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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

International Wash Your Yarmulka Day

In this week's parsha, we find that Pharaoh's daughter went out to wash in the Nile.

I can't tell you how many people have remarked to me that a certain Rav's or Rosh Yeshiva's Yarmulka was dirty. How do they know? Well, they don't always wear hats, and the yarmulka is visible. Sometimes, they use their yarmulkas for the kinyan sudar at a wedding or at mechiras chametz, and certainly during Shachris they don't wear hats.  Or they use them to change hot light bulbs.

I defended this phenomenon by saying that the one thing (besides nega'im) that a person doesn't see is his yarmulka. You see your face in the mirror, you see your clothes, but you don't see your yarmulka. You put it on when it's dark, you take it off (if you don't wear a yarmulka to sleep, or if you have a special shloff kappel) when it's dark, so when do we see our yarmulkas? (Rhetorical question; implicit answer is "Never.") So unless you use your yarmulka to unscrew hot light bulbs, or for kinyan sudar, you probably don't know what they look like. So I am telling you. If you only have a vague memory of when you bought your yarmulka, and you haven't looked at it lately, it needs a cleaning.

I don't even want to discuss the special fragrance a well-worn yarmulka develops. As Bill Mauldin once said, "After a while, even the flies stay away from you."

In the interest of Kiddush Hashem, I Hereby Proclaim and Inaugurate


Terylene is easy to wash. If you use plain water, you might notice, as you squeeze it out, that the water turns color. This is not a trick of the light. If your yarmulka is too far gone for plain water, you may use a detergent or a shampoo for your yarmulka, but don't use soap, which can leave a filmy residue. You can add a little Listerine to the wash for a refreshing minty smell, and you can dry it in the microwave, if it does not have any metallic trim.
I have no expertise with Srugies, but whatever you do, don't use hot water on your wool Srugie. It's small enough as it is, and it really doesn't need any shrinking.
It's probably hard to do a decent job on velvet yarmulkas. But we have to step up to the plate and face life's challenges, no matter what comes our way.
Technically, satin and leather aren't Yarmulkas. They're Kippot. In any case, you probably don't wear them often enough to get them dirty. Or, you are, unlike some of us, fastidious in your personal habits, so your yarmulka would never be dirty. However, you, too, can participate in this special day by reminding those other people to wash their yarmulkas.
The absolute best way to properly care for Logo Yarmulkas is, believe it or not, to turn on the cold water in your kitchen sink, and then put the Logo Yarmulka and one half pound of kashering salt into the garbage disposal, and turn it on for not less than two minutes. Larger yarmulkas might require pulsing, as with food processors. You probably don't think this actually works, but it really does the job! Try it!

Appropriate greeting: A Gut Yar.

May it be such a success that, at least for a couple of weeks, we will all have clean yarmulkas.

Since writing this, it has come to my attention that there are some women out there who regularly wash their husbands' yarmulkas. And, I suppose, they also keep an eye on their talleisim ketanim. Well, good for you. The problem is that the rest of us have wives whose unbounded love and unconditional admiration is admissive of no contrariety, and they cannot even perceive our flaws; if our yarmulkas or talleisim get a little dusty, they simply don't see it.

LONG after writing this, someone pointed out to me that if were to change Yarmulka to Kippa, it would improve the acronym.  I WYKD.  I wicked.  What's more amazing is that this piece of fluff- it doesn't even rise to bagatelle- is still being read out there.   But I agree that the new acronym is not only mellifluous, it is fairly descriptive of this particular alter ego's oeuvre.  


Anonymous said...

The Chasam Sofer says that the bruises a community esrog picks up in the course of the kehilla using it are actually a hiddur mitzvah. Why are you proposing the removal of hiddur mitzvah?
And if it keeps flies away, is that not a mayleh, as opposed to a chisaron?

Anonymous said...

My wife has a schedule of washing my yarmulkes. I guess she can see it so she knows when it is dirty! I wonder if they teach this skill in BY!

Not a faker said...

Believe it or not, some people who wear leather yarmulkas wear them every day (I don't I usually use a srugie the same size as my old velvet one) THose that do are usually more attentive to personal hygiene than some kreizin I could mention who consider cleanliness an aveira and wear clean clothing including yarmulkas.

Barzilai said...

To Not a Faker:

You mean that even after you get to Ru'ach Hakodesh, you still have to be makpid on Nekius?

Actually, I was hoping for a far more vitriolic reaction. It was written sardonically, in the personna of a blinkered, parochial black hatter, in the same spirit as when I defined a "Modern Orthodox" man as one who wears a wedding ring and uses cologne. Does it count as passive-aggresive if I'm anonymous?

lawyer said...

I don't understand why we have to wash the kippot, yarmulkes, kopels etc. You drop 'em off at the cleaners and have them dry cleaned. (BTW, yarmulkes are really GREAT for removing hot lite bulbs.)

Barzilai said...

The cleaners! I never thought of that. But you're right; If you trust them with your tie, you can trust them with a yarmulkah. Huh. The things you learn on a blog....

Lis said...

Would you trust the cleaners to wash something as religious as a kippah? Some cleaners really don't take care of the items they wash. If the cleaners you go into are tested, then you can trust them to wash your kippahs.

Jasper @ Best Kippah