Every year before Rosh Hashana I make sure that my husband’s kittels are washed and pressed and he has the cloth belt ready. He has a few kittels because, as many have the custom to do so, he wears the kittel at the Pesach seder. Inevitably the first night the kittel will be stained with wine and so the next night he has to wear another clean one. Usually on Erev Rosh Hashana I find myself sewing the collar of my husband’s favorite kittel – his father’s! It has deep symbolic meaning to continue the tradition of his father, especially as he stands before Hashem to be judged on the Yamim Noraim invoking the merits of our forefathers.
Men first wear the kittel as they stand under the chuppah, then on Yom Kippur, at the Pesach seder, and some even have the custom of being buried in theirs. Many women have the custom to dress all in white for their weddings and on Yom Kippur. These parallel customs symbolize standing before G-d in a totally pure state, no jewels, no pockets, only the real you!
On all of the occasions that a kittel is worn it symbolizes beginning life again with a clean slate and with the commitment to continue pursuing a higher level of spirituality. May we merit that all of our “sins be made as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18) as we enter into a new year with hope for peace, health, safety and happiness.