Head, covering of

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Head, covering of. In Judaism, the custom of men covering their heads as a sign of humility before God, and of married women covering their heads as a sign of modesty before men, practised throughout the Orthodox Jewish community. Today, Orthodox men wear at least a skull cap (Heb., kippah; Yid., yarmulke) at all times; Conservative Jews cover their heads for prayer; and it remains a matter of choice for Reform Jews. The increasingly common practice of gentiles wearing a head-covering in Jewish company (especially on e.g. official visits) somewhat confuses the matter, since head-covering seems to have begun as a deliberate contrast to gentile practices (see YARMULKE), but it is presumably a matter of courtesy.

In biblical times, women kept their hair hidden (see Numbers 5.18). Since the early 19th cent., some married women followed the custom by wearing a wig (Yid., shaytl), although this was opposed in some circles. Today, only strictly Orthodox women keep their heads covered at all time.