In last week’s column, a mother of a 15-year yeshiva bochur wrote of her exasperation with the tension in their home created by an ongoing battle between the boy and his father – over the son’s unwillingness to wear a hat. Although he wears one for davening in yeshiva (school’s mandate), he refuses to do so at any other time.
This mom (who signed herself Thank you for enlightening us) seems to feel that an intelligent argument in favor of wearing a hat may sway their son’s outlook and asks for help on that front.
Every normal father aspires to be looked up to by his children, especially his sons, and is proud to have them follow in his ways. In this respect, at least, it is not too difficult to understand why your husband is hurting.
To put things in perspective, however, your husband ought to reflect back on his own teenage years, when he too would have felt the need to assert his independence along his way to adulthood.
In your letter you say that you want to “win your son over with logic.” Have you not heard that even the best-intentioned parents come up against a brick wall when trying to reason with their teenager? “Raging hormones” is what we used to blame all of our teens’ ills on. But now we’re being told that recent brain development studies prove that unlike adults who use the part of the brain that governs reason and forethought, teenagers tend to rely more on the region of the brain that processes emotion and memory, and that therein lies their stubbornness.
Besides, “doing your own thing” is in and following “like mindless sheep” is old hat (no pun intended) – which is to say that wearing one “just because Daddy says so or does so” is simply not cool. Yeah, teenagers like to believe they are all grown up, when in reality they still have so much to learn and absorb.
Putting all of this aside, here are some tidbits of information for your “logic” arsenal:
The Mishneh Berura, for one, makes it clear that a man davening Shemonei Esrei should be garbed in a manner that befits the occasion of meeting with an important official. The Shulchan Aruch cites the bigdei kehunah (the Kohen Gadol‘s attire during the avodah in the Bais Hamikdosh) when discussing suitable dress for davening.
There are several references in the Gemara that allude to proper attire for praying, such as in Brochos 30:b where it says that one should bow before Hashem dressed as befits one who stands before the King.
While many orthodox segments of Jews will not allow themselves to succumb to outside trends and influences, members of the modern orthodox may argue that times are not what they used to be and thus justify their no-jacket no-hat attire (when davening) as acceptable.
Then there is the rationalization that proper etiquette in the world at large calls for removal of one’s hat in deference to an important figure, such as when standing before a dignitary or monarch. But if that indeed holds true in the gentile world (as we know it does), it should give us all the more reason not to follow such trend in our service to G-d.
To readers who go all out when attending their children’s/close relative’s/ wedding/bar-mitzvah, etc., in head to toe spiffy attire (cutting a dashing figure in hat and jacket): Is it not befitting to stand before the King of kings in at least as fine a getup?
A fascinating bit of kabbalah that deep-thinkers may appreciate explains why Chassidim and other orthodox sects wear hats over their yarmulkes (a double covering). Each Jewish soul is made up of five levels: the nefesh (soul), ruach (spirit), neshama (soul – Hashem’s breath), chaya (living essence) and yechida (unique essence).
The first three, the nefesh, ruach and neshama, are the ascending levels that reside within the physical body, while chaya and yechida – the highest levels (not internalized) – are acknowledged with the jacket and hat respectively. These items of clothing are linked to the makif (encircling light) and thus have the ability to attract the divine light that protects us from the surrounding negative forces.
Quite compelling an argument (in favor of wearing a jacket and hat) in and by itself!
Nonetheless, your husband would be well-advised to give the “hat” matter a rest and to work instead on building a solid and trusting father/son relationship. To that end, Daddy should be patting his son on the back for his scholarly achievements and giving him the frequent nod of approval for his accomplishments – all the while praying to Hashem for siyata d’Shmaya, to guide you in your parental role and your children in the proper derech.
* * * * *
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, 338 Third Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215. 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.