Kippah: Wikis


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"Kipa" redirects here. For the supermarket, please see Kipa (supermarket). Distinguish from kipper.
Halakhic sources*
Texts in Jewish law relating to this article:
Babylonian Talmud: Shabbat 156b and Kiddushin 31a
Mishneh Torah: Ahavah, Hilkhot Tefilah 5:5
Shulchan Aruch: Orach Chayim 2:6
* Not meant as a definitive ruling. Some observances may be rabbinical, customs or Torah based.

A kippah, (כִּפָּה or כִּיפָּה, plural: kippot כִּפּוֹת or כִּיפּוֹת), hech cap (US only), or yarmulke About this sound pronunciation (also called a skullcap or kappel) is a thin, slightly-rounded skullcap traditionally worn at all times by observant Jewish men, and sometimes by both men and women in Conservative and Reform communities.



There are different proposed etymologies for the word yarmulke (yamaka). According to most mainstream etymologists, it is a Yiddish word (Yiddish: יאַרמולקע yarmulke) deriving from the Polish word jarmułka, meaning "cap", ultimately possibly of Turkish origin.[1]

A folk etymology proposes that it is derived from an Aramaic phrase, yarei malka, meaning "fear of the King [i.e. God],"[2] or from the Hebrew, ya'arei me'Elokai, "those who tremble before the Lord."

The Hebrew-language equivalent, kippah actually means "dome", same as Arabic qubbah (قبة). The Gothic word kappel (cf. chapel) still exists in the Yiddish term (קאַפל kapl) today and survives as kappl (cap, hat) in several South German dialects. 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 a mother urges her son: "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 HaLevi Segal of Ostrog, Ukraine, suggested that Jewish people 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 Jewish people.

Some Jewish people 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.[3] Wearing a kippah is described as "honoring God".[4] 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,[5] and even when one is simply standing in place.[6] This applied both indoors as well as out.[7]

This ruling is echoed by the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a concise version of the Shulchan Aruch authored by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried.[8] 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.[8]

In many communities, boys are encouraged to wear a kippah from a young age in order to ingrain the habit.[9]

According to Rabbi Isaac Klein's Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, a (Conservative) Jew ought to cover his head when in the synagogue, at prayer or sacred study, when engaging in a ritual act, and when eating.[10]


A Jewish man from Chişinău (1900) wearing a kippah

The kippah is traditionally worn by Jewish men. Many traditionally 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 from 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. Today, some Reform and Conservative women 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 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 after 1960, 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,"[11] 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 addition, in general, the larger the kippa, the more right-wing politically[12] and the more observant the wearer is (and sometimes for hair loss).[13] And by contrast, the smaller the kippah, the more modern and even liberal the person is.[14]

Seinfeld-themed "Happy Festivus" embroidery on a yarmulke.

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.[15])

Breslov Hasidim, followers of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, wear a full-head-sized, white, crocheted kippah with a knit bell on top, or, like other Hasidim, wear black velvet kippot. Some Breslov Hasidim, colloquially known as Na Nachs, followers of the late Rabbi Yisroel Ber Odesser, wear the large, white, crocheted kippot with the Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman mantra emblazoned upon it.

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.


Image Kippah Movement Material
Kippa.jpg Crocheted kippah
Religious Zionism[13][16][17] crocheted
Kippa judentum.JPG Suede kippah Modern Orthodox[18], Conservative Judaism suede
Black Kippah.jpg (Black) velvet kippah Haredi[17] velvet
Casamento judeu1.jpg Satin kippah Conservative Judaism satin
Kippah.jpg Kippah for a simcha (bar/bat mitzvah or wedding)

Inscribed with type of simcha, name of person(s), date
Popkipah.jpg Children's kippah crocheted, suede, or velvet
Women's kippah[13][18][19] Reform Judaism
Baby kippah[20]
  • It often contains two strings on each
    side of the kippah to fasten it.[20]
  • It is often used in a brit milah.[20]
suede, satin, or crocheted
Na-nach-nachma-yarmulke.jpg Breslov kippah Breslov[21] crocheted
Bukharan kippah Bukharan[13][22]
  • Popular with children (does not require clips)[13][22]
  • Also worn by liberal-leaning Jews[12][13]
    and feminist and reform rabbi women[12]
Yemenite kippah Yemenite

Head coverings in ancient Israelite culture

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.[23]

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 matzar; the head covering worn by all women according to Dath Mosha was a גַּרגוּש "Gargush".[24]

Kippot in secular law

The French government banned the wearing of kippot, hijabs and large crosses in public schools in March 2004.[25]

"Camouflage Kippah," Beirut, 1983

In Goldman v. Weinberger, 475 U.S. 503 (1986), the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, declared that an active duty military officer could be required to remove his yarmulka indoors.[26] In response, the U.S. Congress passed the Religious Apparel Amendment which, in part, explicitly protected the right to wear religious headgear in a "neat and conservative" manner except under very specific circumstances. However, the Religious Apparel Amendment failed to pass for two years in a row, until the story of the camouflage kippa -- the piece of Marine Corps uniform that was torn off to replace the blood-soaked kippa of Jewish Navy Chaplain Arnold Resnicoff, which had been used to wipe the face of wounded Marines during the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing -- was read into the Congressional Record for the Senate and the House of Representatives.[27][28] This amendment was eventually incorporated into a Department of Defense Instruction, the Accommodation of Religious Practices Within the Military Services.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 114 Stat. 804, 42 U. S. C. §2000cc-1(a)(1)-(2), upheld as constitutional in Cutter v. Wilkinson, 44 U.S. 709 (2005) possibly requires that Orthodox Jewish prisoners be reasonably accommodated in their request to wear yarmulkas.[29]

A section in the same bill as the Oregon Workplace Religious Freedom Act, passed in July 2009 [30], reinforced an older law forbidding the wearing of religious clothing by teachers in public school classrooms.

