The Importance of a Sheitel

Wearing a sheitel has a beneficial impact on children and grandchildren, sustenance and health, as the Zohar states (III, p. 126a) that it has an effect on children, health, and sustenance.

One should not ask: I know of a woman who does not wear a sheitel and still things go well for her regarding children, health, and sustenance, as well as life in general.

First of all, we do not know what transpires in the life of another, what type of travails he or she is undergoing; no one tells the other about all that takes place in one’s life. Second of all, we are not to look at what is transpiring with others; we are to do that which G‑d commanded us to do.

(The Rebbe mentioned here that “we are a minority among the nations.” Should we also draw the corollary that since there are more gentiles than Jews in this world, and things are going well for them, that we are to imitate their ways? Were we to act in such a manner, the Jewishpeople would have ceased to exist, G‑d forbid, a long time ago.)

When a Jewish woman walks in the street without a sheitel, there is no (discernible) difference between her and others. However, when she wears a sheitel, one can tell that here is a Jewish religious woman.

It is not necessary to go in the streets loudly proclaiming, “I am religious” — but ... [in front of] whom is one embarrassed? One’s friend? Were they to say that this is a religious Jew — what is the shame of the matter?!

Does such conduct require much mesirus nefesh? If, Heaven forfend, there is a lack of food to eat, the children are hungry, and it is necessary to keep Shabbos in one’s labor and business — this requires great mesirus nefesh. And still, without a doubt, Shabbos is kept.

When one goes, for example, to a doctor, one does not understand why he prescribes a particular medicine, but he is believed and relied upon.

Or if an infant is not digesting its milk and a doctor changes the formula, will the mother whose child is lying in the cradle say that she will wait until she attends five years of university so that she understands the doctor’s reasoning, and only then follow his advice?

There was a university student who came to me and said that he does not put on tefillin or wear tzitzis because he does not understand why he should do so.

The reason for opposing a sheitel is that one does not understand intellectually the need for it. Why not simply rely on G‑d?

When one is asked to give a dollar and is promised a hundred thousand dollars in its stead, one readily does so even when one doubts that he will receive the [promised] hundred thousand dollars.

The difference between a sheitel and a kerchief is the following: It is easy to take off a kerchief, which is not the case with a sheitel.

When one is at a gathering and wears a sheitel, then even if the President were to enter the room she would not take off the sheitel. This is not so with a kerchief which can easily be removed.

The objection that wearing a sheitel was not made a condition of the match prior to the wedding is not at all convincing. Does wearing a sheitel have anything to do with keeping one’s word? It should be worn because it brings true good fortune to the husband, the wife, to children and grandchildren.

In the past, the custom was to cut off the hair. Later on the custom spread to wearing a sheitel. Wearing a sheitel is especially appropriate now, when one can obtain a sheitel in various shades, which looks even nicer than one’s own hair.

Let the woman ponder this matter. It doesn’t take an hour or even a half-hour of contemplation. Why doesn’t she really want to wear a sheitel but only a kerchief?

Because she knows that a sheitel cannot be taken off when she is walking in the street or is at a gathering, while a kerchief can be moved all the way up and sometimes taken off entirely, as known from practice.

It is possible that she will say that she will wear a kerchief properly. If she does so, then surely it is well. But experience has shown that this is not the case.

Why place oneself in the path of temptation? We beseech G‑d prior to our prayers, “Do not bring us to temptation.” Who is greater than King David concerning whom the Gemara states that he completely vanquished his evil inclination, and nevertheless he did not withstand a test.1

Even the reformers do not say that a sheitel contradicts ethics, only that it is old-fashioned. What then is there to fear? Let it be said that here goes a Jewish daughter.

My father-in-law related that the city of Frankfurt had very religious Jews — their piety made a name for them over all of Germany. This is so, notwithstanding the fact that previously Frankfurt was filled with freethinkers.

