Tractate Sofrim (14:14) records two opinions that concern the wearing of a head covering during the Shema: there are those who say that it is not necessary, and there are those who say that it is necessary, since one whose head is uncovered may not pronounce the name of God. According to the Bet Yosef (Tur, OC 91:3), the halakha is in accordance with the latter opinion (that a head covering must be worn), since that was the opinion codified by Rabbeinu Yerucham (Sefer Toldot 16:7, 148d).

Interestingly, the Darkhei Moshe (Tur, OC 282:1) records the fact that there was a French custom to follow the other opinion, and not to wear a head covering when reading Torah. His source for this is the Or Zarua, which notes ([II:43]) that this was not merely a local custom, but something that the Rabbonim in France were doing.

The gradual stabilisation of the custom of wearing a head covering all day long was at times a controversial subject (with yarmulkes occasionally being drawn onto the heads of rabbis in drawings), but the image of bareheaded men reading Torah or reciting Shema is striking.

To which rabbonim in France was the Or Zarua referring? Did Rashi wear a yarmulke? Did he ever discuss the obligation to do so in his responsa?

  • This 16th Century wood cut assumes he did. – Seth J Mar 25 '14 at 1:59
  • There is a joke that Parshas Vayaitzai is the proof of wearing a yarmulke. It starts "and Yaakov went out". Would any tzadik go out without his yarmulkeh? (Leftover Purim reaction). – sabbahillel Mar 25 '14 at 11:15
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    I find this question repulsive. How dare you cast doubt as to whether Rashi wore a Yarmulke? I know that the editors that know better than me will nuke me for my comment, however I have to protest. – Gershon Gold Mar 25 '14 at 14:56
  • @GershonGold, I agree that the title is unnecessarily provocative, but Rashi could have worn an early form of a Chaperon instead. – Yishai Mar 25 '14 at 15:21
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    @GershonGold Is your initial comment serious? – Double AA Mar 25 '14 at 18:03

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