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Japanese But Jewish

Yarmulke. Pronounced Yamika. Sounds like a Japanese electronics company.

Yet all Jewish males wear one. Or at least they SHOULD wear one! But why? The Gemara says that it gives us Yiras Shomayim - Fear of Heaven. On a simple level the reason is that the yarmulke reminds us that there is a G-d above us. However I saw in the name of Rav S.R. Hirsch a different explanation. There is a halacha that we must have something seperating between our hearts and our ervah [the elastic on underwear suffices]. This symbolizes that we must acknowledge the difference between the more physical and base parts of ourselves and our more spiritual side.

In the same way when we cover our heads it reminds us that there is a seperation and indeed a profound difference between the way we think and the way G-d thinks [kviyachol]. "ki lo machshivosai machshivosaichem". Our purview [range of understanding] is extremely limited. This allows us to accept those parts of life that might seem unfair or don't seem to make sense. Thus the yarmulke engenders a
sense of awe [yirah] for the Divine.

Every morning we say the bracha "oter Yisrael b'sifara" - He crowns us with glory. Some explain that the glory is our yarmulka that is a crown on our heads. With Rav Hirsch's explantion in hand we can appreciate the glory of our yarmulke. Humility is glorious. So is acceptance of Divine decrees.

[What about the ladies. Yiras Shomayim is NOT a time bound mitzva. Why don't they have to wear yarmulkes. Ladies - what do you think. Alleyways needs your feminine input!!]

Since we say every morning the bracha "oter Yisrael b'sifara" and that is when we put on our kippot how can we say the other 12 WITHOUT A KIPA ON? (In the times of the gemara they said the brachos as they awoke and dressed as I'm sure rebbe knows) In regards to your question according to the gemara a kippah is only a minhag. In the times of the gemara some people wore them and others didn't. Women don't wear them I'm guessing because they don't need the reminder that men do that Hashem is upstairs. They know it better than we men do.

i say this in the name of my dear friend elisheva- our tzniut, which we keep even within the four walls of our homes reminds us of our yiras hashem. and kal vachomer, when walking in the streets, it reminds to behave in a manner reflective of the way in which we dress. i would like to add, the oft-repeated phrase regarding tzniut, kol kvoda bat melech pnima reminds us just that-that we are bitei melech and must act as such! sorry this is so long, but i will end with a story. i started dressing tzanua when i was 16. at that age i was also a moody teenager and was often fresh with my parents. one day, after talking back to my mom, she just looked at me and said "i can't believe you can still find it in you to talk back to your mother despite the floor length skirt. what's it all worth?" got me thinking, and i changed my behaviour. so, b'kitzur, tniut is our reminder of yiras hashem.

I want to point out to alleyways readers that both Hillel and Morah are Ramaz graduates. So with all of the justified criticism that one can level against that school [and I have quite a bit but I see no practical benefit in voicing the obvious] - they do produce some terrific graduates.

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Segula - 40 days at the Kotel

About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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