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Is one required to wear a hat and jacket when praying, as is common in many Orthodox circles?

The answer is no. However, one is required to dress in an appropriate and respectful manner.1 In previous generations, a hat and jacket were standard dress for both Jews and gentiles. In some countries it was considered inappropriate to appear in public without them. Therefore, the halachic authorities who lived in such places ruled that one must wear a hat and jacket when praying. It was reasoned that if one is particular to wear a hat and jacket when appearing in public or before important people, then one should wear such clothes when appearing before G-d as well.2 Further support for the idea of wearing a hat when praying is taken from the Kohen Gadol, whose ritual garb included a hat that he was required to wear when officiating in the Beit HaMikdash.


There are also those who suggest that wearing a hat and jacket imparts a sense of modesty and humility that is appropriate for prayer.3 Additionally, wearing a hat is also cited as an easy method of complying with the opinion that one’s head should be completely covered during prayer.4 This is especially true when reciting the Birkat HaMazon.5

There are also several kabbalistic reasons for wearing a hat in addition to a kippa, a practice referred to as “the double covering.” Among them is the idea that there are two types of fear that a person should have – yira ila’ah and yira tata’ah (“upper fear” and “lower fear”), each of which requires its own representative head covering.6 Additionally, some suggest that the concept of a double head covering emerged in times and places where it was customary to remove one’s hat when greeting important people. By having two head coverings, a hat with a kippa underneath, one’s head would still be covered when removing one’s hat.

More recent halachic authorities, however, recognize that hats and jackets are no longer a component of standard dress, especially in warmer climates. Hats are rarely worn and most people do not wear suit-type jackets regularly. So too, such attire is often not required nor expected when meeting important people. In fact, in some countries, appearing before figures of authority while wearing a hat is considered to be in poor taste.7

It also suffices for the majority of one’s head to be covered during prayer, not necessarily the entire head. Therefore, instead of a hat one might want to simply consider wearing a large kippa at all times, or at least when praying.8 It is interesting to note that most people would agree that a necktie is a vital component of formal or dignified dress and yet for some reason, there is no demand from contemporary halachic authorities to wear one when praying.

As such, most contemporary halachic authorities rule, or at least silently acknowledge, that there is no longer an obligation to wear a hat or jacket when praying. Doing so today is little more than a sign of one’s social and religious affiliation. This is especially true with regard to the style and color of one’s hat and other clothing. One is simply required to dress for prayer in the same manner that one typically dresses on a daily basis.9 As such, one who is particular to only appear in public while wearing a hat, jacket, or tie, would be required to do so for prayer as well.10 Other authorities rule that the manner in which one must dress for prayer is the same as the way one would dress when appearing before distinguished individuals11; though one would not appear before a distinguished individual without a tie, no authorities require a tie for prayer. Ultimately, it seems that the requirement for how one must dress for prayer is a completely subjective matter.

It might just be that the reason the practice of wearing a hat and jacket in certain circles is due to the theological hesitation of changing an existing practice even when new realities justify such changes. It should be noted that it is praiseworthy to have a garment reserved exclusively for prayer and a hat can often conveniently fill this role.12 More important than how one dresses for prayer is one’s attitude, reverence and concentration during prayer.13



  1. Shabbat 10a; Amos 4:12.
  2. Chayei Adam 22:8; Mishna Berura 91:5; Aruch Hashulchan, OC 91:5.
  3. Levush, OC 151:6; Elya Rabba 183:16; Mishna Berura 46:9, 183:11.
  4. Rambam, Hilchot Tefilla 5:5; OC 92:6.
  5. Berachot 51a, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 44:6.
  6. Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 2:6, See also Tzitz Eliezer 13:13.
  7. Melamed L’hoil 56.
  8. Yechaveh Daat 4:1; Birchat Habayit 1:22 cited in Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 2:6.
  9. Aruch Hashulchan, OC 91:6; Sheilat Shlomo 2:233, 4:25.
  10. Shaarei Halacha 18.
  11. Mishna Berura 91:12.
  12. OC 98:4.
  13. Shevet Halevi 10:18.

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Rabbi Ari Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He teaches halacha, including semicha, one-on-one to people all over the world, online. He is also the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (9 volumes), the rabbinic director of United with Israel, and a rebbe at a number of yeshivot and seminaries. Questions and feedback are welcomed: [email protected].