A kittel, also spelled kitl (Yiddish: קיטל, robe, coat, cf. German 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 possess.
- 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. ISBN 0-87306-864-5.
- "Kittel: Jewish Ceremonial Robe".