Why do chassidim wear a gartel (black sash/belt) when praying?
by Rabbi Ari Shishler
Have you never heard of a “black belt” in Judo-ism?
Ok, seriously, the prophet Amos said: “Prepare to meet your G-d, of Israel! ”1 Our sages interpret this to mean that you need gear up physically before you engage G-d through prayer. How does a Jewish man prepare for prayer?
He puts on a belt .2
Back when men wore tunics, the belt served to separate between the upper and lower body - or, in Talmudic parlance, to ensure that “one’s heart does not see one’s nakedness”.
Back when men wore tunics, the belt served to separate between the upper and lower body While our fashion has changed radically, many communities have retained this custom. That’s because it’s considered a sign of respect and eagerness to “gird our loins” with a special belt before we stand in front of G-d .3
Another reason relates to the prophet Isaiah’s description of Moshiach. Isaiah tells us “justice will be the girdle of his thighs and faith the girdle of his loins” .4
You’ll notice that the prophet refers to two girdles. Likewise, Chassidic men wear an additional Gartel, a special black belt, while praying .5
Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs
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