All this came about in the merit of three women who were firm in their resolve to wear a sheitel, observe family purity and provide their children with a kosher education. This had an effect on the men and other women of the community. In time, the community of Frankfurt changed for the better.

(Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIII, p. 188ff.)

Purpose of a Sheitel

In response to your letter in which you write that you are not clear about the purpose of wearing a sheitel:

The purpose of a sheitel is that the hair be completely covered — if only a portion of the hair is covered then it does not accomplish this purpose.

You should also see to it that others act in a like manner, explaining to them that this is the path and segulah to health, sustenance and true nachas from children.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VIII, p. 217)

“Old Fashioned”?

With reference to your question concerning a sheitel — you write that you object to it on the grounds that it is old-fashioned, etc.

Let me first say that one does not approach matters of Torah and mitzvos from the perspective of whether or not they are considered old-fashioned or new-fashioned. We observe Torah and mitzvos because they are directives from the Creator of the world and of man.

It is self-understood that the Creator knows what is best for man and He desires for man to be happy — not only in the World to Come but also in the here and now. This is why Torah is called Toras Chayim, a Torah of Life, which is to say that it is a guide to a good and satisfying life on earth.

Specifically on the question of a sheitel, let me quote here the words of the holy Zohar (III, p. 126a) which are quoted in Mishnah Berurah, and I will quote only the positive results [that accrue from wearing a sheitel] mentioned there, omitting the negative aspects [that result from not wearing a proper head covering]:

“Her children will be superior ... her husband will be blessed with spiritual and material blessings, with wealth, children and grandchildren.”

Considering the great reward that is promised to the woman and mother who wears a sheitel, it surely is worthwhile to wear it, even if doing so involves serious difficulties and conflicts.

How much more so when the objection to it is — as you write — only because it is “old fashioned.” This is neither a real nor a valid objection, but merely based on the “opinion” of others.

Let me also add that even considering the general attitude towards this and other mitzvos, there has been a radical change in recent years; one of respect and admiration for people who are consistent and live up to their convictions and ideals, and are not influenced by the mob.

There may always be some individual who might make a joke about a person’s convictions, but where a person is sincerely dedicated to his faith, such a person can only call forth respect and admiration.

Furthermore, if you will eventually settle in a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood, you will find that other young women will wish to emulate your good example, and thus you will have the additional merit of being instrumental in influencing others in the right way.

The reverse is also true, for a Jew must always consider how his or her conduct affects others. This should be an additional consideration why you should overcome your superficial objection to wearing a sheitel.

It is no less important to bear in mind that marriage is called “an everlasting edifice,” meaning that it is an everlasting institution, one that is of vital importance not only to husband and wife, but also to future generations.

Every parent desires to ensure the happiness of his or her children and will do everything possible to guarantee that this happiness comes about.

Of course, you might point to this or that individual who does not wear a sheitel. However, it is surely unnecessary to point out that each person may have her own particular weakness.

If one is to follow the principle “Who is wise? He who learns from every person,” one will be wise to learn only from the person’s strong and positive qualities and not from his weak ones.

(From a letter of the Rebbe, Chanukah 5721)

A Sheitel and Not (Only) A Kerchief, Shawl, or Hat

[This is] in response to your letter where you write about a sheitel — that in the religious community where you now live this is not the custom. Consequently you are embarrassed that they may laugh at you if you wear a sheitel:

The general concept of wearing a sheitel and not making do with a hat or kerchief is explained in many places. We readily observe that wearing a hat or even a kerchief leaves part of the hair uncovered, at least for a short while, i.e., causing one to transgress a major prohibition, as explained in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, Chapter 75.

The importance of having one’s hair covered at all times is also understood from the reward that results from fulfilling this command in the manner commanded.

In the words of the holy Zohar, it causes us to be “blessed with all blessings, blessings of above and blessings of below, with wealth, with children and grandchildren.”

As regards to your writing that they may laugh at you and you will be embarrassed, and the like:

Recently, even American youth have begun to honor and respect specifically those who stand firm in their faith. They do not feel embarrassed by those who scoff at them and their world outlook. To the contrary, they respond with scorn and derision to those who simply follow the majority without having any principles of their own.

