The Examined Yarmelke

Recently I was doing hazara on, reviewing, Let You Down by the Dave Mathews Band. What a classic? If you look at the lyrics it is hard not to connect.

The chorus goes:

I have no lid upon my head
But if I did
You could look inside and see what’s on my mind
You could look inside and see what’s on my mind
I let you down, oh, forgive me
You give me love

 I have been wearing a lid upon my head for more time then I can remember. OK- So that is why I connect. So what does it mean for someone like me?

In Ekev, this week’s Torah portion, we read:

12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all God’s ways, and to love God, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul; 13 to keep for you good the commandments of the Lord, and God’s statutes, which I command you this day? 14 Behold, unto the Lord your God belongs the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all that therein is. 15 Only the Lord had a delight in your fathers to love them, and God chose their seed after them, even you, above all people, as it is this day. 16 You shall cut away the barrier of your heart, and no longer be stiff-necked.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-16).

About this Rashi comments:

The barrier of the heart this means the blocking of your heart and it covering.  ( Rashi on Deuteronomy 10:16)

The Yarmelke is a sign of my being a Yareah Malchut Shamayim, one who fears the Kingdom of Heaven.  But I do not wear my Kipah out of fear. I aspire wear it as a sign of love. I want to remind myself to walk in all God’s ways and to serve the world with all of my heart and  soul in keeping the commandments. Or even in moments of doubt I am filled with love of the Jewish people and I want to remind myself that I represent our larger family.

While the Kipah, Skullcap, or Beany has come to be synonymous with being of a close minded or clannish,  maybe it should imply the opposite. In many ways I  cover my head so that I can regularly ” look inside and see what’s on my mind”.

As a modern Orthodox Jew, I do not pretend to exist solely within my little projection of a Torah world. My Kipah is  a reflective tool. While it is a life long commitment, putting it on is something I do every day. And with my lack of hair it is something I have to do many times a day.  It is an incessant reminder to me to explore my motivations and the examine my daily choices.

As a father is gives me “delight” to see my children make these choices. Socrates is right, ” The unexamined life is not worth living”. I think that wearing a lid is a great way to look inside.


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