Gartels on Yom Kippur

It is questionable during the year whether one needs to wear a Gartel. Let’s assume that it is your family minhag or acquired minhag to continue to do so even today. This article is not about the need to wear one.

On Yom Kippur, certainly those who wear a Gartel also wear a Kittel. Almost every Kittel I have seen, includes a white gartel, made of the same material as the kittel. If so, on a day when we are meant to wear white (via a Kittel) largely because it reminds us of the deathly shrouds (which is why Shulchan Aruch paskens that even women can wear a Kittel) why is it that people also put their black gartel on top of their kittel. That is, a gartel on a gartel?

On Rosh Hashana, when I am the Ba’al Tefila for Musaf, I wear a Kittel. I don’t wear an extra Gartel. On Yom Kippur, I confess that I also wear a black gartel over my kittel. The reason that I do so has nothing to do with Halacha. It is an emotional expression. My Zeyda Yidel Balbin passed away on Yom Kippur. As a young man, when I entered the room that he was in when he passed away on Motzoei Yom Kippur (he had already been removed by the Chevra Kadisha). I stood there alone for quite some minutes feeling the emptiness of the room. His hat and walking stick were in the room. As I walked around, I also found his Gartel. I took that Gartel and I wear it on his Yohr Tzeit (Yom Kippur).

Why do others wear a black gartel on top of their kittel? If they do so because their Rebbes did so, then why did the Rebbes do so?

Along these lines, why don’t some Chassidim substitute their black yarmulkas for white yarmulkas?

Does anyone know?

Typical Kittel

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia although my views have nought to do with my employer. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

17 thoughts on “Gartels on Yom Kippur”

  1. Well firstly – I don’t wear a gartel on my gartel …I remove the white one from the kittel and use only a black one. The reason I wear a black gartel is because that is what the Rebbe did ; Why did he do so ? I never heard – but I have an idea בדרך אפשר… we wear white to be compared to malochim – we wear a gartel to seperate our higher faculties ( thoughts emotions ) from our more baser attributes ( digestion etc ) , things that are not shayach by a malach, and therefore not shayach that a gartel should be white … just a theory

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    1. LeHalocho as I recall even the Shulchan Aruch HoRav paskens that the reason is to remind us of Meisim and based on THAT he says women may wear a kitel. Agav, I’m surprised feminists have not taken this one up!!!

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      1. 1. The main reason given by the Shulchan Aruch HoRav for white on Yom Kippur is to be like angels – not bigdei meisim. see 610:9 and see there also in relation to women.

        2. The minhag to wear a gartel of course has a mokoir in shas and poskim – it is that there has to be a separation between the heart and mokoim ho-ervo ; now it is true that a belt or elastic on underwear etc fulfils this requirement , but that does not take away from the yesod haminhag and that one can choose to fulfil the required seperation in a special way as an act of preparation for davening. I do not think the Rav would consider wearing a gartel a minhag not rooted in Halacha.

        Lets look at a kittel itself ; white pants and a white shirt would basically fulfill the requirement , yet universally people wear a kittel – because that is the minhag.

        3. As to a black gartel on YK – as I wrote above, I don’t know why with certainty — but I do know the importance of following a minhag, indeed chazal said מנהג ישראל תורה היא

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        1. As I recall, and my memory will undoubtedly be faulty, the issue of women wearing a Kitel is from the Magen Avraham and if the so called MAIN reason was to look like Malochim, then we would not allow women to wear them. That’s what I remember from the Mishna B’Rura. I thought this was also the opinion of the Shulchan Aruch HoRav. Everyone mentions the Malochim reason but it alone cannot be a reason for women wearing a Kitel. That’s the gist of what I recall.

          Your dear father ע’ה wore a white yarmulka, R’ Moshe. Do you? (I think he also wore a gartel underneath but not on top in general 🙂

          I do agree with you, as I had stated, that it’s certainly a מנהג that is based on an original notion of הכנה for davening. I also do not believe the Rav would have any issue with people wearing one, but he wouldn’t have himself.

          Let me also note, that strictly speaking, Mayim Achronim isn’t needed either today. But it is also related to the notion of והתקדישתם so many still do it (and yes, there are kabbalistic issues there too, and ditto for having to wash your hands after being in our “clean” toilets etc etc)

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          1. Your memory is good! I would however disagree with your conclusion.

