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June 14, 1991 - Image 32

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-06-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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32

FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 1991

477-7344,

n the Western world, a
man shows respect by
taking off his hat; in Jew-
ish life, he shows respect by
putting it on. In Jewish tra-
dition, covering the head
conveys the wearer's sense
that there is a force in the
universe above him.
The head covering gen-
erally worn today is much
smaller than a hat.
Known in Hebrew as a
kippah, it is usually made of
cloth and is several inches in
diameter. A kippah is worn
by Orthodox males at almost
all times, and by Conser-
vative males in the syn-
agogue and sometimes when
eating. Some very observant
Conservative women also
wear a kippah.
In Orthodox circles, wo-
men would never wear a
kippah, though the more
traditional Orthodox mar-
ried women cover their hair
either with a handkerchief
or a wig. Once a woman is
married, her husband is the
only male who is supposed to
see her hair.
The Reform movement is
agnostic on the issue of male
head covering. Until recent-
ly, some Reform synagogues
actually forbade Jewish men
from wearing a kippah. In
recent years, there has been
something of a return to tra-
dition in Reform, and one in-
creasingly sees males wear-
ing a kippah at services.
Many American Jews
know the word kippah by its
Yiddish name, yarmulke.
The Yiddish word is of
uncertain origin, though it
has been conjectured that it
is a shortened form of two
Aramaic words,
Yarei
meelokha (one of who fears
God).
The kippah is a well-
known symbol of Jewish
religiosity. I once performed
a wedding ceremony at
which a member of the
American cabinet was pre-
sent. He asked me whether
he was required to put on a
head covering. I told him he
could if he wished, but Jew-
ish law does not insist that a
non-Jew attending a re-
ligious ceremony follow the
Jewish rituals. He then ask-

From the book Jewish Literacy
by Joseph Telushkin.
Copyright (c) 1991 by Rabbi
Joseph Telushkin. Reprinted
with permission of William
Morrow and Co., Inc.

A modern kippah.

ed with a smile: "But are we
goyim allowed to wear yar-
mulkes?" I assured him that
there was no objection to a
non-Jew doing so.
Indeed, during every elec-
tion year, one finds non-
Jewish candidates putting
on a kippah when speaking
in Orthodox or Conservative
synagogues.
Although the kippah
might symbolize to many
non-Jews a high level of
Jewish religiosity, wearing
one is a custom, not a law.
Nowhere does either the
Torah or Talmud mandate
that a Jewish male wear a
head covering.
In the 16th century, Rabbi

Although the
kippah might
symbolize to many
non-Jews a high
level of religiosity,
wearing one is a
custom, not a law.

Solomon Luria, one of the
leaders of Polish Jewry, was
asked by a man who suffered
from headaches whether he
was permitted to eat
bareheaded. Rabbi Luria re-
sponded that, in theory,
there is no requirement to
wear a head covering even
during prayers; one can say
the Sh'ma without covering
one's head. But since the
custom of Jewish males
covering their heads has
become so widely accepted,
people will think that any-
one who goes about
bareheaded is impious. He
therefore suggested that the
man wear a soft kippah
made of fine linen or silk.
Among Orthodox Jews,
various types of male head
coverings reflect the diff-
erent movements within Or-
thodoxy. Among the most
Orthodox, hats, which cover
the entire head, are pre-
ferred to yarmulkes. The
Chasidim wear fur hats on
Jewish holidays. Other,

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