I am new to your website, so perhaps this question has been answered previously. I have been enjoying watching Shtisel on Netflix, and was curious how the men actually curl their sidelocks into those perfect ringlets. Also, when a married couple’s bedroom is shown on the show, they have separate beds. Is this the norm, and if so, why?
Okay, a peek behind the curtains here. Sometimes questions are forwarded to me to answer as posts for the site but many other questions are sent to me just to answer for the one who asked. On occasion, the Powers That Be decide to take a Q&A that wasn’t originally intended for use on the site and to make it public. When this happens, I usually flesh out my original answer somewhat. Here is how I originally answered this question:
Thanks for your question. Honestly, I had no idea how chasidim curl their payes – in fact, I had literally never given the matter a moment’s thought! I asked the colleague to whom I turn when I’m stumped and he also had no idea. He directed me to another colleague, from a Hasidic background, who told me that the barber perms the payes. I asked if he was kidding and he assured me that that was in fact the answer. So now we both know!
As far as beds, there is a period in the month in which the couple may not be intimate. During this time, they sleep in separate beds. Many couples have twin beds; others might share a double bed most of the time with one partner moving to a twin bed or a futon for that portion of the month. So, yes, it’s common, but you may also see people apparently acting otherwise.
Now, I thought this was an interesting Q&A – as noted, it’s not something I ever thought about before – so I decided to share it on social media. It got a surprising amount of feedback, as follows:
- Apparently, perming is not the only way in which chasidim might curl their payes. Others chimed in that their hair is “trained” from an early age (which I didn’t even know was a thing), wrapping the payes around a pencil or a finger; Vaseline might also be involved. So perming may be one way that chasidim curl their payes but it’s apparently not the only way.
- Regarding separate beds, a non-Jewish friend asked me if the monthly period I referenced obliquely was the woman’s menstrual period. I answered her that it’s based on that but there’s more to it. To expand upon that idea here, after a woman’s period is over, there’s a number of “clean days” that she must observe before attending the mikvah and the couple resuming marital relations. I wasn’t explicit about this in the original answer because works of fiction like The Red Tent have given people the wrong idea and I didn’t want to get into all that unnecessarily. As I explain elsewhere, menstruation is just one of many things that causes ritual impurity under Torah law. It happens to be one of the few forms of impurity that we observe today because it both has a practical impact (affecting the couple’s ability to be intimate) and we have the ability to get rid of it with a mikvah alone (as opposed to requiring a sacrifice). Most other forms of ritual impurity make no difference in our lives and/or we lack the ability to purify ourselves in the absence of the Temple.
- When I posted the original Q&A on Facebook, I mentioned that I have not seen (or even heard of) the show Shtisel, on which this woman’s questions were based. A number of people chimed in that I absolutely should check it out. I replied that I was only three episodes into season two of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, so that might take a while. (This doesn’t really make much difference in the scheme of things but now you have an idea how my tastes run.)
Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
JITC Educational Correspondent