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Why is a kittel worn on Yom Kippur?

by Rabbi Simcha Bart

  

Library » Holidays » Yom Kippur » About | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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There are several reasons for this custom prevalent in all Ashkenazi communities:


a) The kittel serves as a reminder that on Yom Kippur we resemble pristine angels; completely divorced from eating, drinking and other material pursuits, and completely united with the One Above.


The Kittel resembles the traditional white linen Jewish burial shroud
b) The kittel resembles the traditional white linen Jewish burial shroud.1   Wearing it reminds us of our mortality, a thought which hopefully leads to repentance.


c) To recall the verse in Isaiah:2   "If your sins prove to be like crimson, they will become white as snow."


While only married men wear a kittel, in many communities it is customary for the women, too, to don white clothing in honor of the holy day.
   
 

Footnotes

  • 1. In fact, certain pious people will have pure linen kittels custom made for themselves, so that on Yom Kippur they actually pray in the very shroud which will accompany them on their final journey!
  • 2. 1:18.

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Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Ashkenazi
(pl. Ashkenazim). A Jew of Northern or Eastern European ancestry.
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.
kittel
(Yiddish) A long white garment, normally made of cotton or linen, customarily worn by Ashkenazi married men on Yom Kippur. A kittel is also worn by Ashkenazi men beneath the wedding canopy.