Let's talk about men's head coverings

Many people insist that men should not wear kippot ("skull caps") because they are pagan. The truth is, you won't find any Scriptures to support that! If one wants to point to the idea that head coverings originated in paganism, then they must also stop using the Gregorian calendar and referring to the days of the week as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., and the names of the months as January, February, March, etc. because they are derived from the names of pagan deities. The article below, borrowed, with permission, from the Aramaic English New Testament, explains why male head coverings in the synagogue are NOT pagan.

1 Corinthians 11: 4 "Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered, dishonors his head."

Much of the contention among believers who wear and those who do not wear head coverings is based on this verse. But as we investigate this matter it becomes very obvious that Rav Shaul made this statement in the context of what was happening at the local level, and he also stated that no one has any right, whatsoever, to be contentious about it.

YHWH Commanded His priesthood to wear head coverings: "And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron." (Exodus 28:4).

The High Priest wore a nezer (crown) on top of their mitre or turban; "And you shall put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy nezer (crown) upon the mitre." (Exodus 29:6; 39:30, 31; Leviticus 8:9). The Hebrew nezer comes from the word nazar which means to separate and, of course, this head covering and crown distinguishes the High Priest as separated unto YHWH. All of the sons of Aaron also wore head coverings or turbans: "And for Aaron's sons you shall make coats, and you shall make for them girdles, and turbans shall you make for them, for glory and for beauty. And you shall put them upon Aaron your brother, and his sons with him;" (Exodus 28:40-41; see also Leviticus 8:13 and Ezekiel 44:18).

The High Priest was not permitted to remove his head covering even in time of mourning for a loved one: "And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes;" (Leviticus 21:10). According to Scripture Aaron and his sons wore their head coverings before YHWH while they served in the Tabernacle and while Aaron was in the Holy of Holies, see Exodus 29:38, 43. From these verses a vivid picture emerges of these men wearing head coverings while they served YHWH and prayed and conducted their official duties. It is also interesting to note, then, that by the rules of Leviticus 21:10, High Priest Khayapa was in direct violation of a command to not tear his clothes when Y'shua gave an answer he did not like (Matthew 26:65/Mark 14:63)!

Head coverings and garments symbolized a priests' receipt of YHWH's authority and were symbolic of the spiritual "crowns" He gave each of them. Notice also two distinctions in the head coverings: "And you shall make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, Qodesh l'YHWH." (Exodus 28:36). The words "Set Apart unto YHWH" upon the head signifies a very distinct designation of ownership or belonging to YHWH. As Aaron fulfilled his role as the high priest he was emulating YHWH's Attributes to the people of Israel and thus YHWH's Name was foremost upon his mind.

Aaron's garments symbolized the robes of the great multitude: "And after these things, I looked, and lo, a great multitude which no one could number, from all kindreds and nations and tribes and tongues; who stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palms in their hands;" (Revelation 7:9). The white robes distinguish YHWH's people and are symbolic of the spiritual man. Furthermore, we read in Renewed Covenant writings about the crown of rejoicing, the crown of righteousness, the crown of life, the crown of glory and also of the "...twenty and four Elders, who were clothed in white robes, and on whose heads were crowns of gold." (Revelation 4:4) Therefore not only the garments, but the head coverings are mentioned at a time in the future for those who live according to Mashiyach. And also those who are born into the Kingdom of Elohim, "...will see his face, and his name (will be) on their foreheads." (Revelation 22:4).

Here is another distinction for the priests' head coverings: "And you shall put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be." (Exodus 28:36). Those who are familiar with tzit tzit - the fringes which contain the blue thread as a reminder to do all of YHWH's Commandments ((Numbers 15:38, 39) - will immediately identify the importance of the blue lace upon the forefront of the mitre. In other words, the head covering was a very special item given by YHWH to the priests to remind them of who they were in Him.

Scriptures indicate that covering the head while praying is showing brokenness and humility while petitioning Elohim: "And David went up by the ascent of Mount Olives, and wept as he went up, and had his head caphah (covered), and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up." (2 Samuel 15:30). At times of deep anguish and mourning the elders of Israel put dust upon their heads while petitioning YHWH: "And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of YHWH until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads." (Joshua 7:6; see also Job 2:12; Lam. 2:10; Amos 2:7). Putting dust upon the head symbolizes mankind's human nature as dust before YHWH who is powerless without YHWH's help.

In Psalm 140:7 we read that YHWH covered or defended David's head when he went into battle: "O YHWH, my Master the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle." The imagery here is manifold as David unashamedly declares that YHWH wins his battles, and that he as the anointed King of Israel wore a crown that symbolized the authority YHWH gave him (see Psalm 110:1).

In Daniel 3:21 we see how the king of Babylon ordered three Jews to be thrown into the fiery furnace, turbans and all: "Then these men were bound in their coats, their tunics, and their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace." This is further proof that, like other cultures with their own respective head covering customs, righteous Jews also wore head coverings.

Zechariah had a vision of Joshua the High Priest wearing a head covering: "And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of YHWH stood by." (Zechariah 3:5).

In the light of what Scripture teaches about head coverings we must consider Rav Shaul's letter to the spiritually "deteriorated" Corinthians who "were pagans...led away by idols" and who were practicing high-handed rebellion against Mashiyach. Here we discover that other cultures boasted their own head coverings that had very different values than what YHWH instructed. Rav Shaul wrote: "In short, it is reported, there is sexual sin among you; and such sexual sin as is not even named among the pagans, that a son should even take the wife of his father. And you are puffed up, and have not rather sat down in grief, that he who has done this deed might be separated from you." (1 Corinthians 5:1, 2). If the recipients of this letter were even worse than unregenerate pagans, then their particular use of "head coverings" must not apply to all household of the righteous. Rav Shaul would never honor unregenerate souls by using them as model examples for all other assemblies. In reality some pagans (and Jews) abused Jewish customs as a way of renouncing the "G-d of the Jews" and thus showing their displeasure towards YHWH's Word.

