Dear Rabanit Cohen,
I have recently begun to watch your shiurim on Torahanytime and really enjoy them. I have been married for three years now. My husband is a wonderful man and I feel extremely blessed. I have one issue that isn’t going away. When we were dating, he was slightly more observant than I was, but we both respected and understood each other. The one thing I haven’t gotten over is that he now wears his kipah all the time. In our social circles wearing a kipah is a rarity, so it makes me feel uncomfortable and, at times, even ashamed. As much as I wish I could simply not let this bother me, it does. Can you help me change my attitude?
Thank you for taking the time to write. You are quite brave for being open and honest. I admire this quality.
Before I answer your question. Allow me to provide you with some background concerning the kipah. The tradition to wear a kipah is derived from a custom which evolved as a sign of our recognition that there is Someone “above” us who watches our every act. The source for the wearing of a kipah is brought down in two places in the Gemara. The first place is in the Gemara of Kidushin: “Rabbi Yoshua ben Levi says that it is forbidden for a Jew to walk six feet in the extreme upright position since G-d’s glory fills the entire world. Rabbi Huna the son of Rabbi Yoshua says that one should not walk six feet without a covering on his head.”
This rationale of Rabbi Yoshua ben Levi is that since Hashem’s presence fills the earth, when man walks bent slightly, his head does not extend beyond the area in which Hashem granted to man.
If he walks upright, as those who exhibit their inherent feelings of self-importance, then their heads extend above the area in which Hashem designated to man and in effect man pushes the Divine Presence out from its rightful place. Therefore a man should walk in a manner exhibiting humility which is in a mode in which his head is not extended straight up but inclined slightly. In this way, he does not intrude on the area given to the Divine Presence.
Rabbi Huna the son of Rabbi Yoshua extends on Rabbi Yoshua’s teaching. He says that he would not walk six feet without his head being covered since the Divine Presence is above him. He can feel the Divine Presence and as a matter of modesty he conceals his head. This is an expression of humility in face of the Divine Presence.
The other place that it is mentioned is in the Gemara of Shabat. This concerns a story about the mother of Rabbi Nachman ben Yitzchak. She heard from the stargazers that her son was destined to be a thief. To avert this from happening, she became very insistent that young Nachman always wear a head covering. One day as the young man was sitting under a neighbor’s date tree, the wind blew his head covering from his head. He looked up at the date tree. His yetzer hara overpowered him to the point that he bit off a date cluster from his neighbor’s tree with his teeth.
We see from this story that the covering of the head has an effect on the person’s ability to deal with inherent evil tendencies.
Now, in answer to you question – You should ask yourself why the kipah bothers you so much. I am going to take a wild guess and assume that deep down your husband’s kipah doesn’t bother you at all. It bothers other people, and you have internalized other people’s opinions. So you feel ashamed. Maybe someone in your family has made comments about it.
Or maybe you have seen strangers giving him odd looks. Perhaps you think your friends think it is strange. And maybe you are right. But this is not your problem. It is theirs. Your husband does what he believes is right even though it is not the norm in your social circles.
We do this often. We take on other people’s issues as our own, and we feel like we need to justify ourselves when others do not approve. The problem is not yours. And just as you respect him for so many other things, you can respect him for this too. You will be able to do this when you quiet down the internal voices that are making you feel self-conscious. You will do this when you consider the Shechinah in your home and not the shechenah (neighbor).
It seems from how you write that there is a lot to respect about your husband. He is not just following the crowd. He is himself in all situations, without needing to adjust his image to fit in. The rarity of your husband is not that he wears a kipah, but that he is who he is, and he is real about it. There are not many men out there today who are like this. Be proud of him, and be proud of yourself. Be strong and pay no mind to the neighbors; it’s Hashem Who will afford you blessings.