A few weeks before my sister’s wedding, she was discussing ordering kippot, trying to figure out how many she would need for the big day. How many might be too many? Well, I said to her, if you order too many you could use the extras for when guests come to your home.
Within a second of saying this, I was immediately transported back to my family’s kippah drawer. It’s been a long time since I opened this drawer, which was located in a dark brown wood unit in the dining room. The top portion of the unit had glass doors that held candlesticks and the Seder plate. The bottom part of the unit was made up of three drawers. The kippah drawer was the top drawer and it had a very distinct wood smell; if I concentrate, I can still smell it.
It was outfitted with brass handles that made a sound when you pulled them up from their resting position. And as the drawer opened, it made an ever-so-slight noise. Inside this drawer my family kept all the kippot we acquired. A few were from weddings, but most were from bar and bat mitzvahs. We opened the drawer when a family member or a guest needed a kippah. And when a kippah was chosen—sometimes it was selected based on color to match an outfit—the inscription inside would be read aloud. You know, today’s kippah is brought to you by so and so who became a bar or bat mitzvah on this date in this year. This might have been followed by a factoid about the person, or information on the party’s theme. Such details are important.
What’s interesting about the kippot in this drawer is how they got there. Often we were invited, or someone in the family was invited, to the simcha. Hence the sharing of factoids and themes. Sometimes the kippah was from a bar or bat mitzvah at our synagogue that we attended because we happened to be there that day. In this case, someone in my family took a kippah from the basket outside the sanctuary and brought it home. Occasionally, we simply acquired a kippah and added it to the collection. Who knows how it got there, but it got there. That’s the beauty of the kippah drawer—kippot will mysteriously find their way to it.
Regardless of their exact route to the drawer, the kippot were in our home, and if someone needed one, we could provide it. Our kippah drawer signified that our home was a Jewish home.
There’s another way to look at the drawer. Beyond a kippah’s color and material (I am partial to non-nylon), a kippah from a bar or bat mitzvah is a historical link to an important day in a young person’s life. Forever stamped with the date and year, a bar or bat mitzvah kippah symbolizes my moment, your moment, her moment, the moment of someone we might not even know. A kippah is a Jewish artifact. Whenever it is worn, it connects the wearer back to that day, regardless of whether they knew the honored bar or bat mitzvah. There is something truly powerful about a drawer full of Jewish history.
Currently, my family has many kippot lying around at each of our homes, and some of them are in drawers. They may not be in the drawer, but they are in drawers nevertheless. I’m not sure how many we have. The good news is that wedding season is upon us, and there are many kippot that are about to make their way into my home. I’m thinking of designating a drawer to be the drawer.