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HALACHA-----black hat


sy Posted - 24 November 2000 14:26


Hey. I know the reason why men wear kippas, but what about black hats? Is it just a chumra? Why do some communities wear it and others don't? Why do men wear it? and why is it frowned upon if you don’t wear one?

MODERATOR Posted - 24 November 2000 15:16


It's not a chumra. Chumra means being strict in Halachah. This is not that.

The black hat is a purely cultural thing. In Europe yeshiva guys all wore hats (grey, usually, not black), and the style, I guess, just continued. Could mean absolutely nothing at all, could mean a statement, depends on the whole picture. No way to judge just by the hat.

It's not nearly frowned upon if you don't wear one as much as you may think. Especially if for business dress or the like. But since in "dress mode" such as Shabbos or formal weekday wear what people wear on their heads - black hat, knitted yarlmuka, colored giant Tzefas-type Yarlmuka etc. - happened to have become very statistically equitable with the different segments of Judaism, it will naturally raise an eyebrow if it's incongruous with the segment that observers would expect you to identify with.

It's like let's say you're having lunch in a wall street eatery where everyone is wearing horn-rimmed glasses, suits, yellow ties, and reading the wall street journal, and in walks a guy with pink hair, 6 piercing, leather pants and a copy of "High Times". Of course, this person may well be the most savvy broker in the group, but people are going to ask themselves what's up with him. True that, even though there is nothing intrinsically investment-oriented with gray suits or thin ties. It's just a cultural thing.

In Yeshiva, if a bochur suddenly stops wearing his hat, more than the removal of the hat itself, the question would be why did he do it. Is he trying to make a statement, or what? Since the fact is that teenagers (and adults) generally do dress according to the style that the group they identify with does (regardless of personal taste), if a person who identifies with the Yeshiva world dressed differently it will raise questions.

So it's not a chumra thing, it's a style thing. but instead of the style of Calvin Klein, it's the style of the Yeshiva world. Intrinsically, it has zero significance (except during davening, where there is Halachic discussion about wearing a hat over your Yarlmuka). It is purely social, and nonconformity here has the same connotations as nonconformity with the dress norms of any social group.

jagr68 Posted - 29 November 2000 14:05


if I remember correctly, it is brought down in the mishnah brurah somewhere in the first chelek I think in the beginning that when a person davens he is mchuyiv to wear a hat, and isn’t just a style thing?

MODERATOR Posted - 29 November 2000 14:23


You’re correct but that wouldn't answer the question, because he was asking why we make a point of wearing black hats in the street even not during davening.

Married men, who put on their hats to go to Shul in the morning, only to TAKE THEM OFF for davening because they wear their talis over their head.

Also, for davening you could wear any hat, not only a black fedora (that's the technical hat name for the Yeshivishe hats).

OCB Posted - 06 December 2000 15:49


Why is it required to wear a hat for davening if you are already wearing a yarmulka?

MODERATOR Posted - 06 December 2000 16:05


The following collection of sources comes from Teshuvos Yechave Daas IV:1 (by the Chacham Ovadiah Yosef shlita):

"However, during Shema and davening when he accepts upon himself the yoke of Hashem’s Kingship, he needs to make sure even more so to wear a Yarmulke that covers a majority of his head, as it says 'Prepare yourself to greet Hashem' [i.e. you have to do greet Hashem differently than you normally appear].

See what the Maden Giborim writes (91:3) in the name of the Meiri, that those who come to Shul, take off their hat and daven in their Yarlmuka, as if they were in their house, and daven and say shema like that, it is certainly Chutzpah [against Hashem], because this is not the way we stand before great people. And so rules the Mishna Brura (91:9).

See also Responsa Yaskil Avdi VI (p.292b). But the truth is, the [above quote] is not from the Meiri, but rather from the Marari Algazi at the end of Chemdas Hayamim IV, as my friend Rav Waldenberg shlita points out in Tzitz Eliezer 14:49.

"In any case, it is very proper [nachon meod] to be careful in this. Especially by Birkas Hamazon you should wear a hat, like the Gemora says in Brachos (51a) that you need to wear a hat during bentching. And so states the Zohar (pinchas 245b). See also Bais Yosef and Shulchan Aruch (183)."

OCB Posted - 06 December 2000 21:01


I never knew it was required to wear a hat. I always thought it was a minhag.

My problem is nobody in my shul wears one not even the rabbi and I would feel very uncomfortable to just start wearing one. Is there any lenient opinion in this? I am not wearing one as an act of defiance like the people the meiri was talking about.

