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February 04, 2013

Chabad Rabbi's Modesty Letter On Married Women's Wigs And Unmarried Women's Hair Raises Hackles

Rabbi Mordechai Ashkenazi Kfar Chabad letter on wigs 2-2013The Chief Rabbi of Kfar Chabad, Israel Rabbi Mordechai Ashkenazi released a letter a few days ago banning women's wigs if the hair is longer than the top of a woman's shoulders, and he also banned long hair for single women and girls. This has upset large swaths of Chabad. But is Ashkenazi really wrong?

 

The Chief Rabbi of Kfar Chabad, Israel Rabbi Mordechai Ashkenazi released a letter a few days ago banning women's wigs if the hair is longer than the top of a woman's shoulders, and he also banned long hair for single women and girls. This has upset large swaths of Chabad. But is Ashkenazi really wrong?

First, here's a rough translation of Ashkenazi's letter written on Monday, January 28 (the original is posted at bottom):

16 Shevat 5773 [Monday, January 28, 2013]     

To the administration of the Beis Rivkah Seminary Kfar Chabad:

I would like to warn about the prevailing trend of immodesty with regard to the type of wigs worn by married women:

1) Leading rabbis, headed by the Rebbe, preferred covering the head with a wig instead of a tichel [a type of cloth or knitted covering] due to the fact that the wig covers all of a woman’s hair including the sideburns.

2) Obviously, this only applies when it is clearly visible that the wig is a head covering and not the natural hair.

3) Therefore, all wigs with long, loose hair – even more so when they are made of human hair that is meant to look like the woman’s own hair - are not permissible to be used as the hair covering [required by Jewish law].

4) Since this is connected to serious transgressions [including] revealing the uncovered hair of a married woman and other prohibitions [that come from that] such as licentious thoughts of [sexual] arousal both in regards to married and unmarried women, I am therefore of the opinion that the administration of the school should take a strong stand and educate [Bais Rivka students] according to the halakhic ruling of the rabbis, that the length of the wig should not go further than [the top of a woman’s] shoulders and that the [hair of the] wig should be pulled back [in a ponytail or a bun] and not [be allowed to be] loose.

5) Also it is apparent to me that the hair of unmarried girls should not be too long and should be pulled back, like our sages have ruled is the appearance and modest form.

In the merit of being stringent about righteous and modest appearance, the girls should merit to build hasidic homes for the generations to come, and we should be able to greet the Messiah and say: "Look at what we have grown."

Rabbi Mordechai Shmuel Ashkenazi
Chief Rabbi and Av Beis Din of Kfar Chabad

The reaction on a messianist Chabad news website, Chabad.info, was almost uniformly hostile to Ashkenazi while reactions on other Chabad news blogs was more tempered, and the blog posts themselves much more supportive of him.

The basic halakha, however, is clear.

Wigs that significantly improve on a woman's natural hair are problematic; wigs that are long and flowing are forbidden by most poskim, rabbinic decisors of Jewish law.

Even those that hold that no head covering is necessary in the US or Western Europe (Rabbi J.B. Soleveichik, for example) rule that the hair must be short and conservatively styled.

So Ashkenazi is correct about the very long wigs – especially about the very long human hair wigs.

But he's wrong in asserting that "the" reason the Rebbe "preferred covering the head with a wig instead of a tichel [a type of cloth or knitted covering] due to the fact that the wig covers all of a woman’s hair including the sideburns."

The Rebbe also preferred wigs because it made outreach work easier and it made it easier for newly Orthodox married women to agree to cover their hair, and he made this clear.

However, Chabad's halakhic history is ban wigs as a halakic head-covering for married women altogether, as the the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Chabad rebbe, did.

There have only been two out of the seven Chaabd rebbes who were also poskim, decisiors of Jewish law. Chabad's founder, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, who was trained in non-hasidic yeshivas, and his grandson the Tzemach Tzedek. None of the other were poskim, and the Rebbe was very clear that he himself was not one.

So Ashkenazi is wrong to give the Rebbe's preference for wigs the halakhic import he gives it. The fact is that the rabbis who were "led" by the Rebbe are almost exclusively Chabad rabbis who rushed to create rulings to support the Rebbe's publicly stated opinion. In other words, the arrow was shot, it struck the barn and lodged there, and the rabbis rushed up, drew a target around it and called the Rebbe's shot a bullseye – hasidic halakha at its finest.

But what about unmarried girls and women? Why do they have to make their hair short and unattractive? You would think the opposite should be true – and it was.

As haredi society has grown, as hasidism has replaced halakha for many haredi Jews, modesty standards have become much more strict, and this is an example of that.

The truth is that women are viewed as the cause of men's sins. Women are the enticers, the flighty, barely human beings whose smell, whose looks, whose voices, and whose hair lures men to sin.

