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THE COLLECTED WRITINGS OF RABBI PINKY SCHMECKELSTEIN
Ask Rabbi Pinky – On the Wearing of Shaytels
This week’s shailah comes from my esteemed rabbinic colleague, the RAGU:
A non-Jewish colleague at work told me that I should convert to Christianity. His view is that Jews are being punished with cancer because they have not accepted Jesus as their savior. He says that the proof is that so many Jewish women wear wigs because Jesus's father has punished them with cancer and they lost all their hair during chemotherapy.
What do you recommend I should respond to him?
Your humble follower, the RAGU.
Eppis, this is a most disturbing shailah, and a difficult choice! Worship the Rebbonoisheloilum, eat lettuce and tuna out of a can at the finest restaurants, and sleep with a woman who is constantly reminding you of what a disappointment you are as a husband; OR adopt Yushka Pandra, eat shrimp and lobster, and get hot shiksa action every night. Hmmm, now THIS is a tough call…
Before we can responsibly address this shailah, we should review the basis for head covering in women and the significance of the mitzvah of wearing a shaytel. As background, we should probably also go out for a little traifus and surf porn on the internet, just so we can better understand our alternatives.
Shtatyt in Possuk – it says in the Toirah -- in Bamidbar, Perek Hay, Pussook Yud Khess, that when a Koihain is preparing to place a woman through the process of Soitah to see if she has cuckolded her husband, the Koihain should “Parah” the woman’s hair. There is great debate over the meaning of this term, but it is largely viewed as the presumptive basis for head covering.
Moreover, a Medrish in Beraishis Rabbah suggests that when Chava causes for herself and Adam to be cast out of Gan Eden, it is not because she ate of the Pri Etz HaDaas, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Rather, it is because she uncovered her hair, that miserable slut, which caused the snake to extend fully, if you know what I mean.
Similarly, RASHI tells us that the reason that Rachel Imainu could not conceive is because she would walk around with her hair exposed, causing the Reboinoisheloilum to punish her by making her gain ten pounds in her butt, leaving her unattractive to Yankif Avinu, who was, to quote Rashi, “not into the whole Hispanic ‘Big Ass’ thing.” Shoyn.
So what is the essence of hair covering? A Mishnah and Gemarrah in Kesubois address the varying halachois requiring a woman to cover her hair, but the underlying reasoning is discussed by the Rishoinim. According to the TUR, hair is considered to be a form of Erva. Says the Tur, if a man sees a woman’s exposed hair, it is as if he sees her nakednedness. And if a man sees a woman naked, it is as if he has been mezaneh with her. And if a man sees a woman’s hair, and sees her naked, it is as if he is mezaneh with her twice in one day, an act which I have not been able to perform in thirty years.
The RAMBAM, however, disagrees. He holds that LeOylum, a woman’s hair is not Erva. If the issue was one of modesty, then all women, unmarried and married, would be required to cover their hair. Rather, women are encouraged by the Toirah to cover their hair so that they will not waste their husband’s money on fancy hairstyles. Says RAMBAM, yeshiva tuition is costly enough, and men should save whatever money they have left to buy single malt scotch and to pay for flowers for their pilegesh.
Which brings us to the issue of shaytlach, wigs. In our Toirah-true lifestyle, we know that shaytels are the essence of Yiddishkeit. Indeed, according to the Sifsey Chachomim, the mitzvah in the Asesres Ha Dibrois, the Ten Commandments, ordering us not to covet another man’s wife actually refers to the woman’s shaytel, not the woman herself. Says the Sifsey Chachomim, “the wife talks back, argues, and never knows when to shut the gehennim up, but the shaytel always sits there on the styrofoam head, ready to lend an uncritical, sympathetic ear. Who wouldn’t covet that?” So, according to the Sifsey Chachomim and many Poiskim, wearing a wig is a Dioraisa, and is indeed comparable to Aishess Ish, making it YeHuraig VeAll Yaavor, a mitzvah for which one should be willing to sacrifice his or her life.
However, this is nisht azoy pashoot, it is not so simple, you ignoramus. Because, there are many Poiskim who are in fact against the wearing of a shaytel, suggesting that this circumvents the basic intent of hair covering. This includes: Reb Yankif Emden, the Vilna Goyn, Reb Shloimoi (Big Hank) Kluger, the Chassam Soifer, the Maharshal, and none other than Oivadiya Yoisaiph before he became an oiver-buttel farbisseneh. (This is all true, by the way. Look it up, you michutziff.)
