Clothing worn by Jews usually varies between different denominations. Many Jews will cover their heads when praying, attending synagogue at a religious event or festival. Doing so is seen as a sign of devoutness and a sign of respect for God. There is some evidence in the Talmud of Jewish teachings that discusses the requirement of some sort of head covering.
There are a lot of terms to call that small Jewish round cloth cap, yarmulke, kippah, kippot, skullcap and more. One’s age and background can have a lot to do with which phrase they use. But what’s really the difference?
What is a Kippah?
Kippah in Hebrew actually translates to “dome”. Fun fact: in the Talmud, it means “prison”, because at the time, prisons had domed roofs. A kippah can also be referred to as a skullcap. This brimless cap is traditionally made of cloth and worn by Jews to fulfill the customary requirement held by Orthodox authorities that say the head must be covered.
The Talmud associates the act of wearing a Kippah, or Kippot in its plural form, as a show of respect to God and acknowledging his presence above us. This Jewish head covering has evolved over the years into various styles and designs such as a modern, knitted white, blue, black velvet or unique Bukharian design.
The style of Kippot that particular Jews wear or that are worn for certain occasions may vary, such as yeshivah-style Jews who commonly wear black velvet Kippah. Modern Orthodox Jews are known to wear knitted colored Kippahs while Chassidic Jewis wear a fur hat, known as a shtreimel, on Shabbat and holidays.
What is a Yarmulke?
Yarmulke, on the other hand, is a Yiddish word that was first borrowed from the Slavic who in turn borrowed from the Turkic. It can be translated to the word “cap”, and was commonly used to refer to whatever kind of cap that local commoners wore.
The word Yarmulke comes from the hebrew word “Yar Hamelech” which means “fear of the king”. And that is what this tradition comes down to. Having awe of heaven or a higher power. This term was more common in the Western world in previous generations when Yiddish was more commonly used.
Jewish Head Coverings
It is customary among traditional Ashkenazi Jews to have their head covered all the time. While many traditional Sephardic Jews have the practice to only cover their during prayer and while saying blessings. In addition to the traditional requirements for some people, wearing a covering resonates as a part of their cultural identity. In a reform or more liberal context, it attains less of a gendered aspect, as anyone on the gender spectrum will wear one.
Whether a Kippah or a Yarmulke, it all refers to the same thing. Many Jews feel that by wearing this Jewish head covering they are proudly announcing their faith to the world. The tradition has evolved throughout the years, to include Kippahs or yarmulkes of certain colors, sizes and materials as a sign of allegiance to a certain group.
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