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A Sheitel from One’s Own Hair?

It is becoming increasingly popular among some Orthodox Jewish women to send their own hair to wig-making companies – who then create a Sheitel for them that perfectly matches their natural look at a much lower cost. Writing for the Five Towns Jewish Times, Rabbi Yair Hoffman seeks to clear up some of the Halachic questions surrounding the issue.

from the Five Towns Jewish Times by Rabbi Yair Hoffman:

There are companies out there that specialize in making wigs (sheitels) from one’s own hair.

Generally speaking, these companies do it for those undergoing chemotherapies r”l, but others are also doing it. These companies state that the hair needs to be healthy enough to withstand the hand tying process. They require a minimum of 8 ounces of hair in order to make a custom wig, and point out that the average woman has 3-4 ounces of hair on her head. The cost is about $1000 and the length of the sheitel is 3 inches shorter than the hair submitted.

Our question, however is not in regard to the cost or the process. Our question is what the halacha is regarding using one’s own hair for a sheitel. Is it permitted, forbidden, or a machlokes?

A Brief History

Let’s first take a look at the history of wigs before we get to our specific question. The human hair wig as we know it first appeared in ancient times, then virtually disappeared after the fall of Rome in 473 CE. It then reappeared in the last six centuries.

We find that the Egyptians wore wigs to protect against the hot sun. They attached the wigs to their head using beeswax and resin. The Assyrians, Greeks and Romans also used wigs.
The term wig, by the way, is short for periwig.

In the Mishna

The Mishna in Shabbos (6:5) also attests to the use of wigs, and the Gemorah later on clearly shows that it was done for beauty. Both Rashi and the Meiri explain that it was worn so that “she would appear to be a baalas s’ar – having [much] hair.”

Rashi in Bechoros (7b) seems to add more information. He writes (D”H nehenim b’saarah), “The women who had little hair used to attach (or tie) the hair of other women to their hair and this is called peah nachris.”

The Wig in Halacha

The Ramah (75:3) discusses the halacha of reciting the Shma in front of a woman who is wearing a wig. The Ramah writes that it is permitted to recite it. The Mishna Brurah explains that it is because he holds that this, the wig, is not considered “s’ar b’isha ervah. – the hair of a woman is forbidden.” There is a view that is of the opinion that wigs are forbidden because they are still considered “the hair of a women which is ervah.”

Two Views on Wigs

Most Ashkenazic Poskim (See Igros Moshe Even HaEzer Vol. II #12) and families, however, followed the lenient opinion regarding wigs. Indeed, the Kaf haChaim (OC 75:19), Mishpetai Uziel (EH Mahadurah Tanina #74), and Yaskil Avdi (Vol. VII EH #16), all prominent Sefardi Poskim also permit the wig. On the other hand, Rav Chaim Palaji (Ruach Chaim EH 21) and Rav Ovadiah Yoseph zatzal (Yabia Omer V EH 5:4), however, follow the stringent view forbidding wigs for Sefardic women.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita stated that the Chazon Ish’s wife wore a wig (cited in Meir Oz Vol. III page 829) as did his mother. He also ruled that if a Sefardi studied in an Ashkenazic Yeshiva he may allow his wife to wear a wig, otherwise, she should cover her hair with a kerchief.

All this, of course, relates to a wig with another woman’s hair, but what about one’s own hair?

With One’s Own Hair

The Mishna Brurah (75:15) cites two views in this regard. The first view he cites is that of Rav Yoseph Ben Meir Teumim (1727-1793), author of the Pri Magadim. The Pri Magadim is of the opinion that use of a Peah Nochris, a sheitel, is permitted. The Mishna Brurah then states that it is indicative in the language of the Pri Magadim that he permits the use of one’s own hair in the manufacture of it as well.

The Stringent View

After quoting the Pri Magadim, the Chofetz Chaim then cites the view of the Mogen Giborim (written by the two brothers-in-law, Rav Yosef Shaul Nathanson [1808-1875] and Rav Mordechai Zev Ettinger [1804-1863] and published in two parts) who were stringent in this manner and forbade it.

It is also interesting to note that manuscripts of Rav Teumim have been found in the Bodleian Library at Oxford (1:1500:16419) of his work entitled “Aim LaBina” mentioned by R. Avrohom Meir Livshitz Breizel printed in 2014 which show that days before he passed away, Rav Teumim retracted his whole heter for wigs entirely. Nonetheless, we have a dictum that an author’s more authoritative work will set aside a lesser work that he wrote, even if he wrote it later.

Rav Nissim Karelitz Shlita (Chut Shaini Shabbos III page 272) writes “praised be the one who, in her tznius, can fulfill the halacha according to all opinions.” It is clear that Rav Karelitz Shlita believes that, ideally a woman should be stringent in accordance with the view of the Magain Giborim. What, however, is the view of the Mishna Brurah? What is normative halacha?

