Sometimes, I actually wear a kippah. Like on Shabbat, typically all of Friday evening and Saturday morning until after lunch. Sometimes, I’ll wear it for the entire day. Always, always in synagogue. But mostly, my kippah is in my pocket.
Friends from ulpan have said something like this: “Well, you wear a hat most of the time—that’s your kippah.” It is not. At moments when I’ve worn a kippah, like at the Yom Ha’atzma’ut ceremony, they’ve encouraged me: “It looks so good on you and seems so natural. Why not leave it on a little longer?” I shake my head gently and slip it back into my pocket.
Every once in a while, a guy will say something like this: “You are so spiritual. Don’t you want to wear a kippah?” I smile and think, “Yes, yes, I do. And, no, no, I really don’t.”
From my first trip to Israel in 1973 until a trip in 2011, I wouldn’t step off the airplane until I had a kippah on my head. I believe that this land is unique and special to God. The land is holy. I wouldn’t enter a synagogue without a kippah. And I wouldn’t enter God’s land without one. Period. Simple. No argument.
So now I live in the land of our fathers and mothers, the place we dreamed of for millennia, and my head is bare. The reason is simple: if I wear a kippah, I have to pick a color. And a size. And material. And where to wear it on my head. It turns out that the kippah sends a much stronger message to other Jews than to God.
For months before my aliyah I struggled with the decision of whether to wear a kippah routinely. After a while, I began to think of the kippah as a team emblem. Do I play for the Knitted Hats or the Black Velvets? Then I began to think of it as a gang sign. When a leading rabbi says that a Jew who wears a knitted kippah is not a Jew but Amalek—an enemy of the Jewish people who should be wiped off the face of the earth—the notion of kippah qua gang sign sounds quite correct. The kippah has become a focal point of sinat chinam.
God knows my heart. Hakodesh Habarachu knows my soul. My kippah proves nothing to the Master of the universe.
So here’s my decision: If you want to know my heart, you’ll need to look deeper than the top of my head. If you want to know my soul, you’ll need to look into my eyes and listen to my yearnings. You’ll need to hear the sound of my voice when I pray. You’ll need to know my love of this people, this Land and the One who led us out of slavery into this place of holiness and light.
So let’s get started. Here’s a taste for my love of the land:
Israel: A Meditation
You are my people.
You are my heart and you are my hope.
We waited together at the mountain
When God revealed the Holy Word.
We wandered together through the desert
On the path to sacred soil.
We watched the sea part.
We heard the heavens roar.
We stood at the doorway to freedom,
At the border of a Promised Land.
You are my destiny.
You are my joy and you are my truth.
We were victorious at Jericho,
Unyielding at Masada.
We defied empires
We defied kings
For justice and freedom.
We’ve traveled the earth,
Wandered the millennia,
Refugees of the ages,
Homeless and hopeful,
Waiting to return
To native ground.
You are my brother in history,
My sister in fortune,
The mother of my spirit,
The father of my heart,
The child of my longing
And the light of generations.
To you I pledge my right arm
And my voice in song.
To you I pledge my soul.
To you I pledge my spirit.
You are my nation.
You are my inheritance.
You are my home.
“Israel: A Meditation” is © 2010 Alden Solovy and www.tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.