            The SA Horav is known for his exact leshonois incorporating a multitude of shitois and explanations – look at the reference I mentioned and you will see there how beautifully he puts it:

            1. We wear white in order to be like Malochim and thats why we wear a kittel in our medinois.
            2.There is another reason – this is because of a kittel being like bigdei maisim ( tachrichim) and humbles us to do teshuva
            3.Therefore women are allowed to wear a kittel in order to humble their hearts – but not other white clothes because they can not be compared to angels …. (he gives there a posuk as a proof )

            I would add, the very fact that today NO women that I am aware of actually wear a kittel – would tend to lead one to the conclusion that the main reason is angels. This would also explain the minhag Chabad (and others ) only to wear a kittel on Yom Kippur because only on Yom Kippur are we like angels , not Rosh HaShono … It also re-enforces my original theory ; a gartel is not shayach by Angels, hence it is not white.

            Are you sure my father wore a white yarmulka? When I was home he wore black – unless in the later years he changed…

            He would always wear a gartel for weekday shachris davening – maybe in deferrence to wearing tefillin,I don’t remember mincha maariv , but on Shabbos, at least as I was growing up in Elwood, he would rarely wear one on top of his kapota ( though when in NY or Israel he always would ). I never asked him why but I think it was part of his general hanhogo not to be “out there” as a chabadnik. I think for the same reason he and Rabbi Groner never wore kapotas in the weekday.

            The sincerity of “pnimiut” is today sadly lacking when some people make an ikar out of the levush instead of midois tovois, humility , yiras shomayim , ahavas yisroel and sincerity. The thickest blackest gartel and the shiniest silk kapota can not take their place. I am not pointing any fingers or suggesting levush doesn’t have its place – but it is unequivocally not the ikar and IMHO clothes ( or even a beard) maketh not the man.

            Hmmm … I have digressed slightly

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            1. Thanks. I’ll look it up when I’m at home.
              My recollection is that he definitely wore a white yarmulka on Yom Kippur, and I always surmised that he wore a gartel underneath his Kapota on Shabbos?
              Yes, he wore a Gartel during the week, as far as I can recall too, although I really only saw him on Shabbosos and Yomim Tovim …

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  2. המנהג ה”חסידי” כהיום בחגירת גארטל לתפלה, חסרה שורש בגמרא ובפוסקים, ואין בכך שום הגיון. לדעתי כל הענין של ה’אזור’ בזמנינו [היינו עם לבישת מכנסיים] הינו רק בלבישת בגד רחב כגון ‘קיטל’ או קפטן ירושלמי, שעם חגירת הגרטל, מותאם המעיל העליון לפי מידת הגוף. אבל היום שרובנו אמצנו את הלבישה האירופאית, שגיזרת סגירת המעיל היא על ידי כפתורים, והכל עומד על מכונו, אין שום מקום לגרטל!!!!

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  3. Accuse me of cynicism, but why are we searching for a sevara to explain a nuance of a minhag that, per R’ Goldhaber, lacks a compelling sevara to begin with!

    As for Rabbi Gutnick’s position, my understanding is that the Rav zt”l ascribed no value to “minhagim” that could not be substantiated via a Halachik framework or Ma’amarei Chazal.

    Appreciate that this is not the way of the Chassidic world, but to the rationalists amongst us, his position has a great deal of intellectual appeal.

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    1. This has a basis it is a gemora
      What’s changed is the style of dress
      It’s not uncommon for Chassidim to persist

      What’s not understood is two gartels or at least the ‘black’ one and choosing to persist with a black yarmulke

      I’m not suggesting there is necessarily a reason that we know, but sometime Rebbes decided to do this

      Of course in Chabad the tzemach tzedek who like the Baal HaTanya was universally revered as a halachist par excellence wore white

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  4. אם השאלה היא ‘לשיטתם’ בכך האריך המנח”א בנמוקי או”ח שלו, שהחסידים מקפידים לחגור גרטל מיוחד לתפלה, למרות שחוגרים גרטל התפור לבגד [כל היום], והוא מנמק את זאת שכדי לקיים את מצוות ‘היכון’ הכוונה היא שיש לחגור באבנט מיוחד לתפילה!!
    ולענ”ד הדברים תמוהים

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      1. Some do substitute white yarmulkes for black on YK. The kittels in chassidic enclaves generally come without a white “gartel”.

        In days gone by, most if not all, chassidic leaders wore all white on Shabbos(as per the picture of the Tzemach Tzedek). Slowly bit by bit, over the generations it changed to black. Many today wear the the standard gartel(not the sewn in one) but in a white colour on YK and probably RH.

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