Thursday, April 17th, 2014

The Ben Ish Hai and Women’s Hair Covering: An Interesting Case of Censorship? by Jacob Sasson

May 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Halakha, New Posts

While the nature of the obligation for married women to cover their hair has long been a subject of debate, most poskim agree that some degree of obligation exists, regardless of time or place.  Nonetheless, a number of poskim have dissented from that conventional position for a variety of reasons. 

In the past several years, Rabbi Michael Broyde has engaged in online discussions regarding what he considers a limud zechut (post facto justification) for women not to cover their hair.  These discussions culminated in a masterful article by Rabbi Broyde, “Hair Covering and Jewish Law: Biblical and Objective (Dat Moshe) or Rabbinic and Subjective (Dat Yehudit)?”, Tradition 42:3, Fall 2009.  (This article is available for free downloading here)

Included in Rabbi Broyde’s limud zechut is a citation of the work Chukei Nashim (חוקי נשים – Laws for Women) by Rabbi Yosef Haim (1832-1909, Baghdad), author of Ben Ish Chai and one of  the leading poskim and kabbalists of the Middle East during the last half of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century.  The stature of the בן איש חי as one of the preeminent poskim is indisputable and gives his position a measure of legitimacy.  Having recently rediscovered the works of the Ben Ish Chai in the context of a research paper on another topic, I found this alleged limmud zechut difficult to believe, especially given his general stringency regarding these matters and his kabbalistic leanings. I was therefore not satisfied to let R’ Broyde “read into” a particular phrase of the Ben Ish Chai a radical opinion, even if just as a limud zechut, and therefore went to examine the actual source itself.

Origins of Chukei Nashim

In the common edition of Chukei Nashim (available here),  Rabbi Yosef Haim (as cited by R’ Broyde) writes as follows (English translation provided below):

 

והביטו הנשים על אנשי אירופה, מנהגם לא להסתר מפני זרים, ובכל זאת מלבושיהם מסודרים, לא מתגלה מגופם, רק פניהם וצוארם, כפות ידיהם וראשם. ואמת נכון מגולה שערם, ולפי הדין שלנו אסור הדבר, אבל יש להם איזה התנצלות, כי אומרים לא נתיישב המנהג הזה אצל כל נשותיהם, מבנות אומתם וחוץ לאומתם, נעשה גילוי השער, כמו גילוי פניהם וכפות ידיהם, ואינו גורם הרהור אצל האנשים, במבט עיניהם                                      

The quote cited by Rabbi Broyde is found in the sefer חוקי נשים, published in 1950 by the Machon Ben Ish Chai. What R’ Broyde fails to mention in his bibliography is that the sefer חוקי נשים was not written by the Ben Ish Chai.  It is, rather, Rabbi Ben Zion Mutzafi’s[1] translation of the Qanun-al-Nissa (קאנון אל נסא), published by the Ben Ish Chai in 1906 and written in Judaeo-Arabic.[2] Much like the Judaeo-Arabic translation of the Ten Commandments that is attributed to Saadia Gaon and other Arabic writings, the Qanun is written in a poetic metre/rhyme that is lost in translation. 

Changes in the Hebrew Edition

I had suspected that the original version would prove Rabbi Mutzafi wrong or at least add context to his quote.  In fact, I proved to be wrong.  What I found was that (1) rather than it be melamed zechut, the original paragraph was more of an endorsement of the practice of uncovering hair than Rabbi Mutzafi allows; and, (2) the final line of the paragraph was omitted from the Hebrew translation. 

The relevant section (available here) of the Qanun reads:

ושופו נסוואן אהל אירופא. סלוכהום מא יתכבון מן אל גרבא. ומע האדה חוואסהום מרתבא. מא יביין מן גסמהום. גיר פקט וגהום וחלקהום. וכפופהום וראסהום. וצחיח מכשוף שערהום. ומוגב דייאנתנא לם יגוז הל מסלך להום. לאכן אכו פרד עצר ענדהום. יקולון מא זאל האדה מסלך גמיע נסוואן בלאדהום. במלתהום וכארג מלתהום. סאר שוף שערהום. מתל שוף וגהום ואידיהום. מא בקאלו שעשעה ענד אל רייאגיל. בשוף עינהום. האדא כלאמהום. אלדי יגאוובון עלא האדה מסלכהום. ומא ענדנא גוואב נגרח להאדא גוואבהום

 

What follows is a side by side comparison of the relevant paragraph, in translation: 

