Jewish men have long, although not always, followed the practice of their priestly class and covered their heads while engaged in prayer. Although not technically a commandment, covering one's head has become an important part of Jewish life, for purposes of showing respect for God and of cultural identification.
Exodus 28:4 describes that the priestly class of Jews, the Kohanim, were instructed to cover their heads in their religious role. When appearing before God, it was necessary to show respect by covering one's head, which is a common Eastern practice.
Many Jews wear head coverings while praying, lighting ritual candles or reading the Torah. Religious Jewish men keep their heads covered unless the covering would be inconvenient (swimming, bathing, sleeping). It is also acceptable to have your head uncovered if you are not moving around.
According to Judaism 101, some religious Jews believe that the Yiddish word for the most familiar Jewish head covering, the yarmulke, comes from the Aramaic for "respect for the King" (meaning God).
No Jewish law exists for what type of head covering is to be worn, and so any tasteful hat or other head covering may be worn. The types of hats and other head coverings worn by different groups of Jews represent their cultural backgrounds.
Many religious Jewish women also cover their heads in various ways. These include varying styles of wigs (sheitels) and wraps.
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