Thursday, 18 April 2019
(Reading time: 2 - 4 minutes)

What is a Kippah? 

Call it a Kippah, Yarmulke or Skullcap - is it obligatory to wear one or is it only a custom?

kippah yarmulke

Kippah is the Hebrew word for a head-covering or skullcap traditionally worn by Jewish males.  Among Jews of Eastern European descent it is referred to as a Yarmulke (a Yiddish word)The plural of Kippah is Kippot.

Is it obligatory to wear a kippah or is it only a custom?

There is considerable debate as to whether a yarmulke or kippah must be worn at all times.  The wearing of a kippah or head-covering is not a Torah commandment but a sign of respect. There are those that say 'G-d's presence is above my head' so I should keep my head covered at all times.

Kippah or hat?

In mainstream Jewish Orthodox communities, religious boys and men will keep their heads covered all the time (except while sleeping or bathing), some men prefer to wear black hats (styled according to their tradition).  Men who choose to wear hats mostly wear a kippah underneath the hat.  Should the hat come off, a man's head will still be covered with a kippah.

Some say that covering one's head is only necessary during prayer or Jewish study.

Kippah designs and fashion trends

As small and insignificant as it might seem, Kipppot make a definite fashion statement and the way they are worn identifies the wearers religious affiliation or political views.

Haredi men - Ultra Orthodox - wear large black kippot covering about 3/4 of the head, mostly from satin and velvet

Religious and traditional men wear a slightly smaller kippah.  They also often wear crocheted/knitted kippot in a variety of colors and with intricate woven patterns; emojis, a personalized kippa with your name, a rainbow design, Mrs. Simpson, flags, fair-isle designs, peace signs and religious symbols can all be woven into a crocheted/knitted kippah.

Men in the secular community do not keep their heads covered unless they are in the synagogue, participating in religious study or at some type of prayer gathering, a wedding, funeral.

Religious and traditional men serving in the Israeli Army generally wear a khaki colored crocheted kippah.

Some men wear small crocheted kippot on the sides of their heads.

Young boys will wear a kippah according to the tradition of their fathers.

Keeping the kippah on your head is also a science especially if you wear a smaller one.  A regular hairpin was used for ages until the invention of the snap-on hair clip which became popular in the 1970's and revolutionized the problem of keeping a kippah from blowing away in the wind.

Kippot for women

A married Jewish woman is supposed to keep her head covered as a sign of modesty - mostly with a hat or headscarf.  In the Reform movement, women choose to wear kippot.  The shape and style of hese kippot are different to mens kippot; bright colors, sequins, beads, crystals, lace decorate the women's kippah

Kippot for sale

Their are many women who design, make and sell their kippot. Your mom, aunt, sister or girlfriend might make one for you.

A young bride might make kippot for the all the men in the wedding party with elements of her dress possibly incorporated into the design.

In the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem there is a dedicated kippah store.  Whether this store actually has a name or not, we cannot sure - all the reference we found referred to it as 'The kippah store in the Mahane Yehuda Market'.  Ask anyone - they'll direct you.

You'll find vendors selling kippot on every street corner in Israel and if you're an online shopper, you'll find plenty on Amazon, Etsy, Judaica webstores and the like.