Latest update: March 6th, 2012
First let me say how much I enjoy reading your column – Shabbos just wouldn’t be the same without it.
I was hoping you could shed some light on a topic that’s been causing some friction in our home between our 15-year old son and his dad. The yeshiva he goes to mandates wearing a black hat for davening. The problem: My son absolutely detests wearing it and does so begrudgingly – he has no choice.
He refuses, however, to wear one at any other time – not even to shul on Shabbos or Yom Tov. This irritates my husband to no end and has led to constant bickering between them.
Whereas both my husband and I come from black hat families (men always wore hats for davening, at the Shabbos and Yom Tov tish, for special occasions, etc.), in our “mixed” neighborhood there are a number of men who are seen wearing just a yarmulke.
Our son is baruch Hashem very bright and does well in school (when he sets his mind to it), but he is also the type who questions everything: “Why” this and “Why” that
I thought that if you could possibly give us some background to the origin or reason behind the custom of wearing a hat, we might be able to win our son over with logic that would make sense to him.
Thank you for enlightening us
With all the current headaches in the world, to wear or not to wear a hat may come across to some readers as a relatively trivial matter. Yet to many others this “minor” issue can become a major irritant.
I am reminded of a poem that circulated some years back called “Moshiach’s Hat.” A slightly modified version follows below – as worthwhile a read today as it was yesterday, for youngsters and old timers alike.
Look to our next column for a more in-depth analysis on the topic of a male’s head covering.
In the meanwhile, with Chanukah’s flames having just infused our hearts and homes with light, this is an ideal time to focus on family togetherness and to allow the lingering, soothing warmth to dissolve those annoyances that tend to get the better of us.
‘Twas the night of the Geulah and in the world’s varied shtiebelach
The sounds of Torah could be heard coming from all kinds of Yeedelach
Some were learning in English, some in Ivrit or Yiddish
Some were expounding on apshat or elucidating a chiddish
And up in shamayim The Aibishter decreed
That the time had come “for My Children to be freed”
Moshiach was roused from his heavenly berth
And given instructions to set out for planet earth
He instantly complied and with much jubilation
Descended to earth and entered a shtiebel congregation
I am the Moshiach, he announced. Hashem has heard your plea!
Your Geulah has arrived! I’ve come to set you free!
They all stopped their learning – this was quite a surprise
And looked him over carefully with scrutinizing eyes
He’s not the Moshiach, declared one on a whim
Take a look at that hat, the pinches and the brim!
That’s right, offered another with a sneer and a frown
Moshiach wouldn’t show with a brim that’s turned down
Hmm, thought Moshiach, if this indeed is the rule
I’ll simply turn my brim up before I enter the next shul
So he confidently strode into the next shul in town
Sure that he’d be welcomed with his brim no longer down
I’m the Moshiach, he proclaimed as he made his move to enter
But the Yidden wanted to verify if he was Left, Right, or Center
Your clothes are so black, they cried out in fright
You can’t be Moshiach, you’re much too far right
If you want to be Moshiach, you must be properly outfitted
And they replaced his black hat with a kippa that was knitted
With his new kippa on his head Moshiach shrugged and said
What difference is it to me what I wear on my head?
And so he went on to the next shtiebel for his mission was dear
Though he was fast becoming disillusioned with the Yidden down here
I’m the Moshiach! He introduced himself bravely once more
Hoping they wouldn’t find fault with the clothes that he wore
You’re the Moshiach – without a black hat??
But I do have a hat!” said Moshiach to that.
He pulled it right out and plunked it down on his head
But they all started laughing and one of them said,
If you want to be Moshiach and be accepted in this town,
Try some pinches here and there and turn the brim down
Moshiach was heartbroken and thought the time must not be right
He turned around despairingly and walked out into the night.
But when he reached his chariot and began to enter
All sorts of Yidden came together – from Left, Right, and Center
Please don’t go it’s all their fault! they accusingly said
Pointing to one another and to what each wore on his head.
But Moshiach sadly shook his head and said you don’t understand
As he started up his chariot to get out of this land
Yes, it’s very wonderful that you all are learning Torah
But you seem to have forgotten a crucial part of our mesorah.
Bewildered and befuddled they all began to shout
What does he mean? What is he talking about?
Moshiach rebuked them: The first place to start
Is to seal your lips and open your hearts
To all who deem other Yidden too frum or too frei
Know that all Yidden are beloved in The Aibishter’s eye
If you sincerely and truly wish for me to come
Try working a little harder on Ahavas Chinam
* * * * *
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to email@example.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.
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