:"Kipa" redirects here. For the supermarket, please see Kipa (supermarket). Distinguish from kipper."Infobox Halacha
verse =

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talmud = Shabbat 156b and Kiddushin 31a
rambam = [ Ahavah] , [ Hilkhot Tefilah] 5:5
sa = Orach Chayim [ 2:6]
A kippah or yarmulke (also called a "kappel") is a thin, slightly-rounded skullcap traditionally worn at all times by Orthodox Jewish men, and sometimes by both men and women in Conservative and Reform communities during services and other religious rituals. Its use is associated with demonstrating respect and reverence for God. [ "The Kippah" (]


There are different proposed etymologies for the word "yarmulke". According to most mainstream etymologists, it is a Yiddish word (ירמולקא) deriving from the Polish word "jarmułka", meaning "cap", ultimately possibly of Turkish origin. [See American Heritage Dictionary: or Merriam-Webster:]

Others propose that it is derived from an Aramaic phrase, "yarei malka", meaning "fear of the King [i.e. God] ," [For instance, Becher, Mordechai, "Gateway to Judaism: The What, How, And Why of Jewish Life" Artscroll-Mesorah Publishing, 2005. page 284, citing Rabbi Yehoshua of Belz, "Ohel Yehoshua", quoted in "Minhagei Yisroel, Orach Chaim, 1."] or from the Hebrew, "ya'arei me'Elokai", "those who tremble before the Lord."

The Hebrew-language equivalent, "kippah" (כיפה), plural "kippot" (כיפות), actually means "dome." The Gothic word "kappel" (cf. "chapel") still exists in the Yiddish term today and survives in the Viennese dialect word "kappl" (hat). The equivalent of the Hebrew word is the French "calotte" and the Italian "calotta", both referring to an architectural dome.


The sources for wearing a "kippah" are found in the Talmud. In Shabbat 156b it states: "Cover your head in order that the fear of heaven may be upon you." In Kiddushin 31a it states, "Rabbi Honah ben Joshua never walked 4 cubits (2 meters) with his head uncovered. He explained: 'Because the Divine Presence is always over my head."

As to the obligation of wearing a "kippah", "halakhic" experts agree that it is a minhag (custom). The prevailing view among Rabbinical authorities is that this custom has taken on a kind of force of law ("Shulkhan Arukh", Orach Chayim 2:6), because it is an act of Kiddush Hashem. From a strictly Talmudic point of view, however, the only moment when a Jewish man is required to cover his head is during prayer ("Mishneh Torah", "Ahavah", "Hilkhot Tefilah" 5:5).

Even this interpretation is in question; as recently as the 1600s, scholar David Haley of Ostrog, Ukraine, suggested that Jews should never uncover their heads in order to help distinguish them from Christians — especially while at prayer.

A Hasidic/Kabbalistic tradition states that the "kippah" reflects several ideas. One is that God covers us with His Divine Palm; indeed, the Hebrew word "kaf" means either "cloud" or "palm of the hand." The Hebrew letter Kaph is the first letter of the word "kippah".

Reasons given for wearing a "kippah" today include:

*Recognition that God is "above" mankind;
*Acceptance of the 613 mitzvot (Torah commandments);
*Identification with the Jewish people;
*Demonstration of the "ministry" of all Jews.

Some Jews wear two head coverings, typically a "kippah" covered by a hat, for Kabbalistic reasons: the two coverings correspond to two levels of intellect, or two levels in the fear of God. The Kohen Gadol (High Priest) of the Temple in Jerusalem also used to wear a woolen "kippah" under his priestly headdress (Chulin 138a) [] .

Codification in Jewish law

According to the Shulchan Arukh, Jewish men are required to cover their heads and should not walk more than four cubits without a hat. [Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 2:6] Wearing a "kippah" is described as "honoring God". ["Shaar HaTzion", OC 2:6] The Mishnah Berurah modifies this ruling, adding that the "Achronim" established it as a requirement to wear a head covering even when traversing less than four cubits, [Ber Heitev, OC 2:6, note 4, who quotes the "Bach", "Taz" and the "Magen Avraham"] and even when one is simply standing in place. [Mishnah Berurah 2:6, note 9] This applied both indoors as well as out. [Mishnah Berurah, 2:6, note 10]

This ruling is echoed by the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a concise version of the "Shulchan Aruch" authored by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried.KSA 3:6] He cites a story from the Talmud (Shabbat 156b) about Rav Nachman bar Yitzchok who might have become a thief had his mother not saved him from this fate by insisting that he cover his head, which instilled in him the fear of God.

