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Why Do We Wear a Kippah?

Why Do We Wear a Kippah?

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Question:

Is the kippah a symbolic reminder intended to prevent assimilation, or is the kippah a biblical obligation, like the tzitzit?

Answer:

The tradition to wear a kippah is not derived from any biblical passage. Rather, it is a custom which evolved as a sign of our recognition that there is Someone “above” us who watches our every act.

The Talmud1 relates that a woman was once told by astrologers that her son is destined to be a thief. To prevent this from happening, she insisted that he always have his head covered, to remind him of G‑d’s presence and instill within him the fear of heaven. Once, while sitting under a palm tree, his headcovering fell off. He was suddenly overcome by an urge to eat a fruit from the tree, which did not belong to him. It was then that he realized the strong effect which the wearing of a kippah had on him.

In Talmudic times, the practice of wearing a headcovering was reserved for men of great stature. In later generations, though, it became the accepted custom for all Jewish men to wear a kippah at all times, and especially during prayer. As with all Jewish customs, once they become a universally accepted Jewish practice, they become halachically obligatory.

According to some opinions, since wearing a kippah has become a form of distinction between Jews and non-Jews, failure to wear a headcovering falls under the prohibition of “you shall not follow their statutes.”2

Click here for more about the kippah.

Footnotes
1.

Shabbat 156b.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a writer who lives with his family in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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Shoshana GA June 25, 2017

Since Torah does not tell anyone, male or female, to wear a kippa I am glad the tradition to wear it does not affect women. Ancient Israelites used to be known by their garments but the kippa is a fairly new tradition. What Israel did wear back then is what Torah says we should and that is tzit tziot which I suspect women wore too. There are many other pagan people in the world that wear some form of kippa as a religious expression. Reply

M Brooklyn June 25, 2017

Hi, what is the explanation for why women do not wear kippah Reply

Rochel Chein for chabad.org June 25, 2017
in response to M:

A kippah is worn as a tangible reminder of G-d above. Women are innately more spiritual, and do not need this external reminder in order to remember their connection to G-d and think about Him throughout the day. Reply

M Brooklyn June 26, 2017
in response to Rochel Chein for chabad.org:

Thank you. I have heard this explanation before. So I feel it must be true. But what is the source for this very radical idea that women are more spiritually aware than men? Can we use the golden calf as a proof? is there a statement in jewish texts about why women do not need to wear a kippah? Reply

Shoshana GA June 27, 2017
in response to M:

Good point. Eve did not seem to have much spiritual discerment with hasatan and if I recal the golden calf incident involved both sexes. Reply

William (an interested goy) June 20, 2016

Is it possible that if, and I quote, (The tradition to wear a kippah is not derived from any biblical passage. Rather, it is a custom which evolved as a sign of our recognition that there is Someone “above” us who watches our every act), that the term kippah may have come from the word "kapporeth" since the Shekhina dwelt "above" ark of the covenant? Reply

Chaim Portland April 26, 2016

Yeah the full story would be nice here :) Reply

Amanda London March 20, 2016

What is the full story about the woman who was told her son would be a thief? Reply

David Merino Ocala March 2, 2016

I believe it's a good custom, to remind us that there is the greatest watching over us Reply

Anonymous USA February 18, 2016

Women don't have a bald spot I thought it was to keep your bald spot from burning in the hot desert sun... Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem October 9, 2015

More above The kippah can also been seen a divider between you and hashem. There is only so much a human can do, learn, create, be...human beings have limitations. Above us (and all around us) is hashem. The kippah is reminder that we have limitations and above us, hashem holds the limitless answers to all of life questions. Reply

Anonymous Jacksonville July 8, 2015

Lost Meanings Or was it originally worn to prevent your soul from assimilating with the other humans around that did not understand the complexities of the universe and to allow the Jewish people to preserve the knowledge and beliefs of their people? Perhaps the translation was lost along the way or maybe there are a few that still remember. But either way humanity needs to return to our roots. Reply

YellowYam Roswell October 28, 2014

Yamakazi Well, I'm glad it became accepted for all Jewish men to wear a kippah. Reserving a kippah for only men of great stature turns the cap into a symbol of prestige or great power, exactly the opposite of what a kippah intends to be. Reply

Shoshana GA May 1, 2013

Adding and taking away from Torah Why should Judaism identify with traditions that history shows began with the nations? We may call it whatever we want to but at the end of the day we have in fact added and taken away from Torah. Reply

