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Do We Wear Our Caps or Kippot at a Ballgame?

Rashi

At Torah Academy of Bergen County, we recently discussed whether we wear a cap or a kippah to a ballgame based on an intriguing comment Rashi makes to Bereishit 18:1. This pasuk records that Hashem appeared to Avraham Avinu after his brit milah “b’elonei Mamre—in the plains of Mamre.” Why does the Torah mention the location where the communication occurred? Rashi explains that it is to credit Mamre for advising Avraham Avinu regarding his brit milah.

Da’at Zekenim

The Da’at Zekenim MiBa’alei HaTosafot wonder why Avraham Avinu needed to consult Mamre. Although Mamre is a friend of Avraham Avinu (Bereishit 14:13), he was not a member of the nascent covenantal community, and his advice appears superfluous at best.

Da’at Zekeinim offers three responses: First, Mamre provided technical advice regarding how to conduct the brit milah. Such consultation is common today, when rabbis consult outside specialists for technical advice regarding mitzvah observance. For example, they might call on metal experts to make knives for shechita or milah.

Next, the Da’at Zekeinim suggest that Avraham Avinu sought Mamre’s advice on convincing his male servants to submit to the brit milah, as Hashem required of them (Bereishit 17:12-13). Mamre responded that Avraham Avinu should lead by example. He should first give himself a brit, then Yishmael and then the other male servants. Bereishit 17:24-27 records that Avraham Avinu conducted the brit milah in this order. Leading by example became the Jewish way of leadership, as taught by Bamidbar 27:17 (with Rashi), Yehoshua 5:13 and Shmuel I 18:16.

Finally, Da’at Zekeinim says that Avraham Avinu wondered whether he should publicize his brit milah. After all, Avraham Avinu was quite popular and attracted many followers (Bereishit 12:5 with Rashi). However, his brit milah would set him apart.

Mamre advised Avraham Avinu to publicize the brit. In fact, Bereishit 17:26 states that Avraham Avinu conducted the brit milah,“b’etzem hayom hazeh,” a phrase that Rashi on Devarim 32:48 understands to mean in “a pronounced manner.”

Hashem, in turn, registers His approval of how Avraham Avinu conducted the brit milah by appearing to him—as recorded in Bereishit 18:1 with Ramban. The mention of Mamre in this pasuk also shows Hashem’s approval of Mamre’s sensible advice to Avraham Avinu.

Ball Games

Jewish males face a similar dilemma in many situations, including ball game attendance and plane travel—should we wear a cap or a kippah? The Da’at Zekeinim’s approach suggests we should. We should consider always proudly displaying our Jewish identity if it is safe. Needless to say, though, wearing our kippah demands we act in a way that reflects well on Hashem, whom we—as a nation—represent.

Conclusion

Regarding plane travel, if one sits in a tightly packed economy section, the potential ease of irritating one’s neighbor inclines some men to cover their kippah with a cap. This way, one avoids inadvertently creating a chillul Hashem. Whatever one decides, his goal should be the furtherance of kavod shamayim, dignity for Hashem and His special people.


Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.

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