It would be difficult to find a more trivial matter that was the source of greater controversy in Jewish life than the question of whether or not it is permitted for males to pray with uncovered head. From the very few references in the Talmud it would appear that only men noted for their piety covered their heads, not only for prayer but at all times, out of respect for God ‘on high’, that is, above their head. As late as the eighteenth century Elijah, Gaon of Vilna could write (note to the Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim, 8) that according to the strict law there is no need to pray with covered head and that to cover the head is no more than an act of piety. For all that, especially in reaction to Christian worship, it became the universal practice among the Orthodox to cover the head (either with a hat or with the yarmulka) at all times. Certainly, it is now unheard of for worshippers in an Orthodox synagogue to have their head uncovered. In the early days of Reform Judaism it was often the practice to pray with bared head even in the synagogue but this is rare nowadays, and some Reform Jews have adopted the Orthodox practice of wearing a head-covering at all times.
Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.