The definition of a Jewish wig and why Jewish women traditionally wear them, as explained by an Orthodox Jewish wig retailer
Following marriage, Jewish women who adhere to the Hasidic or Orthodox traditions cover their hair. In this way, wigs become deeply embedded in the social fabric.
As part of our coverage of Jewish culture for Jewish American Heritage Month, we spoke with Bracha Kanar, founder of Jewish-owned wig line Sayar Wigs, about the significance of wigs in Jewish tradition.
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The interview was conducted via email in April of 2020.
The Meaning of a Sheitel
Sheitel means wig in Yiddish. After marriage, religious Jewish women typically wear wigs or other forms of hair coverings to show respect for the sacrament of hair removal. "
After marriage, why do Jewish Orthodox women wear wigs?
One of the most fundamental principles of Jewish culture is modesty. Children are taught to dress, speak, and act modestly from a young age so that they can demonstrate the sophistication of Jewish culture and their closeness to God.
A dignified modesty conceals one's outer self while revealing one's inner beauty. In Judaism, what matters most is not how someone appears on the outside, but rather how they are on the inside.
To give an example, if someone asked me to describe a friend, would I say that she is 5'10", blonde, and curvy? Alternatively, I could talk about her openness, warmth, generosity, and wit.
The more carefully and lovingly something is wrapped and concealed, the more holy and special it is, according to another Jewish value. To show proper reverence for the sacredness of a Torah scroll, or Sefer Torah, we always drape it in a beautiful velvet covering and never leave it open.
Modesty laws apply to both men and women, though they may express themselves modestly in different ways. By joining with the other half of her soul, a married woman reaches a new level of sanctity.
The Jewish faith allows women to wear wigs prior to marriage.
Although wigs aren't commonly seen on Jewish women before marriage, many women with thinning hair or who are undergoing medical treatments that cause hair loss do wear them. "
Must a wig be Kosher for a Jewish woman to wear it?
A Jew is forbidden by the Torah from reaping the rewards of anything that was once dedicated to the worship of idols. A considerable amount of wig hair used to come from India a number of years ago. It was discovered that occasionally Indian women would engage in the practice of cutting their hair as part of an idolatrous ritual, with the hair subsequently being sold to wig manufacturers.
In response, some women stopped wearing wigs made from human hair altogether, while others made sure their wigs were properly certified to show they weren't made from such hair and were, in fact, permitted by Jewish law.
In today's world, especially in the Orthodox community, I don't think this is a problem any longer, possibly because of increased oversight of the hair sourcing or because the majority of human hair used for wigs is no longer sourced primarily from India. The majority of wigs do not have kosher certifications.
A few companies still include a label in their wigs that certifies their compliance with Torah law. Hebrew script on a wig's label indicates that it was manufactured in Israel. "
Do you wear a head covering? In that case, please describe the specific approaches you find most effective. [E g Headwear such as a wig, a scarf, a hat, or a headband ]
Since the morning of my wedding 12 years ago, I have worn a head covering. Wherever I go, inside or out, my hair is completely covered. Scarves and wigs are two of my favorite accessories to wear at home or on the beach. "
To what extent do non-Jewish people misunderstand Orthodox Jewish women's relationship to wigs and modesty?
Being humble is often equated with downplaying one's physical attractiveness, which is not the case. Some people don't understand why we're allowed to wear wigs that are nearly indistinguishable from our natural hair.
They don't understand why, if we're meant to appear humble, we look so stunning. In fact, we're told to take pleasure in how we look and how we behave during these rituals.
Wigs can be made to look just like real hair, and there are many ways to style them so that they make the wearer feel fabulous. "
To what extent has your hair-covering routine evolved since you first tied the knot?
I've enjoyed wearing head coverings, but there have been times when I've longed for the ease of a bun. Sport wigs, on the other hand, can achieve the same look with a fraction of the effort and provide the same level of convenience.
Being in the wig business has given me a new appreciation for this age-old tradition; I get to witness firsthand the joy and pride with which women of all ages, from hip young brides to refined elderly women, wear their custom-made wigs. "
When a woman is considering wigs as a means of maintaining her modesty, what suggestions do you have for her?
I would advise them to take it easy at first.
If a Jewish woman is just starting to wear a head covering, she may feel more comfortable doing so with a wig that closely mimics her own hair in both style and color. She could try out scarves at home if she wants to.
She and her wig stylist should work together to find a good hair covering fit. Some women may find it easier to make the transition if they begin covering their bodies in small ways and gradually increase the amount of clothing they wear over time.
As a final note, I think it's important for women to discuss the importance of modesty and the practice of covering their hair, preferably with a trusted mentor or confidante.
She will gain a greater appreciation for the significance of the ritual if she knows why she is participating in it. "
All of Sayar Wigs' inventory is displayed here.
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Why we should "modestly" cover our hair with something that looks better than most of our real hair is beyond me. You look like you're actually donning a thick, glossy, sexy wig that only serves to amplify your natural beauty rather than hide it. This has the opposite effect.
Funny how everyone has their own set of crazy beliefs.
Thank you for being so candid. Amazing to have your perspectives challenged and expanded! As I've already mentioned, I have a few concerns. Always, there will be a wide range of approaches, interpretations, and possibilities. Intrigued by the countless ways in which various paths are so similar, I really hope they can help bring us closer together rather than drive us further apart.
Even though I'm not Jewish myself, I follow the custom of covering one's head with a wig on Yom Kippur. Despite what onlookers may think, the woman is in the know.
So, just so I understand, you sport a full-bodied wig because you're "modesty-conscious" You put something on top that is also hair to hide your natural hair. Ok
What's the point if the wig looks exactly like their real hair? Do some girls act like that
Can a Jewish woman have her own or someone else's natural hair cut into a wig? Does knowing the identity of the donor make a difference?
These rituals are inconsistent and some are completely illogical, but hey, to each their own!
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