Dressing the Part for Yom Kippur
Have you ever seen a group of people headed to synagogue on Yom Kippur in their holiday finest – but wondered why they were sporting casual canvas sneaker with their suits and dresses? Yom Kippur is a day for fasting and repenting, but it’s also a day laden with a host of lesser-known traditions that have to do with what you can and cannot wear on this holiday. A few wardrobe items of note:
• Lose the luxury. Those canvas sneakers replace leather shoes, which Jews are forbidden from wearing on Yom Kippur because in days past, leather signified luxury – and Yom Kippur is a day when we abstain from all things luxurious. (Though it’s not specifically mentioned in the Torah, we’d like to recommend/request that you also avoid wearing Crocs to synagogue. Canvas sneakers will work just fine.)
• Wear white – yes, after Labor Day. In Isaiah 1:18, we read, “If your sins prove to be like crimson, they will become white as snow.” With this passage in mind, we wear white on Yom Kippur in the hopes that God will absolve us of our sins and make them “white as snow.” White is also the color of Jewish burial garments; thus, on this somber day, the color white reminds us of our mortality.
• Look for the silver lining. The color gold is said to remind God of the sin of the golden calf, the idol Aaron made for the Israelites and a story we’d rather not remind the Creator of. We’re asking for repentance, so it’s probably best not to conjure up memories of sins long past! With this in mind, we refrain from wearing gold jewelry on Yom Kippur, though silver is acceptable because of its similarities to white.
This post is an excerpt from JewishBoston.com's High Holidays Idea Guide for Young Adults.Download the entire free ebook today. Find additional Yom Kippur resources on our High Holidays page.