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Why do Chassidic women shave their heads?

66 comments

Whenever people begin to talk about hair covering post marriage, the conversation always ends up in chassidish territory and someone is always wondering why they shave their heads if they are covering them anyway. Interesting enough, no one ever wonders why they have to cover their hair if they don’t have any. I have come up with several reasons based on some pretty deep and abstract sources I have come across as to why Chassidish women shave their heads.

Chassidim typically do not allow mirrors in the house and since many chassidish men tend to daven in the later hours of the day, they may not be able to adjust their tefillin shel rosh properly. I have heard that many Chassidish men use their wives scalps to adjust their tefillin.

It is common knowledge that Chassidish women are into power walking, since they typically live in windy neighborhoods, the rabbonom felt that the risk of their turban or pillbox flying off was great and they deemed it necessary to shave their heads just in case someone should see it when their head covering fell off.

Chassidish men are so used to pony tails that the common instance of ladies peyos poking out from under their snoods and hats may cause them to waste seed from such ervah, as small as it may be.

One of the great Chassidic masters of blessed memory hid under his Rebbe’s bed to see what his wife wore so he could tell his wife to wear the same thing. He was rather shocked when he saw his Rebbe’s wife had shaved her head and he gasped. His Rebbe demanded an explanation and he told him. Then they launched into a Talmudic discussion on the subject as they walked to the Rebbes wagon parked in a Russian forest.

Lice was common in the shtetl and so rather than suffer through the lice outbreaks like their brethren in the mussar movement, the Chassidim felt that they could better serve God by shaving their heads. Men and women both shaved their heads in order to serve God and not focus on the physical.

During the heyday of Chassidism many of the ladies would sell their fine Jewish hair for a profit after they wed. Many of them figured that if they would have to cover it anyway, they might as well sell it at a tidy profit and send all of their prodigious sons who knew all of shas by the age 12 to yeshiva. (I thought of the sheitl farm idea but had never had known that someone thought of it before me)

Did you know that the only organized inter-chassidish sport is synchronized swimming? Unbeknownst to many bend down hat wearers, Chassidish women tend to keep their great shape by swimming and the lack of hair under their shower caps makes for some smooth moves in the water. Karlin-Stolin women are known for their underwater screaming.

  • Anonymous

    loving the karlin stolen one

  • heshy…

    …I want to know why YOU shave your balls…

    • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

      To make my penis look bigger – duh.

  • Rob

    It’s not just the heads that are shaved. I have pretty good intel that the practice applies to hair below the waist. There’s an opinion about not having a barrier between the body and the mikvah water.

  • Chuckie D

    Yer oll a bunch of playa hatin’ kofrim

  • Mike

    Their woman shaving their heads, is one obvious example of how disturbed that whole movement is.
    To me it is a movement of a bunch of perverted minds who think anything to do with sexuality is evil.

    • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

      Chassidish women shave their heads to make sure their hair doesn’t float up when going to mikvah.

      “is a movement of a bunch of perverted minds who think anything to do with sexuality is evil.”

      So I guess you aren’t into Judaism then?

      • Bob

        He’s correct. Look at how the perverted editors of all the Ortho newspapers wont print a photo of even young girls. I once saw a reprint of a childs book with an illustration of a young girl and they F’ing blurred out the DRAWN GIRLS FACE.

        That these people would even entertain that fact that ther is something sexual about a young girl and a cartoon one at that is beyond perverted.

        The right wing communities who make young girls in 1st and 2nd grade dress like Mother Teresa are PERVERTS. A normal health person doesnt have his brain go from “young girl” to “lets cover those legs”.

        Everything about these people is ssxxx. Their whole life is dictated by sex. Its all they think about. You cant sit here at this weeding, you cant talk to this person, you cant wear this, you cant go there. The whole lifestyle is one of SEX. thinking about it, discussing it, debating about it. These Orthos are more busy with ssxx than a porn actor. Their filthy filthy people.

        • http://www.operabravura.org Sharon

          I AGREE AGREE AGREE!!!!! They must think its normal for men to all be perverted rapists, so they oppress the women the way they do. Funny how they say the holocaust was so horrible that they must replenish the Jewish population, yet they do one of the things the Nazis did to humiliate and demoralize the women, namely, SHAVE THEIR HEADS. It is sick. If I saw a Satmar person up close, I would have trouble NOT spitting right in his damned eye. AND I AM JEWISH, YESHIVA EDUCATED.

