Sunday, October 23, 2005

To Kippah, Or Not To Kippah, That is the Question

I made a very slow trek back as a baal teshuvah. My biggest fear was having to explain how I went from Tovya the quiet Jew, to Tovya the proud Jew. Prior to making teshuvah, I was the perfect example of how all Jews should NOT act. I was the ultimate apostate. When I made the decision to return, it was very difficult telling people that I would no longer eat dinner at their homes, and that I would no longer 'party' on shabbos. I could no longer date non-Jewish women, nor find myself alone in their company. It wasn't an easy task for a Jew who had grown up in a non-Jewish world... I needed some serious help. The day that I began to wear a kippah changed everything. It all got easier. Hashem provided me just the help that I needed. It became easier because upon my head rested a reminder, not only to me but to those around me, that first and foremost I am a Jew. Everything else comes second. Immediately, all of my non-Jewish friends ceased cursing in my presence, they stopped talking about women in an indecent manner, and best of all they stopped asking me to do things that are forbidden for me to do. They looked at me not as one of them, but as a unique individual. My own action of donning a kippah caused them to reflect upon their own deeds and better themselves. They knew that I was a person who was outside their world. This may sound like a disadvantage, but if you think about it, there is no greater advantage to have. The hardest part of living an observant Jewish life is the constant pressure of non-Jewish society quietly tugging at you to assimilate. It's like a sweet song telling you to come hither. This is where a kippah comes to the rescue. It's like wearing a billboard on your head that says, "Don't even try, I am Jewish". I like women. I am attracted to them and I love being in their presence. When I was the quiet Jew, it was easy to date non-Jewish women. They simply saw me as a person JUST LIKE THEM, but with a different heritage. They loved my company as much as I loved theirs. When I began to don a Kippah, they immediately looked at my head, and said, "Next!" They were no longer interested. I immediately became an alien to them. Therefore I no longer had to fight my urges to court non-Jewish women because my Kippah automatically acted as a shield to defend me against assimilation. It prevented me from sinning without saying a word. Even more importantly, my kippah keeps me from 'staring' at women, because I know that it would be a chillul Hashem to do such, because people would be watching me and see me lusting after a woman with my eyes. I wouldn't want to be a bad example as a Jew, because I may be the only Jew they ever meet. I have to strive to make their one encounter with a Jew the one that shows that we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Secondly, when I began to keep a strict kashrus diet, I had to explain to people over and over that I couldn't eat the same foods they did, nor could I eat dinner at their homes. It was very tiresome. When I began to wear a kippah, I never had to remind them again. They looked at my head, and automatically knew that I would not be eating their wives' spaghetti. They knew that I could not and would not, so there was no point in asking. They simply stopped the invitations, so the temptation to violate the halacha in regard to the kashrus was no longer there. I could list the advantages of wearing a kippah versus not doing so, but the list would go on forever. It's not an easy decision to make, but I promise you that it gets easier after the first day. The first day of "kippah'ing" is the hardest, after that it's a cake walk. Wearing a kippah not only reminds us that Hashem is above as at all times and watching our every deed, but also reminds those around us that we are Jews. We are therefore forcing ourselves into a position of holding ourself to a G-dly code of ethics and actions so as to bring kiddush Hashem. Our goal as Jews in this world is not to be a witness with our mouths, but to be a witness with our actions. When we perform the mitzvos, we give Hashem a reason to bless us. When he blesses us, the non-Jewish nations are in awe of us. When they are in awe of us, they are in awe of our G-d, and therefore the fear of G-d is upon them as well. This is our mission as a Jewish people. We are to be different. We are to be unique in our actions and unique in our being. Our place in society is to stand out as a walking miracle. Our very survival throughout the millenia is an attestment that G-d is real and that our G-d never forsakes a promise that He makes. We cannot be a walking, breathing standard as secret Jews. We can only be an example through open fulfillment of the mitzvos. By non-Jews seeing us as unafraid to be Jews and fearless in fulfilling the Law, we prove that the Torah is the living, breathing word of G-d. We show the world that our fear is reserved for Hashem alone.


Blogger ifyouwillit said...

Whenever my religious observence wavered, the Kippa is the one thing I felt impossible to remove, and keeping it on my head kept me from doing things that were inappropriate or wrong for me to be doing. It served as a reminder to myself, and to others.

10/24/2005 03:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Leslie said...

A good and insightful viewpoint into why you wear a yarmulke.

I've added my thoughts on why I don't wear one outside of shul.

One thing though, I wish we as Jews could just make the name of what we wear a bit more uniform!

Kippa, Kippah, Yarmula, Yarmulke and so on!

10/24/2005 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger Tovya @ Zion Report said...


That's good to hear. Our sages knew what they were talking about when they told us to cover our heads that's for sure.


I read your post, and I appreciate you linking to my post.. very gracious of you.

10/25/2005 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger Loganius said...

I really enjoyed this. While in NYC i became a much more observant jew than i had ever been before and started wearing a Kippah all day everyday, but as I moved back to the West Coast and my observance began faltering in some areas, i felt uncomfortable wearing it...for exactly the reason you mention, i didn't want to be a burden to the jewish people by not being as mitzvos observant as I should be (and want to be). I don't a single person here that wears a kippah besides the Chabad folks but they are never in sight anyhow. Anyway, hopefully i get back to a place where i feel comfortable wearing a kippah again!

10/25/2005 09:48:00 PM  
Blogger Tovya @ Zion Report said...

I know exactly what you mean. I live in the pit of galus.. I can count the 'kippah' wearing Jews on one hand here (and they are all Chabad too!)

I tell you what though, it really brings out the best in me. It gives me so much pressure to do what's right in the eyes of Hashem, so it's worth standing out in a crowd for that alone. I think I would have assimilated without it already.

Either way, I hope you find your way back to wearing a kippah, but more importantly I hope to see you in Eretz Yisrael someday (we need to make aliyah!) It's a lot easier being an open Jew when there are Jews all around you :-)

Be blessed.

10/25/2005 10:09:00 PM  
Blogger Ze'ev said...

Tovya, I am eagerly waiting for you to make Aliyah to Israel. We need proud Jews like you here!

10/26/2005 03:21:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic X said...

Nice post. I had more or less the same experince more than twenty years ago. I second Ze'ev. Your place is here in Israel. And one more thing: I think that the time has come for the proud Jew called Tovya needs to marry a proud Jewish girl. What do you think?

10/26/2005 03:57:00 AM  
Blogger Tovya @ Zion Report said...

Ze'ev, Yes, soon enough it shall happen.. all in due time.

Cosmic, I think she is over there with you guys... I don't really 'match' with the reform women that we have here. Maybe one day I will post some of my interesting dates here too (like the time a missionary posed as a Jew so she could 'witness' to me!)...

Which brings me back to: you guys are right, and my place is there.

10/26/2005 05:39:00 AM  
Blogger ifyouwillit said...

Looking forward to you making it here!

You got a timescale in mind for aliya?

10/26/2005 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Tovya @ Zion Report said...

Hopefully by this time next year I will be there. My assumption is that 1 year is a reasonable time frame, I just have a lot of issues to resolve and assests to liquidate first.

I can't wait though.. my lifes long dream will finally come to fruition.

10/27/2005 06:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Truth about the Kippah

Now the Torra teaches us to wear tsitsith At least the tsitsith are found in the Torah

9/19/2009 05:59:00 PM  

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