Ask the Rabbi - 248
4 September 1999; Issue #248
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Iím 22 and work in a totally non-Jewish business setting in Manhattan where Iíve worked for a year. I wear a yarmulke to work every day. I feel that wearing a yarmulke here will prevent me from moving up in the company, as much of my job involves seeing potential clients and I am starting to think that perhaps an outright religious article like a yarmulke might make them uncomfortable. Also, my co-workers treat me differently and do not accept me so much. The "damage" has been done in this office, so I am thinking of leaving to another office and not wearing a yarmulke there. What are your thoughts on this, halachically and philosophically? This has been bothering me for a while.
To get ahead, or to cover your head: That is your question.
The Shulchan Aruch writes that a head covering is an obligation during prayer and something that one "should do" at other times. Some later authorities suggest that a head covering has gained the status of Torah Law due to the prohibition against "going in the ways of non-Jews," because the non-Jews bare their heads as a sign of honor.
In certain cases, there is room for leniency if wearing a yarmulke causes a financial loss. But let me tell you a story: The Rabbi of Berditchev once saw a man running. "Where are you running?" he asked. "To my livelihood." "How do you know your livelihood doesnít lie in the other direction and youíre running away from it?" said the Rabbi.
Who knows? Maybe for every client you "lose" because of your yarmulke, you may gain two clients who respect you specifically for the integrity and courage you display by wearing a yarmulke.
A yarmulke is a very powerful reminder of your Jewish identity. It seems to me a major mistake to cast it off, even if only at work. To wear a yarmulke is to proclaim "Iím a proud Jew," and it makes you worthy of extra-special Divine protection and blessing, especially today when so many Jews are assimilating into oblivion.
- Talmud Kiddushin 31a; Shabbat 118b
- Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 8 & 92, and Taz
- Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Iggrot Moshe, Orach Chaim, vols. 1 & 4; and Choshen Mishpat, vol. 1
Last week we wrote:
I am a levi. There is one thing I have never witnessed in my entire adult life, and I never will either. Yisraelim sometimes see it, so do kohanim, but me and my fellow leviíim? Never! What is it?
I am told that if there is no levi present during the Torah reading, the kohen honored by being called first to the Torah stays up and receives the second honor as well. At least thatís what Iíve been told ó Iíve never seen it, though, and I never will!
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Comments, quibbles, and reactions concerning previous "Ask-the-Rabbi" features.
Re: In The Flesh Again (Ask the Rabbi #246):
I think it is only fair to mention that a belief in reincarnation is not mandatory. After all, Saíadia Gaon did not believe in reincarnation. It is one of those optional beliefs that we can embrace if we are so inclined.
I was surprised by your reference to reincarnation in Judaism. I thought Hindus were the reincarnists?
We do not discard a belief simply because it is believed by Hindus, pagans, or others who subscribe to a false idea system. As an extreme example, we do not discard our belief that two plus two equals four because they also believe so.
Furthermore, note that Abraham, the founder of Judaism, had six sons from his wife Ketura to whom he "gave gifts ...and sent eastward to the land of the East" (Genesis 25:3-6). The Talmud explains that these "gifts" were gifts of kabbalistic knowledge; therefore, we shouldnít be totally surprised to find parallels between our respective idea systems.
Re: Revenge Of The Killer Chickens (Ask the Rabbi #245):
You wrote that "preying on other living things is an indication that a bird is non-kosher." I believe that many kosher birds eat insects and worms.
The term "preying on living things" needs to be defined. Halacha states that a bird is not kosher if it is "dorais." "Dorais" basically means to trample, but the authorities differ as to its exact halachic definition. Rashi says it refers to a bird that eats its prey while stepping on it to keep it from moving. Rabbeinu Tam says that it refers to a bird that hunts animals and eats them live, and bugs, flies and worms are not included as "animals" in this regard; Ramban states that "dorais" refers to those birds which stick their claws into their prey and trample them. By any of these definitions, chickens are kosher, even though they eat worms and bugs.
- Rambam Hilchot Maíachalot Asurot 1:16
- Magid Mishneh Ibid.
- Written by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer, Rabbi Reuven Subar, Rabbi Mordecai Becher, Rabbi Baruch Rappaport, Rabbi Elimelech Meisels, Rabbi Moshe Yossef and other
Rabbis at Ohr Somayach Institutions / Tanenbaum College, Jerusalem, Israel.
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