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Kippahs - To Wear or Not to Wear!

Aug 17, 2007
The kippah is a Jewish head covering generally worn by a religious Jewish man. You may also see it referred to as a yarmulke. In Yiddish, a kippah is referred to as a koppel, and in English, as a skull cap. Wearing kippahs came into practice during medieval times as a way to show respect to God and it is interesting that while for most of the world it is respectful to take your hat or head covering off, in Judaism it is considered respectful to have your head covered! According to the Talmud (Kiddushin 31a), wearing the kippah is a reminder to the wearer that God is their higher authority, and helps create an awareness of God in their life at all times; hence, religious Jewish men and boys traditionally wear kippahs at all times, except during sleep. Even when wearing a hat, an orthodox Jewish man will wear a kippah underneath. For those who are not orthodox, the kippah may just be worn when going to synagogue, and some only wear a kippah when they visit Israel.

If you are a man, it is considered respectful to put on a kippah when attending a synagogue service, whether you are Jewish or not, but while it is not forbidden for a woman to wear a kippah, it is also not required. Having said that, increasingly, in Reformed, Egalitarian Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism, women are now starting to wear kippahs. Fortunately there are now many beautiful feminine kippahs available on the judaica market for women.

Interestingly, since the Torah does not command Jews to wear kippahs, it is unnecessary to say a blessing, or b'racha, before putting one on. Kippahs can be made out of any fabric, including velvet, cotton, satin, suede, leather, organza, silk, and felt. They can be made in any number of ways: crocheted, knitted, stitched, etc. They can have designs or symbols on them, and can be as elaborate or basic as you want. Some are hand-painted with sports symbols or Hebrew letters, others are trimmed with gold and silver, and there are many that are custom-designed. Ones for women are often made with lace or out of beads.

There are kippahs for joyous occasions called simcha kippahs (simcha means "joy"); for instance, it is customary to have customized kippahs made for a child's bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, a wedding, or other Jewish occasion. Even when a baby boy has his bris (circumcision), he wears a special kippah that ties under his chin.
About the Author
Adam Barnett works for Studio Shofar Judaica & Gifts and hopes to help educate the judaica market to better understand judaica products in general. Visit his website to learn more about kippahs and other judaica items at www.studioshofar.com/kipot.html
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