Surely you are aware that the entire four-part Shulchan Aruch opens with the statement that one should not be embarrassed by those people who scoff at one’s service of G‑d.

Moreover — and this too is quite simple and very understandable: “G‑d fills heaven and earth,” and man finds himself in His presence in all places and at all times. This is not so with regard to people; even those who live in close proximity are not always nearby. How can one not be embarrassed, Heaven forfend, before G‑d, and be embarrassed by mere mortals!

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIX, p. 428)

The Constant Test of a Kerchief

In response to your letter in which you write about kissui harosh:

I have already stated my opinion on many occasions, that in present times covering one’s hair with a kerchief will not endure [and eventually the person will cease covering her hair].

The reason for this is that when wearing a kerchief, the woman is constantly put to the test — whether to cover all her hair, or just part of it, etc., so that she not be embarrassed by those who indeed scoff [at her covering her hair], (although quite often this feeling [that people are ridiculing her] may merely be a figment of her imagination).

This is not at all the case with a sheitel; it is impossible to remove the sheitel when one is at a gathering and the like. This is especially so since, as you write, both of you are in agreement that she will cut her hair. This then, [wearing a sheitel,] is the best possible way [of observing kissui harosh].

As to her wearing an exposed sheitel, [i.e., a sheitel that has no covering — for instance, a hat over it] — for the past several generations this practice [of only wearing a sheitel without any other additional head covering] has become widely accepted.

Understandably, however, it is necessary to ascertain the custom in your place, [i.e., whether in that place they are particular about wearing an exposed sheitel] — so as to ensure that this does not constitute breaking a precedent, G‑d forbid.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVI, pp. 330-331)

A Hat on Top of the Sheitel Can Lead To a Mistaken Conclusion

It is related that the Rebbe told an individual during Yechidus:

When a woman places a hat on top of her sheitel, other women might not realize that she is indeed wearing a sheitel. They might well think that if she is already wearing a sheitel, then why place an additional covering on top of it?

They will thus assume that only a hat — and not a sheitel — is covering that woman’s hair, leading to the mistaken conclusion that merely wearing a hat suffices.

(From a wedding Teshurah)

The “Adjustable” Kerchief And Permanent Sheitel

As to your inquiry about the difference between covering one’s hair with a sheitel and covering one’s hair with a kerchief:

The difference is extremely simple. When the hair is covered with a kerchief and one meets a non-religious friend or acquaintance, then quite often the kerchief “slides up” or disappears altogether into the pocket.

This, of course, cannot be done with a sheitel. Ultimately, keeping the hair constantly covered becomes second nature.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 186)

All the Hair Is Covered

.. You write that you are not entirely sure of the purpose of a sheitel:

The purpose and intent of a sheitel is for all the hair to be covered. Thus, if one were to use a sheitel to cover only part of the hair, then one is defeating its purpose.

You should also make an effort that other women wear a sheitel as well, explaining to them that by doing so they open the channel for G‑d’s blessings of good health, ample sustenance and true nachas from one’s children.

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. VIII, p. 217)

Sheitlen Should be Worn by Women Even When Previously Unaccustomed to Doing So

.. It pains me deeply that seemingly only the minutest amount of movement has been made with regard to more women beginning to don sheitlen. It is known that any awakening and encouragement that is externally generated must be utilized immediately; otherwise it dissipates with the passage of time.

With regard to your explanation about the financial difficulties and so on, [which make the acquisition of a sheitel a difficult prospect,] was it then impossible to obtain loans from loan funds of Anash? ...

.. Understandably, my intent is not to chastise and castigate, but that you find means and words that will clarify the situation as it truly exists, [i.e., that wearing a sheitel is of greatest importance,] even if until now the women were unaccustomed to wearing it. ...

(Igros Kodesh, Vol. X, p. 204)