At my first kiruv shabbaton nearly 10 years ago, I was sitting next to my college roommate. We were at an oneg on a Friday night after the meal. The scene was completely unchartered territory. We were at a stranger’s stunning Brooklyn home with shining hardwood floors, tasteful chandeliers and a dessert buffet that could rival any cruise ship. There were a handful of women there, dressed head to toe in what I imagined as the Saks Fifth Avenue modest collection, and various speakers.
After watching these women for nearly thirty minutes I turned to my roommate and said “You know they are all wearing wigs, right?” Her chin nearly hit the ground. She was in complete and total shock! I will never forget when I was newly religious and my grandmother so notably said “Why cover your hair with hair? It makes no sense!” I did not have an answer for her then, but I do now.
Time went on and years later I was an Orthodox woman dating for marriage. I had made a conscious choice that when the time came, I would cover my hair when I got married. However, I felt strongly that I needed a wig. And not just one wig, but multiple wigs. I needed to feel like me. I was one of those people who adored their hair.
It was long, thick and shiny. I frequented hair salons for highlights, cuts, deep conditioning treatments, and my personal favorite, a blow out. Yes, I paid someone to wash and style my hair for me, gosh I miss those. So naturally when I began covering my hair, wigs were a must. Now, I alternate between all different types of coverings. Granted the high is over 100 degrees where I live all week, so I have a feeling my wigs will be collecting dust over the next little while.
Covering my hair is hard. It can be annoying, inconvenient and downright uncomfortable. I do it because I believe it is what G-d wants, and how I choose to do it is entirely up to me. Or maybe according to some people, I am doing it all wrong.
I sat on my couch, two weeks in a row literally dumbfounded by an ad I saw. Last week, it was a one page ad, but this week it was a two page ad. It was found in two Jewish magazines I read on a weekly basis, and just the sight of the ad made my blood boil. The ad claimed that not only was wearing a scarf preferable to a wig, but that the wigs we wear today are incredibly immodest. The article compiled quotes from “gedolim” none of which I have ever heard of and quoted sources. In my utter rage, I showed the ad to my husband, who expressed a similar take as mine, also noting the sources were iffy at the best. That was not the worst of it.
On the second page, this ad claimed our problems would be solved during this time if women got rid of their wigs in exchange for scarves. They wrote “Corona means crown, and a Jewish woman covering her hair is the crown of Judaism.” I guess I must have missed that memo when families in Boro Park, Williamsburg, Lakewood, Chicago and all over Israel were torn apart from loved ones contracting and dying from coronavirus. Oops, my bad. Silly me, I only needed to get rid of my wig!
For me, this ad perpetuates serious problems. First of all, it is ridiculous when anyone claims they can ensure any fix to any crisis we are facing. We are not G-d, and we have no idea how and when this pandemic will end. We do not know if covering our hair with scarves instead of wigs will provide any relief, and misconstruing text to do so is nothing but toxic.
To add to my disgust, this ad actually had the nerve to quote the son in law of a prominent Rav in the Charedi world saying “The first thing Moshiach will do when he comes is abolish the use of wigs!” I have my doubts about this quote, but I also have to say, come on! Do you really think after all this time, that is what Moshiach will do first? You have got to be kidding me. We need to see the bigger picture. We need to focus on a world where we care for other Jews and live up to the objective as a light unto other nations, not a world where we ridicule women for choosing a certain hair covering. We can do much better than this.
Another issue in ads such as these is that they are simply untrue. There are halachic opinions among different poskim about hair coverings. Fine follow your Rav, that is your choice. If the ad had been speaking strictly in halachic terms along with properly quoted sources, just maybe I could accept that. Yet, there is absolutely no reliable source I have seen saying that women will gain any greater benefit from covering her hair with one thing over another.
These ads are dangerous as they feed on vulnerable and insecure women and girls in our communities. You may say to yourself, oh please, who actually would be convinced by an ad? You would be shocked by their general influence on individuals. People are often desperate for an answer and will do anything to get one.
At the end of the day deep inside my heart where my love and belief in Torah are, I just want to say to those who wrote this ad and paid for it: it’s none of your business. It’s absolutely none of your business how a grown, capable and married Jewish woman carries out her mitzvah.
I have spoken to many women over the years, attended classes and spent a great deal of time discussing hair covering. For many women the only reason they do cover is because a wig option exists. For many women everyday to cover is a struggle. For others, it is easier but they are happy many types of options exist. A difficult mitzvah for many, we as a nation, should to our best to ensure support not criticism.
Especially in these excruciatingly difficult times, we need to come together. We do not need to shove radical opinions down people’s throats. I believe as women, as men, and as a nation of Jews we demand better of our publications to not run these types of ads. There is nothing good that can come out of these ads, and together we need to ensure toxic propaganda tactics such as these do not become commonplace in our society. At the end of the day, the mitzvah, for those who hold it is a halacha, is for a married woman to cover her hair. There are no explicit instructions of how you must do it and which covering is preferable.
To answer my grandmother’s question from all those years ago, yes we can cover our hair with hair. It is not our hair. The point is to cover because we believe that is what G-d wants. In a Torah life, dedicated to G-d’s will, that is the essence of this mitzvah. It is not the essence of this mitzvah to play sides or pretend to know what G-d prefers. G-d prefers we do our best to follow the Torah and Mitzvos. We will not know which side G-d is on in our lifetime (yet something tells any covering would be fine!) and we should never pretend to know.
Women have been covering hair for generations, and as we grow and change over time, our hair coverings will change too. This mitzvah is a woman’s personal choice and business. It is between her and G-d. Not her and an advertisement with unfounded claims. No one but her and G-d.
Today as I type this I wear a scarf. Maybe later this week if it cools down a bit, I will wear my wig. But I know one thing for sure. For all that is holy, don’t tell me how to cover my hair.