My translation of the original Qanun (emphasis mine) Rabbi Broyde’s (Fn2) translation of the common edition of Chukei Nashim[3]
Look at the women of Europe Our women looked at the women of Europe
Whose custom is not to hide[4] themselves from strangers Whose custom is not to reveal themselves to strangers
Nonetheless their clothes are orderly; they do not reveal their bodies except only their faces, necks, hands, and heads.  It is true that their hair is uncovered and this custom of theirs is not possible according to our laws.  But, they have one justification And their clothes are proper and they do not reveal their body, but only their face, neck, hands and head.  Yes it is true that they reveal their hair, which according to our halacha (din shelanu) is a prohibited act, but they have a justification
They say “Yet still, this custom (of having their hair uncovered) was accepted by all their women – both Jewish and Gentile – to go with their hair uncovered like the revealing of their faces They say this practice [to cover hair] was never accepted[5] by all their wives, and both Jewish and gentile women have made hair revealing like revealing of face and hands
It does not cause sexual thoughts in men when they see it with their eyes.” And causes not sexual thoughts in men.
These are their words which they answer for this custom and we do not have an answer to be דוחה this answer of theirs.[6] (omitted from the Hebrew)

 

What is clear is that the בן איש חי ‘s opinion is more than a limud zechut.  He firmly establishes as incontrovertible the sociological nature of the obligation to cover hair.  While not alone in the Sephardic world, the existence of such an opinion by a posek and mekubbal of his stature is, indeed, remarkable.  Coupled with his well-known lenient views on abortion[7] and not so well known lenient views on women’s Torah study[8], such a view is noteworthy.

Changes in the English Edition

Recently, an English translation of the Qanun, published by Salem Books of Jerusalem, was prepared by Moshe Schapiro and edited by S.D. Kaplan.  Whereas the publisher does not indicate whether the translation was based on the original Qanun or Rabbi Mutzafi’s Hebrew translation, it bears a closer resemblance to the latter.  Nonetheless, the English translation is glaringly divergent with the first and last sentence of the relevant paragraph (in bold below) not found anywhere in Rabbi Mutzafi’s translation, let alone the original.  The additional sentences are seemingly aimed at further minimizing the scope of the Ben Ish Hai’s lenient treatment of the matter.  The English translation reads (emphasis added): [9]

One should not think that this law [to dress modestly] is only binding in Islamic countries, where custom dictates that women must not be seen by strangers.  Even in Europe, where it is acceptable for women to speak to strangers, Jewish women, nevertheless, dress in accordance with the above-mentioned guidelines.  And although it is true that many of their women do not cover their hair, which is strictly prohibited according to Torah Law, they claim in their defense that uncovered hair is not considered any more immodest than the hands or the feet, since it does not cause Jewish men in Europe to think unclean thoughts.  Thus, we see that even those who are lenient about covering the hair agree in principle that a woman must dress modestly, and that other parts of her body must remain covered.[10]

 

Jacob Sasson is an attorney residing in New York City.

 

 


[1] Rabbi Ben Tzion Mutzafi, a well respected Jerusalem Rabbi and author of the ש”ות מבשרת ציון, is the scion of a prominent Baghdadi family.  His father Rav Salman Mutzafi was one of the great kabbalists of the last generation.  Rabbi Mutzafi hosts a popular radio program and conducts daily public lectures in various Jerusalem synagogues.  His website is available here. I have been unable to reach Rabbi Mutzafi by phone and my email to his website went unanswered. 

[2] A copy of the Qanun has been digitized by the JNUL and can be accessed here.

[3] It should be noted that in various presentations (both print and online) of his argument, Rabbi Broyde has slightly changed his English rendition of the text. 

[4] The word יתכבון is related to the Hebrew word נחבא. 

[5] The Hebrew reading “lo nityashev” may have created difficulty for Rabbi Broyde.  On the one hand, “this custom” must mean the custom to go with hair uncovered as this is the custom under discussion.  Yet, it makes little sense to say that the custom to go with hair uncovered was not accepted by the general population.  That would run contrary to the argument put forth.  Hence, the different translations of the Mutzafi text.  The Arabic portion reads: Ma Zal hada…. The Arabic ma plays a role similar to the Hebrew lo which may have caused Mutzafi to translate it as “lo nityashev“.  Nonetheless, the expression ma zal literally means, “has not ceased”, or colloquially, “yet, still”.

[6] The last line, explicitly permitting the practice, reads in the original:

האדה כלאמהום אלדי יגאוובון עלא האדה מסלכהום ומא ענדנא גוואב נגרח להאדא גוואבהום

[7] See Rav Pealim (1: EH4) as well as the Tzitz Eliezer (13:102).

[8] See the recently published Ilan H. Fuchs, “‘Sephardic’ Halakhah? The Attitude of Sephardic Decisors to Women’s Torah Study: A Test Case,” in Leib Moscovitz, ed., The Manchester Conference Volume [=Jewish Law Association Studies XX] (Liverpool: The Jewish Law Association, 2010), 43-74, in which he cites the Ben Ish Hai’s permissive attitude toward women studying Talmud, noting how his own grandmother studied 18 chapters of Mishnayot a day!

