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Tichel Tales: Chapter 4

Gabriella Roth

“I did what all my friends did. I got a beautiful sheitel, wore it when out, and took it off the minute I got home”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"W hich tichel should I wear to the luncheon?” I ask breathlessly into the phone. I gaze at myself in the mirror, staring at the volumizer I’ve placed over my hair and the assortment of fabrics that surround me. Purple? Blue pleather? Or maybe I should wear the teal one with a pin?

My friend Shoshana is on the phone, playing my virtual coach. She knows I’m a nervous wreck about attending my very first tichel luncheon. “Relax, Gabby,” she says. “They’re going to love you. Just wear your favorite one.”

As I wrap my hair, I think about just how much I want these ladies to think I am one of them. I've only been wearing tichels for a short time. Will I look like a novice or a natural?

After a short drive, I pull up to the hostess’s house and knock softly. Inside, there are sounds of laughter, the smell of freshly baked bread, coffee, and is that apple pie? I feel like I’ve entered an ad for Good Housekeeping, except that everyone is in a tichel.

Shoshana lights up when she sees me. “Ladies,” she says, “my dear friend, Gabby.”

Right away, 30 or so women start kvelling over my tichel.

“Gorgeous tichel,” oohs Elisheva. “It really brings out your eyes and shows off your cheekbones!”

“Ladies, let’s get started. Our speaker has arrived,” shouts Riki, calling everyone to the table. The speaker is Bracha, who wears a navy tichel tied very simply, with a small light design brocaded on the side. Bracha grew up in Boro Park, into a family that’s been wearing sheitels for generations.

“I had a teacher in Eretz Yisrael, in seminary, who wore a tichel in the street, but a sheitel at home for her husband. This always struck me as odd, but somehow right. She wanted to reserve her outer beauty for her husband, to build the kedushah of her marriage.

“Of course when I got married,” she continues, “I did what all my friends did. I got a beautiful sheitel, wore it when I went out, and the minute I got home, took it off and put on a snood.” The crowd nods in recognition.

“Once I switched to tichels, the world saw me as married and my husband appreciated this dedication to him. I wore my sheitel in the house, and my marriage improved when I stopped dressing up for others and began only dressing up for my husband.” She blushes.

As she finishes, hands shoot up from the crowd with questions and comments. Bina, a 30-year-old nurse from a sheitel-wearing home asks, “But I don’t understand something. You look pretty in your tichel. You don’t look unattractive!”

“Why, thank you. Rav Falk in his sefer Oz V’Hadar says a tichel should not be ‘drab, somber and cheerless.’ We don’t want to give the impression that Yiddishkeit is restrictive or heavy; it’s a joyous way of life. Tichels just have a different energy than hair,” Bracha answered.

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