We learn in Mishnah Megillah 4:8 that if someone insists on wearing only one color when they pray we do not let them be the "shliach tzibor" (prayer leader). This is because we suspect he is involved in avoda zara, as Jews are not stringent in what color they wear.

Doesn't this mean that people who only dress in black should not be able to lead prayer?

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    – msh210
    Jun 7, 2012 at 14:46

4 Answers 4


The Mishna was referring to specific sects at the time.

If we had solid reason to believe today that a person's dress indicated serious rifts with mainstream Jewish theology, we'd think twice about having them lead prayers (and, as was done then, apply poetic license in how to recite the texts). I don't really see that as an issue now.

  • Thank you for your responses, The real issue is that why has the Halachah, "derech aretz" changed since the time of the Gemorah. The intent of the Mishna lets us know. Jews are not particular in what color garments they wear, to do so is "avoda zara" . So why so we allow a Black and white uniform when the Mishna clearly tells us. Being overly concerned with the color of dress is not according to the Torah , are we now saying that the Mishna is no longer valid and we know better the the Taniam ?
    Jun 7, 2012 at 18:11
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    @GODSSECRET, I think you have it backwards. While my inner cynic would love to hear an argument that black hats and jackets are 'Avodah Zarah, I really don't think that's what the Mishnah means. The Mishnah is relaying the Halachah that a person who is following the modes of dress of idolaters is not allowed to lead prayers. That would mean, rather than black-clad Yeshiva students, that someone wearing a trendy t-shirt depicting the "sign of the horns", for example, might be included in the prohibition (assuming "colors" can be expanded to dress).
    – Seth J
    Jun 7, 2012 at 20:03

Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 53:18) makes it clear that this is only because of the concern that he is an apikores.

The Mishnah Brurah there writes that if he immediately gives an explanation for why he did it, he can be the shliach tzibur.

Also, the Tiferes Yisrael (ch. 4 note 52) writes that it is only for that prayer that he doesn't get to be the shliach tzibur, because we don't really suspect him of worshiping a"z, but we penalize him for doing something that is commonly done by idol-worshipers.

Your conclusion seems to be wrong for two reasons: 1. It is not the way of avodah zarah to wear black jackets and hats (Hindus wear colored clothes, I think). 2. It is the minhag of all of Israel to wear black jackets.

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    In your point 2: "all"? Certainly not during the week, and not even necessarily so on Shabbos (there are lots of people who wear suits of other colors).
    – Alex
    Jun 7, 2012 at 17:16
  • @Alex ... and plenty who don't wear a suit at all. But anyway, b's point is that a black jacket does not in any way indicate affiliation with 'avoda zara in the current context, and I think that's clearly true.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jun 7, 2012 at 17:23
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    Your conclusion seems to be wrong on two points: 1. Hindus' color choices do not rule out all idoloters' habits. 2. It is not the Minhag of all of Israel to wear black jackets.
    – Seth J
    Jun 7, 2012 at 17:31
  • I was giving Hindus as an example. Also, I meant that it was the minhag of all of Israel collectively. (I usually don't wear a black jacket, myself.) My main point was that black clothing is certainly moree associated with Jews than with idolaters.
    – b a
    Jun 8, 2012 at 0:08
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    Do we have an example in this of minhag Yisrael having changed significantly from what the mishnah assumes is minhag Yisrael? That is, Jews didn't used to be stringent about what color they wear but now there are mainstream Jewish factions that are, in fact, stringent. Further more, the groups who have changed and become stringent tend to be the ones who cite chadash assur min ha-Torah as a reason for forbidding change of minhag.
    – Shemmy
    Jun 8, 2012 at 3:08

The mishnah you are quoting seems to be referring to someone who specifically will not lead tefila while wearing certain colors not someone who chooses every day to have a specific style of clothing.

For example if someone were to say before davening I can't lead davening I'm wearing a blue (or any other color) shirt I must change then they shouldn't be leading davening all of the time regardless of what they are wearing.

On other other hand if someone chooses not to wear some colors or only wear certain colors unrelated to davening then there isn't a problem.


At a minimum, those who wear black suits and black hats are also wearing white shirts, so they are not wearing 'only' black. So the Mishna would not apply in such a scenario. If someone were to wear a black shirt with a black suit, which is not the norm for Klal Yisrael, then you might have a case of someone being suspected as being involved in A.Z.

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