Jewish Head Covering & Why its Changed Over Time

The popularity of Jewish head coverings changed over time. While some Jews still cover their head to express their religious identity, many other Jews reject the practice. But according to the Torah – every man must wear a kippah all day long.

The practice of covering one’s head in Judaism is very common. Although it is not required, many Jewish people still do this as a way of expressing their religious identity. The role of covering one’s head changed over time as it used to be a widespread practice. Now, people choose to cover their heads, and many others choose not to. Additionally, there are different ways to cover one’s head due to different styles and kippot trends. If you want to learn more about Jewish head covering, then keep reading.

In this article, you can find more on:

  • * Kippot and their meaning
  • * The history of wearing head coverings
  • * The difference between women’s head coverings and men’s
  • * Different kippa styles

Kippot and Their Meaning

The traditional head covering, or small hat, in the Jewish faith is called a kippa. In the past, only men wore these circular skullcaps. However, many women from Non-Orthodox Jewish communities wear their kippot. In Hebrew, the word “kippa” translates to “dome.”

The Yiddish word for kippot is “yarmulke.” While Hebrew is the more common language spoken by Jews, Yiddish is a variation of Hebrew. Before the Holocaust, the language held a strong presence in central and eastern Europe. As of now, it is popular in Russia, Israel, and the United States. These head coverings also have the Yiddish name “Koppel,” although it is less common.

The Talmud- teachings that make up Jewish law- does not express that always wearing kippot is a requirement. However, Jews are required to wear kippot when carrying out religious activities. Some of these activities include praying, studying the Torah, saying a blessing, or entering a synagogue. There are some Jews who believe it is crucial never to uncover your head. Wearing the kippa shows awareness that God is always the superior being.

Overall, wearing a kippa shows respect and adoration for God. Wearing it shows your submission to God and maintains a level of humility. Kippot are also a reminder that God is always the highest being in the universe.

The History of Wearing Head Coverings

Throughout history, debates have taken place over whether covering one’s head is a requirement by the Torah or not. Orthodox Jews feel that it is an obligation always to wear kippot. Reform Jews or Secular Jews think that it is not an obligation.

Based on writings in the Talmud, wearing a kippa is not a requirement by the Torah. It is a sign of adoration and devotion to God. This religious symbolism and obligation of wearing kippot for religious activities became highly popular during the Middle Ages. It was disrespectful not to cover one’s head when performing various religious actions.

The practice of wearing head coverings in the Jewish faith began in biblical times. Rabbis were required to cover their heads while occupying the Temple- specifically, the Holy Temple, located in Jerusalem.

The Reform movement, which began in the United States in the 1870s, is a group of Jews who believe that Jewish traditions should coincide with the generation in which they live. Therefore, the Reform movement works to adjust various Jewish laws so that they fit appropriately within the current times.

People involved with the Jewish Reform movement declared that wearing the kippa should not be a constant practice. They rejected wearing it even during religious ceremonies. However, people have begun to realize that more and more Jews aligned with the Reform movement wear kippot during prayer and while at the synagogue.

Throughout history, there was a constant push and shove between wearing head coverings and not wearing head coverings. As history reveals, whether one wears a kippa all depends on their personal belief.

The Difference Between Women’s Head Coverings and Men’s

The practice of wearing the kippa is geared more toward men. However, in more liberal Jewish communities, women wear the kippa as well, but there are particular practices for women that have to do with marital status. These rules changed in recent years, but they still play a role in some Jewish women’s lives.

To many Jewish women, their equivalent to the kippa is covering their heads with scarves, hats, and even wigs. It was more traditional to wear wigs- called sheitels. It is customary for women to cover their heads after marriage. Additionally, they should cover their head when praying or going to the synagogue. Like kippot, many women reject covering their heads altogether (only Secular women) .

With the rise of the Reform movement, many Reform and Conservative Jews declared their rejection of wearing head coverings after marriage. They explained that forcing women to wear scarves solely to define marital status places women in an inferior social status.

Reform and Conservative Jews, although rejecting women’s head coverings a symbol of marriage, still wear scarves and other coverings to religious activities. Due to its equivalence to kippot, covering one’s head with scarves or wigs is a symbol of respect and reverence.

In the past, very traditional rabbis wanted women to cover the entirety of their hair. Today, even the more Orthodox Jews wear simple coverings that do not cover all their hair. They, like the kippa, cover the back of the head as recognition of God and respect for Him. Wearing head coverings for women in the Jewish community is always changing.

Different Kippa Styles

Since many Jews wear kippot every day of their life, different styles developed over the years. There are kippa styles that can indicate the section of Judaism in which one aligns themselves.

The most common style for Orthodox Jews is black kippot that cover most of the back of the head. Reform Jews and Conservative Jews are more likely not to wear a head covering at all. Other styles of kippot include ones that are crocheted and contain unique designs.

All in all, Jewish head coverings are a traditional practice in the faith. Whereas some reject covering their head, wearing kippot and headscarves can be a symbol of religious identity. But according to the Torah – every man must wear a kippah all day long.

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