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SARGENES (called also Kittel):

A white linen garment which resembles a surplice and consists of a long, loose gown with flowing sleeves and with a collar laced in front, a girdle of the same material, and a skullcap to match. The name is derived from "sarge" (= "serge"), a woolen stuff (comp. "sericum," silk, and see Rashi, s.v. , Shab. 77b). R. Jeremiah in his last testament directed that he should be buried in a white garment with borders (), in which it was his custom to attire himself when alive (Yer. Kil. ix. 3). Brides, bridegrooms, and marriageable girls were dressed in white (Shab. 114a; Ta'an. 26b). A white robe was generally considered a garment of joy. Being confident of God's willingness to forgive on Rosh ha-Shanah, the day of judgment, the worshipers were dressed in white (Yer. R. H. i. 1). On the Day of Atonement the white dress is symbolical of the angelic purity to be attained when the worshiper shall be finally absolved and pardoned. The sargenes as a shroud is first mentioned by R. Eleazar of Worms in his "Ha-Roḳeaḥ" and by R. Meïr of Rothenburg in his "Haggahot," and it is still so used by all Orthodox Jews throughout the world. It is mentioned by Maimonides in his "Yad" (Shabbat, xxx. 2) as a reminder of death.

R. Yom-Ṭob Lipmann Heller (1579-1654) in his "Leḥem Ḥamudot" on Asheri, "Halakot Ḳeṭannot" ("Ẓiẓit," No. 25, end) refers to the relics of the martyr Solomon Molko, brought from Regensburg to the Phinehas Synagogue, Prague, as consisting of "an Arba' Kanfot of yellow silk with yellow silk fringes, two flags, and a sargenes called kittel" (; "sargenes" is the term that was used in western Germany, "kittel" in easternGermany; the garment is now known in eastern Europe by the latter name, the former being almost forgotten). During the fifteenth century brides dressed themselves in the sargenes before the veil was thrown over the face prior to the nuptial ceremony. The kittel is now worn by the host at the Seder ceremony on Passover eve, as a symbol of freedom; by members of the community on Yom Kippur; and by the ḥazzan at the musaf service of Shemini 'Aẓeret and at musaf of the first day of Passover. See Costume; Geshem.

Bibliography:
  • I. Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, pp. 18, 204, 292;
  • Berliner, Leben der Deutschen Juden im Mittelalter, pp. 48, 70, 131, Berlin, 1900;
  • Max Grünbaum, Jüdisch-Deutsche Chrestomathie, pp. 502-504, Leipsic, 1882.
K. J. D. E.
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