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Saturday, November 16, 2013 

The Satmar's atrocious belief that a married woman should shave her head

An ex-Hasidic woman wrote in The Forward (via Emet ve-Emunah) about how she felt humiliated by the Satmar community she once lived in when instructed to shave her head, which is fully against what Judaism is all about. However, I do believe she misunderstands something:
The morning after my wedding, three months after my 18th birthday, my mother shaved my head, and I felt absolutely nothing. Was I supposed to feel sad at this loss? Was I supposed to feel violated? I did not. Married women shave their heads because Hashem and the rebbe command them to do so. According to the Talmud, a woman’s uncovered hair is equivalent to physical nudity. Hasidic rabbis have taken this a step further, requiring women to shave their heads to ensure that not a single hair is seen. For Satmar women like me, it is a grave sin not to shave. You would not be buried in the Satmar beys-hakhayim, and if that weren’t serious enough, you would also put your children, live and unborn, at imminent risk of terrible diseases.
First, if I'm reading this correctly, that's not so at all that God ever wanted that, and one of the commentors points to some Torah/Talmud verses that refute the notion that a married woman must go that far:
1. It is not "Hasidic". It is Satmar. It is a Satmar custom that started recently (in Jewish terms). It's a Satmar thing. Everybody else thinks they're crazy.

2. Sephardi women have never had the custom of shaving their head. Even the hideous Rabbi Ovadia Yosef went to great lengths to prove that shaving all of one's hair is not halachically required nor is hair a forbidden interposition in the mikva [Yabia Omer Y.D. 4:1].

3. It is a mitzvah for both husband and wife to look attractive to each other. And I recall the midrash concerning women making themselves attractive to their slave-husbands in Mitzraim.

4. Indeed, since Biblical times, forcing a woman to shave her head was regarded as a punishment [Devarim 21:12].

5. In fact, according to normative halacha it is forbidden for a woman to shave her head under the prohibition for a woman to imitate the practices of a man.

6. It should go without saying that this practice is not halachically required, and, in fact, it is clear from the Talmud that this custom was never practiced [Eruvin 100b] Moreover, the Talmud itself declares it "repulsive" for a husband to be forced to see his wife without hair [Nazir 28b, Shabbat 64b].
Well there you have it. It's definitely not God's demand, but Teitelbaum's, whose own whiny, absurdist and sickening beliefs are brought up next by the article writer:
The Satmar Rebbe, Yoel Teitelbaum, famously gave emotional, tear-jerking speeches against married women growing their own hair. “Jewish daughters, our mothers and fathers gave up their lives to our Father in Heaven for the sanctity of His name, but you, their daughters, don’t want to give up even a few hairs?” he asked in a speech on Yom Kippur eve in 1951, according to “The Rebbe,” a 2010 biography by Dovid Meisels. “What does Hashem Yisbarach (God) ask of us? A few hairs! Because of a few hairs you are making yourselves lose both worlds. Jewish daughters, shave your hair and give honor to the Torah.”
Look who was talking. A man who only desecrated the Torah and violated the Commandment of Thou Shalt Not Use God's Name In Vain. Teitelbaum was the one who asked of them, for the sake of his own twisted beliefs.
I knew we were in trouble the moment I saw the letter on the official United Talmudical Academy stationary in the mail. The letter was curt and stated unequivocally that because of my failure to dress in accordance with the stringent tznius, modesty, rules of the holy shtetl, our 3-year-old son could no longer attend school. After the shock wore off, my husband and I scrambled to arrange a meeting with the Va’ad Hatznius — the mysterious group charged with maintaining the highest standards of modesty, especially for women. The group was known to resort to extreme measures, such as slashing car tires, when warnings and threats did not work to restore modesty.

[...] The group would send a woman to my house to check my head, the older man across from me said — all while keeping his right hand over his eyes to shield me from view. He spoke to my husband, never directly to me.
All because of such a petty subject, they threaten to banish her child from their school. One he would be better off not attending. And the spokesperson for the Modesty Squad humiliated God's creation by refusing to look at or speak to her directly. Thankfully, both she and her husband saw the light and left the community. I don't know if they're still religiously observant, but I've long understood that the horrific beliefs the Satmar go by are a good way to alienate people from Judaism as a practice, and if anyone's to blame for discouraging somebody from religion, it's groups like the Satmar with their Orwellian customs.

I hope the woman and her family are doing well in the world outside the narrow one maintained by the Satmar, and similarly, I hope she doesn't believe that Judaism runs some bad customs just because of what the Satmar told everyone to think. Teitelbaum was a disgrace, doing Judaism a horrible disservice, and a way must be found to reverse all that.

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