[9] Rabbi Yosef Chaim, Laws for Women, translated into English by Moshe Schapiro, edited by S.D. Kaplan.  Published by Yeshoua Salem [sic], Salem Books, 108 Jaffa St. 5771 – Jerusalem.  Page 96.  Telefax: 972 2 5389176

[10] Parenthetically, for another example of  censorship of the Ben Ish Hai, see Rabbi Yaakov Hillel’s Vayashov Hayam (1:14), in which he advocates for the censorship of a particular responsum of the Ben Ish Hai (Rav Pealim helek 4 kuntras Sod Yesharim siman 5).  Note, however, Or Lesion 3 (17:6) by the late Porat Yosef Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul, who cites the responsum approvingly.

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Comments

8 Responses to “The Ben Ish Hai and Women’s Hair Covering: An Interesting Case of Censorship? by Jacob Sasson”
  1. Tamar says:

    Thanks for this fascinating and important article.
    Lacking knowledge of Judeo-Arabic, there is no way the vast majority of us could have picked up on this piece of censorship, and I applaud you for correcting the historic and halachic record!

  2. Simi Peters says:

    I fail to see how the Ben Ish Hai has “established as incontrovertible the sociological nature of the obligation to cover hair.” All he seems to be saying is that he cannot answer the women’s contention that “it does not cause sexual thoughts in men when they see it with their eyes.” The Ben Ish Hai does not actually state that women therefore do not have to cover their hair.

    I also fail to see why the Ben Ish Hai’s lenient rulings on abortion or talmud Torah for women would have any bearing on the question of hair covering.

    (I might add, parenthetically, that one might well ask how the women–or indeed the Ben Ish Hai– know that the way they dress “does not cause sexual thoughts in men.” But that’s a side point.)

  3. Rob Davis says:

    Interesting reading. For a completely different take, try to hear a shiur by Rabbi Tatz on the subject. He did not permit recording, and I am not going to try to reproduce the content here. Suffice it to say that, as far as I can set out here, his point is not related to the sociological issues, but rather was based on the status attained by participants in a holy conjugal act.

  4. ilana says:

    QUESTIONS:

    ‎1) Question: Why does your wife wear only a headscarf, and not a wig?

    2) Question: It is known that it’s already written in the Talmud that women wore wigs -and that is the basis for the permitting opinion of rabbis of past generations (Shiltei Giborim, Rama, and others…).-Is that so?!

    3) Question: But our great-grandmothers in Russia and Europe wore wigs! We have a tradition which we rely on.

    4) Question: A wig is forbidden because of “Mar’it Ayin as, for example: fish blood is forbidden (if some may think that it’s a blood of an animal which is forbidden). Meaning the whole point of prohibiting wigs is that people may think that it’s a woman’s own hair. But today there’s no such problem since everyone knows that it’s a wig.

    5) Question: The purpose of the obligation to cover one’s head is for other’s not to think that a married woman is not married-but today they know she’s married.

    6) Question: There are many standpoints concerning this law, permitting and forbidding – and those that wear wigs rely on the permitting ones (which are the main Rabbis of their generation – Shiltei Giborim, Rama and others).

    7) Question: What about “emunat chachamim”- we must do what Rabbis tell us, and all say: “but my Rav allowed”.

    8) Question: What do you say about a modest wig ?

    9) Question: What about “Shlom-Bayit” (peace in the home)-if a husband wants for his wife to wear a wig?

    ANSWERS:

    1) Question: Why does your wife wear only a headscarf, and not a wig?
    Answer: First of all: why is a married woman not allowed to walk with her head uncovered?
    There are two different prohibitions:
    A.) “Pritzut degavrey” – a Torah prohibition – forbidden to expose hair in the presence of a strange man (Shulchan Aruch -Orach Chaim 75, Mishnah Berurah 10, Geder Olam preface and chapter1) [Geder Olam – is a book by Chofetz Chaim about the prohibition to walk bare-headed).

    B.) "Seahr ba_isha Erva – a Rabbinical prohibition – it is forbidden for a man to utter a "davar shebakdusha" , for instance - the Name of God or a prayer - in front of the hair of a married woman - even if it’s his wife. In such a situation he must turn to another direction, not enough to just close his eyes (Shulchan Aruch - Orach Chaim 75:2, and Mishnah Berurah, same... siman 5).

