I am a widow and would like to know what the halacha is.
I now wear a hat with my hair completely covered. I feel a
shaitels of todays times defeat the purpose as they are
so pretty especially the Human
hair shaitels you can’t tell
that they are shaitels.
The question of whether wearing a sheitel is permitted or not is one of the most widely contested areas of halachah in modern times. The truth is that the actual wearing of a sheitel has been discussed by many authorities of previous generations, the majority of which have permitted the practice (some even with regard to a sheitel made with a woman’s own detached hair). A small minority of poskim have issued blanket prohibitions on sheitels.
The main question today is not the permission or prohibition of sheitels per se, but rather tha immodest look of some “modern” sheitels, which are sometimes far prettier than a woman’s own hair. Now, there is nothing wrong with a woman beautifying herself for the right reasons, such as for the one’s husband. However, to wear such eye-turning sheitels in the street can be a michshol (stumbling block) for men, which is why there is much objection to them in traditional circles.
Today, the issue of wearing sheitels has departed somewhat from its halachic origins, and the question of hair-covering has become a symbol of religious affiliation. Some groups (e.g. haredi Lithuanian) generally wear sheitels, whereas others (some Hassidim (some wear hats above the sheitel), some Sephardim) don’t. The alternatives (hat/kerchiefs of different styles) are also mainly questions of denominaiton. Of course, each woman is right to act in line with her family and husband’s custom/affiliation.
In a halachic sense, however, the great majority of poskim maintain that there is no problem in wearing a sheitel. Although some have voiced their preference for kerchiefs (which are generally considered “more modest”), others have even recommend sheitels as the preferred method of hair-covering — providing the sheitel falls within the boundaries of modest wear (this depends on the style more than the human/synthetic source of hair).
Sources (unless stated otherwise, all in Orach Chayim):
The following is a very partial list of those who permit the wearing of a sheitel: Ein Mishpat, in Shiltei Giborim (Shabbos 29b); Rema (75:2); Magen Avraham (75:5); Mishnah Beruruah (75:15); Iggros Moshe (EH 2:12); Shulchan Aruch Harav (75:4); Machatzis Hashekel (75:5); Pri Megadim (75 A.A. 5); Be’er Heitev (75:5); Levush (75:2); Eliyah Rabbah (303:18); Gra (75:2); Ateres Zekeinim (75:3); Perishah (303); Yad Aharon (on Tur 75; on EH 1:21:7, and 2:21:3, and 115:16 [where he cites many consenting opinions who permit sheitels]); Teshuvah Me-Ahavah (47); Ben Ish Chai (2nd year, Vayakhel); Pachad Yitzchak (letter shin, se’ar be’ishah); Baruch Ta’am (annotation to 75); Penei Yehoshua (Shabbos 57b-58a); Chavas Ya’ir in Mekor Chayim (75); Derech Chayim (26:32); Or Le-Tzion (1:11) . . .
Several authorities listed above (but not Ateres Zekeinim) write that a sheitel may be made even of a woman’s own cut hair. Some also mention that it is permitted to wear the sheitel even in the public domain (in the street), unlike those who claim the contrary.
One of the most famous poskim that prohibit the wearing of sheitels is Rabbi Ovadyah Yosef, a great contemporary Sephardi gaon, whose rulings are followed by many Sephardim. For an interesting response, see Shemesh U’Magen (II EH 15-17). Otherwise, the prohibition on wearing sheitels is sourced in Be’er Sheva and Yeshuos Yaakov.
The following Rabbis have declared that a sheitel is even preferable to a kerchief: Rabbi Ezriel Hildesheimer, Rabbi Shmuel Ha-Kohen Burnstein, Rabbi Shalom Mashash, Rabbi Binyanim Zilber, Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch, Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Schick, Rabbi Michel Yehudah Lefkovitz. On the other hand, many have conceded that sheitels are permitted, but have expressed their preference for kerchiefs.