Quick question: why do some folks seem to think wearing a black hat while davening is mandatory? Superficial answer: Because the Mishnah Berurah says you have to.
Deeper answer: No, it doesn't.
Look carefully at the part of the Mishnah Berurah where hats during prayers is mentioned and you'll see that the Chofetz Chayim, zt"kl, says something different. He points out that where and when he lived hats were part of daily formal wear. If you wanted to dress neatly and formally you wore a hat. Therefore, since during prayers we strive to appear appropriate before the Ribono shel Olam and since if you were to stand before the local governor or king you'd wear a nice suit and hat, when you daven you should wear a nice suit and hat.
This is quite different from what people think after a superficial reading. What it means is that whatever is considered neat and formal in any given place and time is what is appropriate for prayers. The point isn't the black hat. The point is standing respectfully before God. When we focus on the former we risk forgetting the latter. When that happens we have a cultural devolution where not only is a hat a di rigeur requirement but also a sign of religious allegiance. Forget everything else, the hat you wear determines the type of Jew you are, not your actions, not your neshamah.
Here's another quick question: if the reason we don't take medications on Shabbos is because of the prohibition of grinding (back then a 'script from a doctor meant going to the local apothecary and having him grind up your personal recipe) then what's the problem with taking pills nowadays? Big Pharma doesn't care when I take my acetaminophen (paracetamol for my Israeli readers) and doesn't change their assembly lines based on my usage. Yet if there is no sakkanah then I am not to take acetaminophen on Shabbos.
The answer is given by the Nishmas Avraham and fits in perfectly with my thesis. The taking of pills on Shabbos in non-dangerous situations is forbidden. Our Chazal, when faced with having to categorize this prohibition, stuck it under the heading "Grinding" because back in their day that's where it went. But even nowadays when that classification no longer fit we still avoid the pills because, in the bigger picture, that's what's forbidden.
This bigger picture is something often missing from our Judaism today. We are, as people go, petty and small-minded. We therefore focus on petty, small-minded things. We segregate people by accent, by type of kippah, by how much swaying one does while learning and the like. We seek truth but only from those with whom we already agree.
Consider something I've heard a couple of time. There is apparently a school of thought out there that says that unless you're using a Vilna Shas format in your Talmud study that you're not really learning Talmud. I first heard this when, while sitting in a yeshivah in Israel waiting for someone, I cracked open a Steinsaltz Talmud I'd just purchased. "Ah," said an unhelpful passerby in an uninvited comment, "you know you're not really learning if you use that, right?"
But if the point of learning is to develop a great knowledge of Torah, to engage in the religious requirement to learn and to come closer to the Ribono shel Olam, and if by using the Steinsaltz Talmud I do all that then why doesn't it count?
What is the purpose of being a Jew? To create a dveikus between oneself and the Creator. To bring His holiness down into this world and make it a better place. Since Matan Torah this has meant performance of the mitzvos and the learning of Torah. If one is doing that properly then where does this attitude of "one size fits all" come in?"
We all of us need to remember the bigger picture because it brings more meaning to our learning and our mitzvos performance. Without it we start to do things without deeper intention and by rote, something we all need to avoid.