    "Erva" (see Talmud, Tractate Brachot) - is the part of the body that is supposed to be covered on the street. That’s why a wig is not “erva” since it’s not part of a body. This is a Rabbinical prohibition.
    But the first prohibition – “pritzut degavrey” – is the Torah prohibition - refers to the beauty and attractiveness of hair - so the husband can look at his wife's hair, but a strange man cannot.
    Therefore, if the wig has the same power of attraction as the hair, the wig is prohibited as well as the hair. Here is what Chessed leAvraham (Rav Avraham Azulai (years 1570-1643), a (great?)Grandfather of the well-known Rav Chida) writes: "since the whole point of the prohibition is because of the "pritzut degavrey” - It attracts the attention of men, there is no difference between her hair and a wig - it is one and the same Torah prohibition, because it is the external attractive-appearance that Torah forbids; many more Poskim write the same.
    Meaning: at home, if there are no strange men around, a woman may wear a wig and her husband may say “davar shebakdusha” like G-d’s name or prayer. But she may not go on a street wearing the wig.
    An example for comparison: a woman is not allowed to wear a red colored clothing - it’s immodest (see commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch - Yoreh Deyah 178:1). However her husband may say, "Davar shebakdusha" if she’s is in such clothes, because clothes are not part of the body - not "Erva".
    For those who know Hebrew and want to study these laws with all the primary sources – contact the following phone number in Israel: (+972 25825891) - may leave a message.

    2) Question: It is known that it’s already written in the Talmud that women wore wigs -and that is the basis for the permitting opinion of rabbis of past generations (Shiltei Giborim, Rama, and others...).-Is that so?!

    Answer: Here is what all the Rishonim (first and main Talmudic commentators) write:
    Women, who have had their good, beautiful, full hair, did not wear wigs at all.
    In the house and in their backyard, they walked with their heads uncovered (Ktubot 72:2 and in the commentaries there, the Magen Avraham 75:4); and on the streets they wore a headscarf. In those generations the book of Zohar was not yet revealed, requiring to cover hair additionally in the house and in the backyard; and it has not yet become widely known that the righteous Kimchit merited to have seven sons serving as Cohanim Gedolim (High-Priests), because even the walls of her house had not seen her hair (the story of Kimchit is brought up in Talmud, in Tractate Yoma 47:1), so in their house and their backyard they did not have to cover their hair.
    An important note: at the time of the Talmud there was a fence around the yard, because in the yard, not in the house, they cooked and washed- and strange men generally were not present there (see Rashi, tractate Bava Batra top).
    Women who did not have good, full hair (i.e., bald, gray, etc.) wore wigs in the house as well as in the yard to please their husbands. On the street they covered the entire wig with a scarf to look like all women - and all married women went on the street with a kerchief on their heads. Specifically that was the whole point of the wig – “to look like everyone else "- in the yard and on the street. The wig created the effect that underneath the headscarf there is good, full hair. Besides, in case the scarf would accidentally move, nobody would see that there is a problem with the hair. Here is what many commentators of the Talmud write - to quote two of them:
    Ritva (Tractate Shabbat 65:1): "a woman wears something UNDER a headscarf because of a defect in her hair." And it is the opinion of all Rishonim (first and foremost Talmudic commentators).
    Vilna Gaon (Shnot Eliahu Tractate Shabbat Chapter 6 Mishnah 5): “a woman comes out in a wig - it means she has NO hair of her own, takes cut hair and puts it under the scarf to look like the one who has good hair."
    That is: the wig replaced not the headscarf, as it does today, but their hair.

    3) Question: But our great-grandmothers in Russia and Europe wore wigs! We have a tradition which we rely on!

    Answer: The custom of wearing wigs in "reshut harabim" (i.e. on the street) appeared in the latest generations of about 150 years ago due to the decree of the Russian Tsar for Jews to change their attire:
    Aruch HaShulchan Ohr hAChaim 551:11: "in our time - because of the order of the authorities we have changed the dress code" - and Jewish women were forced to walk bare-headed – the idea was thought of and promoted to the Tsar by the renegade Jews (maskilim).
    Rav Shlomo Kluger (in the book Shnot Chaim 316): "There was a "gzera" in Russia (an order decreed by the authorities) to go bare-headed - and in our time many walk that way deliberately." I.e.: first, there was a "gzera"; afterwards this "tradition" spread from city to city and from country to country, from Russia to Europe. Unfortunately, even the wives of Rabbis walked with uncovered head.
    Attempts to justify (already after the gzera was canceled) that this "tradition" is contrary to the Torah brought no results - see Aruch HaShulchan 75:7, Kaf HAChaim 75.
    Righteous Jewish women could not walk in a kerchief during the gzera, as expected by the Torah law, but did not want to walk bare-headed – so they had chosen the lesser of two evils - wearing a wig. So, for the royal gendarmeries, they looked like women with their heads uncovered. But they intentionally made their wigs such that they did not attract attention, not like today's wigs, which are more beautiful than one’s own hair.
    Now please tell: Is this the tradition on which we rely? Is this the tradition that we should continue?

