Why Do Religious Male Jews Cover Their Heads?

Religious male Jews cover their heads with platter-shaped cap (yarmulkah), usually made of cloth to distinguish between them and their Creator.

The custom of wearing such “yarmulkah” (also known as “kippah”) is itself not rooted in the Hebrew Bible as is the case with tzitzit – tassels, hanging from the corners of male clothes (Num. 15:38).

The covering of the head in Biblical times was something mandatory only for the high priest. The idea of all males covering their heads was an invention of emerging rabbinical Judaism (around 3rd century CE) that sought to reconstitute Israel under their leadership after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, symbolically projecting priestly duties on every male Jew.

But what does “yarmulkah” mean in Hebrew? The answer is nothing. The word is in Judeo-German language called Yiddish. It is compound word made up of two Aramaic words – Yar (fear) – Malkah (the King).

Disclaimer: Unlike Hebrew, Aramaic has a different grammar system and so all of you Hebrew experts out there keep that in mind before you think I made a mistake confusing “Queen” in Hebrew with “the King” in Aramaic :-).

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  1. Robert Mandel

    You state that there is no mention of wearing a kippah in the Torah bible. I believe that there is mention of kippot or head covering is mentioned in Ezekiel 13:18-21. There is also mention of G-d’s mentioning that the metaphor of tefillin is mentioned in the same verses.

    ““and say: Thus said the Lord GOD: Woe to those who sew pads on all arm-joints and make headcovers for the head of every person, in order to entrap! Can you hunt down lives among My people, while you preserve your own lives?

    You have profaned My name among My people in return for handfuls of barley and morsels of bread; you have announced the death of persons who will not die and the survival of persons who will not live—lying to My people, who listen to your lies.

    Assuredly, thus said the Lord GOD: I am going to deal with your pads, which you hunt down lives like birds, and I will tear them from your arms and free the persons whose lives you hunt down like birds.

    I will tear off your headcovers and rescue My people from your hands, and they shall no longer be prey in your hands; then you shall know that I am the LORD.”

    I would like to understand the confusion with our Creator’s version or the Sages, Rabbis, and prophet’s new Traditional Rabbinical Judaism bible.

    Your insight into these verses is appreciated.