In many communities, boys are encouraged to wear a "kippah" from a young age in order to ingrain the habit. [Ber Heitev, OC 2:6, note 5]

According to Rabbi Isaac Klein's "Guide to Jewish Religious Practice", a Jew ought to cover his head when in the synagogue, at prayer or sacred study, when engaging in a ritual act, and when eating. [Klein, Isaac. "A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice". Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1979.]


The kippah is traditionally worn by Jewish men. Observant Jewish women who have been married (including widows and divorcees) cover their heads more completely with scarves, hats, or wigs, but for a totally different reason. The tradition for women comes from a different source than that of men and originates from the laws dealing with the "sotah" (suspected adulteress; see Numbers 5), implying that a Jewish married woman should cover her hair under normal circumstances. [ [ Headcovering in Jewish Law ] ] Today, some women — mainly Reform and Conservative Jews — wear a "kippah". Some Jews wear "kippot" only while praying, eating, reciting a blessing, or studying Jewish religious texts.

In modern contexts, it is also common for non-religious Jews or even non-Jews to wear a simple "kippah", or to cover their heads as a sign of respect, when present at Jewish religious services or at ostensibly 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 over last few decades, 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.

Kippah as identification

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 serugot" (Hebrew כיפות סרוגות), literally "knitted kippot," though they are typically crocheted. American Modern 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" (Hebrew כיפות שחורות), literally "black kippot".

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.

Other Jews of this era wore black pillbox-shaped "kippot". In the mid-1800s, Reformers led by Rabbi Isaac Wise stopped wearing "kippot" altogether.

More recently, "kippot" have been observed in the colors of sports teams supported by the wearer, especially football. In the United States, children's "kippot" with cartoon characters or themes such as Star Wars are popular. (In response to this trend, some Jewish schools have banned "kippot" with characters that do not conform to traditional Jewish values.) Some Breslov Hasidim, known commonly as "the Na-Nach Breslovers" the followers of the late Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser, wear full-head-sized, white, crocheted "kippot" with the Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman mantra emblazoned on it. Mainstream Breslover Hasidim (the larger percentage of the Breslov community who do not follow Rabbi Yisrael Ber Odesser) dress like other Hasidim with black velvet "kippot".

Samaritan Israelis once wore distinctive blue head coverings to separate them from Jews who wore white ones, but today they more commonly wear fezes with turbans similar to that of Sephardi Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. Today, Samaritans don't normally wear head coverings except during prayer, Sabbath, and religious festivals.

Head coverings in ancient Israelite culture

The "Tanach" (The Hebrew Bible) makes references,at times, to special head coverings for Jewish males over the age of 12 in biblical times Fact|date=April 2008, and the prevalence of this custom is supported by archeology: The Israelites on Sennacherib's marble relief appear with headdress, and although the ambassadors of Jehu on the Shalmaneser stele have a head covering, their costume seems to be Israelite. One passage of the older literature is of significance: I Kings 20:31 mentions חֲבָליִם "havalim" together with שַׂקּיִם "saqqim", both of which are placed around the head. This calls to mind pictures of Syrians on Egyptian monuments, represented wearing a cord around their long, flowing hair, a custom still followed in Arabia. Evidently the costume of the poorest classes is represented; but as it gave absolutely no protection against the heat of the sun to which a worker in the fields is so often exposed, there is little probability that it remained unchanged very long, although it may have been the most ancient fashion.

Possible modern analogues

The Israelites might have worn a headdress similar to that worn by the Bedouins. This consists of a "keffieh" folded into a triangle, and placed on the head with the middle ends hanging over the neck to protect it, while the other two are knotted together under the chin. A thick woolen cord ("’akal") holds the cloth firmly on the head.

In later times, the Israelites, both men and women, adopted a turban-like headdress more like that of the "Fellahs" of today. The latter wear a little cap ("takiyah"), usually made of cotton cloth folded doubly or triply, which is supposed to shield the other parts of the head covering from perspiration. With boys, this often forms the only head covering. Under this cap are placed one, often two, felt caps ("lubbadah"); and the national head-dress of the Turks, the red "tarboosh". Around this, finally, is wound either an unbleached cotton cloth with red stripes and fringe, a gaily-flowered "mandil", a red-and-yellow-striped "keffich", a black cashmere scarf, a piece of white muslin, or a colored cloth. Such a covering not only keeps off the scorching rays of the sun, but it also furnishes a convenient pillow on occasion, and is not seldom used by the Fellahs for preserving important documents.

