Five Israeli ultra-Orthodox rabbis released a statement this past summer, blasting wigs made of human hair for their idolatrous origins (which has long been a dispute among rabbis).
As is well-known, in the year 5764, the rabbanim and great poskin [ruler] in our generation have ruled that wigs which contain any human hair from India that was sacrificed for avoda zara [idol worship] are unequivocally forbidden and may not be work…. It has become known that within the worldwide industry of manufacturing wigs, the majority of human hair originates from the hundreds of idol worshippers in India. It was confirmed that it is extremely difficult to track down where the hairs on the market originate from. For this reason, our rabbanim have ruled that i tis forbidden to use any human hair that does not have an absolute verification of its origin….
The rabbis also took the opportunity to reiterate their opposition to “long, loose-flowing, and natural wigs,” comparing them to “meat that was cooked in milk.” They concluded, “These wigs cause the erosion of tznius [modesty] among Jewish daughters.”
The statement was signed by Rabbi Chaim Meir Halevi Vosner of Zichron Meir, Rabbi Sariel Rosenberg of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Yehuda Sillman of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Shimon Baadani and Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Karp of Modiin.
The full statement was posted online today, on popular Breslov Hasidic writer Lazer Brody’s blog; his wife, Racheli Brody, encouraged women to take it to heart:
Trading in your wig for a scarf or hat is one of the hardest decisions a Torah-observant woman will ever have to make. I understand, believe me. But I must also believe with all of my heart that there are others in this world who know more than I do, and trust that their opinion of what’s best for me is the right one. I trust that my family will be benefit from my sacrifice for generations to come. I fully believe that I made the right decision. Because if I don’t, what does that say about my belief in the Torah as a whole?
Given that the human hair industry is worth roughly $1 billion, fatwas like these are unlikely to work. But nice try.
Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt is the Life/Features editor at the Forward. She was previously a New York-based reporter for Haaretz. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, and Tablet, among others. Avital teaches journalism at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, and does pastoral work alongside her husband Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt in New York City.