I've heard a rumor floating around to the effect that Jews should not wear all black as an expression of mourning. Is there anything to that? If so, is there anything inherently wrong with it, is it a way to not copy "the way of the gentiles" ("chukat hagoyim"), or something else?

Answers that cite authoritative sources only, please.


3 Answers 3


The Ramma in Even Ha'ezer siman 17 siff 5 brings from earlier sources a custom to wear black for mourning. No-one seemed to have a problem with it.


Rav Ahron Bina, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh has been quoted multiple times saying that wearing black/dressing up for a levaya (funeral) is Chukat Hagoyim (prohibited copying of gentiles).


The Remah in O.C. 178:1 gives a general definition of Chukat HaGoyim. There are three kinds of practices that are included in this prohibition: 1) Things that are done for purposes of promiscuity. 2) Things that have no rationale- i.e. superstitions. 3) Practices that have traces of idolatry.

It would be difficult to conclude that the Remah would hold that wearing black for purposes of mourning would be Chukat HaGoim.

(That being the case, the Vilna Gaon has a broader definition of Chukat HaGoyim...)

Indeed, the Torah itself testifies that mourners wear black. The מדרש שכל טוב explains that Tamar's garments of mourning were black. See also the Remah in E.H. 17:5 (cited in a previous answer) where he refers to the practice of widows wearing black.

(Of couse, the above refers to mourning in general, as opposed to the funeral itself. Perhaps, there may be specific styles of mourning costume which may be problematic, at least according to the Vilna Gaon. There may also be a concern for introducing new customs into established Jewish ceremonies, even where there's no concern for Chukat HaGoyim itself.)

  • 1
    "the Torah itself" What do you mean by that phrase?
    – Double AA
    Jul 6, 2014 at 17:31

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