Miley Cyrus Before and After
Last week a robo call was sent to the Chicago orthodox community inviting women to participate in a telephone conference about hair covering –
Why Cover? Come Discover!
The phone message promised to teach women the meaning behind the great mitzva of hair covering and the many brochos/blessings it can bring. One of the speakers was a rebbetzin from Chicago and another from Jerusalem. Additionally, there would be testimonials from women on how covering their hair had enhanced their lives.
I decided to call the number, which had a New York area code, and hear what these women had to say about hair covering. Immediately, there was an advertisement for some sort of contraption that would keep headcoverings in place. Interspersed throughout the speeches were advertisements for hair covering paraphernalia sold by stores in the New York area.
As the first speaker began, it became apparent that this wasn’t a live presentation, but a series of pre-recorded speeches and testimonials. Very soon into the speech, the speaker quickly went into the true purpose of the conference by claiming that “long wigs do not conform to the standards of tznius set by our poskim.” Today’s toeiva (abominable practice) isn’t in not wearing wigs, but in wearing wigs that are too long and beautiful. She said that we only need to worry about being beautiful to Hashem and not to society. Apparently, there is an unfortunate trend among kallahs (brides) to buy extremely long wigs, and our kallahs need to be taught that long wigs won’t bring kiddusha to their homes.
Essentially, the phone conference hoped to instigate a campaign among women to cut their wigs to an appropriate length. The “kosher” length can vary among communities from shoulder length to chin length. Everyone should ask their posek what the standard is in their local community. Additionally, sheital machers (wigs stylists) were blamed for the trend in long sheitels. Wig sellers (both Jewish and non-Jewish, but the main lambasting was saved for the non-Jewish stylists – I believe the word “goyta” was used) have been encouraging frum women to buy expensive long wigs, and also refusing to cut them shorter when requested for tznius purposes. We were exhorted to take a stand against sheital machers selling inappropriately long wigs and refusing to cut down wigs that are too long.
There were several testimonials from women who, by shortening their wigs, were able to bring good things to themselves or others. One woman told an inspirational story about a woman who cut her wig 3 inches shorter. Emotionally, it was very difficult for her to cut her long wig to a shorter length. As the stylist cut the hair, she said a tefilla and immediately felt connected to Hashem. The woman thought that perhaps her sacrifice would merit help for an unmarried friend. As the hair fell down around her, she repeated her friend’s name again and again. The woman cried as the wig hair was cut. Afterwards, not only did she get tons of compliments on her shorter wig, her friend also got engaged.
Another woman took the plunge and brought all three of her wigs in to be cut shorter. Immediately upon leaving the sheital macher, she and her husband got into a car crash. It was a miracle that no one was hurt and there was no damage. Surely, this miracle happened in the merit of her shorter wigs.
A different woman wanted to cut her long wig but had a bad experience asking a sheital macher to cut it. The wig stylist couldn’t believe she wanted to shorten such a gorgeous wig and convinced her not to cut it. She saw an advertisement in a local Jewish paper by a sheital macher offering to cut wigs for free for tznius purposes. Although her heart was in the right place, she couldn’t seem to coordinate a good time for an appointment. However, the woman was determined to cut her wig. She finally found a time that worked and had two inches cut off the bottom. She thought maybe she should cut more, but didn’t want to be an ugly outcast. She decided to throw all caution to the wind and cut off another 4 inches. She was thrilled – no other sheital macher would cut that much hair off for her. The woman was so grateful that she sent the sheital macher a beautiful shaloch manos that year. Months later, the sheital machor saw the woman in a store and not only was she wearing her short wig, but also longer skirts. The woman said her daughter was now more careful with tznius too.
There was another story about shortening wigs in the merit of a sick child’s refuah (recovery) from a serious illness. The reception was bad and so I didn’t hear the details, but essentially, there was some sort of campaign for women to cut their sheitals so a young child would have a refuah and survive brain surgery. Apparently, the child had a complete recovery due to the efforts of these women.
The conference also addressed how to approach women who wear long sheitals. Basically, we should be dan lchaf zchus (give them the benefit of the doubt) because a woman wearing a long wig obviously has troubles in her life. A woman gave a testimonial about a young woman she saw in a long wig. The young woman was screaming for attention. She decided to boost her neshama with the right words. She complimented the color the young woman was wearing. Upon hearing the compliment, the young woman felt the need to explain that she dressed this way because her life was tumultuous. The young woman expressed annoyance that people judged her clothing. The older woman explained that, yes, it’s terrible that people judge a person by their clothing. That’s why the frum women want to protect her by advising her against long wigs or tight clothing…dress tznius and Hashem will help and protect. If someone is lacking in eirlichkeit (dignity or modesty)- be kind. Compliment what she does right. Compliment her appropriate skirt length. Focus on the positive and don’t jump to judge. Only Hashem can judge.
The conference ended with a very forceful speaker that mentioned getting our husbands away from the internet and not caving into peer pressure to wear longer wigs.
To me, this entire conference was peer pressure to conform to superficial standards of piety. I have no problem with short wigs, and have worn them myself. However, a woman’s decision to wear a shorter style wig should be based on her personal preference, and not because other women will look at her as less tznius or a nebach (sad case) who must have a “tumultuous life.” The program wasn’t about the brochos that are brought down on the families of women who cover their hair, but rather, on the curses that are brought down when women don’t cover their hair in an eirlichkeit manner. To me, this phone conference is another example of how women are enforcing ever stricter chumras upon each other, and using daas Torah (the sanctioning of rabbis) as an excuse to do so. You can’t know what is inside of a woman’s heart by what is on top of her head.