That is the essence of the the Jewish laws governing women's modesty.

Would you have become hasidic or haredi (or stayed hasidic or haredi if you were born into a hasidic or haredi family) if that truth had been taught you?

Rabbi Mordechai Ashkenazi Kfar Chabad letter on wigs 2-2013

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The rantings of a complete am haaretz, nothing new. But this time you seem to get the Chabad story also wrong.

The rantings of a complete am haaretz, nothing new. But this time you seem to get the Chabad story also wrong.

Posted by: think for a change | February 04, 2013 at 03:37 PM

Really?

And why would that be?

But he's wrong in asserting that the reason the Rebbe "preferred covering the head with a wig instead of a tichel [a type of cloth or knitted covering] due to the fact that the wig covers all of a woman’s hair including the sideburns."

I remember discussing this issue more than 30 years ago with a woman who is a member of a very prominent chabad family and a wellknown chabad personality in her own right, over Shabbos dinner, and she told my (former) wife and me that the reason the Rebbe preferred wigs was that it provides for better coverage of the head. She didn't mention anything about kiruv, although that certainly may be a valid point.

After WWII, the Klausenberger Rebbe R' Yekusiel Halberstam, encouraged the Jewish women in DP camps to wear wigs (rather than tichelech) so that they would keep their hair covered. He even distributed them to those who wanted them. Prior to that time it was relatively rare for orthodox Jewish women from Hungary (including outlying regions in what is now Ukraine and Slovakia) to wear wigs.

But he's wrong in asserting that the reason the Rebbe "preferred covering the head with a wig instead of a tichel [a type of cloth or knitted covering] due to the fact that the wig covers all of a woman’s hair including the sideburns."

The Rebbe also preferred wigs because it made outreach work easier and it made it easier for newly Orthodox married women to agree to cover their hair, and he made this clear.

You are wrong here. There are two letters. The first is from the 50s, where the Rebbe recommends wigs over scarves (despite an apparent sense of leniency) due to the conformist culture. Then in the 60s the Rebbe wrote that not only is that concern no longer an issue, but that the culture of non-conformity makes looking different (i.e. in a scarve) an attreactiver quality, yet he adds that wigs are his preference as clearly they are more effective in covering all of the hair (obvioiusly something he picked up on during the past decade of Chabad women in wigs).

However, Chabad's halakhic history is ban wigs as a halakic head-covering for married women altogether, as the the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Chabad rebbe, did.

Here you are correct. The Rebbe (uncharacteristically) chose to go with the lenient positions, against the teaching of his own movement's decisors, in order to vanquish the showing of "some" hair.

Kissui HaRosh -- Properly Covering the Hair With a Sheitel
Based on the Teachings of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
by Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/kissui-harosh/index.html

what's the point of bringing this article.... is it surprising ?!

SHEITEL (n): $3000 strawberry blonde hairpiece employed by Orthodox women to preserve short matted hair for their husbands' sole viewing. OrthoDiction (@OrthoDiction) January 31, 2013

the Israeli rabbi is apparently not the brightest bulb around.

Amother fat-wa issued by a rabbi more interested in the minutiae of how one lives one's life that has absolutely nothing to do with pesonal character, and good deeds to help others. People who listen to this stuff have no critical judgment or common sense, and at best, are trapped in this cult. Too bad they live in a world of darkness, and will never enjoy the light of free will.

Another rebbi blowing hot air out of his ass, it's as if this is the biggest problem facing yidishkiet today, what's with the molesters? Why is that not front and center? These rankings are only to divert attention from the big problems that face us today and the rebbis don't want to face it

i am far from knowing much in halakha.
but wigs? i feel it's one of those things foolish 'frum' people use to trick God.
so hair is pritzusdik?
and a fancy (or not fancy) sheitle of 'somebody else's hair' on a woman's head -just the same- that cost a thousand dollars is tzniusdik?
give me a break. what kind of farce is that?
shameful!
good for keiruv? i would have never guessed that.
i find the honesty of moslems on that matter more honest and more dignified.

How aboutjust doing what the Rebbe's wife did and blow the whole thing off and go au natural

perhaps if the women would adhere to his guidelines(i.e. shorter hair that is pulled back and not loose) there would be less enticement and therefore less molesting.

Posted by: Yosef ben Matitya | February 04, 2013 at 06:16 PM

What Shmarya meant by kiruv/keiruv (so, you're Israeli? - propper grammar, ooh la la) was that it would be easier to draw in women to a community that would not set them so far apart from what they considered normal, i.e. they wouldn't (at least not externally) be making such huge changes; such huge sacrifices. If you visit collive.com or crownheights.info and read the comments on this letter you'll see how much women don't want to cover their hair, let alone look different, or be told what to do, or to follow any guidelines (let alone "strict" guidelines), or observe anything, or be judged for not observing anything, or not to be left alone ... well, they're pretty complex, those women, those ocmments. Anyhow that's what Shmarya meant, not how they'd respond to someone with a headscarf.

