Origins and Halachah

Information included in this section is to create an awareness of the halachot (laws) and the magnitude of this precious mitzvah.
We encourage women to continue to learn and to research the matter and to make their decision based on the information they gathered and a psak halachah from their Rabbi.


In such a case, the Gaon of Vilna together with many chachamim during the times of the Gemara did indeed allow such a woman to take this Peah Nochrit, this small hair piece – and to place it underneath her head covering so that it should appear as though she does have hair. By doing so, she will look like all the other women and she will feel good about herself.

The Gaon of Vilna states that this is the concept of a Peah Nochrit. It is a small piece of material that hairs were sewn into whereby a woman who suffered from hair loss placed that small hair piece underneath her head covering and some of those added hairs were visible. This small hair piece, this Peah Nochrit, was an end piece placed either in the back of the head or at the sides of the head – but it only took up a small corner of the head. It was placed underneath the original head covering and certainly not used to cover the entire head.

Now that we have attained this piece of information it is very easy to determine that today’s sheitels have nothing to do with the Gemara’s terminology of a Peah Nochrit. There is no connection whatsoever between today’s sheitels and the Peach Nochrit that the Mishnah is discussing. That being said, today’s sheitels cannot be considered Peot or permissible, because they cover the entire head.

As a side note: even the Peah Nochrit during the Talmudic period was only permitted to be worn in the Chatzer (courtyard of the home) and not birshut ha’rabim (public domain). Let us also bear in mind that the chatzer of a person’s home during the Talmudic era does not resemble the chatzer of the current generation. Our imahot (foremothers) were extremely modest. Their courtyards were closed off to the public.

Therefore, if a Peah Nochrit (a small hair piece) underneath a head covering was not permitted to be worn birshut ha’rabim and that heter (allowance) was only given to women who suffered from some ailment that resulted in hair loss or the graying of the hair – then Jewish women today have no allowance to wear the modern day sheitels. This is the conclusive ruling of all the rishonim and acharonim including the Gaon of Vilna.

In addition, many Rabanim feel that today’s sheitels do not demonstrate the level of tzniyut (modesty) that has to be maintained when a woman goes out to the public domain. It is quite the opposite. Today’s sheitels achieve the opposite effect. Sadly, they are the antithesis of tzniyut. They oppose the idea of modesty.

(An excerpt taken from a public lecture delivered by Rabbi Ovadyah Yosef (a”h), Rabbi David Bar Hayim’s Lecture with additions by Rabanit K. Sarah Cohen)

Notwithstanding the fact that according to many chachamim wearing a sheitel in public is considered marit ayin (deceptive to the human eye). How so?

When a woman is married her status changes. Prior to marriage she was a ravakah, an unattached, single woman. Following marriage she becomes an ishah nesuah, an eshet ish (a married woman). Therefore, it has to be visibly clear to anyone who sees her that she is indeed married and attached to her husband. But, when a woman wears a sheitel, especially today’s sheitels, she gives the appearance of a single woman who is available and unattached. This is marit ayin and the woman is chas ve’shalom opening the doors to other sins that may follow such as giluy arayot (immorality).

I do want to stress the fact that even though there are many people out there who wish to dispute this halachah today, they have to understand that they are taking on the entire line of traditional Torah sources – sources that are not simple to dispute. After all, the Rabbis who forbid the wearing of wigs are the greatest and holiest rabbis the Jewish people have ever produced.

I am not certain who would dare to argue with any of the Rishonim or even any of the Acharonim for that matter. Be that as it may, my Rebetzin in Eretz Yisrael said that the reason this is happening today is because it is the nisayon (test) of this generation. Every generation contained its particular nisayon in areas of halachah and hashkafah. Even in Eretz Yisrael this issue of the hair covering and doing it properly has proven to be a challenge. Much of this nisayon today, if we really wish to be honest with ourselves, is merely glamour-oriented and related to the gashmiyut (materialism) of this generation.

As I was glancing over some sefarim and halachot, I noticed that the halachah states that a single girl should not go out to the public domain with “se’ahr pazur” – with loose hair. If she has long hair (long hair means below the shoulders) and her hair is loose, she cannot go out into the public domain unless she gathers her hair. This is for tzniyut reasons.

Let us think about this for a moment. If a single girl has to gather her long hair when she goes out to the public domain for reasons of modesty - why would a married woman be allowed to walk down the streets with a long sheitel? This question should prompt every married woman to ask herself the following question: “If my daughter who has long hair should not be seen in the public domain without gathering her hair? How can I walk out in public with a long sheitel?”

There are many standpoints concerning the law of kisuy rosh and the permitting and forbidding of it. There are those who wear wigs and rely on the Rabbis who permitted the Peah Nochrit (as defined earlier) among them, the Shiltei Giborim, the Rama and a few others. However, here is the groundwork of all the permitting standpoints:

All who allow it like the Rama and others base their opinion on the Sefer, Shiltei Giborim (the author, Rav Yehoshua Boaz, was one of the leading Torah scribes in his generation who lived approximatley 450 years ago and interestingly was of Sefardik decent and ruled according to Sefardik traditions.

The Shiltei Giborim derives his permission from the fact that the Gemara of Shabat (64:2, Arachin 7:2, and Nazir 28:2) mentions the words, “Peah Nochrit,” three times. It is assumed from this Gemara that the Shiltei Giborim allows a wig in the reshut harabim. Although in the original source, in his sefer, he does not add the words, “reshut ha’rabim.”

After the publication of his book approximately one hundred (100) Rabbis wrote against his opinion stating that they have very strong objections to his ruling. This is how the “different opinions” came into being and this is how the allowance and prohibition of wearing wigs began.

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