Also He says "because this is not the way we stand before great people." nowadays before important people it is probably more respectful to remove a hat. So is there any way this halacha only applies because of kavod and now this is no longer an act of kavod?

e Posted - 07 December 2000 16:44


so if I am hearing you correctly that black hats is not halachah, then what does the following incident mean: my sister is presently in a chosuv seminary in Israel namely ****** (u can block this name out if it is not right) a few weeks ago her and 2 friends asked permission to go to a friend's wedding. they said no. why? b/c her friend-the bride's father doesn’t wear a black hat.

I don’t know, but to me that seems a bit too much importance attached to a hat.

MODERATOR Posted - 07 December 2000 16:50


It indeed does sound weird. As presented here, what they told your friend is nonsense.

But remember that you're only hearing one side of the story. In all fairness, if otherwise reasonable people are quoted as saying something like this there may well be some miscommunication somewhere.

But as far as the issue itself is concerned, there is no Halachah that says if the bride's father does not wear a black hat you should not go to the wedding. To want to go to a wedding and not be able to go only because of that, is nuts.

MODERATOR Posted - 08 December 2000 15:28



I don't buy the argument that nowadays wearing a hat during davening is less important since presently it is not the Derech to put on a hat when visiting the President. I don't believe it because when the Mishna Brura was written - early 20th Century Europe - it was as customary to remove your hat in the presence of prominent people as it is today and still he said to wear the hat.

The reason for this is that the honor involved in wearing a hat is not a cultural thing but an intrinsic one. Covering your head implies "hachnoah", submission. Like wearing a Yarlmuka imparts Yiras Shamayim, or like the requirement to wear a hat in honor of Kos Shel Brachah or Bentching. It is not a cultural dress code but rather a sign of a certain attitude.

It's like standing up for a prominent person. In China, they sit down when elders walk in. the implication is "Okay, you're here, so now we sit down as if we are ready to pay attention to the wisdom you are going to tell us." It's like they set up a classroom situation where everyone is sitting, indicating that the one who walked in is a teacher.

That's nice, but the opposite of our attitude. We stand up for elders, indicating that when they come in, we feel a bit uncomfortable sitting with them as equals. perhaps even it says "I am standing up and ready to serve you. How can I help you?"

Whatever. But the way we show Kovod in many instances is not just social conduct but it comes with an attitude. That doesn't change because the Goyim changed their ideas.

The responsa Yaskil Avdi ( )similarly says that the fact that there are people who will walk into respectable people and positions with shorts nowadays (in the middle east) is insufficient for us to derive that we can do so by Davening.

Statements such as "because it is the derech to stand in front of Gedolim" don't have to mean only non-Jewish Gedolim. Tzadikim and great Talmidei Chachamim deserve more respect than the president. They will not consider it less Kovod nowadays to approach them with a hat than they did in the olden days.

OCB Posted - 10 December 2000 19:22


I think the Chinese example you gave is diff. because there the Torah specifies in what way respect is given to a torah sage so society or culture can't change that.

The M.B. states here that it does depend on the place your in. In my shul for the president or the gadol hador no one would put on a hat because. it simply is not the way respect is shown so maybe in my case the halacha is different, also it doesn’t seem logical to me that a baseball hat or other hat such as I've seen people wear as their "davening hat" would serve the purpose of giving honor, (submission ok)wearing no hat at all is definitely more presentable. ?

MODERATOR Posted - 10 December 2000 19:46


I didn't mean to use the example of standing up as a comparison, merely as an example of honor that is not socially dependent. You are correct that it does not prove our case.

But I don't see that the Mishna Brura (91:12) says it depends on your place. All he says is that nowadays we have to wear a hat since that's the way we stand before important people.

And when and where the Mishna Brura wrote this (actually he quoted it), it was just as customary to remove your hat for important people as it is today. So what changed since the days of the Mishna Brura?

rachel2001 Posted - 13 December 2000 20:12


there must be some significance in wearing a black hat in the street. at the boy’s yeshiva here, I heard they fine the boys if they’re caught in the street without their hat.

MODERATOR Posted - 13 December 2000 20:48


Not every rule a Yeshiva enforces is a Halachah. The reason for mandatory hat and jacket wearing in some Yeshivos is something to the effect that they want their students to identify with a certain segment of Orthodoxy in their dress and manner, and, in turn, to be identified as such by others.

OCB Posted - 14 December 2000 2:37


The Mishna Brura doesn’t say explicitly it depends on the place but it seems to be implied that it is societally determined. "in our he would go in the street because we would not stand [without a hat] in front of important people".

