returning our Crown to its Original Glory
The Jewish people are at present united in feelings of
concern and anxiety, due to the daily distressing happenings
in Eretz Yisroel. For many months there have been numerous
shootings and mass bombings. These have claimed hundreds of
Jewish lives and maimed many hundreds of people for life,
Hashem yeracheim. Since no one knows what severe
danger lurks around the corner, everyone is affected in a
most immediate manner. Instead of these troubles abating
after so many months, the situation is becoming progressively
worse, with the future clouded with worrying uncertainty. At
a time like this, apart from davening and begging
Hashem Yisborach for mercy, it is our duty to
investigate the spiritual causes of the present state of
affairs, so that we can improve our ways and thereby arouse
heavenly compassion upon ourselves and acheinu bnei
Yisroel (See Rambam, Hilchos Taanis 1:17).
In a public letter written in the year 1924 (5684) (published
at the end of the Chofetz Chaim al HaTorah, page 322)
the Chofetz Chaim wrote that he was convinced that the severe
troubles that befell Klal Yisroel at that time were
due to a lack of tznius. He mentions in particular the
fact that married women did not cover their hair indoors nor
He bases his causal analysis on the fact that the troubles of
those times gave rise to a feeling that Hashem had chas
vesholom forsaken and abandoned His people to the wicked
devices of their enemies. The only place where the Torah
writes the frightening words "Hashem will forsake you" is in
conjunction with pritzus, as the Torah writes:
"Velo yeiro'eh becho ervas dovor veshov mei'acharecho -
- Hashem shall not see nakedness on you, [for if He does] He
will forsake you" (Devorim 23:15). The Chofetz Chaim
therefore pointed an accusing finger at pritzus as the
cause for the severe troubles that befell Klal Yisroel
in those times.
We are at present in the throes of a seemingly endless string
of tzoros that threaten to engulf the yishuv in
Eretz Yisroel. The nature of these troubles is such
that we once again feel totally abandoned and helpless. In
line with the Chofetz Chaim's words just quoted, we must
assume that a serious lack of tznius is at least one
of the main underlying causes for the present condition.
Nowadays, Orthodox women certainly do not leave their hair
uncovered. However, many wear hair-coverings that are totally
inappropriate and, according to a wide range of
poskim, constitute an issur min haTorah.
The Torah requires a married woman to conceal her hair from
the eyes of the public in order to lessen the attraction to
her. Amongst the many revealed and hidden reasons for this
mitzvah, the following two are relevant and are of paramount
importance. Whilst an unmarried maiden may attract attention
to herself (within the boundaries of tznius) so that
she is sought after and eventually marries (Taanis 13a
and Kesuvos 52b), a married woman is not to attract
attention to herself (Kesuvos 72a Rashi s.v.
Azhara and Ritvo). For this reason the hair of a married
woman, which is naturally a major source of attraction, must
be covered and hidden from the eye of the public.
A similar but further reason for this mitzvah is as follows.
The posuk states, "Stolen waters are sweet" (Mishlei
9:17). Due to this there is a special yetzer hora
for a married woman as she is an eishes ish (see
Sanhedrin 75a and Avoda Zorah 20a). The mitzvah
of kisuy sa'aros was given to lessen a potential
source of attraction to such a person (See sefer Oz
Vehodor Levushoh, pages 243-244). It follows that to wear
a head covering that can easily pass as her own hair defeats
the function of this mitzvah completely, as a man seeing her
can think that he is seeing her own hair and be attracted by
it, especially when he does not know who she is or whether
she is married or not.
Responsa Chesed Le'Avrohom (Even Hoezer 87) writes as
follows: "Sheitels that are made to such perfection that the
woman wearing them appears to be showing her maiden hair are,
in my opinion, forbidden min haTorah. A married
woman's hair must be covered to prevent attraction. It
therefore makes no difference whether her own hair or other
hair causes this attraction. They are one and the same and
forbidden min HaTorah." The same is written in the
Yeshuos Yaakov (by the great Gaon HaRav Yaakov
Orenstein zt'l) Orach Chaim 75:3.
A further reason to forbid natural-looking sheitels is the
issur of maris ho'ayin, as many observers will not be
able to discern whether this woman has covered her hair or
not (See Responsa Mahril Diskin, Kuntrus Acharon 203).
Even nowadays, when the non- recognizable sheitel has become
so widespread, it still happens every now and then that women
(and all the more so men) are under the impression that a
woman has not covered her hair, due to the exceptionally
deceptive appearance of her sheitel. This is especially so
when shortly after her chasunah a young woman appears
in public looking exactly as she looked before her
chasunah when she was a girl.
