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The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Kippa

Gabor Borbely from Las Vegas, Nevada wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Can you please tell me shortly about the minhag (custom) of covering our heads. I mean rulings, sources, etc?

Tamar Tessler from Johannesburg, SA wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Where in any sefer (book) are there halachot (laws) about kippot/yarmulkes? How do we know which size is considered kosher? Material? Are there any halachot regarding the positioning of the yarmulke on the head? I know this could be a touchy question (political correctness!) Thank you for answering.


Dear Gabor Borbely and Tamar Tessler,

The Talmud says "cover [the child's] head so that he will have the fear of heaven." The Talmud also associates a covered head with humility.

In "Guide for the Perplexed," Maimonides states that the early Sages were repelled by a bare head. The custom to wear a head covering is legislated in Shulchan Aruch.

The color and material depend on custom. Some prefer multi-colored versions, some prefer black. The Chatam Sofer in his responsa says kippot may be crocheted or woven even if hair sticks through. Regarding size, there are differing views. Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, shlita, requires that the kippa be big enough to be seen from all sides, but other authorities, including Rabbi Moshe Feinstien, zatzal, disagree and say that there is no size specification. I am not familiar with any source regarding where exactly to position the kippa.

Which reminds me of a story: Once on a very windy day, a rabbi was walking along, when a strong gust of wind blew his hat off his head. The rabbi ran after his hat, but the wind was too strong and it kept blowing his hat further and further away. A non-Jewish young man, seeing what had happened ran after the hat, caught it and gave it back to the rabbi. The rabbi was so grateful that he gave the young man twenty dollars and blessed him.

The young man was so excited that he decided to go the race track and with the rabbi's blessing fresh in his mind decided to check the program and place the entire twenty dollars on a horse. After the races he went home and recounted his very exciting day to his father. "I arrived at the fifth race and looked at the program. I saw this horse named 'Top Hat' was running. The odds on this horse were 100 to 1 but since I received the rabbi's blessing I bet the entire twenty dollars on 'Top Hat' and guess what? He won! In the next race, there was a horse named 'Stetson' at 30 to 1 so I bet the entire amount of my winnings on him, and guess what ... I won again!"

"So did you bring the money home?" asked his father.

"No," said the son, "I lost it all on the next race. There was a horse named 'Chateau' that was a heavy favorite so I bet everything on him, and since that meant 'hat' in French I figured he was a sure thing."

"You fool!" said the father. "Hat in French is 'chapeau' not 'chateau!' But who won the race?"

"A real long shot," said the son. "A Japanese horse named Yamaka..."

Sources:

  • Tractate Shabbat 196b
  • Tractate Kiddushin 31a
  • Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 2:6


 
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