Issues of Shalom Bayis (peace in the home) and any other deciding factor aside, does the husband have any "right" or "privilege" (from a halachic standpoint) to decide how his wife will cover her hair (tickle (kerchief), sheitel (wig), etc.)? Or for that matter can he decide on other issues of tznius (what type clothes his wife will wear, etc.)? I'm looking for sources in seforim, poskim, etc. if any exist (and not hashkafic answers based on experience, madrich chassanim (a bridegroom teacher), etc.).

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    It seems Michoel and I understood your question differently. Are you referring to choices which are different in their level of tzeniut (but all meet some minimal standard, or perhaps about which there is a machloket between his rabbis and hers), or choices that are essentially arbitrary (ie personal preference)?
    – Double AA
    Dec 20 '12 at 4:51
  • @DoubleAA Please see my comments to my answer. I never meant to imply choices that have no value in Halacha.
    – Michoel
    Dec 20 '12 at 23:25
  • Ditto @DoubleAA's question. I have to assume that you are referring to differences in strong customs (the Lubavitcher Rebbe strongly endorsed Sheitels vs. the Chasam Sofer who strongly opposed them), or in Halachic rulings (which would probably relate to issues of amount of hair showing or interpretation of Das Yehudis vs. Das Moshe). Otherwise, what right would a husband have to tell his wife what she may or may not wear? Does he pick out her sweaters for her, too?
    – Seth J
    Dec 21 '12 at 15:41
  • these things should be resolved prior to getting married.
    – Dude
    Nov 13 '15 at 0:46
  • Halacha does say a wife is a "property" of the husband, no?
    – ninamag
    Aug 31 '17 at 4:49

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein clarifies his view in Igros Moshe EH4:32, sections 6 & 10, addressing Rabbi Elyakim [Getsel] Ellinson:

  • Nowadays a man can't divorce his wife because she refuses to cover her hair (at all.)

  • Generally a wife should adopt her husband's practices; however, what sort of hair covering she should use is her decision -- i.e. if she feels a sheitel is inadequate and would rather use a hat, he can't demand a sheitel; if she feels a sheitel is adequate, he can't prohibit it -- this is just totally private to her. However he may object if she wants to shave her head. Rabbi Ellinson saw these three stances as contradictory, to which Rabbi Feinstein politely replies he has no clue what Rabbi Ellinson means.

  • R' Moshe's wife did not follow his psak not to wear a sheitel. When his son asked him, he said she had other poskim than him to rely upon.
    – Adám
    Jul 30 '13 at 21:06
  • @NBZ do you have a source for that?
    – bondonk
    Sep 16 '14 at 16:20
  • @bondonk Note 5 here.
    – Adám
    Sep 16 '14 at 18:01
  • Does kisui rosh not fall under the "adopt your husband's minhag" principle?
    – SAH
    Sep 28 '17 at 3:17
  • @Adám If I'm not mistaken, Rav Moshe's was the famous teshuvah permitting sheitlech. Do you know otherwise?
    – SAH
    Sep 28 '17 at 3:20

In general most poskim rule that the women has to adopt the customs of the husband. See for example Yabiah Omer vol. 1 OC 37 (and the many refrences there), Iggres Moshe OC 1:158, Halichos Shlomo Tefilla Chapter 1 footnote 7 and Techuman vol. 7 pg. 79 from Rabbi Chaim Dovid Halevi (past Cheif Rabbi of Tel Aviv).

R' Ovadia Yosef and R' Moshe Feinstein learn that the obligation is likened to a person who moves to a new place and does not plan to return who adopts the stringencys and leniencies of the new place. R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach argues and maintains that the obligation stems from the fact that the wife is subservient (meshubad) to her husband.

Therefore if the husband's family custom is to dress in a certain manner of tznuius or cover women's hair in a certain way the wife is obligated to confine.

  • Isn't it a bit of a stretch to say the man has a minhag about covering his hair (aside from the material of his kippah, of course)?
    – Double AA
    Dec 20 '12 at 1:03
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    Also to what extent is this for customs in how to paskin (eg. 1 hour vs 6 hours, sefardi vs ashkenzi) vs non halachik customs?
    – Double AA
    Dec 20 '12 at 1:13
  • @DoubleAA I have edited my answer to clarify.
    – Michoel
    Dec 20 '12 at 1:31
  • I'm afraid that wasn't my question (in fact I didn't even notice it). Do women's minhagim really pass through the man? How can a man pass on a tradition of how to do something that he doesn't do?
    – Double AA
    Dec 20 '12 at 3:25
  • @DoubleAA Certain groups have certain minhagim. For example the custom of Lubavitchers is to specifically wear only a sheitel and not a tichel in public. If a non-Lubavitcher woman marries a Lubavitcher man, it would seem based on my reasoning above he has basis to make her cover her hair in that manner.
    – Michoel
    Dec 20 '12 at 4:37

Well, a husband can divorce his wife and not pay her Ketuba money if she doesn't cover her hair "properly" (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 115:1, 119:4). So if he is willing to threaten her with divorce then that would seem to give him a right (or at least an ability) to decide for her. That said, if the husband makes this threat it wouldn't surprise me if the wife decides she wants a divorce!

  • Does "properly" mean the way the husband wants? If she is fulfilling the requirements of Shulchan Aruch in covering her hair, can the husband threaten to divorce her if she does not confine with his particular preference (hat vs. sheitel vs. tichel)?
    – Michoel
    Dec 20 '12 at 4:39
  • @Michoel Based on the second reference: if the way she is doing it is less tzanua' then yes, he can, even if it meets a certain minimal formal standard.
    – Double AA
    Dec 20 '12 at 4:47
  • Are you aware of someone who says this applies nowadays? Rav Moshe Feinstein (as cited in Shalom's answer) says the opposite explicitly. Feb 12 '20 at 15:39

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