Yarmulkas and Shorts in a Beginners’ Minyan



Yarmulkas and Shorts in a Beginners’ Minyan

Question:
I lead a beginners’ minyan in a small shul in the United States. Some of our participants come in initially without a yarmulka, and many come wearing shorts. There is one attendee whose father is Jewish and whose mother is not. What is the correct practice in regards to these cases?

Thank you.
R.P.


Rav Auerbach:

The Gemara (Yoma 25a) states that when the kohanim were doing the piyus (the counting method used to decide who would perform specific avodos in the Bais Hamikdosh), one of the kohanim would take off his mitznefes head covering and the count would start from this kohein. This process was done in the Kodesh section of the Bais Hamikdosh, as opposed to the Azarah (see Tosafos ibid.). The Magein Avrohom initially suggests that we can bring a proof from this Gemara that it may permitted to be in a shul without a yarmulke (if one does not walk around dalet amos).

However, afterwards, the Magein Avrohom seems to back off from this position. The Pri Magadim (Aishel Avrohom ibid.) explains that the kohein actually had another head covering under his mitznefes. Furthermore, according to the Rambam (Temidim Umussafim 1:4), the removal of the mitznefes was only done for a moment and then the kohein put it back on. Therefore, we cannot bring a proof from this case to your question of someone being in shul without a yarmulka.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 91:3) rules that if someone walks into shul without a head covering, one should protest his actions, which is an unusually strong statement for the Shulchan Aruch. In the same section, the Shulchan Aruch adds that it is forbidden to daven Shemoneh Esrei without a head covering. The poskim explain that being in shul and davening without a yarmulke is an affront to Hashem’s honor (Levush 91:3).

Therefore, if someone walks into your minyan without a yarmulka, you should explain to him in a very gentle manner that in order to maintain proper decorum in a shul, one must wear a yarmulka. Most people understand that holy places have a “dress code,” and in a shul, where one is standing before the King of kings, it is not acceptable to be there without a head covering. This is part of showing respect for the Almighty’s infinite honor. You should try and be firm about the great importance of this, and that it is integral for anyone who attends and davens in your shul to wear a yarmulka, while at the same time not discouraging him from coming back to shul. (If a non-religious person attends a shiur without a yarmulke, one is not obligated to say anything.)

If he is wearing shorts, then the halacha is different. While the halacha clearly forbids being in shul or davening without a head covering, there are poskim who permit one to daven with shorts on if the shul is in a hot climate where it is commonplace for people to dress in that way. As long as the top half of their body is properly covered, you do not have to say anything about this.
As far as your question regarding someone whose father is Jewish but his mother is not, based on a teshuvah of the Rambam, my father-in-law, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, ruled for a yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel that if he is interested, you can encourage him to find out about Judaism and convert.
I wish you the greatest success in your avodas hakodesh and continuing to bring Jews close to Hashem while maintaining proper respect for the Almighty’s infinite honor.

Compiled by R' Daniel Travis.



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