A kittel, also spelled kitl, (Yiddish: קיטל, robe, coat, cf.
Kittel ‘[house/work] coat’) is a white robe, usually made
of cotton or a cotton / polyester blend, which can serve as part of
the tachrichim or burial furnishings for male Jews. It is also worn on
special occasions by married Ashkenazi men. In western Europe this
garment has sometimes been called a Sargenes. The word Sargenes is
related to the Old French Serge as well as Latin Serica. The term has
mainly fallen out of use in modern times, except in certain
neighborhoods such as Washington Heights in New York City.
As part of Jewish men's burial furnishings, the kittel provides a
simple attire that assures equality for all in death. Because Jewish
law dictates that the dead are buried without anything else in the
coffin other than simple linen clothes, a kittel has no pockets.
It is also worn by married Ashkenazi men on
Yom Kippur and in some
instances on Rosh Hashanah. The wearing of a kittel on the High
Holidays is symbolically linked to its use as a burial shroud, and, to
the verse "our sins shall be made as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18).
Many married Ashkenazi men also wear a kittel when leading the
Passover Seder. In some communities, the cantor wears it during
certain special services during the year, such as the first night of
Selichot, the seventh day of the Holiday of
Sukkot (also known as
Hoshanah Rabbah), the
Musaf prayers of Shemini Atzeret and the first
day of Passover, where the prayers for rain (Tefilat HaGeshem) and dew
(Tefilat HaTal) are respectively recited. According to many traditions
a bridegroom wears a kittel on his wedding day.
The white color is said to symbolize purity, which partly explains its
use during weddings. It is also felt to signify unity with the bride
(who also wears white) and the beginning of a new life together.
Another reason it is worn at the wedding is because it has no pockets,
showing that the couple is marrying for love, not for what they
^ Stoll, Ira. "New York Times Blunders Again on Jewish Literacy",
Algemeiner Journal, September 26, 2017. Accessed September 26, 2017.
"Actually, a kittel — worn by some Jewish men at their weddings, on
Yom Kippur, or when leading a
Passover Seder — doesn’t have to be
made of linen. The website of the Judaica store Eichler’s has a
choice of 26 in either 100% cotton or a polyester/cotton blend, but
none in linen."
^ "Ask the rabbi #207". 1998-09-19. Retrieved 2009-09-30.
^ Bart, Simcha. "Why is a kittel worn on Yom Kippur".
^ Eider, Shimon. Halachos of Pesach. Feldheim publishers.
^ "Kittel: Jewish Ceremonial Robe".
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