Why do some Jews wear white on Yom Kippur?

Answered by
Rabbi Julie Zupan

Yom Kippur invites us to reflect solemnly on our deeds and misdeeds. We pray for another opportunity to right our wrongs, learn from our mistakes, and do better in the year ahead.

Jewish tradition asks that we take this reflection seriously, and in the metaphor of the holiday, we pray to be written and sealed in “The Book of Life.” 

Wearing white during Yom Kippur reminds us of the importance and solemnity of this personal reflection. Traditional Jewish burial clothing is a simple white shroud; white also symbolizes starting the new year spiritually clean or pure. 

Some Jews, particularly, but not exclusively, men, may wear a kitel, a simple, white belted robe that is worn over one’s clothes. In synagogues in which the clergy wear robes for the holidays, those robes will often be white.