בעז"הI find all these "rabbinic" arguments rather amusing. Married women's hair-covering is done by women exclusively, and in the early and mid-twentieth century it was very rarely being done at all in North America. External manifistations of religiosity, like tziniyut, modesty and married women's hair-covering were rejected. Outside of immigrant Jewish neighborhoods, few men would wear kippot in public. The kippah was in the pocket or the men wore "caps." Most Jews, regardless of religiosity, wanted to look as American as possible.
Hirhurim Hair Wars
The summary is going to be as follows: each part will be given a summary of a few sentences followed by a summary of the comments. Please be aware that the comments section on the Hirhurim blog is often much longer than the original post.
1. Part I opens by mentioning that hair covering has taken on more than just a halachic meaning and introduces a halachic discourse between R. Michael J. Broyde and R. Eli Shulman. Links are given to articles by both rabbis. Several years ago the blogger, R. Gil, thoroughly examined R. Broyde’s opinion and disagreed with it. Currently he doesn’t have the stamina (his word) to examine R. Broyde’s new writings and is leaving the matter to the two scholars.
Comments: Eleven comments discuss sources given, ask questions and mention more sources.
2. Part II is two letters sent in response to R. Broyde’s article, one from Mr. David Keter and the second from Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin. Mr. Keter’s letter centers around a halachic response to a personal question. Many well known rabbis, gedolim, including R. Elazar Shach, are mentioned and quoted. R. Henkin disagrees with R. Broyde, but values his discussions of halachic matters.
Comments: Fifty comments rather heatedly discuss the matter. One of the biggest issues is who is Mr. David Keter and is his letter reliable? Another big issue is the value and reliability of relating stories in general.
No links are given in Part II other than back to Part I and forward to Part III
3. Part III: R. Meir Tzvi Bergman, the son-in-law of R. Elazar Shach, responds to Mr. Keter’s letter. R. Bergman’s letter is in Hebrew only. IMHO a summary is not appropriate as the letter itself isn’t long and touches on many important points. (In other words, I don’t want to screw up a rabbi’s points.)
Comments: Twenty five comments argue the points in R. Bergman’s letter, Mr. Keter’s letter and R. Gil’s choice of posting Mr. Keter’s letter, the validity of which many people have questioned. R. Gil responds several times.
When the Lubovitch Rebbe arrived in the states, he was horrified to see how few women covered their hair and decided to convince married women to keep that mitzvah. His marketing campaign was very clever, nothing like the what's summarized above. The Rebbe correctly understood that there would only be an improvement if women could be convinced of the fun and attractiveness of the mitzvah. No doubt that otherwise Torah-observant men of the time had been very ambivalent about that mitzvah or their wives would have kept it meticulously. So the Rebbe had to find a way for the women to convince their husbands of it.
Wigs were the perfect solution. All a woman needed was a wig or two, since wigs:
- like natural hair, could match any outfit
- didn't make a woman stand out in a crowd
- could make a woman feel attractive
- make a woman more attractive to her husband; (don't forget that most men don't want their wives to look peculiar in public)
The tied or covered hair is a signal to the rest of the world that she's "taken," married. Think of the old New York City taxis with the little flag that would indicate if the driver was looking for customers or not. For many rabbis, the rationale against wigs is because they can't "see the flag." Wigs look too natural. But if it's between wearing a wig or not covering hair at all, the wig wins. We're human, not angels.