Greek scholars point out that the use of katakalupto for the male "covering" and peribolaion for the female "covering" may have indicated something beneath the text. Apparently, men would wear veils when worshipping pagan female deities to look feminine; and Rav Shaul, of course, taught against this practice. Pagans were known to wear clothing of the opposite sex while performing perverse sexual rituals. In this passage, Rav Shaul does not distinguish the type of head coverings the men were wearing or the reason they were wearing long hair, but given the culture they came out of it is easy to see that what they were doing had nothing to do with Jewish practices. Also, he would have been a hypocrite if on one hand he renounced all long hair on men while also participating in Nazirite offerings (Acts 21:24). Rav Shaul clearly reprimands certain individuals for their "impurity, the sexual sin, and the lustful acts." (2 Corinthians 12:21).

The bottom line is, in light of what the Scriptures tell us, it would be very reckless to conclude that Rav Shaul sent out blanket halacha for all men everywhere to stop wearing all manner of "head coverings" while praying. YHWH sanctified head coverings as part of man's service unto Him. If Rav Shaul's directive (the Temple was in operation when he wrote this letter) was levied to "every man," then he would have also had two or three witnesses to establish the matter as halacha (Matthew 18:20). In reality Rav Shaul would have appealed to Ya'akov HaTsaddiq and other Shlichim in Jerusalem to establish such a directive. But in fact, just a few verses later Rav Shaul issues this statement: "But if any one is contentious about these things, we on our part have no such custom, nor has the assembly of Elohim." (1 Corinthians 11:16). In other words, whatever these people were doing it had not been a custom of the Jews, or any assembly of Elohim prior to this.

Furthermore, the wearing of head coverings by observant Jews and various Christian hierarchies neither validates nor invalidates YHWH's authority. In reality, there are two main purposes for religious men to wear head coverings. First, it symbolizes their authority in these organizations where only the hierarchy is allowed to wear the head coverings. Secondly, some men wear a head covering as a reminder that the Master is above them. Like tzit tzit, the head covering reminds them to heed what comes out of their mouths and to judge their actions and cause them to maintain thoughts that are pleasing unto YHWH.

Rav Shaul taught: "But if any one is contentious about these things, we on our part have no such custom, nor has the assembly of Elohim." (1 Corinthians 11:16). Clearly, if anyone wants to be contentious about this matter, they cannot presume to use Rav Shaul as their authority.

Note from The Refiner's Fire:

Let's quickly check 1 Corinthians 11 concerning this issue. Verse 4 says "Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered, dishonors his head." As usual, one must understand the context of the Brit Chadasha writings from full knowledge of what is taught in Torah. We can immediately understand that Paul's statement can't mean what it seems to mean - i.e., that a man is not supposed to cover his head - because Torah teaches otherwise. YHWH even Commanded His priesthood to wear head coverings: "And these are the garments which they shall make; a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a broidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle: and they shall make holy garments for Aaron" (Exodus 28:4). (A mitre is a head covering!)

Also scripture tells us that covering the head while praying is showing brokenness and humility while humbling oneself before Elohim: "And David went up by the ascent of Mount Olives, and wept as he went up, and had his head caphah (covered), and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up" (2 Samuel 15:30).

So what did Paul mean? Here is an extract from an appendix in the AENT:

In the light of what Scripture teaches about head coverings we must consider Rav Shaul's letter to the spiritually "deteriorated" Corinthians who "were pagans???led away by idols" and who were practicing high-handed rebellion against Mashiyach. Here we discover that other cultures boasted their own head coverings that had very different values than what YHWH instructed.

Rav Shaul wrote: "In short, it is reported, there is sexual sin among you; and such sexual sin as is not even named among the pagans, that a son should even take the wife of his father. And you are puffed up, and have not rather sat down in grief, that he who has done this deed might be separated from you" (1 Corinthians 5:1, 2). If the recipients of this letter were even worse than unregenerate pagans, then their particular use of "head coverings" must not apply to all household of the righteous.

Rav Shaul would never honor unregenerate souls by using them as model examples for all other assemblies. In reality some pagans (and Jews) abused Jewish customs as a way of renouncing the "G-d of the Jews" and thus showing their displeasure towards YHWH's Word."

So it becomes clear that Paul was talking to corrupted Corinthians who had taken on a community "mandate" to require head coverings, but Paul was saying that that is not the purpose of the head covering. A head covering is not for one's own elevation - rather, it is as Torah says, a sign of respect for the priests in their role as cohanim, and for the rest of us a a sign of humility.

Paul concludes just a few verses later by saying: "But if any one is contentious about these things, we on our part have no such custom, nor has the assembly of Elohim. This which I now enjoin is not as praising you; for you have not made progress, but have deteriorated" (1 Corinthians 11:16-17) - which clearly says that true Torah worship of YHWH "has no such custom" (such as requiring head covering, hear length, etc.) and that the Corinthians "had deteriorated".

So, although there is no "command" in Torah to wear a prayer shawl - Tallit - neither is there a prohibition. But we are commanded to put tzitzit on the corners of "our garments" (Number 15:38-40), and we should honor the tradition of the Jewish people in how they developed a fine tradition of tying tzitzit to a specific shawl which became the tallit.

So when should a man wear a tallit? Whenever it is appropriate! Whenever he is in prayer or reading or discussing Scripture. This is usually in a synagogue setting, but can be at home as well. And he should not at all be concerned about pulling the tallit onto his head while he prays!