The kippah (Hebrew) or yarmulke (Yiddish) is the most recognized piece of Jewish clothing. Yet, it has the least religious significance and also Scriptural background. In the Tenach the priests wore a turban. Through the years it became the practice for all men to cover their heads as the priests did. However, it has only been in the last 300 years that the practice of wearing some type of head covering became consistent. Jewish tradition came to regard a man without a head covering as indecent or pagan. There are several reasons given by the rabbis as to the significance of wearing a kippah. One is that it shows humility in prayer. Another is so that the fear of G-d might be upon you.

Covering the head was a sign of respect in the ancient Eastern cultures. Thus for a Jew to cover his head was to show respect to G-d. Another symbolism came from ancient Rome. A free man did not cover his head while a servant did. Therefore, Jews cover their head to show they are servants to G-d. In medieval times covering the head was a reminder that G-d was above us.

It was in Europe that the hat became transformed into a kippah/yarmulke. The word yarmulke may be an acronym for an Aramaic phrase yerey malka – fear or respect for the King.

There are different levels of observance within the Jewish community. The orthodox feel that the head should be covered at all times. Within the Conservative Judaism wearing a kippah is done in the synagogue or while performing a Jewish ritual. The Reformed do not require a kippah at all.

The whole meaning behind this custom is that we are walking in humility and submission to G-d. It has been considered more of a custom rather than a commandment.

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