52 posts categorized "Jewish Customs and Practice"

Is Your Sheitel (Wig) Kosher?

Several years ago, it was discovered that many wigs that observant Jewish women were wearing contained natural hair from India, where many women are idolaters. Jewish Law strongly prohibits using or deriving benefit from anything connected to idolatry. It caused a tremendous scandal, and here in Israel, all wig-wearing observant women moved over to hats and scarfs until the wigs reappeared with "rabbinical kosher certificates", that the hair was either European (which is very expensive) or synthetic (which many women call "donkey tails" and is considered unfashionable).

Fast forward a decade. We just received a comprehensive, strongly documented report on the state of kashruth in wigs from Rebbetzen Ahava Margaretten which you can download at this link: Download Indian Hair Report.

For those who are skimming this article and won't download the whole report, here is a shocking excerpt that one cannot ignore:

Interview with a shaitel macher (wig-maker) with 18 years experience:

“I would like people to know... that myself first hand can attest to the utter misrepresentation we are handed with our shaitels. I have been a shaitel macher for almost 18 years. I have learned from some of the industry's leading members how to identify hair, physically hand tie hair into a wig, how to construct a wig from scratch, as well as cutting, coloring, and washing techniques only know to the top artist. Approximately 8 years ago I began the difficult process of starting my own line of wigs. Making contacts and having representatives in China is not an easy process. I learned quickly that there are no morals in business in China. Hair which was hand selected here from brokers coming straight from Ukraine would be sent to China only to return blended and processed with other hair which I did not send or request.

The factories always offered tags for my wigs which stated "100% European hair" even if we had just negotiated using Brazilian, Mongolian, or Uzbekistan hair. They also always offered the "kashrus" label with the blessings from "the rabbi" which of course they told me didn't exist. At that point I realized that there was no way that I could create a product which I really believed in or stood by. I myself who was dealing directly with the factories would never really know if the hair which I sometimes cut from a woman here in the states would actually return unadulterated or blended with something else. The fact that the factories clearly had no scruples regarding misrepresentation to my customers meant that they would most likely swindle me too. I decided to forgo manufacturing my own line and the money that would come with it.

It's important for women to know that factories will insert any tag necessary to make a sale. Many shaitel machers have no clue that they are being duped. They are told it's European hair and that it has a hashgacha, but the reality is far from such. They simply don't know.”

-Quoted directly word for word on June 11th, 2017. Shaitel macher chose to remain anonymous in this report.

Who wants to play Russian Roulette with Halacha and even take the slightest chance with such a serious d'Oraita transgression as benefitting from idolatry, issur hana'a me'avoda zara. I want to clarify that although Rav Arush's and my wife and daughters cover their hair with tichelach (scarfs), I never interfere in the debate between the pro-sheitel and the pro-tichel factions, especially since many righteous spiritual leaders such as the Rebbes of Gur, Chabad, Vishnitz and Belz allow their female followers to wear wigs, as well as most of the Lithuanian and Yeshivish world. Yet, when it comes to such a serious breach that could be a tremendous stumbling block for the public, we here at the Beams found the urgent need to sound the alarms and flash the warning yellow lights. Please be very careful.

One thing is for sure - if you wear a wig, consider the advantages of moving over to synthetic. And, if you do make the commendable move from wigs to scarfs, we'll be happy to direct you our own Rebbetzen Racheli Reckles or to Rebbetzen Rivka Malka Perlman who'll be happy to show you how to look gorgeous in a scarf. Blessings for a lovely Shabbat!

May Women Wear Tzitzit?

