Monday, November 21, 2005

Men's Chassidic Clothing


To the person who inspired this post, I thank you. While answering your questions, I also reminded myself of why it is important to dress in the ways that I was myself questioning. If you will forgive me for posting my answer to you on this blog -- I feel that it is important to share this with others like me and you who have questions about what Chassidic dress is required, what is not, what components are important, and what attention needs to be paid to the details when dressing, and why each piece of dress is important.

The karpota and belt are worn by a married guy, and I'm not yet married, so all I wear is the beard, the tzitzis, and the black suit with a white shirt -- this is on the days that I'm not wearing a colored shirt which chassidic people also wear, or jogging pants and a tee-shirt which you'll almost never find chassidic people wearing.

...There is no need for a black hat; a double head covering (i.e. yalmukah plus any covering, even a baseball cap) when you pray will suffice according to Kabbalah which is where the hat custom came from.

As for the gartel (the belt), some people just use a stretchy string to tie around their waste to hold down the tzitzis. According to kabbalah, this also serves to separate the bottom half of the body and its desires from the heart and the top half of the body. I don't do this, but when I am married, I will wear a gartel when I pray, which is the custom.

The karpota (long coat) serves no purpose except fashion as far as I know. There is a kabbalistic concept of wearing a silk robe, [and I don't know the reason for this], but karpotas are usually not silk, and some people wear a silk karpota under their regular karpota.

So as you see, the type of hat does not matter. The jacket is just a jacket as far as I'm aware and it serves no purpose except to look nice. The suit is just a regular suit, as one would find in any suit store -- no particular style for any of these things is halachically necessary, and as for kabbalistic reasons, which is what I think you are asking about, the important thing with a hat is to have the double head covering when you pray, even if you use a tissue under the yalmukah (don't let people see because it looks dumb) or a baseball cap over it.

If you want to get fancy, there is a concept in Chassidic thought of Chesed (kindness) and Gevurah (strength / stringency), where the right hand side is a manifestation of Chesed and the left hand side is a manifestation of Gevurah, therefore the right side should preempt the left side in almost whatever you do (i.e. put on shirts or jackets with the right arm first, and you put on pants, socks, and shoes with the right leg first. [You tie the left shoe first, but that is because the tefillin which one should put on every day during prayer is tied on the left side). Other than the tefillin exception, many people are careful to always eat with the right hand and to even look at people focusing through the right eye. This is extreme, but I am answering your question. In line with this, some people sew an extra button on the inside of their jacket so that they can close it with the right side over the left side, which is opposite from the way jackets are typically closed. There's a bit of extremist Chassidic philosophy for you -- but in some respects, for example putting on clothing with the right hand first, this is halacha (Jewish law) and so it should be followed. However, buttoning the right side over the left, looking through the right eye, holding things with the right hand are not requirements and are far beyond any requirement, custom, or law.

But more fundamentally, it is important to always wear the yalmukah (according to kabbalah, even in bed) before you start thinking about all the extra head coverings. It is most important (if you are not already doing so) to wear the tzitzis (according to kabbalah, to wear them all the time even at night, but don't designate the a pair of tzitzis a night garment or else they won't be kosher even during the day; just wear them into the night) before you start concerning yourself about the gartel (belt). It is more important to dress modestly in black and white (although there is NO jewish law requirement for this, it is purely kabbalistic and modest) before you start looking into karpotas or jackets. Any dark blue or black pants will suffice, and any button down white (or colored shirt) will suffice. Men typically wear a jacket (even any blazer or sweater will suffice) when praying. I hope I have answered your question.


Interestingly enough, by answering your question, I was reminded why we wear black and white. It is for kabbalistic reasons. I forgot this over the past few months while I've been ranting and raving about this dogma, I forgot that there is actually a good purpose for this. Being that in my world of law filled with attorneys and fashion-conscious people, I will continue to wear colored shirts from time to time, and I will continue to wear a tie from time to time (which kabbalistically one should not do because it separates the heart from the brain). However, now that I have remembered why chassidic people dress in black and white, I will feel more spiritual when I too dress in black in white, because I will be reminded of why people do so in the first place.

I thank you for this.

7 comments:

Knished said...

Hey...
This doenst have anything to do with this post...Id just like to let you know that Ive been back reading your blog and Ive gotten the impression that you were abit down in your last few posts...

Just letting you know...you sound like an amazing person. Your motivated, you try hard at all your ventures, you passionate yet realistic about your frumkeit/chassidishkeit..

