Synagogue Etiquette:To cover the head or not?

Increasingly I am seeing fewer people don a yarmulke/kippah or tallit during services.  In our congregation like most we make them both available.  Wearing a kippah is of course mandatory for men in an orthodox synagogue and in most Conservative congregations as well.  But it optional in most Reconstructionist and Reform congregation. In fact there was a time in many Reform congregations during the 19th and 20th centuries that you would have been asked to remove your kippah if you entered the congregation wearing one.

On the High Holy Days I do see a huge array of colorful kippot and tallitot.  But somehow during weekly Shabbat services on Friday night and Saturday morning somehow those ritual items sit at home, forgotten.

These ritual items are worn to enhance the spiritual experience.  Not just because…  But a kippah/yarmulke is to remind you that God is above.  It is a sign of holiness.  It is a reminder of the crown of Torah and the crown of the High Priest in the ancient temple.

A tallit has the special tzitzit or fringes at its four corners. Knotted with special significance they are to remind us of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. In some communities the tallit isn’t worn unless a person is married.  While others don them at the bar mitzvah.  In recent years woman have also started to wear tallitot. Each prayer experience is to wrap you in the tallit with the mitzvot of our Torah and the revelation at Sinai. The tallit enables you to feel God’s loving embrace and create a sacred space around you.

The tallit and kippah are spiritual tools for your entrance into the holy of holies of our time–being close to and at one with God.

If you haven’t tried these ritual tools, whether you are a man or woman try it next time you come to Temple.

One thought on “Synagogue Etiquette:To cover the head or not?

  1. While Reform Judaism provdes us with much latitude when it comes to rituals, I still find the wearing of a tallit by congregants on Friday evening to be a bit unsettling. For those leading the service on the bema it is quite appropriate. The origin of the custom/prohibition against wearing the tallit at night is somewhat silly these days. The biblical passage calls for one to “look at the tzitzit” could not be fulfilled in the evening because of darkness or poor illumination. Now that is obviously no longer a problem. But the custom remains in most congregations of only wearing a tallit in the evening on the Eve of Yom Kippur which technically begins BEFORE nightfall.

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