Dear Rabbi Brody, Women tallit

I come from a Conservative Jewish background but after having read The Garden of Emuna and The Trail to Tranquility, I've been taking a more emuna approach to Judaism. I don't yet observe the Orthodox way, but I have started talking to Hashem every day and I love it. Thanks for turning me on to that. My question is about my wife. She's very much into messianic and egalitarian Judaism. She's a supporter of Women of the Wall and she even wears tzitzit. The truth is that I'm really embarrassed by that. Is she allowed to do so according to the Torah? Thanks so much, Marty from USA

Dear Marty,

Since tzitzit falls under the category of time-related positive mitzvot (mitzvat aseh shehazman grama), the Shulhan Aruch in Orach Chaim 17:2 rules that women are exempt. Yet, a woman wearing tzitzit is not violating Torah. Indeed, Maran states that a woman may wear a Tallit if she wants, but should not say a blessing, as is the Sepharadic tradition. On the other hand, the Rama adds that today it is considered arrogance for any woman to wear tzitzit and the Aruch Ha’shulhan (Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein of Novharduk, 1829-1908) agrees wholeheartedly that for a woman to go out of her way to get a four-cornered garment in order to put tzitzit on it is arrogant. In recent years, women wearing Tallitot and tzitzit have come to symbolize some form of "alternate" Judaism, such as egalitarian, messianic, reform or whatever. In light of all this, a Torah-observant woman who heeds the generation's Halachic authorities shouldn't wear tzitzis or a Tallit.

In your case, Marty, don't say a word to your wife against her or against her beliefs. Devote ten minutes a day of your personal prayer to asking Hashem to open her heart to real emuna. Follow the Garden of Peace to the letter and whatever you do, don't criticize her because that's even worse than her wearing tzitzit. I suggest that you learn one of the emuna books with her every day; she'll love the attention and you'll grow together. Be patient and you'll succeed.

Every blessing, LB

Birkat Ha'ilanot: Blessing of the Trees

New beginning

Once a year, during the Hebrew month of Nissan, we have the special mitzva of making a blessing over (at least two) blossoming fruit trees. According to Kabbala, this blessing is deeply significant, and helps correct the soul that is reincarnated within the tree. That soul is forever beholding to the person who makes the blessing, for he or she has done a great favor in helping that soul attain its tikkun, or correction.

You have from now until Wednesday, April 26, 2017 to fulfill this wonderful mitzva. All you need are two blossoming fruit trees within reasonable distance of one another (i.e. that you can see both at the time of making the blessing). Since some poskim say that the blessing shouldn't be made on grafted trees, it's a good idea to look for wild fruit trees or trees like olives, pomegranates or date palms here in Israel.

For your convenience, here is the blessing,

In English: Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the Universe, who let nothing lack in His universe and created within it good creatures and good trees in order to give pleasure to human beings.

In Transliteration: Baruch ata Adonoi, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, she-lo chisar be-olamo klum v-vara vo beriyyot tovot ve-ilanot tovim lehanot bahem bnai Adam.

In Hebrew:  ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם שלא חסר בעולמו כלום וברא בו בריות טובות ואילנות טובים להנות בהם בני אדם

May your Passover and upcoming summer be as fragrant as a citrus blossom! Now is the time for wonderful new beginnings. Every blessing, LB

Parashat Ha'Man - Story of the Manna

Today is Tuesday of the week we read the Torah portion of Beshalach. Our sages tell us that reading the episode of the manna today - Parashat Ha'Man, which appears in this week's Torah portion - twice in Hebrew and once in Aramaic, is very conducive for one's good income the entire year. Don't miss this special opportunity to bring down more Heaven-sent bread to your doorstep.

If you can't read Hebrew, read Exodus 16:4-36 in your English bible - that's Parashat Ha'Man.

To learn more about Parashat Ha'man and making a pleasurable income, check out Rabbi Shalom Arush's superb article, Pack Mule.

Happy Lag B'Omer from Ashdod

Here's a quick clip I made, having been privileged to attend our annual Lag B'Omer bonfire in Ashdod with the Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a this evening before leaving for the airport. Usually, after the bonfire here we head for Rebbe Shimon's holy gravesite in Meron. This year, we're headed for Monsey, NY, the first stop of a 2-week USA speaking tour. Happy Lag B'Omer, and we hope to see our wonderful friends in the USA soon, G-d willing.