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Why Wear Both a Kippah and a Hat?

Why Wear Both a Kippah and a Hat?

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Question:

Rabbi, I read all about the reasons behind wearing a kipah (skullcap) on your site, and I get that. But what’s with the hats? Why do I see Jews wearing a hat in addition to their kipah when they pray?

Reply:

Yup, many Jews wear fedoras, or other hats such as fur shtreimels, especially when they pray. If you’re wondering about the nuanced differences in width, material and shape, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I am a rabbi, not a sociologist, and the hat styles are more a reflection of communities’ social norms than anything else. Instead, I’ll discuss the practice of wearing a second headcovering—any headcovering—during prayer.

The notion of donning a special garment before prayer is a very old one. The prophet Amos proclaimed, “Prepare yourself to meet your G‑d, O Israel.”1 The rabbis explain that this means that one should make preparations before praying, including preparing special garments,2 as if one was meeting an important dignitary.3

Additionally, prayer nowadays takes the place of the offerings on the altar in the Holy Temple. Just as the priests who brought the offerings wore special uniforms, so should we pray in special clothing.4

So if any special garment can be worn for prayer, why do we specifically wear hats? In the past, it was the custom that when men went out in public or had a meeting with an important person (or a great rabbi5), they wore a hat. As such, hats were required for prayers as well.

Accordingly, some suggest that people who never wear hats for important meetings do not need to wear one during prayer either (provided that they wear another special garment),6 and those who do occasionally wear hats7 should wear them during prayer.8

Wrapped in Humility

Others, however, teach that the hat is more than just a societal norm. It imparts a sense of humility that there is a G‑d above. Thus, even if you never wear a hat in other settings, you should still do so during prayer.9

Indeed, we find that it was the manner of “Torah scholars and their students” to pray only while they were “wrapped or cloaked” (ittuf), since this imparts a sense of awe of heaven.10 The concept of ittuf refers to wearing a hat or tallit (or jacket) during prayers.11

But if one wears a hat during prayer, is it necessary to wear a kipah as well?

The High Priest’s Double Covering

As explained earlier, prayer nowadays is in the place of the services performed in the Holy Temple. In the Talmud, we find that the high priest actually wore two head coverings—a kipah and a turban—when serving in the Holy Temple.12 Accordingly, it is appropriate to mirror the high priest by wearing a hat over a kipah.13

Mystical Coverings

Our sages tells us that the soul is referred to as nefesh (soul), ruach (spirit), neshamah (breath), chayah (life) and yechidah (singularity).14 The Kabbalists explain that these five names are actually five different levels of the soul. Nefesh is the life-force of the physical self; ruach is the emotional self and “personality”; neshamah is the intellectual self; chayah is the supra-rational self—the seat of will, desire, commitment and faith; and yechidah is the essence of the soul as it is united with its source, the singular essence of G‑d.15

While the lower three levels of the soul function from within the body, the higher two, chayah and yechidah, function from above. The Kabbalists explain that wearing a double head covering reflects these two loftier levels of the soul. By connecting these two transcendent elements of the soul with a physical act,16 we help reveal them in this lowly physical world.17

So although one may not be technically obligated to wear a hat in addition to a kipah, doing so adds to one’s humility during prayer, and serves as a conduit to help reveal the deeper aspect of the soul.

Footnotes
2.
Talmud, Shabbat 10a.
3.
Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 91:5.
4.
Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 98:4; Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 98:4.
5.
See Piskei Teshuvot 91:3.
6.
See Responsa Tzitz Eliezer 13:13.
7.
Based on this criterion, any chassid or student who would be particular to wear a hat in the presence of his rebbe or rosh yeshivah would need to wear one during prayer.
8.
Piskei Teshuvot 91:3.
9.
See Levush, Orach Chaim 151:6, and Eliyah Rabbah 183:16 (citing the Shaloh), who state that for this reason one should wear a hat in addition to a kipah.
10.
Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 91:6; Mishnah Berurah 8:4.
11.
See Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 183:6 and Mishnah Berurah 8:4.
12.
See Talmud, Chullin 138a, and commentaries ad loc.
13.
See Likkutei Sichot, vol. 9, p. 276, where the Rebbe notes that this is the source for the custom that many have to wear both a kipah and hat at the same time.
14.
Bereishit Rabbah 14:9.
15.
For more on this, see What Is a Soul?
16.
For more on why we connect the spiritual with physical acts, see Why All the Symbolic Rosh Hashanah Foods?
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service.
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Sheldon Steinlauf Park Ridge August 16, 2017

If it's a byproduct humility, why do men in "frum" shuls spend a lot of money on Borsalino fedoras? Better to use that money to feed the poor or other equally worthy obligations instead of "keeping up with the Goldsteins. Or worse yet, to feed their egos. Reply

Anonymous Texas August 16, 2017

I also was taught there was nothing special about the Kippah and that any head covering, even a baseball cap does the trick. Am I wrong'? Reply

Gary Europe December 11, 2016

Hat and Kippah I'd like to ask the question the opposite way. If one is wearing a hat, what is the purpose of wearing a kippah? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there is anything sacred about a kippah. I always took a kippah as a proper head covering in places where wearing head coverings would be impolite: in a home or office for example, and that a hat is just as adequate a head covering for mitzvot purposes as a kippah. Reply

Chayim via chabadnw.org October 26, 2015

לא תלכו בחקת הגוי I was taught that the reason behind wearing a hat during davening, is because the church has a rule that one should remove their hat when entering the church. This seems to make sense, since it would have an actual basis in halacha. (לא תלכו בחקת הגוי) "and you shall not follow the laws of the nations". Reply

Robert Berkovits Annapolis Md. via chabadannearundel.org October 23, 2015

Double covering Hat is a sun shield for the face and both help you keep warm. Less radiation from the head. Reply

Bob baltimore via chabadofparkheights.com October 23, 2015

Hats It would be difficult for me to feel humble in a $2,000 Streimel! Reply

Sheldon Steinlauf Park Ridge, il August 16, 2017
in response to Bob:

Well said. Better to donate the money to help the poor Reply

Anonymous via lubavitchnh.com October 22, 2015

Wearing hats/Kippos This insures double coverage for afterlife insurance. Reply

Yeshiva October 21, 2015

This is beautiful philosophy but can turn out to be cruel Reply

Anonymous October 21, 2015

Conversational prayer Interesting post. What about conversational prayer. I like to talk to G-d as a best friend. I talk to Hashem while Im lying on my bed and when I'm walking outside, am I being disrespectful? Reply

arthur yanoff October 21, 2015

2 hats the hat keeps our khop from swelling. 2 hats make the message clear. also we often take our black hats off in shul during warmer weather. Reply

Diane Fertig Eugene October 21, 2015

Thank you Rabbi, that answers many questions for me. I am a lady,and wear hats,or scarfs and kipper. I am not Orthodox, yet am learning. I understand that women wear wigs,is that for the same purpose as the men showing respect for the Holy one? Thank you for your time. Reply

Anonymous October 21, 2015

OK But Why A $300 Hat From Italy? Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn ny October 21, 2015

Shtreimel is a noted chasidic garb which the. previous rebbe wore

& from reb Pinchos mikurtz spoke about this too Reply

Zeev Breiner October 21, 2015

litvish approach very simple its honorable way to approach God, and why should you put kippah down for no reason. Reply

sunil subba India October 20, 2015

Wearing the kipah would make one realise and be connected to G-d making the prayers more effective. Reply

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