Friday, January 06, 2006

Yarmulke/Kippa Wearing

I've never heard a GREAT reason to wear a kippa. It's a minhag, albeit a strong one, so there must be some reason to do it. Growing up, I was told that it was to remind oneself that G-d is above you. I never got that one... If someone at work asks me why do Jewish people wear kippas, I generally say that it is a physical separation between man and G-d; that there are things in life that are spiritual, and there are things in life are physical. But recently this argument hasn't been doing it for me in my head, because G-d doesn't simply exist in a spiritual realm; we believe there are physical manifestations of his being on earth. Also, saying that it is a separation would be like saying "from my kippa down is my territory, from my kippa up, it's G-d's"...but according to the song "Hashem is here (below the kippa), Hashem is there (above the kippa), Hashem is truly everywhere!" So over the past couple of years I have reassessed why I wear a kippa, and have come a conclusion, which is the basis for this rant.

I have come to the conclusion that kippas don't exist to be a separation for MYSELF or to remind MYSELF that G-d is around. I don't wear a kippa for myself. I don't need a kippa to remind me that I'm Jewish and that I need to act a certain way. I wear a kippa as a reminder to others that I am a Jew. While mainstream orthodoxy has certainly integrated aspects of American society into it, us as Jews have always prided ourselves in being different; the kippa is the physical manifestation of being different (in my opinion). It is the kippa that tells people that the way they talk to regular Joe Shmoe is not the way they should talk to Yankel Goldberg. It is the kippa that lets others know that the kippa wearer is Jewish, and that he is representing how a Jew acts. Again, it is not for me that I wear a kippa, but for others.

It is for this reason that I am not especially strict in wearing a kippa in the privacy in my own home. Because the kippa is b'etzem for other people, if nobody else is around, the message of the kippa is temporarily lost. (It should be noted at this point that there are commentaries who take this approach to be the law, that one need not wear a kippa inside, only outside - interestingly enough, one commentary, the Melamed Liohel took this position, and only the editor chose to delete the position - leaving a blank page instead) While being lenient in kippa wearing is something that is cerainly looked down upon in the yeshivish world, not all hope is lost for me yet. While I am lenient about wearing inside, I am extremely for wearing a kippa at all times when in public. It bothers me so much when people take off their kippas in public, for any number of reasons. I have seen very "frum" people take off their kippas when playing basketball, working out, going to a bar (I would not suggest wearing a kippa to a bar, rather, to wear a hat). If the whole reason (according to me) we wear kippas is to tell others that we are Jews and that we are different, what are we telling them when they see us chucking our kippas on the sideline, putting our kippas away before we get on the treadmill, and tucking the kippa away before going into a bar? (I was recently guilty of this, and I felt horrible for days - I had brought a hat, but the rule in the bar was no hat - I should've either left, or worn the kippa) We are telling them that we are Jews, and we are different when it is convenient for us....but when it comes to working out, playing ball, or going to a bar, we are no different. Zeh lo tov.

What's your opinion? Let me know...


Anonymous Greg said...

When I take my kipah off when I'm on the treadmill, or at the dentist, I'm saying, "Hi, I dont like to have to squirm all over the place to find my kipah when it falls off every 10 seconds, I'm just here to get a workout and then go eat lunch."

There is something to be said for showing that we're different; it's called Kashrus.

Also, I think those that say you dont have to wear a kipah in the house say so for reasons other than what you have quoted.

There is a gemara in Sukkah that says God never comes down all the way to this world, just as Moshe never really made it all the way up to heaven, so there is something to be said for seperate domains in Jewish medrash.

I'm also going to assume that the Uncle Moishe rayah was brought in jest.

12:32 PM, January 06, 2006

Anonymous peninah said...

Not that I have any personal experience with this but I would think that some people remove the kipah before going on the treadmill because of the shear amount of sweat that can be produced while on the machine. I have a relative who removes his kipah at the gym and I think it is an extremely good thing because he sweats like a pig. It is pretty hard to wash kipahs also so for pragmatic reasons, I have no issues with people taking them off at the gym or playing b-ball. The rest of your thoughts are good though.

12:41 PM, January 06, 2006

Blogger Danny the Manny said...

Well ranted, Laz.

My problem is when people wear the wrong kippas for their ages, sizes, and states of life. Take a guy at my shul for instance who has a matching yamulke to his 5 year old son. It's one of those big black ones with drawnings of flowers adorning it and a cherry in the middle of it like a cake of some sort. Every time this guy walks into shul, I cringe. The cuteness of having matching headgear to his son has vanished and he just frankly looks like an enormous tool.

People, get with the program. Choose ones that match who you are. And those ones with the whole Ani Ohaiv Kol Yehudi have a nice message but are relatively ugly compared. Imagine if I tried to pull off that look for my entire body--similar to what Michael Teitcher does every Purim as a costume. the whole half-and-half guy look is left for one day a year when it is questionably funny (though, similarly, over time loses its appeal).

The point is, before latching on the yamulke in the morning, have the common decency to take a moment and reflect about what it means to you. Not for religious reasons, but to prevent you from coming across as a ned, dweeb, idiot, doofus, dork, nerd or, chas vshalom, a Rabbi.


12:42 PM, January 06, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Greg, I'll start from bottom to top.

The Uncle Moishey rayah was in jest.

I have heard of that Gemara before, and that's why I haven't totally given up on the reason - after all, it's the reason I tell people when they ask me.

I agree that my reasoning for not wearing a kippa in the privacy of my APT is different from that of the halachic authorities...they would hold you don't even need to wear a kippa in public, as long as it was inside. Just wanted to make the point that what I do isn't against halacha l'kuli alma.