          • Orien

            Well, go to willi or anywhere in Brooklyn and u’ll see enough of those people. I challange you to go for it, and while we are at it. Why don’t you look for me I’ll be happy to get spit on by u hahahaha! Very entertaining lol. Quit talking, start doing!

            • http://www.operabravura.org Sharon

              I live in CA and there aren’t any here! They’re too afraid to venture out. I can’t figure out why they live in the United States. They don’t want to live by U.S. laws and think English is evil, so why be here? Maybe they’d be happier and more prosperous in the old country! Good riddance. Feh.

      • Bob

        Yes its perverted. look at the way no jewish paper will print a photo of a girl, im not talking about beautiful women like hilary clinton, i mean small girls. I saw the hamodia reprint a page out of an illustrated childs book and a CARTOON pic of a small girl was BLURRED out.

        Anyone whou could look at a young girl, let alone a drawing, and think anything ssuxual about to the extent that he blurrs it out is a pervert.

        That 1st and 2nd grade girls are made to dress like Mother Theresa is disgusting, how can anyone have a sexual thought when seeing a girl.

        It is also bad with women. these ortho’s lifes are completelty dictated by ssxxx, you cant sit here, you cant talk to this person, you cant go there, you cant look at that. Everything they do and everywhere they go is done through ssxxx goggles. their whole life is about sex, they talk about it (how to avoid it, but thats still ssxxx talk). Its a life obsessed with ssxxx, constant involvement with ssxxx. ITS PERVERSION NOT JUDAISM

      • 4th attempt

        Yes its pervrted. look at the way no jewish paper will print a photo of a girl, im not talking about beautiful woman like hillary clinton, i mean small girls. I saw the hamodia reprint a page out of an illustrated childs book and a CARTOON pic of a small girl was BLURRED out.

        Anyone whou could look at a young girl, let alone a drawing, and think anything ss-xxxua-l about it to the extent that he blurrs it out is a pervrt.

        That 1st and 2nd grade girls are made to dress like Mother Theresa is disgusting, how can anyone have a ss-xxxxua-l thought when seeing a young girl?

        It is also bad with women. these ortho’s lifes are completelty dictated by ss-xx-x, you cant sit here, you cant talk to this person, you cant go there, you cant look at that. Everything they do and everywhere they go is done through ss-xx-x goggles. their whole life is about ss-xxx-x, they talk about it (how to avoid it, but thats still ss-xx-x talk). Its a life obsessed with ss-xx-x, constant involvement with ss-xx-x. \
        ITS PERVERSION NOT JUDAISM

      • Test

        Test

  • Anonymous

    “as small as it may be.”

    That was below the belt. Totally uncalled for. it has nothing to do with anything. That’s not something i’m used to from you.

    • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

      I don’t even know what you’re talking about.

      • Levy Bernstein

        Anonymouse is meekly referring to this paragraph:

        Chassidish men are so used to pony tails that the common instance of ladies peyos poking out from under their snoods and hats may cause them to waste seed from such ervah, as small as it may be.

        • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

          I was talking about the amount of uncovered hair being small

    • http://Tevytown.wordpress.com Tevy

      Ha ha! That proves Bob’s Jews=Perversion theory

      • Esther

        So true!

        I am not sure that I share this rather extreme view, but I doubt anyone out there, frum or not so much, can argue with the fact that a great deal of the rules and restrictions are s*x-centered and women are hypers*xualized.

        @ A. Nuran – yes, its true. There are many more restrictions for women than there are for men. It is an outdated and partriarchal way of living.

        @ Bob – you really do sound like a feminist. That’s not a bad thing.

        @ Heshy [frummies, avert your eyes] – good for you re: shaving reply. LMAO! It is beneficial all around – attractive and considerate.

  • D

    My 5th grade teacher’s shaitel fell off her head when she bent down to pick something up and she was bald underneath. The whole class laughed.

    Now that I look back at it, she was a pretty strong woman. Just picked up the shaitel, but it back on and continued as if nothing happened. (I think she was a holocaust survivor. She was really old and had a german accent.)

  • chevramaidel

    The reason is to avoid any possibility of two hairs being stuck or knotted together even after combing. (No, I’ve never heard of Chassidic women shaving anywhere else.) Does make one wonder, though, if it’s being mevatel the mitzvah of “combing” before mikvah?
    In practicality, if you cover all the time, you’re bound to end up with raging scalp itch or even infection, so you may end up shaving anyway just to control the problem. And once your hair starts thinning from being stifled all the time, there’s not much point in keeping it.