    4) Question: A wig is forbidden because of “Mar’it Ayin” as, for example: fish blood is forbidden (if some may think that it’s a blood of an animal which is forbidden). Meaning the whole point of prohibiting wigs is that people may think that it's a woman's own hair. But today there's no such problem since everyone knows that it's a wig.

    Answer: Those who write that the reason for the prohibition on wigs is – “mar’it Ayin” as, rely on the words of the author of the book Be'er Sheva (he was the first who wrote that the wig is prohibited due to "mar’it ayin).
    He writes that the wig is prohibited, and continues: "... because a lot of things were banned by the sages for women because of ‘mar’it ayin’...”. That is: Precisely for women there are many restrictions due to ‘mar'it ayin’.
    It can be concluded that the Be'er Sheva has in mind ‘mar’it ayin’ analogous to the ban on the blood of fish (which is really allowed, but may think that this is the blood of animals, which is not allowed). If so, then why does it say "for women"? There is NOWHERE in the Law where not only "a lot", but even one issur-prohibition of ‘mar’it ayin’ for women is mentioned. He had to write just "... because a lot of things were banned by the sages for women because of ‘mar’it ayin’...”

    There are OTHER meanings for the words ‘mar’it Ayin’:

    A.) The Talmud Tractate Shabbat 64:2
    "... Why the Jews in that generation needed atonement - because" they ‘zanu’ (satiated) their eyes with what was forbidden to see ..." - Rashi explains: The Jews had ‘mar’it ayin’ – here ‘mar’it ayin’ means - to see what is forbidden to see.

    B.) The Mishnah tractate Bchorot Chapter 7 mishnayot 3 and 5: The physical defects of the bodies of Cohanim are listed - because of which they cannot work in the Bet HaMikdash (Temple). The reason for this prohibition is – ‘mar’it ayin’. – Tiferet Yisrael writes: The ‘mar’it ayin’ that the Mishna is talking about is not something that looks like a trauma- but it is something that has an unusual outer appearance.
    That is: other than the usual for us understanding of the words ‘mar’it ayin’ - to cause suspicion - there are at least two more. The common implication in them all is: ‘mar’it ayin’ – see that which attracts attention. Also, in our case - Beer Sheva writes: a wig is ‘mar’it ayin’ - attracts attention, it is immodest. The problem is that the wig is immodest, and not that it will be mistaken for your hair.

    Otherwise it is impossible to explain why he writes: "... a lot of things were banned by the sages for women because of ‘mar’it ayin’...”
    1) 5) Question: The purpose of the obligation to cover one's head is for other's not to think that a married woman is not married-but today they know she's married.
    Answer:
    A.) This is incorrect. This is NOT the purpose of the ‘kesui rosh’ (the requirement of a head covering) regulation.
    Imagine a school for girls where teachers wear wigs. If these girls will put on these same wigs and hence look as if they’re married – will anyone say that it is against the law for the reason that now one can’t tell who is married and who is not?
    If, on the other hand, at a school for girls where teachers wear headscarves, the students will put on the similar headscarves as the teachers’ - obviously, none of the rabbis will say: "No! How will we now know who is married and who is not?" On the contrary, they’ll say: "Very good. This is more modest".
    Moreover, in many eastern communities - the girls as well as married women walked with headscarves – according to you this should be forbidden.

    B.) If this would be the point of the hair covering, the Torah could require of the married women to make a special mark on their clothes, as do police officers, as did Canaanite slaves (see Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 57:2). Why the necessity to take away from a woman all her beauty? And even if the Torah wanted to make this special sign to be clearly visible - that it should be principally on the head – enough to put on a little hat or a scarf in the middle of the head - and already she would be clearly seen as married. Why completely cover the hair?
    The whole essence of the prohibition specifically for the married women is that:
    - The penalty for violating the issur-prohibition for somebody’s wife is much stricter than the issur-prohibition for an unmarried woman;
    - The inclination for that which is forbidden - yetzer-haRa - for another man's wife is stronger (because the "forbidden water tastes better" - see Talmud tractate Sanhedrin 75:1, and a tractate Avodah Zarah 20:1);
    - She has no reason to be liked by outsiders / strangers. But an unmarried lady may adorn herself to find a bridegroom (see Talmud, Tractate Ta’anit 13:2 - girls beautifying themselves even in the days of mourning for their father - to look pleasing to a prospective groom). The fact that some girls wear headscarves in certain eastern communities - is a stringency of the law, for greater modesty.
    See: Chofetz Chaim in the preface and in the fourth chapter of the book Geder Olam where he writes: "It is obvious and clear to everyone that the meaning of the law of ‘kesui rosh’ - is ‘tzniut’ - modesty .... One of the reasons why women walk with their heads uncovered is – ‘yetzer-haRa’ which "encourages the woman to adorn herself and attract attention with her hair; and for that she will answer in the future."
    From the words of Chofetz Chaim we see that (1) the gist of the commandment to cover the hair is - modesty, and (2) that it is obvious, and (3) that the hair of the married make her more attractive and that is why they must be covered. Wigs – today - are more beautiful than one’s own hair and the fact that people "know" that it is a wig, does not in any way kill the ‘yetzer-haRa’ for another man's wife – a human nature perseveres in men.
    Talmud Tractate Ktubot 72:2 and all the commentators there, Trumat Adeshen 10, Levush Evn haEzer 21:2: Jewish women must not walk with their heads uncovered on the street - because it is ‘pritzut’ (immodest/not dignified) for them; and also there's a kabalistic connotation in this prohibition. Furthermore (this was already brought in the first section), when Chessed LeAvraham writes: "since the whole point of the prohibition is because of the "pritzut degavrey” - It attracts the attention of men, there is no difference between her hair and a wig - it is one and the same Torah prohibition, because it is the external attractive-appearance that Torah forbids; many more Poskim write the same.

