Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The "minhag" of Chassidishe women shaving their heads is "bad and stupid"


The custom of women shaving their hair after marriage was widespread in Galicia and Hungary prior to the Holocaust and is still continued in some communities, mainly from the Toldos Aharon sect and in old Yerushalmi families. Some said that the basis for the custom was a fear of sechita (squeezing liquid) on Shabbos or so that the hair does not represent a chatzizah (barrier) to immersion in the Mikvah.

Many poskim opposed the custom, including Rabbi Yosef Shaul Natansohn in his Shoel U’Meishiv who said that such a custom may be Lo Yilbash [females adopting a male custom which is prohibited by Torah]. The mekubal Rabbi Yehuda Petaya said that the custom contradicts the kabbalistic opinion of the Arizal, who maintained that women should grow their hair and only men should shave their heads.

In a sharp response to a young man querying whether to keep his family’s custom of shaving married women’s hair, Hagaon Rabbi Shlomo Fisher Zts’l, who recently passed away, said that such customs are “bad and stupid”.

Rabbi Fisher wrote that “you can remain calm and need not be upset about revoking this bad and stupid custom [about which we can say Rabbeinu Tam’s anagram that Minhag is the letters of Gehennom] of married women shaving their hair, which is against halacha and defies intelligence as well as causing great distress to women.

“The gemara (Eiruvin 100b) says that women are accustomed to growing their hair long. In the Rambam (Avodah Zarah 12:10) it says that a woman may not shave her head and in Nazir 28b it is written that a husband may say: “I don’t want a shaven headed wife.” The women who shave their hair wear a sheitel when going outside and in the home they are contemptible to their husbands and this is the opposite of the Torah’s imperatives. Rashi writes (Devarim 4:9) that when you perform the Torah’s statutes in the proper way you will be considered wise and perceptive but if you distort them you will be deemed fools.

“The sephardim maintained kabbalistic customs throughout the generations even more than Ashkenazim and were more acquainted with kabbalistic stringencies but they never even considered doing this bad custom of having women shave their heads. If the custom was not maintained one must rejoice in this and not be upset.”


Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Chasidim hate hair in general. Except for peyos, the men also shave their heads.
Now you could take a spiritual angle. Animals have heads covered in hair so the more of our heads we exposed, the more we distinguish ourselves from animals.
Then there's the weird consideration - the minute before the woman walks down the aisle, her hair is fine for viewing. The minute after it's not. And even after she's married, one can look at pictures of her from before with her hair in full view and no one cares. So something spiritually happens to turn the hair into a source of impurity.
But all this doesn't change the fact that this is a made-up minhag, that many major authorities challenge or denigrate it and it's become a "I'm frummer than you" behaviour today.

Anonymous said...


Gut Moed. For the record, neither my wife nor my Mother or Shvigger shaves.

However I’m extremely disappointed in you bringing up this topic on a blog for two reasons:

(A) There are many earlier 1800’s great poskim who feel that this minhag is possibly middos chasidus.
As such, how do you bring one opinion and fail to recognize the others?

(B) L’may nafkah minah? Why put on the www these customs that you or I don’t understand.
Nisht dayn gesheft.

This is something that Julia Hart would have enjoyed making fun of!

Don’t you think it possibly has some kabbalistic and chassídic reasons?

Yes. It is above my pay grade.
And above yours.
Therefore, With all due respect. Take this post down. Please don’t malign some of Klall
So you don’t understand……
Neither do I.
Im sure there are some people that you hold of in very high regard that their wives keep this minhag.
You won’t change those that keep this custom.
Writing these blog posts cheapens Klall Yisroel.
The minhag should not be debated online; but rather in a Bais Medrash

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Because when it's convenient, these people shout "We follow the Shulchan Aruch. It's the true authority!" And then the Shulchan Aruch criticizes what they do and they say "Yeah, forget the Shulchan Aruch! We have a different rule!"

Anonymous said...

The claim that no Sefardi mekubalim didn't have their wives shave their head is false. It's also in the Zohar HaKadosh, chelek gimel, Parshas Naso 127a. It brings there to remove the hair that grew during niddah as it is tamei, and p'shat is pretty clear that this refers to shaving before mikvah.

Anonymous said...

Sheitels weren't always so nice. Today they are Beyonce'-like. So glamorous and like an accessory. So even now in modern orthodox circles (1950-1960's Young Israel types whose mothers didnt cover) the daughters cover and sheitels are the norm.

ut in Europe they were thick and heavy and women would pull out from under the sheitel, their own hair to blend in. Or they woudl dith the sheitel when they went to the big cities.

Head lice was also a common issue in shtetls -like towns where there was no indoor plumbing, remember that people used outhouses in the 1800's-early 1900's.

Given the horrors of what went on during pogroms, especially to women, during perhaps the Tiszaeszlár Affair(?) - a blood libel where it was feared another mass pogrom would result, married Hungarian women undertook to shave their hair as a zechus to protect them and their families. Small price in order to be spared in horrific acts. (And perhaps it was to make the women not look attractive or feminine, should they be attacked during such a pogrom.)

That being said it has been twisted to the point that in Belz, one is not permitted to make a bracha in the home of a woman who has "By-hur (unless you are collecting a big tzedaka check for Belz). And Viznitz prohibits burial of a woman with by-hur in their cemetery.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you first address the sheitels that are so long, they reach below ones boobs. Very common in Lakewood and elsewhere. Where is the tznius in that? Everyone trying to be a starlet...