A bride writes, “I don’t want to cover my hair.”
How can the Rebbe persuade her to take on this “hopelessly old-fashioned” custom?
The Avner Institute presents a letter newly released from the archives of Rabbi Shmuel Lew, where the Rebbe’s stress on the mitzvah of covering a woman’s hair after marriage not only ensures the sanctity of a traditional Jewish home, but earns the Torah-observant wife a modern-day respect for her ideals and convictions.
By the Grace of G-d
In the Days of Chanukah 5721
Blessing and Greetings:
I received your letter of November 20th. I was pleased to read in it that you are determined to live up to the Jewish way of life, and, when you get married, to set up a truly Jewish home on the foundations of the Torah and mitzvoth. Our Sages have assured us that when a person makes a little effort to sanctify himself, he receives a great deal of assistance from On High to carry out his determination, and in an easier and greater measure than anticipated.
With reference to the question of a sheitel [wig] about which you write that you object to it on the grounds that it is old-fashioned, etc., let me say that the true approach to matters of the Torah and mitzvoth is not from the point of view of whether they are considered old-fashioned or new-fashioned. We observe the Torah and mitzvoth because they are directives from the Creator of the world and man. It is self-understood that the Creator knows what is best for man and that He desires that man should be happy and not only in the world in the come, but also in this life. This is the reason why the Torah is called Toras Chaim, meaning that it is a guide to the guide life on this earth.
Specifically on the question of a sheitel, let me quote here the words of the holy Zohar (Part III, Page 126a), which are quoted in the Mishna Brura, and I will quote only the positive results mentioned there, omitting the negative aspects following from the non-fulfillment: “Her children will be superior . . . . her husband will be blessed with spiritual and material blessings, with wealth, children, and children’s children.”
Considering the great reward which is promised to the woman and mother who wears a sheitel, it should surely be worthwhile to do so even if the wearing of a sheitel would entail serious difficulties and conflicts. How much more so where the objection to it, as you write, is only because it is “old fashioned.” This is not a real objection, nor a valid one, and it is rather based on the “opinion” of others.
Let me also add that even considering the general attitude towards this and other mitzvoth, there has been a radical change in recent years, one of respect and admiration for people who are consistent and live up their convictions and ideals, and are not influenced by the mob. There may always be some individual who might make a joke about the person’s convictions, but where a person is sincerely dedicated to his faith, such a person can only call forth respect and admiration.
Furthermore, if you will eventually settle in a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood, you will find that other young women will wish to emulate your good example, and thus you will have the additional zechus [merit] of being instrumental in influencing others in the right way. The reverse is also true, for a Jew must always consider how his or her conduct affects others. This should be an additional consideration why you should overcome your superficial objection to wearing a sheitel.
It is no less important to bear in mind that marriage is called “an everlasting edifice,” meaning that it is an everlasting institution which is of vital importance not only for the husband and wife, but also future generations. Every parent desire to ensure the happiness of children and will do everything possible to take out the utmost measure of such insurance.
Of course, you might point out to this one or that one who do not wear a sheitel. However, it is surely unnecessary to point out that every person may have a particular weakness, and if one is to follow the principle “He is wise who learns from every person,” he will be wise to learn from only the person’s strong and positive qualities and not from his weak ones.
If you will let me know your Hebrew name and your mother’s Hebrew name, and also your chassan’s [bridegroom’s] Hebrew name and his mother’s Hebrew name, I will remember you in prayer that your marriage take place in a happy and auspicious hour, and that you both make the necessary resolutions to set up your home on the foundations of the Torah, which is called Toras Chaim, as above, and the mitzvoth whereby Jews live, which is the only way to ensure a true and lasting happiness, materially and spiritually, which for Jews go hand in hand together.
As we are now in the auspicious days of Chanukah, which we celebrate, among other things, by kindling the Chanukah lights in growing numbers, may G-d bless you with a growing measure of light and success along the lines mentioned above.