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All my life, when the question arises why we wear a black hat over our yarmulkes, the answer is that we do so to have a "double covering" when we pray. This implies that one covering, such as the yarmulke, is not enough, but one should have two layers on his head when he prays.

From where does this idea stem from? I have not been able to track down a source within halacha or Chassidus. I assume this idea is a minhag Chassidus, but why would having two head coverings be any better than one? Is it the idea that "more is better"?

Some people (even myself!) are very makpid to have two head coverings when they pray: a yarmulke and a black hat. Why?

  • Some people wear a hat even when they're not praying. – Daniel Mar 5 '18 at 1:47
  • @Uber_Chacham I'm looking for whatever you know. :) I suggested the minhag may be a minhag Chassidus, but I don't think it's something from Chassidus, as many, many non-Chassidim are makpid on wearing a hat. (Think: Yeshivish) – ezra Mar 5 '18 at 2:21
  • If you're interested in evidence against, I'll post the relevant portion of my answer there. – Y     e     z Mar 5 '18 at 3:15
  • It's interesting to note that if you go back far enough, everyone wore a hat, Jews and non-Jews alike. Therefore, the extra covering was the kippah, not the hat. – Menachem Mar 5 '18 at 4:11
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The Mishna Brura in צא, ה: יב is famously quoted as saying that one needs a hat as well as a yarmulka because that is the way to go to meet chashuvim, and by bentching says that one should wear two coverings.

The Aruch Hashulchan says by bentching that one should wear a hat and not just a small head covering (from the Magen Avram) and brings the Zohar that one (just?) should make sure to not be bareheaded, and says that some are aslo misatef with the beged haelyon but he never heard of such a minhag.

The Aruch HaShulchan also says by hichols dayanim that the hat is in the place of the atifa, as kavod for the shechina.

The Beis Yosef in the beginning of hilchos talis also mentions having the atifa of the talis in addition to another covering.

All of these are reasons for having a double covering when being mechabed, be it davening, bentching, or beis din, or when meeting chashuvim, but the Ketzos HaShulchan says (from the siddur of the Ya'avetz) when discussing how to get dressed that it is the minhag of tzenuim to go with a hat on top of their yarmulkas (ודרך הצנועים לילך בכובע על כובע התחתון).

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    I don't think the Mishnah Berura you cited says anything about wearing two at once. – Y     e     z Mar 5 '18 at 3:14
  • I see that your question focuses on praying. However, AFAIK, Chaba"d wear a black hat throughout the day, even when not praying. Why is that (Chaba"d isn't unique with this minhag.) – DanF Mar 5 '18 at 16:07
  • @DanF - I don't know what their reasoning in particular is, but they are only makpid in particular by davening/bentching etc., and while they do try to the rest of the time, it could simply be for kavod or because of this ketzos hashulchan – Uber_Chacham Mar 5 '18 at 16:55
  • I'm going to second Yez's comment. If the question were little yamakas vs big hard hats you can quote these sources along with maharshal shut 72 and first igros moshe about rabbi kluger's rov rosh. But it's not. Your sources don't say to wear both. They say to wear the hard big hat and you are assuming that they didn't remove the little soft one first. Besides being an assumption, this was not common practice. People from Europe, both Lithuanian and Hungarian, consistently removed their yamakas before putting their hats on. There were exceptions of course. Most notably chassidim. – user6591 Mar 5 '18 at 17:42
  • @user6591 - What do you mean? Did you read the Aruch haShulchan or Mishna Brura by bentching, or the Ketzos hashulchan? All of them befeirush say both! There are no assumptions here at all - what do you think כובע על כובע התחתון means if not to wear both? – Uber_Chacham Mar 5 '18 at 22:09
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I always heard that it comes from the halacha to cover your head when saying birkat hamazon:

Kitzur shulchan aruch 44:6:

וְיִלְבַּשׁ מַלְבּוּשׁ הָעֶלְיוֹן, וְגַם יַנִּיחַ הַכּוֹבַע בְּרֹאשׁוֹ, שֶׁיְהֵא מוֹרָא שָׁמַיִם עָלָיו, וִיעוֹרֵר הַכַּוָּנָה וִיבָרֵךְ בְּאֵימָה וּבְיִרְאָה, וְלֹא יַעֲשֶׂה שׁוּם דָּבָר בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁהוּא מְבָרֵךְ

  • More accurately it would stem from the idea of "עיטוף" required as one one the ten requirements for Birkas Hamazon, which are only "למצוה מן המובחר" (=the best way to do it), and not an absolute requirement. – Ploni Mar 5 '18 at 2:09
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    This doesn't really answer the question. I know that you're supposed to wear hat while bentching, but why would you be makpid to wear two headcoverings even when you're not bentching? – ezra Mar 5 '18 at 2:19
  • @ezra so you're saying that my answer is not complete because it doesn't explain why prayer is similar to benching? I'm not sure if I have a good source for that... – aBochur Mar 5 '18 at 2:30
  • @ABochur No it just seems to me that it should be a comment as it doesn't come to answer the question entirely, just provides an interesting source mentioning to wear a hat. – ezra Mar 5 '18 at 6:24
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    The bolded words in your answer uses the word כּוֹבַע which is usually translated as "hat". But, it could be any covering including a yarmulke. I.e., I don't see how this translates as specifically two coverings. Unless the phrasing מַלְבּוּשׁ הָעֶלְיוֹן means a "hat" as well. I translate this as meaning "a top piece of clothing" which could mean anything that covers the upper part of the body which may mean a shirt or jacket. I'm not sure. I don't have access to the original source (even w/ the link, I'm blocked, now.) Perhaps if you can clarify these issues, it may make a clearer answer. – DanF Mar 5 '18 at 15:50

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