In Rather Than On
The one day a year when just about all Klal Yisrael wears the same head covering is Yom Kippur. Yes, it’s true that some wear a white satin Yarmulka, others a white velvet, and still others a white knitted one (could the Chareidim who wear the large white knitted ones like the Rebbe Nachman style, be classified as wearing a Kippah Serugah?). Yet the similarity and commonality of the white Yom Kippur Yarmulka is a unifying factor at least for this one day.
At other times the head covering of the observant Torah community is looked upon as a means of identifying where along the wide spectrum of Yiddishkeit one stands. The various forms of felt hats, i.e. turned up or turned down? Black hat or some other neutral color? Is it a Streimel or a Spodik? Is the Streimel flat or high? Or perhaps there is no hat at all? Just a good old Yarmulka! Here we are again back to Yarmulka styles. Is it a cloth or velvet one? Does it have four sections or six? Is it double lined and has a velvet border or is it just plain? If we talk about a Kippah Serugah we still do not really
cover (pardon the pun) all the bases. Is it a large one or a rather diminutive one? Does it sport a logo (such as IDF), design, or pattern? Is it just white, or perhaps multicolored? And so on.
Unfortunately this diversity of fulfilling the concept of being one who shows fear of Heaven, or in Aramaic, Yarei Malka (see Shabbos 156b) has spawned much unnecessary knee jerk divisiveness.
As has often been pointed out, our enemies do not distinguish between this or that type of head covering. Enough said on that score.
Leaving the political and cultural differences aside, all Orthodox Jews share much in common. We need to realize and emphasize the shared commitment to Torah and Mitzvos that binds the Chassidishe community, the Yeshivishe Community, the Ashkenazic community, the Sephardic community, and the general Orthodox community together.
When I visit Eretz Yisrael I have the Privilege of Davening in a number of different Shuls depending on where I am lodging or traveling. I’m sure that many have Davened by the Kotel and joined a Minyan. Ten Jews, that’s all that matters. No particularism in terms of Nusaach or dress. If you’re touring, shopping, or walking in Yerushalayim and it’s time to Daven you might step in to one of the many Minyan factories that exist, or even into the shopping mall where there is a Shul. The diversity of Yidden who make up the Minyan is irrelevant. All Daven together. The social contract allows for whoever is the Shaliach Tzibbur to select the Nussach.
There is a small Sephardic Shul in Katamonim that I especially enjoy Davening in. The majority of the Mispallelim are clearly of Sephardic descent. Outwardly, they appear no different than any other “Poshute” Israeli. But the fervor with which they Daven, and the Sichos between Mincha and Maariv delivered by the young Talmid Chochom who acts as the Rav envelopes me in the Kedusha that they reflect.
Many who live in or near Borough Park have had the Zechus of Davening in the beautiful Young Israel Beth El of Borough Park. Especially when Chazzan Ben Zion Miler and the Choir Daven, the diversity of Yidden from every spectrum of Yiddishkeit that come to participate is inspiring. It is reflective of the nature of Klal Yisrael that is made up of the twelve different Shevatim.
Personally, it doesn’t matter to me what kind of hat you wear, or none at all. My sainted Rosh Yeshiva Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT”L didn’t put any store by the type of head covering you were wearing either.
I’ve been known to wear a white straw hat in Borough Park during the warm summer months, and except for the comments of one or two foolish people, I trust that the Hamon Am does not adversely judge me, as I would not judge them for their style of Chapeau. As my daughter taught me when she was in the Parsha of Shidduchim, “I don’t care what he wears on his head, I want to know what’s in his head.”
On Yom Kippur we have Teshuva in our heads. The white Yarmulka that all wear is indicative of our unity in Tefillah and Teshuva. May Hashem grant us the Teshuva that would give Klal Yisrael a Shanna Tovah Umesukah, Ah Gut Gebbenshte Yor!
Rabbi Moshe Snow