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    In Shul, many men place their tallis over their head for the entire davening. Some do so only after Barchu, while others do not cover their head with a tallis at all. What is the reasoning behind covering one’s head with a tallis, and is one required to do so? Is it a custom or halachah? Should a tallis cover the head for the entire davening or only during certain parts?

    The Lenient Approach

    The opinion of the Baal Ha’itur is that as long as one is wearing a yarmulke so that his head is covered while making the brachah on the tallis, this is enough and there is no requirement to place a tallis on his head as well.

    The Stricter Opinion

    The Beis Yosef mentions that it is the practice of those who are “modest” to cover their heads with a tallis, even if they are already wearing a head covering. This is quoted in the Bach, as well as others.

    The Rema

    Darchei Moshe, the Rema’s commentary on the Beis Yosef, mentions that although it’s a mitzvah to listen to the Beis Yosef, in this situation the halachah follows the Baal Ha’itur mentioned above.

    Shulchan Aruch

    When discussing covering one’s head with a tallis, the Shulchan Aruch mentions that “it is proper” to do so. Based on this, even if one does cover his head it’s a proper thing to do and not an obligation.

    Entire Davening

    The opinion of the Bach is that one should leave his head covered with his tallis throughout the entire davening. This is quoted by others as well. Some mention that this means from the beginning of davening until the end, and not just for Shemoneh Esrei. Even if one is lenient and only covers his head for certain parts of davening, he should cover it for Shemoneh Esrei and Chazaras Hashatz.

    After Barchu

    Many have the custom to cover their head from after Barchu until after Shemoneh Esrei.

    Purpose of the Tallis Covering

    Covering one’s head with a tallis, in addition to one’s regular head covering, brings one to humility and yiras Shamayim.

    Other Opinions

    The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch mentions that after one makes the brachah on the tallis and covers his head, he may remove the tallis from his head. Elya Rabbah mentions that one’s tallis should cover his head from the beginning of davening until the end. One shouldn’t be like those who take their tallis off their head and place it on their shoulders.

    Unlearned Person

    The Magen Avraham mentions that if one is not a learned person, even if he is married he should not cover his head with a tallis.

    Chazzan Covering His Head

    A chazzan should always keep his head covered during davening. Some are lenient when it is hot, but he should keep his head covered during Krias Shema, Shemoneh Esrei, Krias HaTorah, and Chazaras Hashatz.

    Ein K’Elokeinu

    Before reciting Ein K’Elokeinu, some have the custom (based on Kabbalah) to remove the tallis from their head.


    The Machzik Brachah mentions that the tefillah of Aleinu is more praiseworthy than any other tefillah, and it should be said with a tallis on his head or a hat.

    Single Boy

    A single boy should not cover his head with a tallis (if his custom is to wear one).

    Yom Kippur

    On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many men are accustomed to covering their head more often with their tallis, especially during Neilah. Some have the practice to recite Ashrei and Uva L’tzion without a tallis on the head.

    Krias HaTorah

    In Chassidic circles the custom is that the tallis is not kept on the head for krias haTorah, but the Rebbe wears his shtreimel during krias haTorah. Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, mentions that if by keeping a tallis on one’s head he will not be able to hear krias haTorah properly, then he does not have to keep his head covered with a tallis. However, otherwise he should keep it on his head. Even if one can hear the leining the custom is that one does not cover his head during it, since krias haTorah is considered learning Torah and not davening.

    During the Heat

    Although it is proper to cover one’s head during davening, as mentioned above, in the summer when it is hot and hard to concentrate during davening some say that one can be lenient.

    Other Customs

    The Keser Shem Tov says that in London, the custom was that people did not cover their heads with a tallis when reciting any brachah or during davening. Only the chazzan and the baal tokei’a did so on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Hoshanah Rabbah. In Amsterdam, the custom was that the Rav and Dayan would cover their head during davening.

    In South Africa, the custom is that most people do not cover their heads with a tallis during davening, and it is only the learned people who do so. One who is not a Rav and covers his head with a tallis is regarded as a show-off.

    The Opinion of Harav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l

    The opinion of Harav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l, as mentioned by Harav Hershel Shachter, shlita, in Nefesh Harav, is that one should cover his head for “devarim sh’bekedushah (such as Kaddish and Barchu), as well as Shemoneh Esrei, but one should remove it from his head during Birkas Krias Shema (author’s note: although one doesn’t see this being done too often).

    The Sharp Words

    of the Be’er Moshe The following is paraphrased from the Be’er Moshe’s response to those who do not cover their head with a tallis: “Now I would like to talk about the ‘bad’ custom in America; G-d forbid to call it a minhag, but a bad act. It is bad in my eyes that people take off their tallis from their heads during davening and only daven with a yarmulke on their heads. One, their head should be covered during davening, and second, it is not derech eretz and respectful to stand in front of the Shechinah as one does when he is talking to his friend. It is a great wonder in my eyes that this bad custom of davening with only a yarmulke has developed in certain Chassidish shuls as well and they are not embarrassed. One should do what he can to rectify this.”