Wearing a Baseball Cap on Shabbos

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: Does the visor of a baseball cap fall under the category of ohel arai, which would make it forbidden to wear a baseball cap on Shabbos?

Discussion: As discussed earlier, erecting an ohel ara’i is forbidden miderabanan, even if one plans to take it down on that same day. There are some hats whose brim or visor protrudes more than a tefach (approx. 4 inches) from the crown, which leads some rishonim119 to rule that one may not wear such hats on Shabbos. Wearing such hats, they explain, is in effect creating a “roof” which protrudes a tefach and is thus comparable to constructing a temporary ohel. Although other rishonim disagree with this comparison, the stringent view is quoted in Shulchan Aruch120 without dissent.

The custom, however, is not to follow the strict view. In Jewish communities the world over, both men and women have been wearing wide-brimmed hats on Shabbos for generations and continue to do so today. The poskim who came after the Shulchan Aruch offer several explanations as to why wearing wide-brimmed hats is permitted. Basically, there are two rationales:

1. Only a stiff and unbendable brim is considered like a roof and might be classified as an ohel. Brims which easily bend are not similar to a roof at all and cannot be termed “ohel.”

2. The brims and visors of stylish hats are not meant to serve as protection from the sun or rain – such hats are worn in all kinds of weather simply for the sake of style or beauty. Thus their brims are not considered as “shelters” and cannot be classified as “ohel.”

It follows, therefore, that wearing a baseball cap whose visor extends more than a tefach from the forehead is problematic. The visor of a baseball cap121 is generally stiff and firm and does not bend easily. A baseball cap is usually worn to protect the eyes and face from the sun or from the rain - its main purpose is to serve as some type of “shelter.” If so, neither of the above arguments for leniency apply and one should avoid wearing a baseball cap on Shabbos.122 Still, we do not object to those who are lenient since it appears that some communities never accepted the stringent ruling of the Shulchan Aruch in this matter and have permitted wearing all types of hats on Shabbos.123119. Tosafos, Shabbos 138b, unlike Rashi who permits wearing any hat, no matter how wide the brim.

120. O.C. 301:40.

121. The same might apply to certain styles of cowboy hats or a wide-brimmed straw hat.

122. Orchos Shabbos 9, note 68, based on a ruling of Rav Y.S. Elyashiv.

123. Based on Mishnah Berurah 301:152.