    • A. Nuran

      In other words, the religious practices require you to destroy a healthy organ for the sake of a chumra. That’s…mmm…disgusting.

      • Bob

        Yes, it is disgusting. But look at all the other ways this community subjugates their women. It’s not about chumra, it’s about control.

        (I’m not a feminist.)

        • A. Nuran

          Bob writes:
          (I’m not a feminist.)

          Yes, you are. Even though the Right’s campaign of lies and slander has poisoned the word your beliefs in this are classic, letter-perfect Third Wave feminism.

      • MadMaxInJerusalem

        Actually, women shaving their heads is halachikly forbidden, see http://www.mechon-mamre.org/i/1412n.htm#11

    • MadMaxInJerusalem

      This is retarded and not in any way halachah. A woman can go into the mikveh wearing full clothing, including stockings, shoes and her tichel and the tevilah is completely kosher, l’hatchila. Halachikly the only thing which is hotzetz are things which are stuck to her body, like nail polish, or make up, or a black latex cat-woman suit for instance :-)

  • Bubba Metzia

    If you make a sheitel out of your own hair you don’t have to worry about it being made of hair from a Hindu ceremony.

    Also, most women spend so much money on hair care products. If you shave your head you don’t have to worry about that.

  • Phil

    I always wonder if the more modern ones do fun things with the shave like a mohawk or shaving names or images on their heads.

    • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

      Shema yisroel hair lettering would be rad, especially if you could see it through their shower caps when you were at a swim meet

      • Esther

        Sort of a hip hop influence, but for Jews :)

  • Yechiel

    I’m wondering if this practice is becoming more common?

    • A. Nuran

      I’m sure it is. Charedism is following the same path as Wahabism and Christian Bat Fecesism. The modern world is not compatible with the reactionary, reality-denying lifestyle. The defense is, as always, more neurotic separation from outside influences, more restrictions and greater violence. In the end it’s as effective as King Canute ordering the tides, but it’s how this sort of thing always plays out.

      Notice that there are always more chumras, never fewer. The list of evil alien influences always grows. The stringencies and restrictions on the most basic and essential human functions – food, making a living, marriage, reproduction – get more and more elaborate. The penalties for stepping out of line get more and more dire. And the incidence of violence steps up.

      This always ALWAYS includes disproportionate restrictions on women. The classic course of the disease focuses on their s*cksuality, economic independence, activity in the public political sphere and, most importantly, their reproductive rate. It can be summed up as “Sit down. Shut up. Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in bread. Pop ‘em out so fast you never menstruate between 17 and 47.”

      That’s a little harsh, but it’s what it comes down to.

    • A. Nuran

      And since some people need to hear it, it goes without saying that women are vessels of sin and impurity. If they speak up, hold power over men or fail to completely suppress all indications that there might be a girl under the bulletproof stockings, burka or Prairie dress they are damned, and the Faithful can and should stone the harlots.

  • http://righteousrasha.blogspot.com Tova

    “Interesting enough, no one ever wonders why they have to cover their hair if they don’t have any.”

    Actually, Heshy, I’ve wondered that very thought (aloud) several times before. Nobody ever has an answer.

  • http://righteousrasha.blogspot.com Tova

    Here’s what I wanna know: Covering one’s hair and concealing it from oxygen and sunlight makes it brittle and gray. How is THAT “saving beauty for one’s husband”?

    • A. Nuran

      It’s destroying beauty which is the actual point of the exercise. Femaleness, especially S-word attractiveness is bad and sinful. Yeah, they talk about the mystical importance and all. But look at the rules. Even husband and wife can’t really look at each other as God made ‘em because that would be “brazen”. And any restriction on women can be justified as “tznius”.

    • Annonymous

      Tova, I have covered my hair for 15 years – all of it, pretty much 14 hours a day and my hair is not brittle or gray at all. A woman can still take care of her hair and cover it. It can look great and stay healthy for decades. My mother covered her hair for 45 years and it was thick and gorgeous. So, I think you should stop your assumptions. And by the way, if you would avoid your angry tone, perhaps people would take your comments more seriously.

      • http://righteousrasha.blogspot.com Tova

        “Angry tone”?

        You thought I was angry? Well, then, good luck out there…

        Anyway, you’re the first person I’ve ever encountered to make the claim that her hair is still “healthy” (hair can’t be healthy – it’s dead!) after keeping it from sunlight and oxygen on a regular basis.