I also think that long payes should be forbidden,since the payes is a phallick symbol meaning is represnts the sex organ of a man.:)

The Rebbe, according to Chabad, wasn't a posek because he was beyond that. He was a Nasi which meant his preferences were legal decrees. That's why the letter discusses his preferences.

they worry so much about men getting arouse that it makes them thinking 24 hours a day about women. it should be easier for them to teach men not to think about sex this way: "don't think about sex" " don't think about women" "don't get arouse when you see girls hair"...and so on. Basically either ways is what they are doing and of course it's not helpping.

Robert, you wrote: "perhaps if the women would adhere to his guidelines(i.e. shorter hair that is pulled back and not loose) there would be less enticement and therefore less molesting."

You must be kidding, right? You can't possibly be serious? Are you haredi? Must be, for haredim would be the only ones sufficiently narrow-minding to make such a asinine comment. Ok, you are just being facetious, right?

Please provide a source that R' Soleveichik held that it is permitted for married women in the US or Western Europe to leave their hair uncovered.

The fact that his wife (and many other rabbi's wives of that era) didn't cover her hair is not proof that he considered it permitted to do so, as a matter of halacha.

flora freida -Thas what all day learning toreh brings man who think only of sex,theese man who do no hard work or work at all cant control their desires since their toreh learning never taught them self control never mix with the opposite sex,so they demand others to bend to their whims in other owrds they lost their minds and belong in a lunatic asylem.

Chabad is a joke.

I prefer Rabbi Merkin's teshuvah.

The truth is that women are viewed as the cause of men's sins. Women are the enticers, the flighty, barely human beings whose smell, whose looks, whose voices, and whose hair lures men to sin.

My fifteen-year-old daughter reports a disturbing trend that has emerged over the course of the past year, here in Chicago.

Whenever she is walking alone or with a friend or two on the sidewalk on Shabbos. As a bochur or man approaches, many times he will take off his hat and hold it up as a shield against the side of his face so that he cannot see the young women passing by off to his side.

Mind you, these are not Hasidim who are doing this, put your ordinary, garden variety "yeshivishe" people. Initially, the effect on my daughter was quite disconcerting because no one likes being shunned.

I have brought my daughter up to be kind and courteous to all people -- Jew and non-Jew alike -- to liberally greet them as human beings whenever and whenever you may encounter them. Unfortunately, this has been spoiled somewhat by a lousy bunch of indolent, sensual, self-styled scholars -- supposedly engaged in the study Torah night and day.

Fortunately, when there is a sickness in the world, Hashem provides a cure -- sometimes more readily than others. No decent "Ben Torah" would knowingly inflect pain (i.e. shun) on another Jew. I think that this behavior might be a quick and easy way to identify the types of young men who shouldn't be meshaddach with my daughter -- if I have anything to say about it. These type of fellows just aren't decent enough for anyone's daughter.

I wish some Rabbi would decree that their beards should be of a certain length and be groomed and trimmed.

I find these beards really disfiguring. Further and far more importantly, when a shomer is supervising a reataurant or a kosher function the idea that they are close to food with their unkempt and uncovered beards is most off putting. I am surprised that the secular authorities allow these beards to be anywhere near food. No non-kosher reataurant or food preparing area allows this. In Europe all hair is covered and beards have to be short, trimmed and then covered.

This would be far better for our physical health that some spurious mumbo jumbo emitted from within a hirsute growth.

Fortunately, when there is a sickness in the world, Hashem provides a cure -- sometimes more readily than others.

As it is their holy rabbis promoting this behavior, it would appear Hashem is asleep on the job.

The way it used to be in Klal Yisrael was girls could wear long hair, married women didn't cover the hair at home, but only in the street. And mind you, not with a wig. Since deoraita only the head had to be covered, it wouldn't be an aveyra if some hair (or a short wig) sticks out under the hat. All the more so today, that people don't cover their hair (including most charedim who wear wig, long or short).
So, I must say, Shmarya is right on here! Why don't you become a rabbi really? Just because there are problems with the followers of the Torah, doesn't mean we should discard the Torah itself.

Posted by: kanaitleemet | February 05, 2013 at 05:27 AM

חצי שיעור אסור מן התורה

Askenazi remembers that Chabad is technically Haredi.

Maskil | February 04, 2013 at 07:09 PM

tks, but u are second guessing me wrong.

I'm married into the Noam Elemelech's family and their custom is clearly to avoid 'long wigs'. In Yekkish circles there is a prefeence for synthetic hair rather than human hair wigs. I've seen photos of the last Lubavitcher Rebbetzen ztl and she is wearing a hat over reasonably short hair - unless it's a wig under the hat.

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