The tireless search for the perfect sheitle is a daunting one. Nabbing the perfect, and affordable, wig, first time out of the gate, is akin to finding a designer gown on sale for less than 100 dollars, in just the color you need for your next simcha. With a bracha from Hashem, it happens, and it feels like winning the lottery when it does.
When I called up the Partners in Torah organization eight years ago, looking for a mentor, I was clear with them about my goals. â€œPlease find me a frum woman who can help me learn the laws of Shabbos and Pesach, but please donâ€™t match me up with anyone who is going to pressure me to cover my hair. Itâ€™s not something I plan to do.â€
And so, they assigned me to dear, Adina Henderson, of Saint Louis, Missouri, the most patient, non-judgmental teacher, and I gave her my speech: â€œIâ€™m willing to keep Shabbos, kosher, mikvah. But Iâ€™m never going to wear a sheitle, so please donâ€™t expect that of me.â€ I could hear her smiling across the phone waves. â€œNo problem,â€ she said, and we proceeded with our first lesson.
A year later, I was progressing nicely in yiddishkeit, taking on new mitzvot by the week. Except for. . . covering up my gorgeous, back-length thick, wavy, hair, other than wearing a hat on Shabbos to shul to be respectful. Where I was living at the time, Yardley, PA, only a few women covered their hair. I wasnâ€™t â€œfrum enoughâ€ to be a card-carrying, sheitle-wearing, Jewish mama, or so I thought.
And then, Hashem intervened. As a public speaker for one of the books I had just published, I was stranded for a day in the airport, and to compensate me for my troubles, I received a free airline ticket to be used anywhere in the country in the next year. I put it in a desk drawer and completely forgot about it. . . until two weeks before it was due to expire, and I found it. â€œWhere to go in two weeks by airplane?â€ I wondered. I had been learning with Adina every week for a year, and a thought popped into my mind. I picked up the phone and called her.
â€œAdina, I have an airline ticket due to expire in two weeks. What do you think about me coming to visit you? Youâ€™ve been teaching me the laws of Shabbos over the phone. How about doing so in person?â€
Two weeks later, on a sweltering hot July day, I was standing in Adinaâ€™s kitchen, helping her make Shabbos. Unbeknownst to me, my – kind, non-judgmental, never going to push me into a sheitle- teacher, had a plan. She asked her sheitle macher to supply her with a box of sheitles to be just â€œsitting around her houseâ€, in case she had the opportunity to introduce the idea to her completely sheitle-reluctant student.
Two hours before candle lighting, I was complaining to her about how hot my snood was in the Saint Louis summer heat. Adina casually responded, â€œI know what you mean. I find that a sheitle is much more comfortable than a snood in this heat. You know, I happen to have a box of sheitles in the house. Have you ever been curious? You could take a look.â€
What fun. I never had the nerve to stick my hands into the Yardley rebbetzinâ€™s hair. Iâ€™d always wondered what a sheitle felt like. Adult dress-up, why not.
Adina brought out this box full of sheitles and showed me where the bathroom was. â€œHave fun,â€ she called out.
I opened the box and pulled out the first sheitle. A shiver ran up and down my spine. I was holding my hair â€“ the exact coloring, curl, and length. Below it in the box were short blond sheitles, red sheitles, a wide variety, but this first one. . . this was me. I placed it on my head and looked in the mirror. And the tears came. I looked like me. Only prettier.
I left the bathroom to show Adina. She tried to appear nonchalant. â€œLooks nice, why donâ€™t you keep it on for tonightâ€™s dinner, for fun?â€
I did, and I wore it the next day, too. Motzei Shabbos, I knew I would be purchasing it. Her Sheitle machor couldnâ€™t believe it. It needed no adjusting. It was perfect, right out of the box.
I was sure I was never going to wear a sheitle. Hashem had other plans when He stranded me in the airport for a day, one year earlier.
First Seen in Mishpacha, Family First, January ’08.