Divrei Torah

The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs

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Da Ma LeHashiv: Donning Kippot

By: Rav Eli Schenkolevsky
Director of the Sha'alvim Teachers College and rav of Nofei Aviv (Beit Shemesh), confronts contemporary issues

Question: Why must we don kippot?

Answer: The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, 2:6) rules that one may not walk 4 cubits (amot) bareheaded. Apparently the source for this halacha is the gemara in Masechet Kiddushin (31a). Rav Huna, the son of Rav Yehoshua would not walk 4 amot bareheaded; he would remark that the Divine Presence hovered over his head.

The gemara in Masechet Shabbat (156b) records the following. Masters of the horoscope informed the mother of Rav Nachman that he was destined to become a thief. She prevented Rav Nachman from being bareheaded, instructed him to cover his head in order that the Fear of Heaven should be instilled in him and prayed for success in this realm. This passage implies that not all men covered their heads.

The gemara in Masechet Kiddushin does not establish a requirement to cover the head. Rather, the action of Rav Hunda is recorded. This contrasts with the preceding passage that forbids one to walk with a straight forbearance (koma zekufa).

The Gra on Shulchan Aruch concludes that there is no prohibition to be bareheaded. In the presence of great people and during prayer it is proper to cover the head. Likewise the spiritually exalted people who are constantly engrossed in Divine Worship should cover their heads.

However, the Taz comments that nowadays it is absolutely forbidden to walk, or even to sit, bareheaded. The prohibition of following heathen practices (u'vechukotayhem lo teylechu) applies to being bareheaded, for the practice of Christians is to remove headcoverings upon entering a house. The Mishne Berura rules in accordance with the Taz (Siman 2, sub-paragraph 11). Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggrot Moshe , Orach Chaim, volume 1, Siman 1) concurs with this view (although he mentions that apparently the Magen Avraham disagrees).

However, I maintain that in our generation, donning a kippa is invested with additional significance. Nowadays, donning a kippa is a symbol; it proclaims that one accepts upon oneself the obligation of fulfilling the Torah and Mitzvoth. The lack of wearing a kippa connotes the opposite. The removal of a kippa almost always is accompanied with a rebellion towards the Rule of Heaven.

Many groups in the population use clothing as a means of maintaining an identity, to stress their uniqueness and to convey a message (this applies to a kippa as well-black, knitted, large, small, leather, cotton, soupbowl, miniscule, name of individual, institution etc'). Although we should not invest excessive importance in outer clothing, or judge people by their dress, the importance of donning a kippa assumes tremendous significance in our times.


Categorized under: 1: Halacha > General
Uploaded: 9/5/2005 6:36:40 PM