    Conclusion: A woman is not obligated to look married, but IS obligated to look modest.

    6) Question: There are many standpoints concerning this law, permitting and forbidding - and those that wear wigs rely on the permitting ones (which are the main Rabbis of their generation - Shiltei Giborim, Rama and others).

    Answer: Here is the groundwork of all the permitting standpoints:
    - All who allow - Rama as well as others – base their opinion from the book Shiltei Giborim (the author, Rav Yehoshua Boaz, one of the leading Torah scribes in his generation who lived about 450 years ago);
    - Shiltei Giborim derives his permission from the fact that the Talmud (in the tractate Shabbat 64:2, Arachin 7:2, Nazir 28:2) mentions three times ‘pe’ah nochrit - a wig;
    - it is assumed that he allows a wig in the ‘reshut harabim’, i.e., on the street, although in the original source - in the text of his book there are no words ‘reshut harabim’.
    After the publication of his book about one hundred Rabbis wrote that they have very strong objections against this - and this is how the “different opinions" came into view on allowing or not allowing one to wear a wig.
    About 35 years ago (or more precisely: since 1975) a group of Rabbis began to scrutinize the details of all laws relating to wigs, and found in the book - Makor Chaim (the author is known as "Chovot Yair"- lived about 300 years ago) and in other books - that THERE IS NO DISPUTE and that Shiltei Giborim PROHIBITS the wig in reshut-harabim and in his permission - he has in mind - the yard. [And Rama and a few more authors understood his heter-permission the same way - they also allow the wig ONLY in the house and in the backyard].
    We have already mentioned (with more details in the second section of the book) that: (1) the yard at the time of the Talmud was surrounded by a fence and strange men were not generally there, (2) only in the yard of a woman walked in wearing a wig without a headscarf on it, (3) in reshut- harabim / on the street – the wig was worn with of a headscarf on top that covered the wig completely.
    Why is it generally accepted that Shiltei Giborim writes about ‘reshut- harabim’? Talmudic commentators tried to understand what exactly Shiltei Giborim allows:
    – If he allows the wig with a scarf on top of it – it is clear that it is permissible – it is not necessary to write about that;
    – If he allows an uncovered wig in the yard – it is also clear that it is permissible [they held that in the courtyard one can walk with the head uncovered – what’s the purpose of writing about the wig].
    So what comes out is: Shiltei Giborim allows a bare wig on the street (if only by default / there are no other options left), although he himself never writes in his book that he permits it. And with this resolution dozens of rabbis of following generations began arguing: in the Talmud, there are no proofs that it is allowed to wear a wig in ‘reshut harabim’. Where are the three (!) proofs that it is mutar/permitted, if there is NOT even one? Moreover, if there is proof – it is that – wearing a wig in public / ’reshut harabim’ is prohibited. And how could Shiltei Giborim contradict all the commentators who were before him?
    Chovot Yair draws attention to the following: Shiltei Giborim considered as did part of the commentators before him, that already during the Talmudic times women took upon themselves an additional requirement: to cover their heads not only on the street but also in the yard. This means that the answer to the question “Can one wear a wig in the courtyard” is not self-evident. Hence, it is necessary to understand whether the wig in courtyard is allowed or not allowed. In his book, Shiltei Giborim proves that when they took on the additional restriction – not to walk in the yard with their heads uncovered, they have not extended this issur/prohibition on wigs. That is: if, previously, a woman walked in her backyard wearing a wig, she continued to do so after the onset of this ruling.
    In the text of Shiltei Giborim itself – there are many ambiguities and obscure places-if we assume that he writes about “reshut harabim. But if we say that he writes about the yard, everything will become clear. Here’s one example: Shiltei Giborim builds his whole evidence on the Mishnah of Tractate Shabbat 64:2, which states: “… a woman comes out … in a wig into a courtyard …”
    The Talmud allows one to come out in a wig ONLY in the yard, but not on the street. Sages feared that a woman will come to carry her wig in her hand on Shabbat on the street in a place where one cannot carry things. How can this be – what a normal person would carry a wig in her hand instead of putting it on her head?! Talmudic commentators give two answers to this question:
    – She wants to show her beautiful wig to a friend and pull it off from under her headscarf;
    – Both the scarf and the wig together may fall off the head and then she would immediately put on the scarf on her head and carry the wig in her hand, to put it together and wear it at a different point in time. In any case – if there was a wig on her head, then there was a scarf on top of it.
    This is precisely what Chovot Yair writes: the conclusion that Shiltei Giborim writes about the yard – is obvious. That is, he and those who “argue” with him believe that in the reshut harabim – on the street – on top of the wig women wore a kerchief that covered it completely.
    For those who know Hebrew and want to study these laws with all the primary sources – contact the following phone number in Israel: (+972 25825891) – may leave a message.

