Covering the hair for married Jewish women has been a Jewish legal requirement that goes back more than 3000 years ago. It was not just a Jewish practice to cover the hair but a lot of cultures that originated in the middle east had and have the same custom. But Jewish women cover their hair since it is mandated by Torah law and not some fad that originated in the deserts of the middle east 3000 years ago.
Every article that is written needs some form of impetus and this one does too. A few weeks ago, my wife noticed that there was a lot of trolling on Facebook regarding Jewish married women who choose to cover their hair using a wig instead of a tichel etc. As a sedulous Chabadnik, I immediately thought of how to turn this event into something positive; as our Rebbe instructed to do, to every negative event in life. That trolling was the impetus for me writing this article.
My wife and I are proud Chabadniks also known as Lubavitchers. We both chose out of our free will, to lead a Chabad lifestyle. In case you didn’t know about it, our Rebbe strongly encouraged married women of our sect to wear wigs to cover their hair instead of other options like a tichel (mitpachat), a hat etc. His directive was to tell his followers what he thought should be done by his followers and was not directed towards putting down fellow Jews who chose to cover differently. The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, himself was a Torah scholar who knew what he was asking of his followers regarding wearing wigs. He was also the recipient of the Congressional gold medal in recognition of his outstanding and enduring contributions toward world education, morality, and acts of charity. And get this, Education day U.S.A. is an official day recognized by the US government, and it happens to change every year in the Gregorian calendar since it officially falls on the Rebbe’s Hebrew birthday.
Me and my wife don’t talk about or judge other women who don’t cover their hair with a wig. As a matter of fact, being Chabadniks, we rejoice and feel happy when a married Jewish woman chooses to cover her hair. If a married woman chooses to cover her hair with a fancy tichel, that is fine with us; we just use a wig instead. Yes, there is a part in my heart where I wish they could understand how special the mitzvah of covering the hair is for a married woman; and that they would eventually begin covering their hair because it is for their own benefit. Some of the blessings that we are told a married woman covering her hair ushers into her home are prosperity, health and security. Did I mention that the husband is also blessed with extra physical strength because his wife covers her hair?
Now, let us go back to the trolling that happened regarding wigs. As a convert to Judaism ( yes, it was an orthodox conversion, it was NOT performed for the sake of marriage and is recognized by the Israeli Rabbinate), as someone from the “outside,” I view negative comments about customs that other Jews keep as a total waste of time and Internet bandwidth. (My background is in Electrical Engineering, so please bear with my technical words that appear in my articles).
If there is anything that the past 2000 years of exile taught us, it should be the fact that we should look at the different cultures and customs our fellow Jewish brethren express and we should and need to love them with all their differences no matter how diametrically opposite to us they are. While Hezbollah is firing rockets and Hamas is blowing stuff, the last thing we should be doing is putting fellow Jews down, because they do things differently. If other Jews are different from us, we need to admire and enjoy how there are Jews who look and go about differently than us and still love them. It is similar to me not opposing Moroccan Jewish cuisine in my home just because I am from India, nor do I shy away from making noodle kugel on Shabbat even though it tastes like something that needs to be served as dessert, not part of the main course! If anything, I will pick and choose, from every Jewish culture what I like and include it in my daily Jewish lifestyle. Who knows, maybe this is how the ultimate hybrid Jewish culture for the 22nd century (or 58th century in the Hebrew calendar) might be born!
What the modern Jewish world needs to learn is to learn to Tolerate and not Judge. Tolerate so that you may be tolerated, don’t Judge so that you might not be Judged. No one likes being on the wrong end of the barrel. I literally know how it feels like. It is of extreme importance to search and dig for how other Jews are similar to you in order to bring out the hidden love inside of you, for them. Did you know that the Yemenite Jew you see in the synagogue has the same Godly soul as you? Did you know that his soul and yours come from the same Godly source and are equal in every which way? What about the Rabbi who sits up front? Ditto! You are all part of the same big family. A family that would have been 276,970,711,228,990,000,000 people strong by now, if not for their senseless slaughter over the centuries by animalistic bigots! You see, we all come from the same spiritual source and looking at halachic/ cultural differences is similar to looking at a cell phone from the outside when all of them do the same thing inside. The famous two rabbis Hillel and Shammai basically argued about everything and had opinions that were exactly the opposite. But that did not stop their kids from marrying each other or eating in each other’s homes. If rabbis of such high caliber were able to put their differences aside, how much more should we?
Jeering and trolling fellow Jews should not even be an option, not even under the threat of high discomfort while living in a day and age where thousands of rockets are ready to be fired into Israel at a moment’s notice by the blood thirsty raccoons ( I chose raccoons because they are very smart, but still animals) who live to the north of Israel. Our minds should be focused on our enemies and not the differences among us. Surely a simple $1000 wig (yes, that is how much they cost because I paid for them!) should not be the reason why we should be putting down other Jews. The Chazal (Jewish sages), explain how the Torah has 70 different facets of interpretation, and wearing a wig is most likely one of the 70.
