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Why do many Orthodox Jews wear a hat while praying?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

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Respect 

As a sign of respect for whom they are praying to.

In Judaism a head covering doesn't merely cover what is beneath it; it reminds you of what is above it. Hence the Kipah, which serves as a constant reminder of G-d's presence.

When a Jew prays he enters a greater state of G-d consciousness. Many who (for whatever reason) don't wear a Kipah all the time don one when they pray. And those who do wear a Kipah all day (in accordance with Jewish law) don an additional head covering when they pray.

Incidentally, the High Priest, who was in a constant state of enhanced spirituality, wore two head coverings.1

Mysticism

The Jewish soul is comprised of five elements: Nefesh (Vitality), Ruach (Emotion), Neshamah (Intellect), Chayah (Life), and Yechidah (Unity). The first three elements function from within us (in our liver, heart, and brain respectively), the latter two from above us.

During prayer, when we tap into a higher level of spirituality, we wear two coverings above our head symbolizing the two loftier transcendent elements of the soul.2

Footnotes

  • 1. Talmud tractate Chulin 138a
  • 2. Hitvaduyot 5748, vol. 4, p. 164.

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Kipah
(pl. Kipot). The head-covering worn by Jewish males. Serves as a constant reminder of the existence of a Higher Being.
Neshamah
The soul of a Jew. This soul belongs to anyone who was born to a Jewish mother or converted according to the dictates of Jewish Law. The soul is a spark of G-d Himself.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.