It realy says something about you...especially when i know other bochurim who are so apathetic to their lives, religion, parnasses, future...always thinking that others will fit the bill and living between one camp and another matzah bakery will be enough untill they get marrried...

Anywho! Goodluck with it all...you sound like a true mentch!

Rowan said...

So there really is a reason for what seemed a silly rule? Hmm....I hope you are ok with that, you sound like you are though.

Zoe Strickman said...

Knished,
Thank you for your comment. You're right -- I've been in a downcycle these past few days; the funny thing is that other than over disappointment that the shidduch didn't work out as I hoped and by the fact that I am highly overwhelmed with school and with things that need to be done, there is technically nothing wrong. This phase will pass. It always does.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

So what exactly is then the Kabbalistic reason for wearing black and white?

By the way, i have my own post about clothing [specificly when it comes to davening] here

Zoe Strickman said...

Steg,
I would probably say that there is a frequency that is given off by each color, and black (being the absence of any light being reflected off of the cloth) or white (being the reflection of all of the colors), and that frequency has some connection to sound or to some kind of vibrational frequency which when resonated a certain way has some kind of effect on the energy that is attracted to the person or given off by the person wearing white or black. Colors also give off different signatures, so probably the kabbalistic reason for wearing all white or all black is that the frequency given off is conducive to bringing down G-dly energies. That's my guess.

Glunker said...

I had this on my blog. It still needs some revising.

Is wearing a hat a halacha?
If you ask most black-hat wearing kids, they'll insist it is, but most rebbeim in yeshivas admit it's not. They still insist on it being worn, I guess for political reasons. Once, I forgot my hat at an in-shabbos and someone (who had went to Brisk) told me to go get it. I said I don't carry in NYC streets so he made me get someone to carry a key so i could go get my hat. Many Briskers don't even were Tzitzith, a mitzvah chamura, on shabbos because of the fear that maybe it's not really a beged and so maybe it will be like they're carrying! In addition, I missed Krias HaTorah by Mincha, something R' Chayim may have even said is a chiyuv even on a yachid! How could hat-wearing, which isn't exactly a mitzvah chamura (or even a mitzvah or a chiyuv or anything) be worth making someone actually carry,* and miss Krias HaTorah?!
I was once at a house where people are required to take off their shoes when they enter. We made a mincha minyan there, and I was the only person who put on my shoes. There were even two people there who came in a hat, but took off their shoes. They wore a hat, but not shoes which there is an actual halacha to wear by davening! It's all black-hattiness, not halacha.

The mishna berurah (if i remember correctly) states one should wear a hat when davening since that's what one would wear when appearing before a king. Nowadays, when one wouldn't wear a hat in front of a king**, he obviously shouldn't need to wear a hat when davening (Just like he doesn't need to were a turban or gartel***).
Some people say you're supposed to wear a double-covering when davening, but this is definitely not a halacha; I think it might be some kabbalistic thing, if anything.
Another reason given is wearing a hat is a minhag, and minhagim are important. But wait one second. Why's it a minhag? Because it used to be what people wore, some Jews just didn't stop. The minhag (or halacha) isn't to wear a hat, it's to wear what one would wear in front of a king. It used to be a robe and turban, now it's a suit and tie. To claim there's a special black-hat minhag isn't accurate, it's just some people didn't stop wearing what they had.

The only real claim that can be made is that a hat is a uniform to show that the wearer is different then the surrounding gentile society. This can only be claimed by those who go everywhere in a black hat, and don't just wear it for davening. Also I wonder if they're trying to separate themselves from gentiles or maybe just from other Jews? Once, a kid didn't want to wear a hat and his mother said "You have to, our type wears a hat." Clearly, she wanted him to show he belonged to the black-hat Jews, and not the modern ones. That is not a good thing.


*Correction: I had said ("i guess he feels wearing a hat is doche shabbos..") telling someone to carry for you is non-halachic since telling someone to open bottles for you is assur, i assumed it was the same. But if not carrying is just a chumra then you would be able to tell people to carry for you. (Of course it might not just be a chumra, in fact some hold its d'oraysa, but that could be for another post.)

**The worst is by shacharis. People wear their jacket buttoned under one arm or just half-off and they wear their hat way back, it looks absolutely ridiculous. They should go to a job interview or bussiness meeting like that before saying it's appropiate to wear in front of the King.

***the reason some people wear a gartel can't be to provide a separation, since they're already wearing many separations. I heard the reason is because a gartel used to be what one would wear in front of a king.

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