    7) Question: What about “emunat chachamim”- we must do what Rabbis tell us, and all say: “but my Rav allowed”.

    Sure. I also had acted in accordance with this rule. all my life. Do what the sages of the Torah will say, even if they tell you that the right is left and left is right. However the Talmud explicitly says in a clear text that this rule has an exception. Tractate Orayot in the beginning analyzes this situation: Sanhedrin – the main Jewish authority – decreed that a certain thing is allowed. But one of the sages of the Torah knows that the Sanhedrin made a mistake. This man cannot allow himself and others that which the Sanhedrin allowed. And if he allowed, despite the fact that he knew that the Sanhedrin made a mistake, then (says Rashi) he understood the commandment of “emunat chachamim” (do what the rabbis say) wrong (!).
    Here is what the Rambam writes (Laws of Shgagot Chapter 13 law 5): … for example, the Sanhedrin allowed to eat the fat that is on the cow’s stomach, and one of the sages of the Torah knew it was a mistake, that this fat is not allowed for consumption, but he believed that in this case you’re allowed to do what the sages allow- and ate the forbidden fat – he violated the law. Two important details:
    – Knew that it is forbidden;
    – Did not know that in this situation he cannot rely even on the permission of the Sanhedrin.
    There is a contradiction: on the one hand, we must do what the sages say. On the other hand, we do not accept their resolution. Ramban writes (see the beginning of Sefer haMitzvot and in the book Sefer haChinuch Mitzvah 496): only after the Sanhedrin had considered all the arguments of this Sage and showed their failure, only then the binding decision of the Sanhedrin becomes mandatory for us. Also see the comment of Chazon Ish in the beginning of the Gemara Orayot – this law operates in our generations as well.
    If we know that something is forbidden, it is prohibited to listen not only to our rabbi, but even the Sanhedrin.
    There are rabbis allowing wearing of a wig. All of them – without exception – base their permission on the book of Shiltei Giborim (or Rama, which brings in his book the opinion of Shiltei Giborim). But in their understanding of this book there is a mistake – Shiltei Giborim allows one to wear a wig in the house and in the yard, but in no way on the street. So – in full compliance with the Torah law – it is forbidden to rely on this authorization.

    8) Question: What do you say about a modest wig?

    Answer: everyone agrees that immodest, beautiful wigs are prohibited, but they say my wig is modest.

    Let’s ask ourselves: Is it possible to go out with an uncovered head, if one’s own hair is modest?

    And is there, in our times, a “modest” wig?

    In the issur/prohibition on ‘pritzut degavrey’ – the issur for a married woman to attract attention of strange men – there is no difference between her own hair and a wig; and even the most modest, unattractive hair is prohibited. Anyone with whose hair is long and whose hair is short, young and old – everyone must wear a headscarf or a hat. Especially, today’s modest wig – is much prettier than the hair of many women whose own hair is not very pretty. And just because the technology of the wig production is constantly improving, people think that a wig which is not of the newest is – modest. That is: a wig, which 30 years ago was considered the most beautiful and attractive, now is called “modest.”

    Today’s modest wig (short, neat and even synthetic) certainly attracts attention. Moreover it is more beautiful than the hair of many women (all those who have flawed hair, of all elderly, old, gray).

    One of the proofs that synthetic wigs in this law act as one’s hair: if a woman wore a wig which has a mixture of real and synthetic hair-Can somebody distinguish which are real, and which are synthetic? And even if the “experts” can tell the difference, does that change anything for the most of the people (the more so that a man MAY NOT “closely look” at a woman –it is forbidden – Rambam halachot Issurei Biya 21:2 – Even HaEzer 21:1 – how will he determine what’s on her head)?

