By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 31, 2008

Sheitl is a prominent word in "Yinglish" and refers to a woman's wig, worn for religious purposes as a form of head-covering. Sheital in German means hair (it is an older and rarer word than haar); it also means top or summit. The biblical origin of the requirement for a married woman to cover her hair is Numbers 5.18.

Where does one procure a sheitl? At the sheitlmacher's, of course. I'm no expert in the details of custom sheitls as opposed to off-the-rack or the off-styrofoam head but I do know one can end up paying through the follicle for these accessories.

The fact that one uses a Yiddish word for wig is an indication of the Ashkenazic origins of hair-covering using artificial hair. It is only relatively recently that Sephardic women started wearing sheitlech.

The Hebrew for wig, pe'ah nochri - strange or foreign hair - sounds much less attractive than the rather homely sheitl. Rather than drawing attention away from one's hair, it can actually attract the eye. This may well have been the basis for Sephardic rabbis objections to the sheitl.

Last updated: 3:31pm, August 6 2008