Key Factors One Should Know about Keeping the ‘Law’ of Wearing a Kippah
You might find it interesting to know that the Torah nor the HaZaL (sages of Israel) make it an obligation for Israelite/Jewish men to wear a kippah (head covering). It is merely a tradition (not a mandate), developed through a positive attempt to copy the ways of the Pious (the heads of the Sanhedrin- the sages, judges of Israel).
Before I begin, I think it is important to explain a few essential facts about the Talmud and its content. The Talmud has two basic components; the first is the Mishna, a second century codification of Oral Torah Law, and the second is the Gemara, an amalgamation of commentaries by the sages on specific issues and or circumstances a Jew has or may face. Without it, the Mishna’s simplicity or ambiguity would have led to much confusion.
It is within the Gemara that we will discover a few ‘sub-components’ besides the halakha (mandatory Law). They are called midrashim (plural for midrash- explanations of scriptures) and the aggadoth (plural for aggadah, – legends and stories). In fact, the Talmudic aggadoth includes stories such as the legend of Ham’s curse, mashiah, the wars of Gog and Magog, etc. One may decide to believe them, reject them, or simply learn from them, but they are not to be followed or accepted as binding law. RaMBaM states, “I have already, on many occasions, taught you that any difference of ‘opinions’ made between the sages, which aren’t subjects that require deeds, are established as mere opinion, has no merit in the arrival at a legal decision, is not cited as a halakhic ruling by any individual sage.” Perush Ha-Mishne’oth l’RaMBaM Mas. Sanhedrin 10
Regarding the stories (aggadoth) of the sages, RaMBaM also stated, “Do not ask me to reconcile everything that they (the sages) stated about astronomy with the actual reality, for the science of those days was deficient, and they did not speak-out of traditions from the prophets regarding these matters.” Moreh Nevuchim 3,14 Additionally, RaMBaM stated regarding the Aggadoth:
“ולעולם לא יתעסק אדם בדברי ההגדות, ולא יאריך בדברי מדרשות האמורים בעניינים אלו וכיוצא בהן; ולא ישימם עיקר שאינן מביאין לא לידי אהבה, ולא לידי יראה” (Never should a person occupy himself with the Aggadoth and homiletics concerning these and similar matters, nor should he consider them as essentials, for the study of them will not bring fear or love of G-d) MT Hilkhoth Melakhim 12,2