The earliest source who discusses the topic is Rav Yehoshua Boaz Ben Shimon Boruch (d. 1557) of Northern Italy, the author of the Shiltei Giborim. He writes on tractate Shabbos (64b) that the wig is permitted and it makes no difference whether it is her own hair or that of another woman. He also shows that this is clearly referring to a married woman because the Gemorah states that she wears it so that she not be found unappealing in the eyes of her husband.

The Levush, however, forbade the use of a person’s own hair, disagreeing with the Darchei Moshe in (YD 303) who indicates that it is permitted. The Ateres Zkainim also understands the Ramah as permitting it with one’s own hair.

The Be’er Haitev’s View

It would seem that the fact that Be’er Haitev does not even cite the more stringent view of the Levush is indicative that he holds the halacha is clearly like the Ramah – permitting it. This is borne out by the fact that in Even ha’Ezer (Siman 115) he just cites the view of the Shiltei Giborim without bringing any dissenting view which forbids it.

Conclusion

When the Mishna Brurah cites one authority and then a second one who is stringent, the general understanding that he rules in accordance with the first view (heard from my Rebbe zt”l, Rav Henoch Leibowitz zt”l – a relative of the Chofetz Chaim).

Also, generally speaking, the Pri Magadim is more authoritative than the Mogain Giborim. This combined with the view of the Shiltei Giborim would indicate that as a matter of pure halacha, notwithstanding the recommendation of Rav Nissim Karelitz Shlita, it would be permitted to use one’s own hair.

However, the fact that the Mishna Brurah cites the view forbidding it as well – indicates that it is not being unduly strict to be machmir.

As in all matters of halacha, however, one should always ask one’s own Rav or Posaik as to how to conduct oneself.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

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22 Comments

  • 1. Same Rav? wrote:

    Isn’t this the same rav who decided last week that the Rebbe never forbade people from visiting the pope?

    Reply
    • 2. Meir wrote:

      And then corrected himself when he was given new information. It’s called “modeh al haemes,” and per last week’s Pirkei Avos is one of the characteristics of a chacham.

  • 4. Shaitel joke wrote:

    I often wonder, when walking the streets of Crown Heights and see women with these very long shaitlach, what the point of them wearing it is, when their skirts are a quarter the length of the shaitel. It amazes me to see men with full beards walk in the street on shabbos wearing a kapote with a gartel, sometimes his tallis on top, with his wife next to him with a skirt that barely covers anything. The shaitel is becoming a joke.

    Reply
    • 5. externals wrote:

      you don’t see what the man is missing inside and you don’t see what the woman has achieved inside

  • 8. Poorly sourced article wrote:

    Why would someone take responsibility to convince a woman to do such a large sin and be proud to publish a foolishly written and poorly sourced article.

    Anyone with a brain the size a almond would know this article is untrue and written in a manner to confuse others that wigs are permitted and even possibly righteous.

    I invite anyone to open these sefarim.

    I know first hand of a few of my religious friends wives who wear wigs that are so well done that I had asked them why their wives don’t cover their hair. When I was told they did I was convinced that wigs today can not be considered a hair covering suitable for a modest woman who follows the torah of Moshe.

    It’s one thing to know the truth and understand that we need to strive to get better and improve. It’s another thing entirely to permit the forbidden as this article is intending to do.

    As for Sephardim, almost every opinion is against wigs.

    For Ashkenazim, these are the sources that forbid wigs:

    1. Mahari Katzenelbogen – Shut Beer Sheba
    2. Atze Arazim
    3. Gaon Yaabetz – Mor Uksia; She’lat Yaabetz
    4. Hatam Sofer
    5. Rav Shlomo Kluger
    6. Gaon Hafla’a
    7. Rav Tzvi Hirsch Horvitz – Lahme Toda
    8. Torat Shabbat
    9. Rav Haim meSanz – shut Divre Haim
    10. Rav Tzvi Hirsch
    11. Gaon meVilna – Shnot Eliyahu
    12. Rav Tzvi Hirsch Ornshtein – Birkat Rese
    13. Yeshuot Yaakov
    14. Gaon meLubavitch – tzemach tzedek
    15. Mahari As’ad – Shut Yaale Yehuda
    16. Gaon meMunktash – Minhat Elazar
    17. Mahari Teomim – Shut Hesed leavraham
    18. Gaon HaRid Bamberger – shut Yad Levi
    19. Tiferet Yisrael
    20. Shut Maharil Diskin
    21. Edut Bihosef meTelz
    And many more including Rav Elyashiv and Rav Chaim Kanievsky who when shown the wigs produced today said it is Asur.

