Interesting Facts about Jewish Kippah

The kippah is traditionally worn by Jewish men. Many traditionally observant Jewish women who have been married cover their heads more completely with scarves, hats, or wigs, but for a totally different reason. Today, some Reform and Conservative women wear a kippah. Some Jews wear kippot only while praying, eating, reciting a blessing, or studying Jewish religious texts.

red velvet kippah

Red Velvet Kippah

Often the color and fabric of the kippah can be a sign of adherence to a specific religious movement. The Israeli Religious Zionist community is often referred to by the name kippot srugot, literally knitted kippahs though they are typically crocheted. American Orthodox Jews often wear suede or leather kippot which require clips to hold them in place. Members of most Haredi groups usually wear black velvet or cloth kippot. Because of this, men who wear these kippot are sometimes referred to as kipot shekhorot, literally black kippot. In addition, in general, the larger the kippa, the more right-wing politically and the more observant the wearer is (and sometimes for hair loss). And by contrast, the smaller the kippah, the more modern and even liberal the person is.

Seinfeld-themed Happy Festivus embroidery on a yarmulke.

In the early 19th century in the United States, rabbis often wore a scholar’s cap (large saucer-shaped caps of cloth, like a beret) or a Chinese skullcap. An engraved portrait of the Moldavian rabbi Benjamin ben Benjamin (Rabbi Benjamin II) shows him wearing a Chinese silk skullcap.

In modern contexts, it is also common for non-religious Jews or even non-Jews to wear a simpleĀ kippah, or to cover their heads as a sign of respect, when present at Jewish religious services or at Jewish sites, such as Yad Vashem and the Western Wall. Male Jews and non-Jews alike are asked to don a skullcap in the vicinity of the Western Wall, and returnable skullcaps are provided for this use.

Any form of head covering is acceptable according to halakha (Jewish law). There are no hard and fast rules on the subject, although the compact, lightweight nature of a kippah, along with the fact that hats for men have fallen out of fashion in the West after 1960, may have contributed to its popularity. Kippot have become identified as a symbol of Judaism over the last century. Haredi men, who mostly wear large black cloth or velvet kippot, often wear fedoras with their kippot underneath. In the Hasidic community, this double head-covering has Kabbalistic meaning.

A ‘Kippah’ is normally produced of suede or cloth, and is worn around the head as a skullcap by orthodox Jewish males. It can be worn by all Jewish males when attending a religious ceremony including weddings, brit milahs, and bar / bat mitzvahs.

The sources for wearing a kippah are discovered within the Talmud. In Shabbat 156b it states: “Cover your head in order that the worry of heaven may perhaps be upon you.” In Kiddushin 31a it states, Honah ben Joshua certainly not walked four cubits (two meters) with his head uncovered. He outlined: ‘Because the Divine Presence is constantly more than my head.”

Kippah with Stars of David

Kippah with Stars of David

As towards the obligation of wearing a kippah, halakhic professionals agree that it’s a minhag (custom). The prevailing view amongst Rabbinical authorities is the fact that this custom has taken on a type of force of law (Shulkhan Arukh, Orach Chayim two:six), since it is an act of Kiddush Hashem. Also the Taz held that now all Jewish guys above the age of 13 are essential by torah law to put on a head covering in any way occasions. From a strictly Talmudic point of view, but, the only moment when a Jewish man is essential to cover his head is through prayer (Mishneh Torah, Ahavah, Hilkhot Tefilah five:five).

Some Jews put on two head coverings, ordinarily a kippah covered by a hat, for Kabbalistic good reasons: the two coverings correspond to two ranges of intellect, or two ranges within the worry of God. The Kohen Gadol (High Priest) with the Temple in Jerusalem also utilised to put on a woolen kippah beneath his priestly headdress.

Dedicated to Jewish Hats