    Rav Gedaliah Nadel (one of the great rabbis of the Lithuanian trend; Chazon Ish greatly valued him) wrote about 40 years ago: “In my opinion, even if in the past, all the rabbis allowed to wear a wig, today they would all be ban it.” This is written at a time when wigs were much simpler than today’s “modest” ones.

    Is there even one Sage in the world who can explain: if the whole point of the ban is – “pritzut degavrey” – not to attract the attention of strange men; How can a wig be allowed one’s hair prohibited – when everyone sees that a wig, even the “modest” one , is as a minimum as attractive as one’s own hair, and often more than that.

    Rav Don Segal in one of his speeches said: “… People come to me and say that for them the charedi/orthodox women are more attractive than the non-religious women … today’s wigs create more problems than real hair …”

    People often say: But the men have become accustomed to this; many women wear wigs- and a person does not pay attention to that what he sees often and hence he is used to it.

    If so, let the Torah bichlal/ at all -not prohibit walking with head uncovered. After all, before the wedding women walk bareheaded – so let them continue walking like this until the end of their life; after all –everybody’s “accustomed” to their hair – hence, no problem. Why davka/specifically after the wedding, the Torah requires a head covering, despite the fact that all are used to this?

    If so, then why, when in Russia and Europe 100 – 150 years ago, women went bareheaded (more details – the third section of the book), both children and adults constantly saw the hair of the married women. And ALL (!) Rabbis were saying: assur/ forbidden. This is the Torah prohibition. See, for example, what Chofetz Chaim writes in the Mishnah Berura 75:10, and in his book Geder Olam. Why? Let’s say: we’re all used to the hair of married women – and there is no problem.

    This is why- nothing changes the fact that we are used to the wigs. The Torah forbids a married woman to expose her hair so as not to attract the attention of strange men, even if they are “accustomed” to see the hair of women. So that the woman would feel that she is married; that she should be liked by her husband, and not by the strange men. Therefore, a wig in our time is prohibited, just like woman’s own hair and even more so.

    There are those who object that from under the headscarf sometimes a few hairs stick out but a wig covers the hair completely. The simple answer to this is that – wigs are prohibited as well as fully uncovered own hair. Additionally, everyone can see for himself: laws of Beit Yosef- Kriyat Shema chapter 75 and the Shulchan Aruch there paragraph 2 and see that this objection is wrong.

    9) Question: What about “Shlom-Bayit” (peace in the home)-if a husband wants for his wife to wear a wig?
    Answer: Does the woman have to wear a wig on the street in order to please her husband so that he does not look at other women – while other men are looking at her? It turns out that: she’s “saving” her family, but at the same time destroying another – is this acceptable?
    Rabbeinu Yonah in Igeret Teshuva writes: “A woman must be modest and cautious so as no men look at her other than her husband. Because those who look go down to gehenom (hell), and she gets punished for all of them put together since she did not behave modestly and she’s the reason this is happening. ”
    Orchot tzadikim: “A woman, who beautifies herself before men, ignites fire in their hearts and initiates forbidden thoughts in the heart; and therefore her punishment is very great.” Was it for this that she got married?
    The Talmud brings in stories about how a woman adorned herself in the house – for her husband, but walking out on the street she dressed modestly (wife of Aba Chilkiya and others). Rav Chaim Kanievsky writes about this in more detail in his book “Orchot Yosher” p.77. Details
    Sometimes women say: “My intentions are pure; I want to be beautiful for my husband on the street as well. And the fact that other men are looking at me is THEIR problem. Let them not look.” In its essence, this argument – is a complete misunderstanding of the law. After all, she can walk with her head uncovered as well and also say: “the fact that others are looking at me -is THEIR problem. Let them not look.” But the Torah does not accept this. In the laws of modesty (more details – see the first section of this book), the wig is as equally prohibited as the hair. See what Chofetz Chaim writes in the fourth chapter of the book “Geder Olam” (when in Russia and in Europe – women went bare-headed): “Let her not deceive herself that she will be saved from punishment because she was supposed to beautify herself in the eyes of her husband- this is a mistake because that needs to be done at home, and not on the street.”
    For those who know Hebrew and want to study these laws with all the primary sources – contact the following phone number in Israel: (+972 25825891) – may leave a message.

    http://jewishwoman.blogspot.com/

  5. ilana says:

    Here’s Rav Mutzafi’s website http://doresh-tzion.co.il

  6. I’m curious to find out what blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m experiencing some small security problems with
    my latest site and I would like to find something more safeguarded.
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