Thursday, May 20, 2004

Hair we go again....

Sally Berkovic, who, according to the amusing tag-line at the end of her article, “wears knee-length skirts and covers her hair with a hat,” tries to get under the sheitel controversy in The Jerusalem Post. She offers two cynical explanations for why the issue of Hindu ritual has taken root now, ten years after it was first raised:

1. Rabbis have long objected to human hair sheitels because they’re not modest enough; they have finally found a “halachically legitimate way for the rabbis to control women by forbidding the wearing of inappropriately attractive sheitels.” (Or at least, one assumes, making inappropriately attractive sheitels more suspect and less fashionable; they can’t use the Hindu excuse to forbid human-hair sheitels altogether.)

2. The economic argument, which is often, incidentally, used to explain the high price of Kosher food: If the Indian hair-cutting ritual is “definitively ruled to be avoda zara, the community is going to need rabbis to supervise wig factories to ensure that no forbidden hair is found. Rabbis will need to be trained, a process of certification will be required, and ongoing quality control will be necessary.” All this will be paid for, of course, by the consumers, who will not be able to give up on wigs that actually look decent.

Both of these arguments are convincing, although not together; either the rabbis wanted to completely get rid of human-hair sheitels, or they wanted to profit from them. My suspicion is that the Rabbis probably started off using Indian rituals as an excuse to limit human-hair wigs they hated anyway, but will quickly discover the economic benefits of their ruling. Either possibility is hair-raising......

UPDATE: From a feature in The Jerusalem Post's weekend edition: "Rabbis are organizing to set up kashrut boards for supervision and certification of wigs."

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