Wearing a Yarmulke as a Mask During the Pandemic

We’re obliged to wear a mask,
the way, according to the Talmudist,
we’re obliged to cover our heads
in humility,
not so that we will get ill,
but so that we won’t make others ill.

A friend posted a photo of himself,
his mask a blue yarmulke,
tied with elastic to each ear.

But does it break a law?

*

How many yarmulkes
on the way into a service,
have I picked out of the wicker basket
placed on the table in the foyer
for us forgetful Jews
and, after the benediction
and the reception and the kibitzing,
how may times have I rushed
past the wicker basket
and out the door,
still wearing the stolen yarmuke?

*

Now, sheltering in place,
on this first real spring morning,
birds busy building their nests,
I’m wearing my yarmulke,
purple, my daughter’s favorite color.
Printed on the inside:
Bella Xiaulu Hood Terman,
in honor of her bat mitzvah.

*

A yarmulke is also called a kippah:
dome, majestic covering.
A dome is an upside-down nest.

*

Once, in Jerusalem, my mother and I
entered the Mea Shearim district,
the most observant neighborhood,
where on buildings are signs
warning women to dress modestly
and men to remember to wear
their yarmulkes. I purchased one
because I admired the design
and because it covers the whole head
and because it reminded me
of the kippah my great-grandfather wears
in the only photo that somehow arrived
all the way from the old world to here,
though he didn’t. And because
I imagine it is like the skullcaps
the great sages donned composing
their mystical writings. I never wear it.

*

It is a religious precept
to desecrate the Sabbath
for any person afflicted
with an illness
that may prove dangerous
and he who is zealous
is praiseworthy
and he who asks questions
sheds blood.

*

Once, I dropped my yarmulke,
picked it up and didn’t kiss it.

The rabbi chastised me.

*

The disease is carried
by our breath. Wearing a yarmulke
over our noses and mouths
is a therefore praiseworthy.

And a continual kiss.


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