The History of the Yarmulke

Yarmulke history is an interesting topic to read about if you are keen about world cultures and their symbolic representations. The yarmulke or kippah is worn by Jewish men during prayers. To know more about yarmulke and it’s history, read on…

Yarmulke / Kippah Gallery - click hereAll our rituals, traditions and faiths have some historical significance, and history often has it’s root in religion. Simple things, from the way we pray or the clothes we wear during religious services, has some symbolic connection to our religion and history. Many religions prescribe a specific attire before we face God, which conveys the message of purity, honesty, and sincerity, as well as a constant reminder of God’s existence. According to Judaism, the yarmulke is one such symbol of faithfulness to God. It is also known as kippot or kippah, which is a Hebrew word that means dome. Kippot is the plural of kippah. Let us take a closer look at the yarmulke history in this article.

What is a Yarmulke?

Yarmulke is a Jewish word derived from the Aramaic term, ‘yira malka’, that means ‘awe of the king’. The yarmulke is a small hemispherical headcovering which has great religious significance as noted in the Talmud. The Talmud is a Jewish religious book which has an account of Jewish laws, customs, history, ethics, and philosophy. It strongly recommends Jewish men to don yarmulke during prayers and before entering the synagogue. Some of them also wear it while eating, studying, during Jewish wedding traditions, and while visiting religious places, such as the Western Wall, etc.

Orthodox or conservative Jewish men wear the yarmulke all the time but modern reformists or egalitarian Jewish men and women don the yarmulke only during prayers. Women were always exempted from wearing the kippot but for the reasons of modesty, many married women cover their hair. With the religious revolution, women adorning the kippot has become a sign of religious equality. Small Jewish kids start wearing wearing the yarmulke when they get their first haircut, and this custom is known as upsherin. It also signifies that a kid will commence his formal Torah (religious studies) education. Of late, modern Jewish people have started celebrating the upsherin for their daughters as well.

Why is it Necessary to Wear a Yarmulke?

The yarmulke is worn to show the respect to God and as an outward and tangible sign of faithfulness to God. Wearing the yarmulke implies that a wearer admits the presence of divine power. It is also a symbolic demarcation between heaven and earth. The one who wears the yarmulke is considered humble and God fearing. The yarmulke is also known to shield devotees from the glorious light of heaven. It is a symbolic representation of complete surrender to the God, as denoted by yarmulke history.

Kippha or Yarmulke Patterns

Yarmulke history implies that traditional Jews wear only a black velvet yarmulke, which are very common and widely popular. On the other hand, modern Jews wear knitted, crocheted, or leather yarmulke. Like any other accessory, the yarmulke has undergone various changes to suit different personalities. Women prefer yarmulkes with small and delicate designs including crystals and beading with bright colors. Anybody can experiment with yarmulke pattern, fabric, and designs, as long as it is not offensive or against the religion. Yarmulkes are available in various sizes as well for adults and kids. Generally, they are five inches in diameter and are very small compared to the size of the head. Unlike other head gear, hair pins or clips are needed to keep the yarmulke in place.

Various reforms in Judaism and convergence with world religions has brought many changes in Jewish culture, and hence in their customs and practices. They are still used symbolically, but convey a different message. Some of them express their political or religious ideologies, beliefs and faiths through certain kind of yarmulkes. Yarmulke history does not have an account of the kippot being associated with magical or mystical events, but it has always been the symbol of pure devotion to God.

Author: Geeta Dhavale, 2010

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