Sheitel (Yiddish: שייטל, sheytl m.sg., שייטלעך, sheytlekh m.pl. or שייטלען, sheytlen m.pl.; Hebrew: פאה נוכרית) is the Yiddish word for a wig or half-wig worn by some Orthodox Jewish married women in order to conform with the requirement of Jewish Law to cover their hair. This practice is part of the modesty-related dress standard called tzniut. The word is most probably derived from the German word Scheitel (which means hair parting; or "Schädel", which means "skull"). The related term in Hebrew is pei'ah (פאה). Traditional sheitels are secured by elastic caps and are often designed with heavy bangs to obscure the hairline of their wearers; however, more modern designed lace-front wigs with realistic hairlines are growing in popularity.
The Shulchan Aruch cites the opinion of Rabbi Joshua Boaz ben Simon Baruch (d. 1557), who permitted the wearing of Kosher wigs.
In some hasidic groups, sheitels are avoided as they can give the impression that the wearer's head is uncovered. In other groups, women wear some type of covering over the sheitel to avoid this misconception, for example a scarf or a hat. In stark contrast, the Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged all married Jewish women to wear only sheitels.
In 2004, there was a degree of controversy over natural hair sheitels procured from India. It was discovered that the hair used for the production of these wigs was taken from a Hindu temple. According to Halacha one cannot derive benefit from anything used in what Judaism considers to be idolatry. The controversy ceased when it became clear that the hair was neither worshiped nor offered as a sacrifice to the deity, but shaven as a rite of purification, thus excluding it from the category of forbidden items.
Today, many wigs used by Jewish women come with kosher certification, indicating that they are not made with hair originating from rituals deemed to be idolatrous.
Some Orthodox married women (especially Sefardim and Israeli National Religious) do not wear Kosher wigs because their rabbis believe that wigs are insufficiently modest, and that other head coverings, such as a tichel, a snood or a hat, are more suitable.
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