However, the Brisker Ruv was dismissive of this position, suggesting that any man who opposes women wearing shaytels is a chashash of Mishkav Zachor, a man who perhaps likes to spend a bit too much time in the mikvah every morning before davening checking REALLY, REALLY CLOSE to see if the other men have chatzitzahs on their schvantzels. His shita is supported by the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Reb Moishe Feinstein, and Pat Robertson.
So Halacha LeMaaseh, the vast majority of Poiskim support the notion that a true Bas Toirah covers her hair in a shaytel. According to the Tzitz Eliezer, the shaytel should preferably be made of real hair and come from a hot shiksa. In the words of the Tzitz, “a Yiddishe woman should adorn herself in the finest coverings, to match the beautiful neshamah given her by Hakadoshboruchhu, and should cover her hair with the magisterial flaxen locks of a gentile woman, to complement the generous proboscis provided by the Reboinoisheloilum.”
However, the Schvantz Mordechai holds farkhert. If the purpose of hair covering is to ensure modesty, he asks, then what is the logic of a woman covering her hair with a shaytel that looks real, perhaps even better than the woman’s natural hair? And, he continues, if a Jewish woman parades before a Ben Toirah showing off the hair of an idol worshipping shiksa, could this not lead a Jewish man to intermarriage and idol worship? Or even worse, paying retail? Says the Schvantz Mordechai, wearing a real hair shaytel “makes about as much sense as waving a live chicken over your head.”
Rather, the Schvantz Mordechai holds that a woman should indeed wear a wig, but one that is easily distinguishable as a substitute for real hair. Citing a Gemarrah in Sukkoh, he suggests that women wear wigs made out of that stuff that Esroigs used to come wrapped in or out of leftover Hoishaiynois.
And this brings us to your question. Clearly, it is troubling that a goy, a shaygitz, an Oivaid Alilim, should infer that faithfulness to the Aimishteh is bringing a plague of cancer upon Klal Yisroel. Is this indeed true? And if it is not true, should we not still be worried about what the goyim are saying, for, as it says in Tehillim, “Lamah Yoimroo BaGoyim, ‘Ayeh Nah Elohayhem?’”
Well, to be honest, we cannot address this shailah without speaking with leading experts in the medical field. So I spoke to the guy who sits next to me in shul, and his brother in law knows someone who once worked as a nurse’s aide in Brooklyn Community Hospital, which is a really decent institution. And she insists that there is no link between shaytels and cancer, at least in lab mice. And that is good enough for me.
So as this allegation is not true, there are several options we should consider. Perhaps every Bas Yisroel should walk around with her hair uncovered, like a street shiksa. At the same time, maybe she should eat a ham sandwich and carry a flashing neon sign that says in bright letters, “I AM A SHIKSA – COME BE MEZANEH WITH ME!!!” I should think this is NOT an option, chass v’sholom!
Or perhaps we should ignore the taunting of the goyim. Let your colleague think that shaytels are a sign of cancer. Maybe this will get Klal Yisroel discounts on groceries and better seats on the subway, as well as select government subsidies. But, of course, Yiddishkeit is all about proclaiming the majesty of the Rebboinoisheloilum, and we would not want the shkutzim to think that Yiddishkeit causes cancer. We must go about our everyday lives, not by ignoring the goyim, but by leading them, so that in Yemois HaMashiach they will continue to follow us around while holding our tzitzis.
So the best mode of action for your wife, and for every Bas Yisroel, is to adopt the wearing of a burka. After all, this is a form of tzniyus that is consistent with the Toirah’s concerns for feminine modesty. The gentiles will no longer suspect that Bnois Yisroel have cancer because they will not be able to see any of them. This will prevent Aishess Ish because, Aimishteh knows, no one will be attracted to a woman underneath her burka garb. And this will remove the need for real hair shaytlach, leaving hair on the heads of the hot shiksas, the way Hakkadoshboruchhu originally intended.
Ah Gutten Shabbos, You Minuval.
Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshivas Chipass Emmess