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?

  • 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) – Noach MiFrankfurt Apr 19 '19 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 Apr 22 '19 at 2:09

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.

  • If I remember correctly, judges in a beit din indeed wear robes (they're not naked), but it's not a kittel. – Kazi bácsi May 22 '19 at 6:35

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