    • MadMaxInJerusalem

      Tova,

      Hair covering is not required by halacha in countries where it is not the practice of the general population and having uncovered hair is not generally considered immodest.

      http://www.urimpublications.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=UP&Product_Code=hr

      Intriguingly, editor Lynne Schreiber’s opening essay notes that in three “serious halachic communities of a century or more ago Lithuania, Morocco and Rumania women did not cover their hair at all.” Schreiber promptly busts one “popular revisionist perspective,” that Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik was upset that his wife did not cover her hair. She was, Schreiber says, from Lithuanian background, and in fact “individuals who spoke personally with Rabbi Soloveitchik about the matter of hair covering attest to his insistence that his wife’s practice of not covering her hair was, in fact, halachically sound, although no one will go on the record to quote the Rav’s reasons in part because he apparently swore them to secrecy.”

      Schreiber adds that no former students of the Rav would go on the record for her book, for fear that haredi leaders would annihilate their rabbinic careers. However, that omission is more than compensated for by her footnote listing halachic authorities who ruled in writing “that there is no obligation for a woman to cover her hair in a society where modest women generally do not.” These include the 19th-century Iraqi rabbi Ben Ish Hai, the most popular Sephardi posek before Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.

  • Phil

    In a perfect world, the women remained in the kitchen, they didn’thave to cover their hair and have it “ruined”. Then when Yankel came home for lunch from Kollel, he’d see the beautiful hair and wham bam – it’s pru urvu time ;)

    • Esther

      “In a perfect world” – perfect for whom?

      • Phil

        Esther,

        Though it’s sounds funny today, I think that scenario pretty much summed up the way our ancestors lived in talmudic times. Women had it easy, they tended to the home’s needs, the guy’s would work a few month a year planting and sowing, they spent the rest of their time in yeshiva and making babies. As the guys had multiple wives, they all helped each other out with the chores.

        Can you say that the modern rat race of two working spouses living from check to check, kids raised and educated by sometimes incompetent teachers, microwave dinners/fast food is any better?

        • Esther

          I’ll put it this way. Today’s rat race is def tough and I am firmly against microwave dinners. However, who told you that by staying at home women had it easy?

          I actually love cooking, but just try forcing me to stay in the kitchen andthe delicious dinner I make you will be the last one you’ll ever eat, kapeesh?!

          Obv, I am kidding above, but you’ve got to join the real world, dude. I know, I know, I’ve read enough of your comments, it will undoubedly be difficult for ya and may never ever happen. All I ask is that you acknowledge the fact that women are your equals – with fully functioning brains and capable of a great deal more than cooking, cleaning, making babies and satisfying the needs of their men.

          As an aside, the mention of multiple wives – is that part of YOUR perfect world?

          • Phil

            Esther,

            I doubt anyone had to “force” women into the kitchen or any other homemaker duties, they knew their roles in society.

            I never said women weren’t capable of doing anything else, or lacked brains. My mom is a biochemist with a masters degree, and my wife earns more than I do at times, which I’m very grateful for.

            I don’t see why it always has to be an issue of being “equals”, that’s absurd, everyone’s got their roles and duties. Does an apple equal an orange?

            As for multiple wives, I’m all for it. More income if they’re working, shared household duties, and when one’s got a headache…

            • Esther

              hahaha re: headache ;)

              Let me ask you this: if your wife works and you are not only ok with it, but are grateful for the income, then clearly you must realize that women’s role in society has changed. So, assuming you do indeed realize that, why is your earlier comment advocating a perfect world with women in the kitchen? Am I missing something here? Please explain.

              Btw, multiple husbands wouldn’t be so bad either… One can do grocery shopping, one can take out the trash, one can do household repairs, one can satisfy my needs – not necessarily in that order…. ahh, a girl can dream.

              • Phil

                Esther,

                My wife runs a govt subsidized home daycare. So she works in the house, takes care of babies, cooking, changing diapers etc., while earning a decent living at the same time.

                I don’t know at what point women started doing the shopping, but men did that in the olden days. I do all the grocery shopping, as I’m a lot thriftier than my wife, as well as take out the garbage, hopefully satisfy etc, but I don’t do repairs.

              • Phil

                Esther,

                BTW, multiple husbands are bad, see the “good book”. A wife that has another man becomes forbidden to her husband forever.

                I hear of some African societies have that custom, but personally, I’m not much into the type of place where I need to forage for lizards or scorpions for dinner, or where I have to worry about my neighbor hacking me to pieces with a machete because the feathers on my head are a different color than his.

                • Esther

                  I never said I’m into polygamy. I was merely applying the “what’s good for the goose…” logic.

