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Besides looking for a source of the minhag of shat"z to wear a kittel for Tal and Geshem (I couldn't find it, and I have limited internet access where I am, now) what is the reason for it?

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  • Probably because the nusach is incredibly similar to Ne'ilah. FWIW, MMA says that the sha"tz shouldn't wear a sargenes or kittel for those tefillot (man does it feel weird to type in Sepharadit, but that's what I've used for most of my MY posts, so I'll coninue) Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 17:54
  • @NoachMiFrankfurt "Probably because the nusach is incredibly similar to Ne'ilah. " In my ear, indeed it is similar, though, I can't quite appreciate that reason alone as being the reason. But, when I took chazzanut classes at Belz School (part of YU), one of the chazzanim who is also an expert on the history of tefilla was adamant about stating that one should not compare the Nusach of Neilah to Tal / Geshem or vice versa, knowing that many chazzanim make this "mistake". He said that the origin of the nuscha'ot are markedly different and convey different themes and emotions.
    – DanF
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 2:09

2 Answers 2

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I asked my shul's chazzan about this. I received what I, personally, consider a "partial" answer, so I'll relay it, for now, and hope to add more as I discover more.

Geshem is given to us "conditionally" and at the time of Succot, we are "judged" for our worthiness for rain. Judges wear robes, so the kittel is similar to the robe that the judges wear.

The chazzan didn't explain Tal. So, this requires a bit more research.

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    If I remember correctly, judges in a beit din indeed wear robes (they're not naked), but it's not a kittel. Commented May 22, 2019 at 6:35
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The נטעי גבריאל here provides the start of an answer albeit without any firm conclusions.

Whilst he only writes that some have the custom to do so (with a footnote that concludes that the reasoning behind the practise is somewhat vague) he adds that others do not do so citing from מנהגי וורמיישא possibly suggesting that it was a regional custom that spread.

However, I think it is more likely to be like some of the earlier comments that as it is a time of judgement we treat it in a similar fashion to Yom Kippur and the chazzan resultantly 'dresses' accordingly. In his last point he writes:

והמנהג לנגן הקדיש לפני תפילת מוסף בניגון המיוחד כעין ימים נוראים

And the custom is to sing the Kadish before the Mussaf service in the specific tune of that of the Days of Awe.

So it would seem that since this part of the service represents the request / judgement for Rain etc. we mimic the practise of Yom Kippur and it is therefore fitting that the person leading the service wears a kittel.

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