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The Well Dressed Groom - Jewish Style
What will this year's well dressed groom be wearing? The latest Giorgio Armani three piece suit? Or perhaps, a custom tailored tuxedo? Undoubtedly, he might. But if it's a traditional Jewish marriage ceremony, chances are, when he's standing under the wedding canopy, he will be decked out in the same outer garment his ancestors have worn for centuries. This piece of clothing is called the "kittel". It is a white linen ceremonial robe worn over his regular suit. A brief look at the meaning and usage of this historic garment will not only help us understand it's ageless significance, but will also give us deeper insight into the mystery and beauty of the Jewish wedding ceremony. The kittel (Yiddish for gown) is worn at four critical occasions in the Jewish lifecycle.
Each event marks a period of transition and transformation in the wearer's life. On Passover eve, we sit down at our dinner table to read the Haggadah. With passionate involvement we relive and retell the story of our exodus from Egyptian bondage. On this night of remembrance and celebration the head of the family wears a kittel. We acknowledge our passage from darkness to light, from exile to redemption, from slavery to freedom.
On this sacred occasion we become free men. On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, a day when the Creator grants us forgiveness from all our sins, we also wear a kittel. Yom Kippur is a day when we aspire to start a clean slate. We refrain from eating and drinking, and other physical pursuits, and devote ourselves to prayer, repentence, and spiritual stocktaking. We leave behind our former selves and ascend to the level of angels. It is a time of new beginnings. The bride and groom, on their wedding day also fast. They recite prayers from the Yom Kippur service and commit to leading a lifestyle in harmony with traditional Jewish teaching and values. Our sages teach us, that in a certain respect, our wedding day is even holier than Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur one may acquire atonement only for himself.
On his wedding day, however, the groom may request forgiveness, not only for himself, but for those close to him as well. On this holy day of their wedding, the bride and groom begin a new life. Spiritually as well as physically. Finally, the kittel is worn at our burial. It thus serves as a gentle reminder, during the wedding, of life's fleeting mortality and lends a touch of solemnity to an event, where unbridled joy, may otherwise know no bounds. It's important to note that the kittel is white, a sign of purity and happiness. In addition, it has no pockets. This is to remind the groom, that when we leave this world, we take nothing with us other than the good deeds we have accumulated throughout our lifetime. In conclusion, I am reminded of the story of the young groom to be, who upon purchasing his kittel asked the elderly shopkeeper, if there was anything else he needed for his wedding. "Yes", replied the wise merchant, "don't forget patience, respect, and love.
And above all always remember to be a 'mentsh' ( a caring, considerate person )". Certainly good advice for all grooms, young and old alike. ZZZZZZ .
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