In fact, one cannot know what the outcome of this type of
wrongdoing can be. The great posek the Beis Yitzchok
writes that in his time some women no longer covered their
hair at all, knowing they could "get away with it," as people
would think they had covered their hair with a super-perfect
sheitel (See last few lines of Responsa Beis Yitzchok
Orach Chaim 15).
The present-day gedolei haposkim have similarly stated
that it is ossur and wholly incorrect for a sheitel to
be made to simulate the maiden appearance of a woman. In a
proclamation from year 5750 a central paragraph reads as
"The sheitel is intended as a covering for the woman's hair.
It can be considered as such only when it can be recognized
as a sheitel. If it looks exactly as natural hair, it cannot
be considered to screen off what is supposed to be hidden. By
wearing such a sheitel the wearer ensnares those who see her
in very serious issurim."
The proclamation was made in the name of the geonim,
HaGaon HaRav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, HaGaon HaRav Shlomo
Zalman Auerbach, HaGaon HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner and HaGaon
HaRav Nissim Karelitz.
This article is an S.O.S. call (Save Our Sheitels) before
things become even worse and this mitzvah becomes chas
vesholom a mockery in the eyes of our daughters. It is
addressed to Orthodox women in their many countries of
residence as it is an international problem that needs to be
addressed universally. It is hoped that by offering an
analysis of the motivations behind the many styles that
abound nowadays, and stating what actual effect these styles
have, people who earnestly want to do what is right will find
guidance for both the hashkofoh and practical
fulfillment of this mitzvah.
Much has already been explained about the background and
halachic requirements of this mitzvah in the sefer Oz
Vehodor Levushoh, pages 227-253, However, an up-to-date
analysis of styles that may seem acceptable as they cover all
the woman's true hair, but are in fact totally unsuitable,
was not incorporated into the sefer. This article has
been written to fill this urgent need.
* * *
On careful analysis it is apparent that there are a number of
purposeful ploys that are used by manufacturers to cause a
sheitel to look as if it were the woman's own hair. These
must be avoided, as explained. They are as follows:
A. Sheitels with a White Parting
The net onto which the hairs of a sheitel are attached is
usually dark colored in contrast to the human scalp which is
white. Nowadays there are those who dye the net white in the
immediate area of the parting, so that the parting is a
distinct white line and very much like the scalp.
Although many who wear such a sheitel have no bad intentions
and many are not even aware that it is wrong to camouflage a
sheitel, it still remains a very wrong practice and a
devastation to the content of this mitzvah.
If a sheitel has a white parting, it can be made kosher by
darkening the net in the area of the parting, so that it is
uniform with the rest of the net. This can be done with the
aid of a permanent marker or similar implement.
B. Skin-Top Sheitels
Just as it is wrong for a sheitel to have a white parting, as
explained in the previous point, so it is wrong for a sheitel
to be a skin-top. This is a sheitel where the complete net at
the base of the hairs is white (not just the area of the
parting). This looks exactly like a girl's hair since there
too when a girl's hair moves sideways or lifts up, part of
the light colored scalp can be seen -- hence these sheitels
are called "skin-top sheitels."
These sheitels are manufactured by inserting the hairs into
the holes of the net and gluing them into position from the
inside, in contrast to the usual way in which the hairs are
knotted onto the net. Since the hairs come straight out of
the net, the sheitel has a very natural look, as the hair
comes out of the net very much as hair comes out of the
C. Laced Sheitels
One of the worst wrongdoings that are perpetrated concerning
sheitels is the laced sheitel. This is a sheitel in which the
frontal hair that is over the forehead is back-brushed. It is
done in a way that the observer imagines is only possible
with maiden hair which grows out of the scalp and can easily
be back- brushed.
This "trick" is accomplished in two different ways. Some
actually allow some of their own hair to show and then back-
brush these hairs over the front of the sheitel. The extreme
wrongdoing of this type of conduct speaks for itself -- see
Mishna Berurah 75:10 that all the hair must be
covered. See also Oz Vehodor Levushoh 5:C.
A second method uses a net with a transparent plastic with a
mat finish. This plastic extends slightly beyond the front of
the sheitel and blends into the surface on which it lies.
Hence, the frontal hairs can be brushed back giving a very
natural finish to the complete sheitel.
