Reflections on my kippah drawer

Reflections on my kippah drawer

Elchanan Weinbach is the rabbi of Congregation Shaarey Israel in Montebello. He has been a pulpit rabbi for 13 years, a school head for 15 years, and a consultant, presenter, or scholar in residence in New York, Kansas City, and Florida, and at LimmudLA.

Most of us have had more time on our hands lately.

If the weather were better I would finally clean out my garage, but it’s been difficult to string together two good days of weather, so I have focused on other long-neglected areas of my home. One such area, the second drawer of my night table, provided an opportunity for celebration and reflection.

That is where I store my kippot.

My overgrown kippah collection comes in all shapes and sizes. There are the really large ones to keep my head warm in the winter; there are several that reflect the color and diversity of the state of Israel; there are plenty from weddings, bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs, and more than a few from Jewish community events.

Two other noteworthy entrants are the kippah that is so large that I wouldn’t wear it anymore, and the one that is so small that I wonder how I ever wore it.

My basic rotation of kippot consists of three: the one I wear to work, the one I wear at home, and the one I wear at home when it’s cold. I occasionally wear two or three of the other ones. That left about 20 kippot looking for a new home. I’ve decided to display a number of them in my office, thereby killing a second bird with the same stone because I have a couple of open shelves to fill.

What does my drawer of kippot say to me? That over the course of my life, and perhaps over the course of all of our lives, we not only change styles but we go through stages. Certainly, for someone who wears a kippah in public, each kippah is more than as a demonstration of style; it often is a statement or advertisement of religiosity. In each situation the choice was right for that time. Personally I’ve used large black velvet kippot to communicate my newfound enthusiasm for Judaism in my 20s, I wore a medium-sized knit-but-black kippah for one job, colorful knit ones for another. Changing over time is something we all need to do; keeping every kippah for the last 30 years is not!

And so my drawer is more streamlined than it ever has been. It still reflects the diversity of who I am as a Jew in the many different environments in which I need to appear wearing a kippah (or a baseball cap). As for the rest, some will be displayed in my office and some will be respectfully disposed of (most especially the pastel silk ones!). As with all purging of material things, my life will be better for losing some of my excess stuff, and the process has given me a sense of perspective not only about my tendency to over-collect but also about the many transitions and stages that we all go through.

I know we all are looking forward to our next simcha together; I hope the kippah is nice!