Liora Pier San Jose, CA May 1, 2013

Liora Pier Since my Anonymous post in Severy, KS 3 years ago, I have further studied the kippah and the headcovering. I learned some from the word to cover in the Hebrew. But I learned even more from the word translated as uncover. Throughout the Torah and the Prophets, and even the use of it in 1st century literature, to uncover the head is a shame or a judgment of Hashem. In Mishle (Proverbs) 29:18, one literal translation reads, "Where there is no vision, the people are let loose (are uncovered), but blessed is he who guards the Torah." I learned that those who guard the Torah, not only have vision, but they cover their heads in reference to the King and His authority to give us the Torah and inspire holiness and keep covenant. To fear Hashem, is to keep the Torah, and covering the head is indeed one Biblical way of demonstrate this fear, and our commitment to a covenent keeping lifestyle. Reply

David Austreng Yacolt May 1, 2013

when in doubt, "wear it!". There is a reason that Rabbis wear the kippa. Demonstrate your fear of heaven and wear it!

David Reply

Shoshana GA April 26, 2013

where in Torah is it written that men should wear a kippa? When I see a sea of kippas on top of Roman priests I am reminded of how similar is this custom to the one adopted in Judaism in the Middle Ages and wonder if they do not come from the same pagan source. After all the kippa is round representing submission to the sun god moleck, jupiter or whatever lucifer is called. The head covering our ancestors wore was not a kippa. Why do we keep on insisting on doing what the nations do instead of being a set apart people? The kippa like the "star of David" are pagan (Amos 5) and should not be a part of those called out to be a light to the nations. Reply

From Liora Pier ie Anonymous, Severy San Jose, CA March 12, 2012

Response to the discussion Thanks to Jonathan from Spain for identifying this dome. I have not been to Jerusalem. It would make sense that the stained glass dome when be designed as a "kippah" for a synagogue.

When I spoke earlier in the discussion about women wearing headcovering I may have been misunderstood to mean that women wear kippah. To be clear I was referring to the haircovering as seen with a scarf, wig, or hat commonly observed with observant modest Jewish women.

Is ithe kippah commanded in Torah? If it was commanded for the priests, but the Hashem proclaimed Israel to be a nation of priests. Was this how the sages extended the practice. I too would like to know when the practice began. Was it after the destruction of the temple, when the altar was proclaimed to be in the home, at the Shabbat table? Reply

Jonathan Cadiz, Spain March 7, 2012

Photo @ Anonymous, Severy.

The photo, I believe, is the dome from the Hurvah synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. Reply

Marty Denver February 29, 2012

No adding or Subtracting laws I agree with Steve Katz and disagree with Baruch Davidson. As the Torah says, We are not to add or subtract laws. The article says, "As with all Jewish customs, once they become a universally accepted Jewish practice, they become halachically obligatory." It doesn't say that anywhere in the Torah, does it? I think the Oral Law was meant to keep the interpretation of the Torah fluid and dynamic. I understand and agree with why it was written down in the Talmud but that should not make it permanent. If we are to be a vibrant people, we need a living religion, not one which is static.
I think it would be more helpful to discuss why so many people choose to tuck in there tzizit rather than wear it out. The Torah makes it very clear that it should be visible. Thank you. Reply

Anonymous Kanata, ON February 29, 2012

to Anonymous in Severy The material of the dome window seems to say kippah and have gem records of mens' headcoverings through history. A picture can mean more than a thousand words. Reply

Adam Neira Paris, France February 29, 2012

Customs It is not a biblical commandment but rather a custom to wear a kippah. There are much more than 613 commandments in the Pentateuch and they can all be rated in some sort of hierarchy of importance. If some men want to wear a kippah so be it. Women wearing a kippah is not on in my opinion. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma February 29, 2012

this most beautiful picture reminds me, as it did, another person commenting, of the kippah, and this mirroring is profoundly beautiful. Many years ago a kippah was put on the dome of the MIT main building, as part of what students do in creating pranks at MIT. The dome of the Cathedral as portrayed in this picture is another metaphoric way of explicating a truth that is about one ness in all creativity and creation. I think this alone, speaks volumes, even without this article that is explicating to others the emergent meaing of wearing a kippa. I think if you bear G_d in your heart you could be said to wear that kippa. There re different ways of covering and uncovering one's true HEART. Reply

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