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A Word About The Words
The Hebrew terms on this site represent core principles (Middot) of Jewish belief.
To us, they are words to live by. For a translation and examples of how we live our faith, mouse-over the words on each page.
Upon entering the sanctuary, all men should put on a kippah (head covering) and keep it on (even during the community Kiddush). Women may cover their heads as well. A woman who is given an honor or an aliyah is required to wear a head covering before ascending the bimah (pulpit). Supplies of kippot and other head coverings are kept at the entrances to BZBI.
Covering the head is a symbol of reverence during worship, but its origin is uncertain. We know that there was a “headdress” for Aaron (Exodus 28:4) and “turbans” for Aaron’s sons (Exodus 28:40). These, the Bible tells us, were “for dignity and adornment.”
In the [Babylonian] Talmud we read a lone but telling reference: “Rabina was sitting before R. Jeremiah of Difti, when a certain man passed by without covering his head [as a sign of respect]. How impudent is that man! he exclaimed” (Kiddushin 33a). Moses Maimonides makes reference to this talmudic incident in his famous philosophic work, The Guide of the Perplexed. He says: “The great men among our Sages would not uncover their heads because they believed that G-d’s glory was round them and over them.”
Though covering one’s head was regarded during the talmudic period as a sign of respect, there is scant evidence that Jews in the Temple court or in the early synagogue were required to wear any head coverings. In Christian Europe we have evidence of a disregard for this tradition, or at least inconsistency in its observance. “In the thirteenth century,” says Israel Abrahams, “boys in Germany and adults in France were called to the Law in synagogue bareheaded” (Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, London 1932, 301-2).
With the passage of time, the custom of covering the head during worship increasingly became mandatory. As the persecutions of the Church increased, the Jewish aversion to everything Christian deepened. The uncovering of the head became associated with Church etiquette and therefore became repugnant. To worship or even to go about with an uncovered head was regarded as imitation of the Christians and an act of irreverence to G-d. Conversely, the covering of one’s head became an act of Jewish piety. For convenience the skullcap, or yarmulke, was adopted.