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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.

2.

Leviticus 18:3.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
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Discussion (25)
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.
Shoshana
GA
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.
Liora Pier
San Jose, CA
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
David Austreng
Yacolt
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.
Shoshana
GA
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?
From Liora Pier ie Anonymous, Severy
San Jose, CA
March 7, 2012
Photo
@ Anonymous, Severy.

The photo, I believe, is the dome from the Hurvah synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Jonathan
Cadiz, Spain
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.
Marty
Denver
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.
Anonymous
Kanata, ON
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.
Adam Neira
Paris, France
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.
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
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