Yarmulke (skull cap)
By Reb Gutman Locks
I was told the reason for wearing a yarmulke is to remind us that God is always above us, looking down and watching. Since I have been reading your blog, I learned that God is one and everywhere all around us - above, below, and on all sides. Shouldn’t we wear a yarmulke on our shoes, and on our elbows, too?
Puzzled in Florida
A yarmulke can remind us that G-d is always above us, but that is most likely not why the rabbis instituted the custom. There are many reasons suggested, such as, to show respect, to be associated with the Jewish people, a sign of piety, and such. But it seems that the rabbis who first taught this custom did so to associate with the kohanim (priests). The kohanim were commanded to wear a head covering when they served in the Temple.
The Torah comes to teach us more than our history. More importantly, it shows us how we should live our lives.
Still today, we have to somehow emulate the Temple service. This does not mean that we are to sacrifice animals on altars as this is forbidden. It means that we should do such things as see our Shabbos table as our altars. Today, our prayers, and the food that we eat in holiness and give to our guests are part of our sacrifices. Thinking along these lines makes the head covering an important element of our current service to Hashem, which is even more important now that we do not have kohanim offering the actual sacrifices in the Temple.
As for why not have all of our clothing remind us of G-d since He is surely everywhere; with the yarmulke we want to think of Hashem in a way that reminds us of our service to Him. Remembering that He is everywhere reminds us of the Infinite aspect of Hashem, but not necessarily the actual service.
This is why we are told not to say a blessing in the restroom. Why not? G-d is there, too. True, but we want to think of G-d in a way that will elevate our service and love of Him, and not just His infiniteness.
The way we call on G-d points us in a specific direction, and we then react accordingly. When we call Hashem, “our Father” we feel love for Him. When we call Him “our King” we feel respect. Both are true, but each aspect draws a corresponding result in our emotions. Thus, we say such things as, “G-d on high,” instead of calling out, “G-d of everywhere.” Since He is everywhere, He is all…if so, then, why pray?
There are times when we do address the infinite aspect of Hashem. For instance, in the Pesach Seder we call Hashem, “HaMakom”. HaMakom means “the Place”. G-d is the very Place that fills and surrounds all. See What Is This Place? to better understand this aspect of Hashem.
The rest of our garments can teach us a very important lesson, too. Just like our garments are a temporary covering of our body, so is our body a temporary covering of our soul. Think about this especially when you take off your garments and remember, just like your garments fall to the floor and lay there unmoving while you go on, so will your body someday fall to the floor, while you go on to the Next World.