Shalom everybody. Jim the Honorary Jew here. I am now writing for a decidedly smaller audience after my thoughtful and reasoned essay on the state of American politics. Can you believe some people thought my words were that of a spoiled little nine year old girl? Go figure. I’m now waiting for the contract offer for my expert political analysis from CNN.
Okay, now I can get back to the business of reporting on the heritage of my grandchildren. The other cool thing that happened since I last was allowed to use the computer was that my good friends Chuck Cole and Danna Cole visited the Holy Land and they brought me back a present. They didn’t bring back a present for anyone else, so that just proves my writings are having an impact on all 11 of my remaining Facebook friends. I am now the very proud owner of my very own yarmulke! How cool is that?
There is nothing that says Jew like wearing a yarmulke (which is pronounced yamaka) or yamaka, or Yamika, or Kippa, or Kippah, or Kippot, or Yarmulkah, or Jarmulka, or skullcap. All things Jewish seem to have multiple names or spellings (there are 16 ways to spell Hanukkah, or Chanukah, or…. [Oh, by the way, most things Jewish have at least two common names due to the prevalence of both the Yiddish and Hebrew translations, but I digress]). If you see a guy walking down the street with a Yarmulke it’s a pretty good chance he is Jewish (actually, if you see a guy walking down the street wearing a Yarmulke in my hometown there’s a pretty good chance he is lost and wandered into town by mistake). It is a statement of both religion and heritage. “Hey, look at me. I’m a really Jewy Jew.” That’s not exactly what it means, but it can be perceived that way by folks not familiar with the traditions and customs of the Tribe.
Wearing a head covering isn’t a Jewish law, it is a custom. It was first mentioned in Exodus (not the book by Leon Uris or the movie starring Charlton Heston [that Charlton Heston; he was the Mark Wahlberg of his era]). In Exodus, high priests wore head coverings to remind them that God exists and monitors our behaviors. That’s why Yarmulkes are worn in Synagogue. When you think about God you should be wearing a yarmulke. One rule of thumb offered by a famous Rabbi is you shouldn’t walk more than four cubits (I now know that a cubit is about six feet) from your home without one, so you have the opportunity to think about God (I’ve got mine on now. I may want to think about God within four cubits of the TV because the Cowboys are now playing and they may need some help).
So Jews put on a hat to cover their heads when they want to show reverence. Almost all other religions and cultural customs require one to remove head coverings to show respect. It certainly sets us apart from the mainstream, causes some ridicule, and can lead to other, more nefarious concerns. The head covering thing really wasn’t a thing outside of Synagogue until the middle ages in middle Europe when it became a local Jewish custom to wear a pointy hat as a way to show others their adherence to their faith. The Christian-dominated governments actually liked that idea so much they made specific laws requiring Jews wear distinctive head coverings so they could more easily identified and discriminated against. We all know where that led.
Wearing a yarmulke is a way to show respect for God, display your pride in your Jewishness and it can help you in your actions. It’s worth is similar to a wedding ring. The ring shows the world you are married and reminds you you are married and shouldn’t do unmarried things. A yarmulke is a reminder to the world and you that you are Jewish and should not do ungodly things because God is aware of your actions. Of course that leads to parables. Like that of the little Jewish boy who had a tendency to take things that weren’t his. He was instructed to wear his yarmulke as a reminder that God was watching. He did well with his mild OCD behaviors while he wore the skullcap, but had bad thoughts that he couldn’t control and led to a little more kleptomania when a gust of wind took it away.
As mentioned before, wearing a yarmulke is not a law, but a custom. It also isn’t against Jewish laws for a woman to wear one, but it’s usually not the custom. In the past 20 -30 years women have begun to wear them to make a statement about their religion and their rights as equals. In fact women have been traditionally exempt from wearing them. Remember, wearing one helps you think deep thoughts about God. According to tradition, women are already closer to God for two reasons; 1. They can have children (damn, can’t argue that one), 2. Women are naturally more intuitive about Godly things and don’t need the constant reminder (really?).
Yarmulke size, fabric and styles are not a function of theology as much as culture. There are representations of different sects, regions, and movements displayed by the yarmulke you choose. There are some rules of thumb, though. The bigger and blacker the cap, the more conservatively religious you likely are. Knitted, crocheted and leather skullcaps usually denote conservative or orthodox views. And conversely, the smaller and more colorful ones usually denote reformed and more liberal sects. There are no steadfast rules, other than it can’t be offensive (except for Heredis; they are like the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Judaism). My yarmulke is white with aqua stitching and a Star of David on top. It is really cool looking and I look Jewishly intelligent when I have it on.
Yarmulkes are relatively cheap. You can buy one for a couple of dollars. In fact, the most expensive one I could find only cost $28. But as I was searching I found some that I thought were odd. You can buy a yarmulke, the the symbol of your closeness to God and your practice in humility, with a Cubs logo on it. No kidding!! I’ll show you. I have pictures.
So ends another chapter of the ongoing saga of honoring my grandchildren’s heritage. Each time I pick a subject I learn more than I think I will, and I always end up with more respect for the religion of my sons’-in-law and their families.
P.S. When I get my new CNN gig I promise to wear my cool new yarmulke during my first interview.