I had sent a few Yekkes that I knew, a publication about the customs in Frankfurt. It is comprehensive and revised yearly. It was sent before Rosh Hashono. I noticed though that it stated that the Kittel was not worn by the Shaliach Tzbibbur on Shmini Atzeres.
I do not know if Hamburg had a different Minhag, nor what Berlin let alone Poland/Russia followed, but [hat tip RDS] the following seems to also confirm (unless I have misread) that it was something that was generally worn originally on Yom Tov, over the clothes, as a special Malbush Yom Tov (which is a Halacha). [Those of you with access to one of those white cylinder style hats can wear those 🙂 I can remember the days when there were heaps of them adorning the heads of Mispallelim … they used to get yellow over time, as I noticed] I couldn’t find a picture of one but they are like a flatter floppier version of the Chazan style tall hat (not to be confused with the Shloof Yarmulke, which is another story)
We can all easily work out the sense in the Shaliach Tzibbur wearing one. A sense of extreme humility and awe should envelop the Chazzan while he recites such critical requests on behalf of the congregation.
On Erev Succos, an acquaintance of mine discussed the concept with me and asked me what the SOURCE of this MINHAG is. I said I’d look and email. I don’t have access to the Bar Ilan program because they refused my offer to port the program to a Mac or an iPad. I was hoping it might run under a PC virtual machine on my Mac. They have progressed from the time warp of DOS and XP and now like you to subscribe to online access.
Either way, I searched and searched and couldn’t find it. I was sure that if I looked at the Nitei Gavriel he was bound to find SOME primordial source for this. Alas, even he stated that he didn’t know of a source as pointed out to me by a Zurba Derabonnon.
I did find in my limited research that the Minhag in Frankfurt (and perhaps Hamburg and other parts of Germany) was NOT to wear a Kittel!
There was an older Minhag, about which I’m unsure why it ceased, to wear a special white gown cum kittel as one’s Bigdei Yom Tov. Many seem to forget that one should wear something extra special on Yom Tov.
Perhaps, just perhaps, this is the real reason why people wore it at the seder. I don’t really know and I’ve read many of the reasons including Rav Moshe Soloveitchik’s (R Chaim Brisker’s son who married into the Feinsteins) reason, and who was the Rav’s father.
Anyway, I’m throwing the question out to the Oilom who read my blog. I guess that someone like Rav Sraya Deblicki might know, but if Rav Tzinner, the author of Nitei Gavriel and Rav Hamachshir of Melbourne’s Eruv doesn’t know ….
Of course the kittel didn’t appear to exist amongst the Sephardim.
It’s a pity Rav Ovadya has left us, as he was a walking encyclopaedia kipshuto.