The power of the yarmulke.
Have any of you ever thought about that? Who wore the first yarmulke? Why is it called a yarmulke? What’s with the “l”? Do we have a detailed history of the who what why where and how of this head covering?
I just asked Husband #1 if he knew the history, and he just gave me the google answer that “it is a sign of respect for God.” Umm, ok. I always thought of it as a target on someone’s head. After the Holocaust, there was the fear about going out with everyone knowing that you were Jewish. And, as far as we have come, there is still anti-Semitism and there are areas where you are told not to wear a yarmulke because the tensions run so high. Sad, but true.
Wait a second. This is a humor column. Let’s switch gears and get to the point of this week’s musings. I still have fond memories of crocheting many yarmulkes for a variety of young men when I was in high school. Girls cannot relate to that these days — marking the pattern out on graph paper, buying the right color chut (that is what the type of yarn was called) — it was a whole process. If you were really advanced (or really liked the boy) there was a way to inscribe the inside of the masterpiece. Good times.
Anyway, Husband #1 always wears his yarmulke wherever we go. And people always stare at him wherever we go. During the Bush administration, the speechwriter’s name was Ari Fleisher, and Husband #1 looks like him, so we thought people thought that he was that person. Or were people just staring at his extra-large cranium? Or were people staring at the yarmulke? We would never really know, because Husband #1 would never let me ask. I always want him to wear a baseball hat, but he rarely listens to me. Not that he ever really listens to me, but that’s for another column.
But even though there is something isolating about wearing one of these head coverings and letting everyone know who you are and what you believe in, it also can be quite unifying. Like when I would be on the hunt to find men for a minyan at various baseball stadiums. The yarmulkes would make the “spot the Yid” game way too easy, but sometimes it was quite helpful. When you are on vacation and you see a fellow yarmulke wearer, the game of Jewish geography is bound to happen. “Where are you from?” “Do you know so and so?” “What are you doing about food?” “Is there a synagogue nearby?” and so on and so on and so forth. Lots of fun.
This brings us to last week and the motivation for this rambling about yarmulkes.
Picture this. It’s 12 a.m. Thursday night/Friday morning, and we enter the lobby of our hotel in Florida. There are five young ladies in their matching very long black skirts, very long sleeves, and very youthful, yeshivish faces. (What makes a face yeshivish, you ask. You just know.) Husband #1 and I walk in, and these girls come running over to us. “Can you please help us?” Turns out, the mean manager at the hotel won’t let them check in, because even though they have a prepaid reservation, none of them is 21.
I really despise women in power who use it for evil instead of good. These girls weren’t going to trash the room or cause any trouble — unless you consider reading tehillim trouble. Long story short, they had to change the reservation to be under Husband #1’s name so they could use his ID to check in (because Husband #1 is over 21). The manager let them check in at 1:30 in the morning after all of that, when she could have just done that initially, but whatever. And Husband #1 made five new friends.
They were very impressed when I told them about our Oreos because, looking at us, they would never think that we would be related to anyone who would wear a black hat. I had said to Husband #1, “What would these girls have done if you and your big black yarmulke hadn’t walked into the lobby?” Ahh, that is the point, he did walk into the lobby, because God is awesome and Husband #1 was his helpful messenger.
And the girls got him a box of chocolates as a thank you, which, of course, I ate.
Now that is a story to tell at the Shabbos table!
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck still wishes that Husband #1 would wear the very large baseball hat that she ordered special for him every once in a while…