I'm 22 and work in a totally non-Jewish business setting in Manhattan where I've 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 doesn't lie in the other direction and you're 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 "I'm 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