Other types of skullcaps


Many Muslims wear a kippah equivalent called a "kufi" or topi. Until more recent times, men in most Muslim societies were rarely seen without headdress of some sort. A taqiyah covers most of the head. Finally, the modern taqiyahs worn by Muslims are analogous to the kippot worn by observant Jews whether in the Middle East or elsewhere.

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


The black satin head gear called or known as fenta or topi is a pillbox-shaped skullcap, worn by Zarathushtris Zoroastrians. 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 most often denotes the rank of the wearer: the Pope wears a white cap, however Premonstratensian abbots also wear white; the cardinals, red; bishops and many minor prelates, amaranth; abbots, deacons and priests, black, although this practice is rare among diocesan and religious order priests.[31] However, the zucchetto developed independently from the kippah: it began as a covering for the tonsured head of clergy, particularly in cold climates, and, in usage opposite to that of the kippah, is removed to bare the head as a sign of respect during the most solemn parts of religious ceremonies, the consecration of the Eucharist.[32]


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).


  1. ^ See American Heritage Dictionary: or Merriam-Webster:
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 2:6
  4. ^ Shaar HaTzion, OC 2:6
  5. ^ Ber Heitev, OC 2:6, note 4, who quotes the Bach, Taz and the Magen Avraham
  6. ^ Mishnah Berurah 2:6, note 9
  7. ^ Mishnah Berurah, 2:6, note 10
  8. ^ a b KSA 3:6
  9. ^ Ber Heitev, OC 2:6, note 5
  10. ^ Klein, Isaac. A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice. Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1979.
  11. ^ Children rebel against religion to ‘get their parents’ , The Canadian Jewish News, Leila Speisman, September 26, 2005
  12. ^ a b c Kippah Couture, The Forward, Angela Himsel, September 29, 2006
  13. ^ a b c d e f A Guide to Jewish head-coverings, Jewish Independent, July 7, 2006
  14. ^ Jews' coverings reveal much about the wearer, The Salt Lake Tribune, May 4, 2007
  15. ^ Lifestyle; The Yarmulke Is Now a Fashion Item, The New York Times, September 23, 1990
  16. ^ St.-Sgt. Yedidya Gefen buried, Jerusalem Post, Gil Hoffman, February 8, 2000
  17. ^ a b Barring violence, The Jerusalem Post, Yigal Grayeff, February 9, 2006
  18. ^ a b Living Jewish - Jewish Attire!, Mazor Guide. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
  19. ^ California firm offers kippot for women, The Jerusalem Post, July 10, 2005
  20. ^ a b c From baby kippah to Tylenol, Bris Kit has everything but the implement, J Weekly, June 18, 2004
  21. ^ On New Year, thousands flock to Rabbi Nachman's grave in Ukraine, HaAretz, Yair Ettinger
  22. ^ a b Hats Off To Fashion: Yarmulkes go beyond basic black, Traverse City Record-Eagle, Associated Press, April 13, 2008
  23. ^ - HEAD-DRESS:
  24. ^ Clothing of the Yemenite Jews
  25. ^ French Senate backs headscarf ban, BBC News, March 3, 2004
  26. ^ Goldman v. Weinberger, U.S. Supreme Court Case Summary & Oral Argument
  27. ^ Congressional Record, 100th Congress, May 11, 1987.
  28. ^ The Jewish Press, May 22, 1987, Solarz Passes Religious Apparel Amendment.
  29. ^ Benning v. Georgia, 391 F3d 1299
  30. ^ Does religious clothing have a place in the classroom?,,July 17, 2009
  31. ^ Taylor Marshall, The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of the Catholic Christianity, Saint John Press, 2009 ISBN 978-0-578-03834-6 page 11
  32. ^ Taylor Marshall, The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of the Catholic Christianity, Saint John Press, 2009 ISBN 978-0-578-03834-6 page 110

External links

Simple English

A yarmulke (Yiddish) or Kippah (Hebrew) is a small cloth cap worn by Jews. Traditionally it was worn only by men, but in modern times the push for equality between the sexes in the practice of Judaism has lead some women to wear yarmulkes. Some Jews only wear yarmulkes while praying; others wear yarmulkes the entire day, making sure not to walk more than four cubits without head covering (especially outside). The basis for wearing a head covering is a story in the Talmud (tractate Shabbat).

[[File:|left|thumb|Yarmulke and Menorah from the Harry S. Truman collection]]

Often, the color and fabric of the yarmulke can be a sign of adherence to a specific religious movement. The Israeli National Religious community is often referred to by the name kipot srugot כיפות סרוגות, literally "woven yarmulkes". Similarly, some Haredi sects are referred to by the name kipot shkhorot כיפות שחורות, literally "black yarmulkes".

[[File:|thumb|Yarmulkes on sale in Jerusalem, June 2004]]


The etymology of yarmulke is unclear. Linguists (e.g. Max Vasmer) maintain that the Yiddish word is derived (via Russian or Polish) from the Turkic yağmurluk, meaning 'raincoat'.

Traditionally, yarmulke is considered to have originated from the Aramaic phrase "yarei mei-elokah" (in awe of the Lord), in keeping with the principle that the yarmulke is supposed to reflect someone's fear of heaven. Or perhaps, "yira malkah" (fear of the King).


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