Jews and Joes

What about head-coverings?

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Should an Ephraimite wear a Jewish head-covering "during prayer"?

Should an Ephraimite (10-Israelite), a Jew, or any male person wear a Yarmulke / Kippah (skullcap) during prayer or Torah study?
Jewish Kippot

Here is an interesting American Reform-based view: Men's Head Covering in Synagogue: Reform Judaism's Views. Three paragraphs from the article:

"From all of this, Lauterbach concluded that the custom of praying with covered head "is merely a matter of social propriety and decorum"' since in our own culture it is considered "good manners" to remove the hat as a sign of respect, there can be no objection to praying bareheaded. He writes: "Although in the last century the question of 'hat on or hat off' was the subject of heated disputes…we should know better now and be more tolerant and more liberal towards one another. We should realize that this matter is but a detail of custom and should not be made the issue between Orthodox and Reform. It is a detail that is not worth fighting about. It should not separate Jew from Jew.

One may quibble over Lauterbach's interpretation of a number of his sources. Some of them do not say precisely what he tells us that they say, and this tends to weaken his argument somewhat. His central point is certainly correct: Jewish law makes no absolute requirement that one cover the head to pray, to study Torah, or to participate in other religious acts. On the other hand, his conclusion -- that covering the head "is merely a custom, a minhag"; "merely a matter of social propriety" -- hardly reflects what is at stake in this issue, for surely he was aware that there is no such thing as "mere" custom in Judaism.

Much of Jewish ritual practice is based upon custom rather than upon Toraitic commandment or rabbinic decree, yet the tradition does not regard it as unimportant or irrelevant for that. As the old Ashkenazic saying puts it, "the custom of our ancestors is Torah." Jews have always related to their customs with intensity and seriousness. Fierce debates in Jewish religious life are as likely to take place over matters of "mere" custom as they are over issues of Torah law and theological doctrine."

The bold was mine. The ideal of Rabbinic "custom becoming TORAH" definitely appear prevalent even the 1st Century. Mark 7:6-7 essentially quotes Isaiah 29:13:

“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,"

So the question for Ephraimites is this: If it is not commanded to wear a head-covering in the Torah (during prayer or not), should we still listen to a command issued via man? We can all come up with our own flowery explanations as to why we'll just keep the rabbinic command anyway, but what does the Torah say about adding commandments to the Torah?

Deuteronomy 4:2: "You shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish from it, that you may keep the commandments of יהוה your Elohim which I command you."

Side note: It is not even necessary to consult 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. The author of that passage agrees that men should not cover their heads during prayer, but then he also creates a new command for women... and even makes it sound like a Nazirite dishonors himself for growing his hair long. This is the type of confusion we inherit when we use non-Tanakh texts (especially those translated into English) to create "new" doctrinal practices.

The House of Ephraim not accepting/embracing the tradition of Judah’s elders is one of the primary reasons they will not allow Ephraim to return to the Land of Israel in mass (as in the Bnei Menashe experience, Judah wants those returning to convert formally to Orthodox Judaism). I for one will remain in exile if the condition is I must embrace their man-made commandments or live in Israel as many Messianics do and succumb to Rabbinic pressure to follow their halakha. Many just put their kippah or hat on so the Orthodox will not hassle them to death. It is not out of respect for their authority in many cases... it is simply protectionism or self-preservation (cloaked in a myriad of other reasons).

Should an Ephraimite wear a Jewish head-covering?

No where "is it Written" in the Torah that men are "commanded" to cover their heads, either in general living or during times of prayer, minus what is detailed regarding the priestly vestments in Exodus 28:4.

Shulhan Arukh (Jewish Code of Law - mid-16th century), Orach Chayim 2:6: "One may not walk four cubits with an uncovered head."

If one wishes to pay allegiance to the rabbis, then he should do what the rabbis do. If one wishes to pay allegiance to יהוה, then he should do what יהוה said and not add commandments to the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Isaiah 29:13).

Should women always wear a head-covering (even in Prayer)?

No where "is it Written" in the Torah that women are "commanded" to cover their heads, either in general living or during times of prayer. It may have been Middle Eastern culture for women to always cover their heads, hair, and/or face, but to what extent this was done in the camp of Israel, it can only be speculated. What we do know is that there is no written commandment forbidding a woman from uncovering her head, face, or hair. And to create this commandment "out of thin air" is actually breaking the commandments... as noted earlier.

Concerning Numbers 5:18

Numbers 5:18 is often referenced as evidence that women were intended to/commanded to cover their head and/or hair. Most Enlish translations say something like "And the priest shall make the woman stand before יהוה, and shall uncover the woman’s head". The reading of course implies that a cloth head-covering was to be removed. Yet, this is not necessarily the case. The woman's actual hair may have been what was to be cut-off. Compare Lev 13:45 where the same word (H6544) is used, but in that passage the implications are that the head is made bare of hair. However, even if Num 5:18 has been correctly translated into English, a similar translation was made of the same pertinent word in Lev 10:6 where men are told to not uncover their heads. In that case, are we to likewise assume men are also intended to wear head-coverings ...even though no such Torah command is ever explicitly made to either men or women? Or is it possible that both Num 5:18 and Lev 10:6 have both been mistranslated from the Hebrew?

Concerning 1 Corinthians 11

What authority did the author of 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 have to create a new commandment? Was this a difficult matter (Deut 17:8-13)? No, as interpreted and/or translated, this is purely innovative. He does only speak about the act of women praying or prophesying, but even if he said women should always have their heads' covered, would he have the authority to create such a command?


Granted, women (and men) living in dry-arid parts of the Middle East are all aware of the damage the air and the fine-sand can do to facial skin and hair. And if they take measures to protect themselves, it should be their non-religious/non-commanded choice, not something beaten upon them (as seen by the Taliban and other fundamentalist Muslim sects).

If someone finds a Tanakh reference or insight which counters anything I've said above, please email me or leave a comment below. Always open to midrash and change of my view point.

Hanok ben-Isaak