Saturday, December 7, 2013

Going without a yarmulka at work


"In the matter of a person who needs to find work, and must meet with the heads of the office. He is told that he will have to remove his hat from his head and sit bareheaded, without a kippah, also known as a yarmulka. If he were to wear his kippah, they would not hire him. Further, the person who has been working to get him this position says he will be personally harmed for having presented this person as a candidate… 

"Further, the candidate needs this job for his living there in Denver; he cannot find work with people who will not care about his kippah…

"It appears, in my humble opinion, that as far as law most opinions agree that refusal to walk bareheaded in public is an act of piety… and since it has become universal Jewish practice, it is no weaker than any of the customs of the holy Jewish nation. However, it is no stronger than any of the Torah’s actual active commandments, and the law is that in a case of great loss, one is not obligated in an active commandment.

"There is also the view of the Turei Zahav that a prohibition against being bareheaded applies here, because bareheadedness is the practice of the nations. In that case, it is a prohibition, and any potential financial loss does not override the prohibition! But there are those who disagree with the Turei Zahav…and in a case of great loss, like this, one may depend on them."

(Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim 4:2)

Have a great day,


  1. Would you mind addressing this in terms of Noachides/Gerim Toshvim? Since it is the practice of the nations to walk bareheaded, and the Gerim voluntarily aim to walk according to the practice of Torah and Israel, shouldn't the Gerim participate in the minhag of the kippa? Perhaps there should be a large scale decision as to the color or emblem on such a kippa, but nonetheless, the Movement is greatly leaning toward the practice of wearing, and it seems right to me that the Sanhedrin should hear this question and provide a means to validate a massive wave already in motion.

    1. An interesting thought, Michael. But I believe the formal prohibition against "walking in the manner of the nations" would not be incumbent upon a ger toshav.

    2. If the ger toshav were living in Israel, he would be considered a "legal immigrant." Expected to live according to the laws of the nation, but his friends and coworkers and the clerks who issued the green card would know on a private scale that he wasn't Jewish or a citizen of Israel. If he lives in Israel though, the Torah says there shall be "one law for both the native and the ger." It would behoove the ger to wear the kippah. But the question divulges when we look at this person who wants to live by the laws of Israel while not living in Israel. This type of ger, what is he called?

    3. Hi Michael, I'm not sure your description of a ger toshav's life in Israel is correct. I believe a ger toshav observes the Noachide laws, but need not observe halachah. For example, a ger toshav may eat non-kosher.

  2. I am confused by your answer. I'll do a little digging in an effort to both understand you and get descriptions correct. Here's what I find:
    While the Ger may eat neveilah, he may certainly not eat pig or rabbits, per the halacha that Noah understand on kosher vs common animals (for his post-ark sacrifices)—this permission to a ger is hardly a breach in kashrut…its that the ger is simply held to a less stringent definition. A ger is required to abstain from chometz and blood; he is permitted to the Jew as in-home hire (with a time limit up to the Yovel). Like the Levite, the Ger has no inheritance in the Land, but he may come and rejoice at the Temple and be satisfied. If the Ger wishes to offer at the temple, he must follow the same rules as the Native. If he wishes to eat the Passover Lamb, he must follow the same rules as the Native. If the Ger has blasphemed, then like the Native, he is liable for the death penalty. “The ger must do as you do; there shall be one statute for the Native and the Ger.” These indicate to me that the Ger is expected to live according to the same halacha as the Jew. So I am confused on how a ger need not observe halacha.

  3. I meant to say "Noah understood." I also wanted to include the acknowledgement that the nochri (a genuine Noachide) and the achum are permitted to eat non-kosher animals. It seems that even though Noah knew the difference between kosher and non-kosher animals, the Holy One (BBH) still gave "permission" to eat any animal, "from everything that lives and moves." But the Ger elevates himself above the Seven Basic Laws of Noah, and draws near to the Holy One via the means of holiness, which we can only learn from the Native Ezrach. Such is the reason why 10 of Noachides are running to you, grabbing your tziztit and asking you to teach us, for we have heard that God is with you.