Thursday, May 20, 2004

Hats off to the Shaitel Doffers

While shopping in my local delicatessen store I was listening to group of frum women chatting, all obviously self-conscious of the new sheitels they were wearing. One of them announced that she could not take much more of the uncertainty. The group unanimously agreed with her that it was impossible, with Yomtov coming up and every day new stories of this or that Beth Din deciding that all or some wigs have to be burnt

I personally am obliged to say that I am full of admiration for those women who had the courage of their convictions and got rid of their sheitels the moment they heard there might be a problem. I take my hat off to those ladies. I take my hat off to the ladies who proudly and defiantly walked the streets in snoods or swim caps the morning after the whole issue came out.

One customer of mine came in to keep an appointment with me wearing what looked like a wig borrowed from a participant at the Notting Hill Carnival. Always immaculately turned out, her head looked, to put it mildly, like something the cat had brought in. I cannot imagine what she must have thought when she looked into her mirror prior to leaving the house. I would argue that the sacrifice of giving up what is effectively your hair, from one moment to the other, is probably no smaller than that of the women in India who shave their hair off for their deity.

Yet as I write this I feel some ambivalence. They are calling the Shaitel issue a crisis. Phone calls to and fro between friends, frantic searches on the Internet for anything with the words Tirupati or hair, pages upon pages of responsa and frenzied queues at the sheitel-machers (wig dressers). These are the crisis of the well fed.

Meanwhile in our own country thousands of young men are risking their lives to protect their very homes and families' lives. I think we should all take a moment off to reflect on the fact that we can afford the luxury of allowing a head covering to disrupt ours. The soldiers who have been ordered in to Gaza contemplate seeing their comrades dying. The moral dilemmas they face must be horrific. I cannot even imagine what goes through the mind of a 19 year old reservist who last week was helping his 15 year old brother with his homework and now sees a boy of the same age in his cross hairs with a Kalashnikov in his hands. Meanwhile their families sitting at home hear the phone ring and a cold shadow flits across their brains.

I believe our determination and single-mindedness is what has kept us alive as a nation. The determination that lets a soldier put his life on the line to defend his country, his people and his way of life and, in a smaller but still significant measure, that allows a woman to walk the streets looking like a clown because, for her, disregarding an issur (halachic ban) is not an option.

Sometimes I am proud to be Jewish!

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