Sheitel ( _yi. שייטל, sheytl, שייטלעך, sheytlekh or שייטלען, sheytlen; _he. פאה נוכרית) is the Yiddish word for a wig or half-wig worn by Orthodox Jewish married women in order to conform with the requirement of Jewish Law to cover their hair. This practice is part of the modesty-related dress standard called tzeniut. The word seems to be derived from the German word "Scheitel", meaning "part" (as in hair).

The Shulchan Aruch cites the opinion of Rabbi Joshua Boaz ben Simon Baruch, (d. 1557), who permitted the wearing of wigs.

In some hasidic sects, sheitels are avoided as they can give the impression that the wearer's head is uncovered. In other groups women wear some type of covering over the sheitel to avoid this misconception. In stark contrast, the Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged all women to wear only sheitels. [ [ Letters on the importance of wearing a sheitel from the Lubavitcher Rebbe] ]

In 2005 there was a large controversy over natural hair sheitels procured from India. It was discovered that the hair used for the production of these wigs was taken from an Indian house of worship. According to the halacha one cannot derive benefit from anything used in idolatry.

Today most wigs used by Jewish women come with kosher certification, indicating that they are not made with hair originating from idolatrous rituals.

About fifteen years before this controversy erupted, the question was raised as to whether the hair collected from barbers at Indian religious ceremonies qualified as Takroves Avodah Zara, materials dedicated to idol worship. After reviewing the evidence and in depth analysis of Halacha, the great rabbis concluded that the hair was no problem. The only thing that changed in the interim was that a certain rabbi erred in his understanding of the hair-cutting ceremony and as a result misreported his finding. As soon as the controversy re-emerged, reliable rabbis were dispatched to India to study the facts. They unanimously found that nothing had changed, therefore the original decision permitting the hair was still valid. However, due to the initial error in reporting the facts, most sheitel makers refrain from using wigs made from Indian hair. Non-Indian hair is three to four times as expensive, and the wigs made from it generate a much higher profit.

Roughly half of Orthodox married women (especially Sefardim)Fact|date=April 2007 in Israel do not wear wigs because their rabbis believe that wigs are insufficiently "modest" Fact|date=April 2007, and that other head coverings, such as a cap, scarf, or snood, are more suitable.


External links

* [ The Meaning of Hair Covering]
* [ Kissui HaRosh, on the importance of wearing a sheitel, from the Lubavitcher Rebbe]

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