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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
It's all about the context

I wrote about this in cortese's journal.

In India, there is a custom for women to sacrifice their beauty as a form of thanksgiving when a child is born healthy or a loved one recovers from an illness. They go to a temple and have their hair cut off. This hair is then gathered up and sold to a middleman, the profits going to temple support and charity. The middleman then sells the hair, which is long and unprocessed, to wig and extension makers.

One of the biggest wig markets is Orthodox Jewish married women, who cover up *their* beauty with sheitls.

Since this hair is a sacrfice to Hindu gods, it probably comes under the heading of "avoda zarah", or idol worship. We are not permitted to make use of such things.

There are many sources of human hair for wigs - the Ukraine is a favored place. But there is the possibility that any human hair wig might originate from India, since the middleman they use is Italian, and the hair can be marketed as the more preferable "European" hair. Also, one wig can have hairs from many sources. Even synthetic wigs can have human hair.

What does this mean? Since the wigs, which are very expensive, were purchased in good faith, can they still be worn? Or must they be destroyed? Certainly, people have to be more careful in the future, but what about now?

There's no definite answer, and there will be no one answer. Some people find out the source of their wigs, believe their sheitlmachers and wear them; some get synthetic wigs or wigs that have been garunteed kosher (but wigshops that claimed to be kosher, and probably believed themselves to be kosher were found not to be.) Others simply store their questionable wigs and wear hats and snoods instead, which is a major deal if you've been brought up to think of wigs as street wear and snoods as analoguous to bedroom slippers. When there's a definite decision made, they'll deal. And there have been wig bonfires.

One group has made the not unreasonable decision to wear the wigs they have and be careful in the future, but this group also teaches that wigs are the best possible hair covering. Doesn't mean they're wrong, btw, on either count.

And then there's me, and others like me. We don't wear sheitls anyway, and we're watching this not quite on the sidelines. I understand and sympathize with the women in the middle of this, with thousands of dollars tied up in their wigs and not knowing what to do. But there's a little bit of smugness (and I'm sorry about this) because I don't have to worry about it. My husband, whose talmud class is spending more time gossping on this issue then on the page of the day, feels even more smug than I am. He doesn't *like* wigs, and now he's vindicated.

However. It's recontextualized my headgear. Last week, my headgear was nothing to notice. It's not uncommon to see any random woman walking around with her head covered the way I do, and for any number of reasons. It wasn't anything to care about. Now, however, it's a Statement, because there are many more women with the hats and snoods and scarves and they're obviously wearing them instead of wigs. So, instead of just wearing a hat, I'm Not Wearing a Wig. And I feel it, too.


And then there's me, and others like me. We don't wear sheitls anyway, and we're watching this not quite on the sidelines.

This is me, as well. I've never understood the idea of covering one's own hair with someone else's hair if the idea is that the hair shouldn't be attractive to men-who-are-not-my-husband. I've always said that sheitls don't make sense because you're not going to go out and pay tons of money for an ugly sheitl, are you? So I've always been of the beret school of headcovers (it does help, I'll admit, that my waist-length hair compresses into said beret).

My plan (though I keep forgetting to do so) is to talk to my Hindu coworker about the rituals of hair cutting that the Hindus practice. It doesn't have any direct bearing on my life, seeing as I'm not a sheitl wearer. But I am hoping that if I understand the Hindu side of the equation better, I might have a better understanding of the rabbis' ruling.

(Vaguely Wiccan but rules-lawyer here)

What it might come down to is whether the hair itself is the sacrifice, or whether it's the beauty (as symbolized by the hair) that's the sacrifice.

I've never understood the idea of covering one's own hair with someone else's hair if the idea is that the hair shouldn't be attractive to men-who-are-not-my-husband.

I also have trouble understanding this. I don't cover my hair, but if I did I'm pretty sure I'd be in the hat/snood/scarf group, not the wig group.

I am always intrigued by the politics of hair-covering. I have chosen to cover my head in most circumstances, but tend to do it with either a scarf or a yarmulke, depending on what else I'm doing/wearing in any given day, so for the most part, the politics of head covering apply to me, and not the politics of hair covering. But I have family who wear wigs, and as I understand it, Sandy is pretty upset right now (she has seven children, and the money she's spent on wigs that are now considered (perhaps maybe?) treif could go a long way to making her children's lives better.

Anyway, as a detached observer, mostly, I understand your position a bit. Me? I'm wearing yarmulkes for the nonce, which is, I suppose, my political statement about the whole thing.

Where did I put the one with the multi-coloured aliens anyway ...

On the one hand, when I do cover my hair (which is most of the time) I don't wear wigs either. I just don't feel like messing with them. And hey, I think it's great that you can feel an extra boost.

On the other hand, this whole conflict is frustrating me just a bit (I've been following it on another board, and have read various opinions). I just feel like it's another example of yet another controversy or "extra rule" coming along and wrecking something that was working OK until now. Another example of why I'm bitter toward Orthodoxy. I probably shouldn't say it, and I even more shouldn't say it here, but I've been storing up this attitude for days. I'm going to try to just let this pass through me and let it go, and leave my human-hair-of-undetermined-origin sheitel in the box where it's been for years, just, this is hard for me in a way.

But... to get back to your point... I don't think you're smug, or wrong, at all. It is rather a relief to find out that you're a) somewhat vindicated and b) rightfully proud, to cover your hair in a non-controversial way. So basically, good for you.

You might enjoy reading my LJ post of a satirical piece I received in email, entitled "The Hindu Hair Scandal In The Orthodox Jewish World". It's amusing satire.

i'm the same way you are. i wear hats...except on formal occaisions where ppl would be weirded out. like i'm debating wearing my wig to a reunion with my girl scout troup...etc.

but my wig IS european hair and IS fine :p so i'm a rebel i suppose.