Jewish skull caps can be seen on the head of orthodox Jewish men all over. This is most probably the most unique sign to recognize and spot an orthodox Jew. A Jewish skull cap is also called a yarmulke or a kippah. You most probably wonder why orthodox Jews wear a kippah. Is there any biblical commandment to wear a yarmulke? When did this custom start?
If you already attended an orthodox Jewish wedding or bar mitzvah, you were most probably advised to put on a kippah of your own. You must have wondered, why wear a Jewish yarmulke at all?
The Talmud (Kidushin, 31a) states "cover your head, so you should fear from heaven". The Talmud (Shabbos 156a) states sages who didn't walk 8 feet without a yarmulke. The Talmud explains that because there is divine presence over one's head, you should cover your head to show respect to Hashem (God).
Although according to the Talmud it is not obligatory to cover the head, this custom has developed as a requirement. There are some differences within Orthodox Judaism on how stringent to be with wearing a yarmulke. Ultra-orthodox won't go around even one step without a kippah, while some modern orthodox Jews will only wear the yarmulke by prayers. It is believed that wearing a yarmulke has a divine influence on the person to fear from Hashem (God), as the Talmud describes some mothers putting on a yarmulke on their small babys.
It is customary that a boy start wearing a Jewish yarmulke by age three. By Hasidic and Yeshivish circles, this is a celebration on the third birthday, together with making payos (side curls) and starting to wear tzitzit for the first time.
There are many styles of yarmulkes. All have one idea, to cover the head.
Haredi Jews wear a yarmulke of black velvet that covers most of the head; Modern orthodox mostly wear smaller suede or colorful crocheted yarmulkes; Jerusalemites and Breslov Hasidim wear white crocheted yarmulkes; religious Zionists wear crocheted yarmulkes. Regardless of the jewish kippah pattern, an orthodox Jew can de distinguished by his kippah all the time!
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