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Chassidic Black Belt?

Chassidic Black Belt?

What is up with the gartel?

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Question:

My Chabad rabbi always puts on a black sash before praying. We joke that it is because he has attained a "black belt" in prayer arts. But seriously, what is the meaning of that sash?

Answer:

The black belt you refer to is called a gartel in Yiddish (similar to the English word "girdle"1).

There are a number of significances associated with the gartel. Allow me to share them:

A. Jewish law mandates that the "heart does not see the nakedness" when one recites the Shema and other prayers.2 This means that the upper body (more specifically the heart) be separated from the lower half, which has a coarser function. In ancient times, when common clothing consisted of a simple, loose robe, it was necessary to tie a belt around one's waist to insure that the nether region was out of view of the heart.

B. We read in Amos, "Prepare yourself toward the L‑rd your G‑d." 3 Our sages infer from here that one must dress himself up before facing his Maker in prayer. Part of this preparation is to gird oneself with a special belt. Hence the custom of wearing the gartel even though modern clothing ensures that that the "heart does not see the nakedness."4

C. The gartel is reminiscent of the belt which the priests would wear during their service in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.5 It is for this reason that many are particular to wear their gartel at elbow height, just as the priests of old did.6

FOOTNOTES
1. In Hebrew avnet (אבנט).
2.

Code of Jewish Law 91:1.

3.

4:12.

4.

Code of Jewish Law 91:2.

5.

Sefer Hasichot 5750 vol. 1, p. 369.

6.

Rashi Exodus 28:7.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org. He lives with his family in Montreal, QC.
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Discussion (5)
August 31, 2013
Chassidic Black belt
In Judo , beginners start with the white belt, then go up to brown, and finally Black belt.(In total 5 levels)
You may not do this till a certain age (I think 18 or so), either, as you require a certain mental maturity.
Once you gain the Black belt you may compete and go up to Red & white belt, then the highest, the red belt. Going up from Black belt to Red belt there is 10 levels.
In each competition/match you only have 5 minutes to prove your skills both physical and mental, and the judges decide. For example if you have all the mental knowledge of the skills but seem to be not utilizing them, you are deemed
too passive and will lose. So a Tzadik I guess is a Chassidic red belt, if applying the Judo belt.
Anonymous
May 8, 2012
Good thoughts...
According to what i have heard is that each of the garments of the Kohen gadol, the High Priest, was mystically related to "correcting" certain sins of the Jews. I heard that the belt of the kohen gadol (and thereby the associated gartel) was to gain forgiveness for impure thoughts. Can anyone confirm or deny that? Thanks.
Chaim
Jerusalem, Israel
January 4, 2011
RE: Marriage
In some communities, it is worn by all males. The Chabad custom is that it is only worn by married men. The Rebbe, of righteous memory, writes that this is linked to the Eastern European custom that only married men wear the tallit gadol when praying (Igrot Kodesh 10:3356).
Menachem Posner for Chabad.org
January 4, 2011
Re: Marriage
Men who are unmarried wear a Gartel under their shirt (also to keep the Talis Koton from creasing).
itche
January 4, 2011
Marriage
Why do only married men wear the gartel and not all religious jews? And is it halacha now that we naturally have a separation bc of our clothing to wear one?
Benjamin
Brooklyn, NY
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