In other times, such as today, where we walk in the street without a hat (except for warmth), and where wearing a hat in front of important people, such as the President, would be taken badly it could be acceptable.

It seems as though it was the custom to put on a hat when meeting any important person then, R Baruch Ber when meeting a government official put on his hat saying one must give kavod to the government.

MODERATOR Posted - 14 December 2000 2:52


Yes but during the time the Mishna Brura wrote that it was still, as it is today, the custom to not wear a hat out of respect.

The story with R. Boruch Ber I am not familiar are we sure the story is true altogether? - is that R. Boruch Ber ignored the secular custom of removing a hat out of respect. Because in his days that was certainly the custom.

Incidentally, there is a famous picture of the Satmar Rav ZTL greeting the King of Romania, outdoors in the cold, and everyone in the picture is wearing coats and hats, but the Satmar Rav is wearing only his Yarlmuka (which he never did outside) out of respect for the king.

Bottom line is, the custom in those days and today is the exact same thing. Some rabbi nowadays may also not care about the secular custom and go with a hat to the president, just a there may have been then. But the custom hasn't changed so the Halachah wouldn't either.

one Posted - 15 December 2000 13:32


Is not there also the concept of following in the ways of the Rabbonim? if there was no significance to the "black hat" issue then why would all of the Gedolim wear them?

MODERATOR Posted - 15 December 2000 14:02


There is a chumrah of covering your entire head with a bigger yarlmuka than just one that we wear. Gedolim wear hats or big, whole-head Yarlmukas for that reason.

It is a cultural thing, not a Halachic thing; it tells the world what group you identify with and how you want to be recognized, but the fact that it is a black hat (of a certain style, technically called a fedora) is pure coincidence.

In Europe, in the main yeshivos, the head covering of choice was a GRAY hat (today it would be considered very unyeshivish); in certain Sefardishe circles, Gedolim would wear turban type hats; Rav Moshe Feinstein used to sometimes wear a straw (dark) hat.

When I was a teenager, back hats had small, narrow brims and large, wide bands. Today if you worse such a hat they'd laugh you out of the Bais Hamedrash. Some guys used to wear feathers in their hats, or - this was once very popular - imitation pearls. No more. It's a style, this hat thing. the style of Bnei Torah, true, but a style.

I'm not saying not to wear the hat. I'm saying that whatever you do, you should know why you are doing it -- is it a mitzvah, a chumrah, a minhag, a siyag, an aveirah, a davar reshus (neutral), a cultural thing, etc. The black hat is not INTRINSICALLY meaningful; it has become a cultural style of the Yeshiva world.

The concept of following the Rabbonim means either to follow their directions, or to figure out why they do what they do and then take it form there. Sometimes you should do as they do; sometimes you should NOT - some things are appropriate only for people of a certain stature - and sometimes it's in between.

If you don't know WHY the person you are following does what he does, you are likely not following correctly.

Example: The Kedushas Yom Tov always used to specifically eat egg kichels for Kiddush Shabbos morning. Some Chassidim thought there was some significance to that and followed suit. When they asked the Kedushas Yom Tov his reason, he explained that he was Makpid on making an Al haMichyah only if he ate a Kazayis of flour; and since egg kichels do not have much flour in them, he is always safe.

So if a Chosid did not have the Rebbe's chumrah and made an al hamichyah on his kichels, or if he ate so many kichels that he had a kazayis of flour, he may have thought that he was following his Rebbe by eating the kichels, but actually he accomplished nothing.

Meanswell Posted - 15 December 2000 15:55


I spoke to my father at length about this issue. and indeed, hats are not a halacha, but it may classify the person you are.

It is VERY SAD that this is the case, but people in this day and age are very judgmental. black-hatters are usually classified as the "frummer" guys, while guys who do not would be considered boys of a more "modern" stature.

I had a friend who could easily become one of the Gedolei hador. he is extremely intelligent, has excellent middos, excels in holding back his taivos, and is an all around amazing person. I once asked him, why don’t you wear a black hat? it fit his description so well. it was "the only thing missing" if you will.

What he said to me was, that he hopes no one will classify him as a less frum person for not wearing one, but his father doesn’t wear one, and neither do any members of his shul wear one. it will feel awkward to start ( as a senior in high school), and in a way it will belittle his father (his own son is more frum then he is etc.)

