Mitzvah Readiness: The Hat
by Rivka C. Berman
yeshiva circles nothing says manhood quite like a dapper black fedora.
Boys tend to begin wearing a black hat once they reach bar mitzvah age
or when all their friends begin wearing theirs.
Some speculative reasons for the hat.
First, halacha. The Mishna Berura (91:12) writes one should wear a
hat during prayer because it is unseemly to appear before someone of importance
without a hat. However, current social convention may undermine this reason.
Second, uniforms. From the army to the local minor league baseball team to the
Mounties, any uniform worth its salt comes with a hat. Wearing a yeshiva-style
hat signifies identification with a certain brand of observant Judaism. The
fedoras step beyond the yarmulke, which is shows particular allegiances on its
Third, souls. In Jewish mysticism a Jew is thought have five types of soul:
nefesh, ruach, neshama, chaya, yechida. Three of these, the nefesh,
ruach, and neshama, are said to dwell within the physical body. The chaya
is acknowledged with a yarmulke and the yechida with the hat. Some say a
second layer of fabric is enough, thus one of the reasons behind the custom to
wear velvet/fabric yarmulkes which are comprised of a fabric top layer and cloth
Black reigns as the color of choice for these hats. One respondent to a
hyper-mail Torah forum email volley opined that black is a color of humility.
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