Then there are some who say that wearing a wig makes a woman look more beautiful and desirable. The response to such an argument is very simple and addresses the essential reason why a married woman covers her hair. Married women cover their hair because the hair is supposed to be viewed only by their husband and it has absolutely nothing to do with the craving and desires of other men. Married religious women cover their hair because they are married to their husbands and not to obstruct weird fantasies a perverted person might have. She covers her hair which is a mitzvah and mitzvoth are supra-rational, and not meant to appease and counter perverted low lives.
You see, society’s rules and norms cannot be based on what some pervert likes or dislikes. What should we do in a case where a pervert finds a woman who covers her hair with a tichel (mitpachat), tempting? What if he has a “tichel fetish?” Should all religious women now shun tichels because some pervert finds tichels desirable? Are they supposed to cover their heads with trash bags to make themselves look even more ugly? (Just to note that covering hair has nothing to do with making the woman look deliberately ugly.) Then there is the possibility of another pervert who finds trash bags on top of women desirable! It is similar to saying that we need to stop running banks because of the temptation by a few to rob it! It will end up being a never-ending game, similar to looking for Bigfoot because you are chasing the wrong issue to begin with! We cannot let perverted ideas and desires dictate the rules of modesty. In order to make the right decision, we will need to go back to our Holy Torah, to realize why married women should cover their hair. We can’t let a pervert’s mind be the impetus to decide matters of Jewish law.
The next time a man says to you that a woman wearing a pretty wig is tempting, politely inform him to control himself and that he has a lot to work on in his life. Tell him, politely, he shouldn’t be too worried about what someone’s wife chooses to do in her life and her married life. If the woman is indeed doing something wrong, she has a husband to guide her in the correct direction. It is not the place of every guy in the world to judge and pass judgment over every woman in the world. The person should be told not to opine on his neighbor’s wife! As a matter of fact, when he does feel tempted to look at or gaze at a woman, he should immediately start thinking about other things in life and avert his mind (that is not me, but one of the Rebbes of Chabad who says that).
That same man needs to stop looking at women as objects of desire and should start cultivating the habit of respecting women. Did I just dare use the “R” word, in this western society that I live in? Yes, I did. I do not mean that men should prostrate themselves in front of women, but just to be polite and respectful in their hearts and minds; the way they themselves would like to be treated by others. I also postulate that increased respect towards women in society, will drastically reduce assaults on women. You see ladies and gentlemen; a person cannot assault another person whom they respect! Any psychology or psychiatric professionals who can back me up here? That will be a topic for another article!
Going back to wigs, the woman who is wearing a wig, who you think is doing something horribly wrong, is in fact, your fellow Jew. As the Alter Rebbe (the first Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty) said: The mitzvah of Ahavat Yisrael, aka, Love towards your fellow Jew, extends to anyone born into the nation of Israel, even if you have never met that person in your entire life. Ahavat Yisrael is more important than putting other people down because you think they are doing something wrong, just by wearing a wig! A wig! A wig on one side, which is a custom, versus the love of your fellow Jew which is a Torah mandated mitzvah on the other. It is not hard to pick the correct choice! It is better to not put down a fellow Jew and gain points in Olam Haba for demonstrating Ahavat Yisrael. Simple math.
Let us talk some Chasidic quantum physics now. All Jewish souls share a common root in G_d. Us Jews are separate only in our bodies and not our souls. The love for a fellow Jew, is already present in our souls, because our fellow Jew’s soul has its root in the same G_dliness which is common to any Jewish soul. When we stop looking at our bodies as the primary vehicles for life in this world and start looking at our souls as the more important items in life, that is when we can love our fellow Jews easily. In short, the less materialistic we are, the easier to love a fellow Jew. I don’t mean to say that you should sell your home and all and move to the top of a mountain; I mean not putting emphasis on unnecessary and overly extravagant wasteful items in life versus fellow Jews. When Ahavat Yisrael is lacking, it hurts G_d himself. And why is that? Because all Jewish souls are a part of him and he can’t tolerate any schisms among entities that are a part of him. If there is disunity and infighting between Jewish souls, he will be sad; lightly putting it. It is time to stop judging fellow Jews for every little minuscule item and time to start living together while accepting them for what they are. It doesn’t mean that you have to change and become like them, but it means that you do and keep what you do, while respecting the culture and ways of others.
I never thought of writing such an article and putting it on the internet. I don’t believe in telling the entire world what goes on inside some Jewish circles but I felt I needed to address this issue because I wanted to use this article to advertise the mitzvah of Ahavat Yisrael. I was unable to successfully address this nagging issue in any other way.
Finally, in keeping with the Chasidic philosophical dictum to judge everyone favorably, I would like to make this final statement:
Maybe the people who troll wig wearing women just don’t mean it and just type down something because they don’t think it through properly. They probably would never say such a statement in real life to a real human being.
Until next time, keep nitpicking, argue with yourself and dig for reasons, to like, love and be fond of your fellow Jews!