Why do we wear Kissuyyim at Heschel? Parashat Noach, and the rainbow placed as a sign in the heavens gives us a clue.
This week we read Parshat Noach. Parashat Noach is memorable for many reasons, not the least of which is the rainbow that God placed in the heavens after the flood. The calamitous flood was a reboot of creation after human beings had desecrated the world through acts of injustice and cruelty. After the flood, God realized that even Noah and his family who were the righteous of their generation are by no means perfect. God vows never again to destroy the earth because of humanity, because humanity is naturally inclined to undisciplined behaviour. The terms of God’s new relationship with humanity takes into account this realization that people are not angels. People may not always act properly on their own accord and require frameworks for how to treat one another. Seven fundamental laws — known as the Noahide Laws — are put into place to ensure to ensure basic civility and social order. The rainbow is then offered as a sign of this new relationship.
At Heschel this week our middah is “show signs of respect”. We discussed how the rainbow itself as a “sign” that reminds us that it is not enough just to say or feel that we care and respect one another; we actually have to give signs that show our respect for each other. Our Kissuyyi Rosh is one of the most important signs of respect here at Heschel. By covering our heads, we demonstrate our respect for God who is above and beyond our own consciousness. By wearing our Kissuyyim, we demonstrate respect for the principles of egalitarianism and halakhah. And, we demonstrate respect for others in our community whose Jewish practices may be different than our own; we show we can make compromises to learn together in a pluralistic Jewish community. Like the rainbow above the world, the Kissuyyim above our heads are a sign of a relationship founded on comprise, mutual understanding, civility, and social order.
This Shabbat may we all find ways to show signs of respect to our friends, our family, and the world which has been given to us a gift.