D. High Quality Sheitels with Ultra-Flat Fronts
The hair-style of girls is mostly very flat at the front over
the forehead. Sheitels, even when made of good quality human
hair are largely recognizable (unless subject to one of the
methods of deception described in the other numbers in this
article) by the way that the hair is not flat and low over
Sheitels are being made with silk or nylon nets which have
much finer holes than a standard net made of gauze and
therefore require much less hair than those that have a
traditional net. With a usual sheitel five to seven hairs are
fixed into each hole giving the sheitel quite some body,
whereas with the ultra-flat sheitel one to three hairs are
fixed into the holes as they are very tiny indeed. As a
result, the sheitel lies exceptionally low and flat on the
head. Also, having very small holes, the hairs are often
attached to the net by just one knot, whilst with other
sheitels every hair is attached by a double knot which adds
to the thickness of the sheitel. When a woman wears such an
ultraflat sheitel it is difficult to discern whether it is in
fact a sheitel or the young woman's maiden hair.
This problem is compounded and completed when the sheitel is
a "true custom sheitel" made from high quality human hair.
Such a sheitel has four qualities. (A) the human hair has not
been bleached. This in turn ensures that the original luster
of the hair has been maintained. (B) The hair has not been
dyed and consequently looks far more natural than dyed hair.
(C) The hair has been attached to the net in the direction in
which it grew i.e. the end nearest to the scalp is likewise
nearest to the net. (D) The hair is very well matched and
originates from as few people as possible, which assists
greatly in preserving the hair's natural look.
A sheitel with these qualities, known as a "true custom
sheitel," looks close to natural but can still be detected
from the raised front with which it is different to the flat
hair style of girls. However, when the front is also very
flat and shallow it has the present-day style of girls, and
cannot be detected at all, not even from the front. When this
is the case, the camouflage is virtually complete (except to
a highly professional eye). Since when wearing such a sheitel
a young woman looks like an unmarried girl, the sheitel is
In fact, some authorities do not allow true custom sheitels
even when they do not have an ultra-flat front and are
recognizable from the front. Apparently, this is because they
are not recognizable from the rear. Furthermore, should the
hair style of girls change, they would not be recognizable
even from the front.
The exorbitant prices of the more expensive custom sheitels
is a further reason for much concern. Under the excuse that
custom sheitels last much longer than the other ones (which
is true to a degree -- the custom sheitel might last three or
four times longer than other ones) unjustified prices of
thousands of dollars are being charged, which are many, many
times the price of the more basic sheitels. These costly
sheitels have become a status symbol with all the unhealthy
and unpleasant consequences and ramifications that follow
from such status symbols.
E. Long Sheitels
When a sheitel is longer than shoulder-length, it sways
freely with the movement of the head and with the general
movement of the body. This swaying is similar to that of
living hair, which is particularly bouncy and sways easily.
Such a sheitel therefore gives the wearer a distinct girl-
In contrast, a short-haired sheitel lies flat on the head
even when not tied down and does not sway. This is very
different from the loose, short hair of a girl which,
although not swayed by the body, is alive and wavy. (There
are, however, other features that can trick the onlooker into
believing that even a short sheitel is real hair, as
explained). This point has been confirmed by two long-
established professionals. It is therefore wrong to wear a
sheitel that is longer than shoulder-length.
Although a long sheitel that lies on the back is not totally
camouflaged and can still be recognized as a sheitel because
of the front which stands high (in contrast with a girl's
hair) nevertheless, such a sheitel is unfit and fully
incorrect to wear. This is because this style is naturally
girl-like and at first sight this sheitel gives a very wrong
A long-open sheitel has a further shortcoming. This style
(long and open) is unrefined and the open flowing hair often
gives an impression of begging for attention even on a girl
(and according to some poskim is therefore
halachically forbidden -- see Mishnah Berurah 75:12 in
name of Mogen Avrohom). Such a style is all the more
unfitting for a married woman of whom the Torah expects extra
tznius concerning her hair.
Due to both these reasons sheitels should be no longer than
shoulder-length, whether manufactured from human hair,
blended or made completely from synthetic hair. Even if the
husband very much wishes that his wife wear a long sheitel,
this is no justification for her to wear such a sheitel in
In Eretz Yisroel, gedolei Yisroel insist that sheitels
should be short enough that they do not actually reach the
shoulders. In this way the hairs remain totally dormant and
are not affected by the movement of the shoulders and the
like. Although this is not the accepted ruling in all
communities, it underscores the need for sheitels to be short
not long, thereby maintaining the grace and majesty of
End of Part I