Sheitel (Yiddish: שייטל, sheytl m.sg.; שייטלעך, sheytlekh m.pl. or שייטלען, sheytlen m.pl.; Hebrew: פאה נוכרית) is a wig or half-wig worn by some married Orthodox Jewish women in order to obey with the requirement of Jewish law to cover their hair. Some Hasidic groups encourage sheitels, while others avoid them.
This practice is part of the modesty-related dress standard called tzniut. Traditional sheitels are secured by elastic caps, and are often designed with heavy bangs to obscure the hairline of their wearers. More modern lace-front wigs with realistic hairlines or real hair are growing in popularity.
In 2004, there was a degree of controversy over natural hair sheitels procured from India. It was discovered that the hair used for the production of these wigs was taken from a Hindu temple. According to Jewish law, one cannot derive benefit from anything used in practices considered to be idolatry. The controversy ceased when it became clear that the hair was neither worshiped nor offered as a sacrifice to the deity, but shaven as a rite of purification, thus excluding it from the category of forbidden items.[dubious ][failed verification]
In many Hasidic groups, sheitels are avoided, as they can give the impression that the wearer's head is uncovered. In other Hasidic groups, women wear some type of covering over the sheitel to avoid this misconception, for example a scarf or a hat. Married Sephardi and National Religious women do not wear wigs, because their rabbis believe that wigs are insufficiently modest, and that other head coverings, such as a scarf (tichel), a snood, a beret, or a hat, are more suitable. In stark contrast, the Chabad rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, encouraged all married Jewish women to wear sheitels, though in Torat Menachem, he writes that in fact, "if she can cover her hair with a scarf, it is definitely good if she would do so, but in reality, we know that this doesn't happen."
- Letters on the importance of wearing a sheitel from the Lubavitcher Rebbe
- Sherman, Julia (November 17, 2010). "She goes covered".
- Ron Grossman (June 9, 2004). "Orthodox Jews in hairy dilemma on wigs". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- hair sources and background. "Kosher Wigs". prweb.com. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
- "Torat Menachem תשי"ד P. 189-190"