Nov 17, 2011

Letter To the Editor: The Judge Wears A Wig???

This past week's Mishpacha (Hebrew) Magazine had a Letter To The Editor that I'd like to point out. I have seen many similar letters over the years, and it bothers me.

The week before, Mishpacha ran an article about a Jew in England who has reached the pinnacle of the justice system and is a justice on the Supreme Court of England. I no longer have the original article, but it was interesting, dealing with his relationship with many rabbonim and gedolim and the jewish community and issues in general.

Last week someone wrote a Letter to the Editor about that article:
To translate:
[The interview with the judge of the Supreme Court was very interesting but raised a number of questions: Who allowed the judge to wear a wig? What about "Lo Tilbash"? And even if there is no issue of "Lo Tilbash", there might be an issue of "chukas ha'goyim".
I did not come to complain about the judge, who seems to be God fearing and careful about light and serious commandments equally, and has even merited to pour water on the hands of the gedolim, but it is important to point out in the article that his actions were done in coordination with the gedolei yisroel.. and not take things for granted....]

To be honest, when I first started reading this letter, and I got to the point of  "Who allowed the judge to wear a wig?", I said to myself - his issue are that wigs are not allowed? not tzniyus? What does he want - the judge should wear a tichel??? I thought that was funny.

Then continuing on I saw his issue was with the Lo Tilbash. The answer seems obvious to me, even if perhaps some might not agree - this is not the type of wig that is a woman's wig, and therefore is not under the "Lo Tilbash" issue. It is unique for the justices, most of whom anyway have always been men, and therefore not an issue.

Then his suggestion that it might be "chukas ha'goyim" led me to wonder. His wearing a wig is chukas ha'goyim? His whole existence on the court is dealing with chukas ha'goyim! And he should be worried about the wig?? In Israel the chief of the Beis Din ha'Gadol had been offered the position of a Supreme Court Justice and had supposedly been told by gedolim not to accept it so as not be part of "erchaos" - the secular court system, the man-made laws rather than the laws of God - and this fellow is worried about the wig being chukas ha'goyim??!!

Besides for the specific points, as mentioned they each can easily be responded to, what bothers me is more the attitude that people feel it is ok to poke their nose in the relationship others have with God. If this fellow is frum, and he is, and he has a relationship with rabbonim and gedolim, can't we just assume he asked his own questions on issues he needed resolved? Do we really have to look for the things other people might be doing wrong?

If he was harming people with his actions or court decisions, by forcing non-Jewish ways on the jewish community, I could see room for such a discussion of justifying, or lack thereof, of his actions. But to dig into his personal life and ask how he can do this or that, is just too much, and unfortunately too common.


  1. isnt the shtreimel originally sourced from goyim?

  2. That was one daft letter by the questionner whoever he may be and it shows that not only is sanctimoniously poking his nose into other people's business, but he has no clue about what he is talking about.

    A British judge's wig is most definitely not a wig similar to anything worn by any women. It is a (pretty silly looking) hat that gets called a wig. Until recently, only men wore them (as women weren't judges), so there goes the the lo tilbash argument.

    As for Hukkot HaGoyyim, the aforesaid wig has no connections to any avodah zarah so therefore it is no Hukkot Goyim. It just happened to be high fashion in the UK about the same time that people started wearing shtreimels in Poland. I suppose that makes the trousers (sorry, "pants") you're wearing Hukkot HaGoyim as well. They certainly weren't worn by Moshe Rabeinu.

    I can't imagine why the honorable judge would need to ask any gedolei yisroel whether he can wear a judicial wig or not. As you pointed out the question might be whether he can judge by civil law or not.

    Isn't it a shame that people trying to look so learned and pious show themselves to be so ignorant?

  3. There is an explicit tshuva from the Maharik (#83 I think) that permits wearing a scholar's robe because it is indicative of a profession and not of non-Jewishness, and so does not fall under hukkot hagoyim - as opposed to non tzniut clothes like the red shoelaces mentionned by the Gemara or even modes of dress people readily identify as specifically non-Jewish. The thing is nowadays everyone dresses the same, Jew or non-Jew, so the issue is more or less moot, with the exception of what is now relegated to folkloric dress.
    On the other hand, the custom for centuries was that Jewish clothes were buttoned right on left (like the chassidim still do) whereas the Goyim buttoned left on right. It would be interesting to know when we started to do like them and if ti was really muttar to begin with.

  4. Where does he get the idea that wigs are female garb??

    On wigs, see

    and of course Haham David Nieto, who also knew a thing or two about halacha

    and actually many others.

    It's entirely possible that the letter is a joke, but the fact that it is plausible . . .

  5. "...what bothers me is more the attitude that people feel it is ok to poke their nose in the relationship others have with God...
    But to dig into his personal life and ask how he can do this or that, is just too much, and unfortunately too common."

    Thanks, Rafi. Exactly so.

  6. Personally, thought he wrote the Ivrit letter in a respectful manner. There are those who are lacking in knowledge of societies norms, and he was not embarrassed to inquire.


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