"Hair Kippah": Is it Halachically Permissible?


Question:

After the terrorist attack in Paris and the drastic rise in anti-Semitic incidents in France, an Israeli from Rechovot invented a Kippah from human hair.  The Kippah is camouflaged within one's hair so that anti-Semites will be unable to identify a religious Jew, and yet one will still be covering his head.  Is this permissible?


Answer:

Three questions arise regarding this issue: 1. Is wearing a Kippah an actual obligation?  2. Does the Halachah permit a Kippah made from hair?  3. Is hiding one's Kippah considered hiding his Jewish identity, something which was forbidden in the past during times of anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish decrees?  

1.    A Kippah is an absolute obligation.  A Kippah is of great importance.  Our Sages explain that a Kippah is meant to instill fear of Hashem within us and is a sign that the Master of the Universe is above us (Shabbat 156b.  Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 3:6).  According to the Achronim, it is even more of an obligation in our times, since wearing a Kippah has been accepted by Torah observant people (Shut Meharshal #72.  Shulchan Aruch Ha-Rav 2:6 based on accepted Jewish practice.  And some say not wearing a Kippah is imitating non-Jewish practice.  Shut Chatam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat #191).

2.    A Kippah made from hair is nothing new, since there have always been toupees.  The Mishnah Berurah (2:12) already brings a dispute as to whether a toupee is considered a Kippah.  Some forbid wearing a toupee without a Kippah on account of Maarit Ayin (This is also the opinion of Ha-Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky.  Emet Le-Yaakov on the Shulchan Aruch ibid.).  This is the ruling of the halachic authorities, such as the Sedei Chemed (Maarechet Kaf, Erech Kippah), that one needs a recognizable Kippah. 

By the way, there is criticism in our times against wearing a small Kippah which cannot be readily seen.  According to Ha-Rav Ovadiah Yosef: “It should be recognizable and visible from all sides of the head, front and back” (Shut Yehaveh Da’at 4:1).  And according to Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein, it is best to cover the majority of one’s head (Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:8).

Nonetheless, in a pressing circumstance, it is permissible to cover one's head with a toupee (see Mishnah Berurah ibid.).  This is on condition that the Rabbis in France permit it, since we cannot decide on something which occurs there, as Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein stated: The Rabbi from Minsk should not interfere in questions of the Rabbi from Pinsk (Meged Givot Olam Volume 1, p. 55.  Volume 2, pp. 31-32).

There is also an alternative solution, which is to wear a hat that is not unique to Jews (Piskei Teshuvot 2 note #57).

3.    It is true that if one is asked if he is a Jew, it is forbidden for him to say that he is a non-Jew.  But the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 157:2) already permits one to wear non-Jewish clothing so as to appear as a non-Jew, on condition that he not declare that he is a non-Jew (Regarding this question during the Holocuast, see Shut Mi-Maamakim of Ha-Rav Ephraim Oshry 1:15, 4:12, 5:3).

It is therefore permissible to wear a "Hair Kippah" but it is preferable to wear a hat.

And there is obviously an even greater solution: Making Aliyah.  Here, in Eretz Yisrael, one can proudly wear a Kippah.