O level Notes : FRS - Judaism - Attire in Judaism

Jews have a distinct type of dressing which they derived from the Torah. Their kind of dressing is associated with significance. They also observe sacred days namely the Sabbath, Passover, Feast of Booths (Tabernacles), Feast of Weeks, New moon, Feast of Gedalia among others.


Jews have a distinct type of dressing which they derived from the Torah. Their kind of dressing is associated with significance.


A kippah or yarmulle (also called Keppel or “skull cap”) is a thin slightly rounded skull cap traditionally worn at all times by the orthodox Jewish men. It represents the presence of God. Most Jews will cover their heads when praying, attending the synagogue or at religious festivals where a skullcap is seen as a sign of devoutness.

Women also cover their heads by wearing a scarf or a hat. The most common reason for covering the head is a sign of respect and fear of God. It is also felt that this separates God and human beings, by wearing a hat you are recognising that God is above all mankind. Many Jews feel that by wearing a skullcap they are proudly announcing to the world that they are Jewish. However, there is a heated debate over whether the covering of the head is a Torah commandment. Although, there is evidence in the Talmud (Jewish teachings) that some form of head covering is required.


A kittel is a white knee-length cotton robe worn by Jewish prayer leaders. It is made of cotton or cotton polyester blend. It can serve as part of burial furnishings for male Jews assuring equality for all in death. Because Jewish law dictates that the dead are buried without anything else, a kittel has no pockets. The colour white symbolises that sins shall be made as white as snow. White colour also symbolises purity which explains its use in weddings. It is also worn by married men. In some families, the head of the family wears a kittel at the Passover ceremony. It can be customary for the groom at the Jewish wedding to wear a kittel under the wedding canopy. Another reason it is worn at weddings is because it has no pockets showing that the couple is marrying for love and not for possessions.


Tefillin: Phylacteries

The tefillin consist of two black leather boxes and straps to hold them on. One is worn and tied with a special note. It is wound by the wearer seven times around the forehead and hung on the left hand for right handed people and on the right for those who are left handed. The second box is worn on the forehead at the hair line, with its straps going around the back of the head, connected at the top of the neck with a special note and hanging in front of each side. The tefillin are worn during morning services except on Sabbath or festivals. 

Some men in Hasidic communities wear a cloth belt called a gartel during prayer. Some take it as a symbol of 'girding one's loins with strength'. This helps in creating a private space for prayer and meditation in the midst of the larger congregation. It provides a reminder of one's duties and obligations as a Jew. The binding of the arm and the head with tefillin reminds the wearer to use her or his physical powers for the service of God throughout the day, controlling action and thought in order to bring blessings to others and self. Jewish men have been wearing these items for more than two millennia so they are a powerful symbol of continuity over time.

The Priest's dressing

The Priests wore distinct dressing namely, the tunic, clak, apron, breast plate, belt, turban, gold plate and pants. These vestments represented dignity, honour and beauty Exodus 28: 2, 40 and Deut 26:19. In order to exalt the temple, those who ministered there received great honour, the Priest and Levites were therefore distinguished from the rest. It was commanded that the Priests should be clothed properly with the most splendid and fine clothing, 'holy garments for glory and for beauty'.

Women's hair coverings

Jewish women wear a scarf (tichel) a snood, a hat, a beret or sometimes a wig (Sheitel) in order to conform to the requirements of Jewish religious law that married women cover their hair. A snood hat resembles a pouch and sits loosely on the head. It represented submission and respect.

General Points on dressing

Orthodox women generally wear modest clothes that cover much of their bodies. The Torah forbids men from wearing women clothing and vice-versa- as stated in Lev 19:19. It also forbids blending wool and linen in a garment such garments are known as shatnez. It also requires Jews to put fringes on the corners of a four- pointed garment (Num 15:37-41). This was used both as a way of identifying the Jew and reminder reminding the Jew to observe the mitzvot. A mitzvot refers to the 613 commandments given in the Torah. When the High priest enters the holy portion of the sanctuary he was to wear white linen (Lev 16:4) as a sign of humility. White clothing became a symbol of purity and black a sign of mourning. Covering the head is considered a sign of submission to divine authority. Married women covered their heads so as not to draw attention of other men. Jews are against excessive styles and in favour of keeping clothing particularly for women, “modest”