That the headdress of the Israelites might have been of this kind may be inferred from the use of the noun צַנִיף "tzanif" (the verb "tzanaf" meaning "to roll like a ball," Isaiah 22:18) and by the verb חַבָּש "habash" ("to wind," comp. Ezekiel 16:10; Jonah 2:6). As to the form of such turbans, nothing is known, and they may have varied according to the different classes of society, as was customary with the Assyrians and Babylonians, whose fashions likely influenced the costume of the Israelites -- particularly during and after the Babylonian Exile. []

Middle Eastern and North African Jewish community headdress may also resemble that of the ancient Israelites. In Yemen, the wrap around the cap was called מַצַר "massar"; the head covering worn by all women according to Dath Mosha was a גַּרגוּש "Gargush". []

Non-Jewish equivalents


Many Muslims wear a "kippah" equivalent called a "topi". The origin of this practice, and any other practice of men covering their heads with various head gear, is the general "sunnah" (or normative practice / example) of the Prophet Muhammad to cover one's head. Until more recent times, men in most Muslim societies were rarely seen without headdress of some sort. A "taqiyah (cap)" covers most of the head. Covering the head is seen by Muslims to transcend many religious traditions, confirming Muslim belief in the practice's Divine origin, as, according to Muslim belief, all Prophets of God preached the same basic message with varying cultural and social adjustments throughout time. Finally, the modern "taqiyahs" worn by Muslims are analogous to the "kippot" worn by observant Jews whether in the Middle East or elsewhere. The Jews of the Middle East probably picked up much of their clothing and head gear from the wider society in which they lived. Hence, no different from their Muslim neighbors and compatriots throughout time, the "kippah" can be seen as much a product of the Middle East and its diverse social fabric of co-existence as is its analog (in terms of head coverings), the "taqiyah".

The "doppa", a square or round skullcap originating in the Caucasus and worn by Kazan Tatars, Uzbeks and Uyghurs is another example of a Muslim skullcap. The "doppa" is derived from a Turkic, more pointed ancestral cap, which can be seen in some of the portraits of Jalaleddin Mingburnu.

Conservative Muslims in Malaysia, especially in the rural areas, are often seen wearing a thin "kopiah", which looks almost exactly like the "kippah" in outward appearance.


Among followers of the Druze faith, the use of headgear is similar, although some Druze also wear either the fez, a fez-turban combination, or the pillbox skullcap.Fact|date=October 2007


The black satin head gear called or known as "fenta" or "topi" is a pillbox-shaped skullcap, worn by Zarathushtris Zoroastrians. Like the "doppah", it is possible that the "fenta"/"topi" may have had influence on the use of the "kippa". It is considered in the Zarathushtri religion to be of vital importance in the attainment of Urvaan, the Zoroastrian equivalent of Buddhist Nirvana. In earlier times, a very saucer-shaped, red and white striped kipah was the hallmark of the Zarathushtri.


The "zucchetto" (Italian for "small gourd") of the Roman Catholic Church is based on a very old "kippah" design. The cap is traditionally worn by clergy members and its color denotes the rank of the wearer: the Pope wears a white cap; the Cardinals, red; Bishops, as well as abbots and prelates, violet; Deacons and Priests, black, although this practice is rare among diocesan and religious order priests. Fact|date=September 2007


Buddhist priests in China wear the "bao-tzu" (more commonly known as the "mao-tzu", 帽子 Mandarin "màozi"), the classic skullcap that is the most like the Jewish tradition. In Japan, the cap is more in the form of a pillbox and is called the "boshi" (帽子). Though not of ecclesiastical significance, the Buddhist skullcap does denote something about the priest's standing in the community.


Switzerland is home to the Cup-and-Ring (or "Kuppa-unt-Hinge") skullcap, a straw cap with embroidered flowers, a small pompom in the center, and velvet strips sewn round it in rings. This cap was traditionally worn by shepherds for luck and by married men (for fertility).


External links

* [ Aish HaTorah's Ask the Rabbi on head covering]
* [ Ohr Someyach's Ask the Rabbi on head covering]
* [ The Skullcap - A brief treatise on the significance of covering one's head with a Kipah]
* [ Chabad-Lubavitch Laws of head covering]
* [ Discussion on the need for wearing a kippah.]

Jewish life

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