I agree that Kashrus shows that we are different, but to a MUCH less degree. Case in point. Yesterday I had to go out to lunch with co-workers. 3/4 of them asked me why I wasn't eating anything. My point is that kippa separates us in the eyes of goyim. If goyim don't know about kosher, then how does that separate us? When we wear a kippa, immediately, bam, that person knows I'm Jewish.

And to address the first point, I just want to start out by saying that I have seen people frummer than I am, that know much more Torah than I do take off their kippa while working out and/or playing ball. So I'm not saying altz issur I disagree, I am saying that it bothers me. But if one bought in to my line of reasoning, I hope the cost of a couple kippa clips wouldn't trump the need to show others that one is Jewish....but, clearly not everyone buys in to my line of reasoning.

12:45 PM, January 06, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...


Like I said in response to Greg, if but if one bought in to my line of reasoning, I hope the cost of a couple kippa clips wouldn't trump the need to show others that one is Jewish....I have 30 extra kippas if dirtying up kippas is a problem.

12:48 PM, January 06, 2006

Anonymous peninah said...

Well Alan, you are just lucky to be able to afford that kind of luxury:) BTW, will there ever be a post about the Mentos situation?

12:52 PM, January 06, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just curious on how walking into a bar with a baseball hat, lets others know that you are jewish. Instead of them realizing that your jewish, you just look stupid...and you thereby accomplish nothing. In fact, if they end up finding out that your jewish, they will probably wonder why jewish people feel that they have to cover up their religion with a baseball hat (worn backwards and forwards)

12:53 PM, January 06, 2006

Blogger Danny the Manny said...

Anonymous, if you have ever been to Atlantic City or a bar you know that the only people who wear baseball caps are Jews afraid to show up in their regular kippas. The only other people who wear hats at bars are thugs. Maybe God created the kippa to make us look tougher.

12:56 PM, January 06, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...

I don't think it would be a wise idea to post about the Mentos. Inevitably, it would lead to someone eating non-kosher.

1:00 PM, January 06, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...


You bring up a good point. In an ideal world, wearing a kippa in a bar would be the ideal path to take, but apparently you've never been in a room with a bunch of drunks. It is the sad reality that people are inhibited to say the things that they think, but may be socially unacceptable. Friends and I ran into problems a couple of times at UMD on shabbos with drunk kids who threatened, curses, etc, us. Therefore, I do not believe that wearing a kippa in a bar would be recommended (now, you may say to not go to that place...I agree, but that isn't for now). In that case, wearing a hat is clearly the better path to take than going bare, as then at least HALACHICALLY you are following the rules, even if you aren't logically.

1:04 PM, January 06, 2006

Blogger Zazy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:54 PM, January 07, 2006

Blogger Zazy said...

In response to taking ones' kippa/yarmulke off in sweatful situations, I simply wear a covering that I do not mind getting drenched in sweat. As far as going into a bar, I just wear a hat and take it off when i am in situations that dont require wearing them, i.e. just idly sitting, but when involved in an activity that requires its use, such as eating, i would wear it.

6:58 PM, January 07, 2006

Blogger alan's mom said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:28 PM, January 07, 2006

Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

where's the reference from the melamed le-ho'il (=R' Dr. Dovid Tzvi Hoffman, poseik of early 20th century Germany)?

3:31 PM, January 10, 2006

Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

Orthodox kids at UMD drink????
I'm not mekabel.

3:57 PM, January 10, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...


Thanks for the post..I'm a fan of your blog. First of all, I'm guessing the drinking at UMD bit was a joke...if you know.

Secondly, I apologize but it appears I have misquoted the Milamed Liohel. Someone told me this was his position, and upon researching further, the context was different. The ML (mil. lih.) was asked the following shaila: can a jew make a shevua in court, being that his head wasn't covered. The ML answered (I don't remember exactly what Siman it is, somewhere in the Mem Zayin-Nun Aleph range - I don't have a copy at home) with a maisah - whenever he would go visit his Rebbe (R' Hirsch ZTL) his Rebbe would MAKE him take off his kippa. It apparently was the minhag there that when speaking with one's Rebbe, only the Rebbe wore a kippa, and that any other time, when they were learning, they would wear kippas, otherwise, they would go bare. I apologize for the confusion, but I think the same inference could be drawn from here (that being that it's not apikorses to go bareheaded inside). I have also seen a teshuva from the Marshal or Mar'sha on this, and also another opinion in the Beir Haitaiv in MB. I will follow up.

6:16 PM, January 10, 2006

Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

i've seen the maharshal that you refer to.
i've also heard that one's home is considered all the same 'daled amos' (like it is w/ regard to eruvin), so the 'issur' to walk 4 amos be-gilui rosh (cf. Kiddushin 30a) wouldn't apply.
and, yes, the UMD comment was said in jest. how long have you been reading my blog?

8:24 PM, January 10, 2006

Blogger Jack Davidov said...

You're dead-on. The main reason that I wear a yarmulke is to let people know that I am an Orthodox Jewish man. Why don't women wear them if there is a different reason. I take it in the following scenarios:

- When it's a pain to wear it (e.g. I'm working out and I forgot clips)
- When I'm in reasonable fear of getting targeted for being Jewish (taking night-time stroll through a really bad neighborhood)
- When I'm doing something that I wouldn't want to reflect on the rest of the Jewish people (giving a certain hand signal to another driver - not that I would do that :-) ).

1:52 PM, February 02, 2006


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