                  • Phil

                    I understand. But Torah doesn’t follow the “goose logic”. Besides, multiples wives would solve the so called “shidduch crisis”, but then we’d have the “shadchan out of job crisis”.
                    More topics for another post.

        • A. Nuran

          “Women had it easy”

          *snrf*
          *hmff*
          BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

          *wipes tears from eyes*

          Good Lord, Phil. That’s got to be the funniest piece of deadpan bullshit I’ve ever heard!

          • Phil

            Nuran,

            Do you seriously believe that women have it easier today, when they are expected to be both moms and equal income providers?

            • Esther

              Look, I don’t think women had it easy then nor do we have it easy now. But that really wasn’t your point, was it? Your wife sounds like a superwoman – and she does it all while sweating under her wig (Making a point here. I’ve been told that a quality sheitl is weightless and a woman hardly even notices its there. My views on covering hair with someone else’s hair are a discussion for another day). It really doesn’t matter when women started shopping. Frankly, who are you to question that? I will grocery shop if I want/need to.

              I guess in my perfect world it really wouldn’t matter who started doing what at what point and it wouldn’t be questioned at every step of the way.

              • Phil

                Esther,

                My wife IS superwoman, that’s why I married her. We’re lucky to have air conditioners, so she doesn’t need to sweat it out.

                As for shopping, it was always the man’s duty to bring home the food, whether he was hunting, fishing, trapping or harvesting. I don’t see why that was changed once supermarkets opened, and I have no problem handling all our grocery shopping even though we have 6 kids. I’m not saying women are forbidden to shop, it’s a free country.

                Anyway, my original point was meant as satire, though it was based on true facts. Women don’t have to cover their hair in their own homes/kitchens, and if that turned Yankel on enough to bend her over the kitchen sink…

                • Esther

                  AWWWW – you’re off the hook for saying that your wife IS superwoman.

  • re

    I cover my hair and my hair is still very nice, I even fix it in the beauty salon for my husband.

  • Chuckie D

    Misnag-dim oy vey

  • MadMaxInJerusalem

    Has anyone brought up the fact that it is Halachikly forbidden for a woman to shave her head? It comes under the prohibition of wearing mens cloths. Women wearing hats comes under the same prohibition, by the way.

    See Mishneh Torah, Sefer HaMada Hilchot Avodah Zarah Perek Yud Bet:

    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/i/1412n.htm#11

    • Phil

      Mad Max,

      Chassidim in general don’t learn too much Rambam, as they don’t pasken according to Rambam. Chabad is the exception, as the Rebbe instituted daily Rambam learning about 25 years ago.

      I wonder if Shulchan Aruch paskens the same way regarding head shaving. As for hats, I’m pretty sure women can wear women’s hats, it’s apparent from the Rambam’s ruling that he was referring to hats worn by men.

      • MadMaxInJerusalem

        Yeah, I just like to mess with people sometimes and see if they’re paying attention. Technically, the head shaving thing is also relative to societal norms, although I can’t think of any society off hand where it’s normal / acceptable for a woman to shave her head, meaning it’s still pretty much forbidden anywhere.

        • Phil

          Mad Max,

          They used to have some bald chicks back at a punk rock bar I used to go to as a teen, I think they also had them on Star Trek. I doubt either of the above count as normal or acceptable though ;)

  • ish yehudi

    a dirty site.

  • anonymoous

    Mr. Fried ,

    You are an extremely talented man. You are funny and insightful.
    I would suggest, that being the case, that you do a teeny drop of research
    before you malign age old minhagim of our bretheren. And I might recommend that you see the beautiful families that the women who maintain their traditions, are blessed with.
    Good luck in your work, but please try to stick to making fun of those who truly earn it.

  • anonymous

    Mr. Fried ,

    You are an extremely talented man. You are funny and insightful.
    I would suggest, that being the case, that you do a teeny drop of research
    before you malign age old minhagim of our bretheren. And I might recommend that you see the beautiful families that the women who maintain their traditions, are blessed with.
    Good luck in your work, but please try to stick to making fun of those who truly earn it.

  • shaya

    i think it’s totally ridiculous because in the torah it says that if you want to marry a non jewish girl captured in war you must shave her head and let her nails grow long so you won’t be attracted to her why would you do that if your supposed to be attracted to your wife it’s just plain stupid

  • Shmuel Tzvy

    The Torah commands that after a pretty shiksa is captured her head is shaved. The rule is part of that procedure, called Ashes Yafey Toar,

    Now no sane woman would marry one of these nuts so their wivees have to be captured