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Why do chassidim wear a gartel (black sash/belt) when praying?

by Rabbi Ari Shishler

  

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Have you never heard of a “black belt” in Judo-ism?

Ok, seriously, the prophet Amos said: “Prepare to meet your G-d, of Israel! ”1 Our sages interpret this to mean that you need gear up physically before you engage G-d through prayer. How does a Jewish man prepare for prayer?

He puts on a belt .2

Back when men wore tunics, the belt served to separate between the upper and lower body - or, in Talmudic parlance, to ensure that “one’s heart does not see one’s nakedness”.

Back when men wore tunics, the belt served to separate between the upper and lower body
While our fashion has changed radically, many communities have retained this custom. That’s because it’s considered a sign of respect and eagerness to “gird our loins” with a special belt before we stand in front of G-d .3

Another reason relates to the prophet Isaiah’s description of Moshiach. Isaiah tells us “justice will be the girdle of his thighs and faith the girdle of his loins” .4

You’ll notice that the prophet refers to two girdles. Likewise, Chassidic men wear an additional Gartel, a special black belt, while praying .5

Footnotes

  • 1. Amos 4:12.
  • 2. Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 27.
  • 3. Ta’amei Haminhagim 71.
  • 4. Isaiah 11:5.
  • 5. Menachem Tzion.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs

Moshiach
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Isaiah
1. One of the greatest prophets, lived in the 7th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Isaiah. The book is filled with prophecies concerning the Messianic redemption.
Gartel
(Yiddish) A black cloth belt customarily worn by chassidic men while praying.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.