    The Ramas opinion which mentions the shilte giborim was written specifically in regards to a man saying berachot and shema in front of a lady wearing a wig (not permitting a lady to go out in public with a wig). The Rama did not bring a conflicting opinion to the Shulhan Aruch in Even HaEzer siman 21 which is the actual source for a woman covering their hair.

    As for the shilte giborim, it is clear the author did not bother opening up the Sefer at all. The shilte giborim clearly and unequivocally wrote that The wearing of a wig is permitted in the “Haser” of the lady’s home, e.g. Private Courtyard and not in the public domain.

    Why would someone direct women to do things that would attract Jewish men and non-Jewish men to look at them and gaze at their hair.

    Reply
    • 9. You missed a source wrote:

      Ever saw what the Rebbe had to say in Likkutie Sichos or Igros Kodesh?

    • 10. we have only one shita to follow wrote:

      The Rebbe, who is the “shita achroina” for a chossid, preferred shaitels over tichels for many reasons, and your list is meaningless for a chossid.

      as for long shaitels, there’s no issur on it, and “dayach mah she’osrach Torah”, don’t make a new shulchan aruch.

    • 11. ahavas yisroel wrote:

      this is why we have a Rebbe and not just shop around for psak. Chabad chasidim wear sheitels. Period

    • 12. the issue wrote:

      the reaosn women cover their hair isnt to look less attractive. its because the hair has a special kedusha. so it doenst make a difference what it is covered with

    • 13. Poorly sourced article wrote:

      I take back my comments as I was clearly wrong. I was viewing this from the views of the gedolim who forbade it, to which I agree. But the Rebbe was very clear for his chassidim:

      רבי מנחם מנדל בן רבי לוי יצחק שניאורסון – הרבי מליובאוויטש אגרות קודש חלק יט – ז’תכה

      לבישת פאה נכרית דוקא, ולא להסתפק בכובע ומטפחת

  • 14. The kangeroo wrote:

    Now we have a new entertaiment called “The wig farce” This meets all the requirements juice gossip.

    Reply
  • 15. Poorly sourced article wrote:

    Maybe I’m misinformed and these long haired human wigs are the modest way of a Jewish woman. I don’t believe it but others seem to and feel very strongly about it.

    I wave the white flag.

    There are so many conflicting opinions even from the same rabbanim (over the course of different sefarim, different times in their lives, different Shuts, actual stories) that it’s hard to see through the fog.

    This source clarifies many opinions:
    http://chabadpedia.co.il/index.php/פאה_נכרית

    Of course a wig is better than no head covering, I don’t think there’s a discussion there.

    Reply
    • 16. Citizen Berel wrote:

      It’s good that you can show humility. You need to take it a step further. The Rebbe very strongly encouraged Jewish women to wear the wig specifically.

      That is enough, you are out of your depth.

      When you see conflicting opinions among the primary sources is precisely where you acknowledge your role in the decision process, defer to the Torah giants that actually lead your intended audience and back off.

    • 17. Poorly sourced article wrote:

      אגרות קודש
      חלק ח – ב’תסג
      אגרות קודש מתורגמות” חלק ב’ עמוד 89

      י”א אדר, תשי”ד

      במענה למכתבה מד’ תצוה בנוגע לפאה, בו כותבת שאינה מבינה בדיוק מה הכוונה בזה, ענין הפאה הוא, שהשערות תהיינה מכוסות לגמרי, ובמילא אם מכסים רק חלק, אין זה כפי שהכוונה בזה היא. גם היתה צריכה להשתדל שגם אחרות יעשו כן, ולבאר להן שזוהי הדרך וסגולה לבריאות, פרנסה ונחת אמיתי מילדים, והשי”ת יעזור לבשר בשורות בזה…

  • 18. Poorly sourced article wrote:

    Lastly, forget to mention I’m Sephardi who was raised amongst chabad and attended Gan Yisrael and many other yehsivahs with Lubavitch so I was privy to both sides of the spectrum on this matter.

    Reply
  • 20. The kangeroo wrote:

    And sinas hinom and insults keep on comming. I love this show especialy in time of Rabbi akivas talmidim mourning.

    Reply
  • 21. mendoza wrote:

    to post # 5
    please keep it inside , and don’t flaunt it out in the streets , we are not interested in yr personal attributes , keep it in the bedroom .

    do you know the difference between
    animals and humans ?
    a] animals wear no cloths
    b ] humans wear cloths
    more human , more cloths
    more animal less cloths
    got it ?

    Reply
  • 22. The kangeroo wrote:

    # 19 The Sitrei acher on his best day could not ask for better display of contempt and insults.Soten we- Pnina lshem shamaim niskavnu.look there for explenation

    Reply

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