Kippa Only for Men

Question

I would like to know the proper answer to a Conservative five-year old who wants to know why he must wear a Yarmulke (to Hebrew school) while his female classmates do not. I am a Frum teacher and understand the answer on more advanced level, but am having trouble coming up with a way to explain it to my students. Thank you for your time and consideration, Sara Pollak

15 years

Answers

  1. The question is not an easy to answer to a person of any affiliation and of any age in my opinion.

    Based on the “standard” explanation of the Yarmulke showing (and hopefully instilling) a “fear of the King Above” – as this is its translation from Aramaic or Hebrew, it would certainly seem to be of the same significance and obligation for both men and women.

    The oft-offered explanation of women (in general) being inherently more spiritual and therefore needing fewer mitzvot and other signs to help strengthen their relationship with God would probably be easier to accept when told to an adult than to a five year old.

    Wearing a Yarmulke does not appear to have been a mitzvah until the minhag developed to wear one at times of prayer and then eventually spread to wearing it always. It now has the status of a neder that the Jewish People accepted upon themselves. The reason is not clear, but I would emphasize the importance of customs and tradition in teaching the young man. (I personally think the reason that unmarried women did not develop and accept the important custom to wear a Yarmulke has to do with beauty for the sake of finding a husband.)

    I spoke once with a neighbor who said he taught at a Girl’s school in Jerusalem where the young women covered their heads – for the same reason as men wearing a Yarmulke. But this is an exception of course. Rav Ovadia Yosef wrote a teshuva about this subject, but I don’t have access to it now.

    In summary, I would emphasize the importance of custom and be upbeat about it being a sign of Jewish identity. A positive opportunity and not an “obligation” as such. I wish you much success however you explain this and your teaching and other endeavors as well.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team