This guy, much more special that a lot of black hatters I know, lost the chance of going out with a GREAT girl (shidduchim) because he didn’t wear a hat. he is now single and becoming very turned off by the way he is being treated. (all of his friends who DID wear black hats who may have had corrupt middos are all getting married)

But anyway, the point of this story is, wearing a black hat is just a classification-nothing more, even though its unfair, why would one want to pass up that chance?

The world is corrupt in the sense of Lashon Hara and judging people, and as I repeat, it is unfair to us and we must follow and abide by THEIR rules (I cringe to write this) If a guy is in the same position as my friend (wanting to marry a "frummer" girl but not given the chance) should probably just give in and wear it for their own sake, because they will be judged otherwise

OCB Posted - 19 December 2000 21:35


The story of R Barach Ber is in the artscroll book about him (p51). The aruch Hashulchan seems to imply that the criteria for when a hat is required is what one would go in the street with. Then it was customary for everyone to go in the street with a hat now that custom has changed.

MODERATOR Posted - 19 December 2000 21:39


But it wasn't customary for everyone to go in the street with a hat. In America people went with hats in the street sometimes but in Europe almost never. Only the Jews wore hats in the street.

And the Aruch HaShulchan doesn't say that if you don't wear a hat in the street you don't have to wear it in Shul. he gave a moshol of what kind of hat you wear in Shul by saying "like we wear in the street". Later, when discussing jackets he says only that a jacket that is not formal enough to wear in the street is not formal enough to wear for davening.

emmess Posted - 26 December 2000 16:13


I disagree with your premise that people did not wear hats in Europe. Any picture I see from prewar Europe shows people with hats on in the streets, not just Jews. Even old movies (not that I watch them :)) portray the people wearing hats.

MODERATOR Posted - 26 December 2000 16:44


Yeah, in the cold weather, like in Russia. That's not a "dress hat" like the Jews used to wear. In America, too, they used to wear them a lot (like the old pictures of the mafia guys who look like yeshiva bochurim with violin cases), but there are B"H many European Jews still alive today.

Ask them. I consulted an elderly man in my Shul about this and he told me that in Switzerland where he lived during the war, there was a non-Jewish hat maker who sold hats in the Jewish neighborhood. He said that if he would have to rely on the non-Jews for his business, he'd go bankrupt.

But the Aruch HaShulchan doesn't make this the criterion for hats anyway. His point is that if what you are wearing is too informal for walking on the street in it, you can't daven in it. His mentioning "like we walk in the street" when he talks about hats is as an example of what kind of head covering is required during davening. He is merely giving an illustration for the sake of clarity.

Nachalat Shimon Posted - 23 March 2001 19:58



I don't understand how a Jew who is learned--knows all of Shas, halacha, Tanach by heart, mussar, etc.--can be considered lower rate because he doesn’t wear a hat. I unfortunately am not on anything close to even a millionth of that level of Torah knowledge.

But if the Chofetz Chaim or the Vilna Gaon, for instance, hadn't worn hats--would they be looked upon in any lesser light today? Would they no longer be considered some of the greatest Talmidei Chachamim of this era? I think that is unfair--after all, its hard to believe that even Moshe Rabbeinu himself wore a hat.

Basically my point is this--and please Moderator, respond to this post--I think we religious Jews in general should be less concerned about what others think of us than of what Hashem thinks of us. Sometimes, it seems to me people aren't worried enough about the basic things like Yiras Shamayim and Ahavas Hashem, and are too worried about what the next guy is doing ("Oh no, he looks frummer than me!). That’s just me. But I'd be very interested to hear your opinion about that...

MODERATOR Posted - 23 March 2001 20:07


We're talking about the Halachah of wearing a hat during davening or bentching.

Other than that, nobody is considered less for not wearing a hat per se’

By some coincidence - meaning cultural happenstance - wearing a hat identifies you with a certain segment of Klall Yisroel. If everyone in a certain culture dresses one way - say men in America wear pants - and you wear kilts, you will obviously be identified as coming from Irish culture.

I doubt there is even one male in America that would willingly dress so against the grain merely because "what's the diff what I wear?" It makes no sense. So too, if someone does not wear a hat, it means nothing per se, the hat is not the point, but there will be a question: Does his choice of dress identify him with a certain culture?

He maybe doesn’t wear a hat because he is a sefardi (many don’t) or because he is a mizrachi (almost all don’t) or for some other reason. Nobody should judge anybody because they do not wear a hat, but if his not wearing a hat is an identity statement of belonging to a certain culture, then it is his choice of group identification that is the issue, not what he wears on his head per se.

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