Rav Ovadia Yosef Praises Ashkenazim – הרה”ג חכם רב עובדיה יוסף שליט”א משבח האשכנזים

I was recently watching some video footage from a multi-part series that was aired in ארץ ישראל on one of the great gedolim of our time, הרה”ג חכם רב עובדיה יוסף שליט”א.

The series in general was quite interesting, but one thing, relevant to the subject matter focused on here, especially caught my attention, in one of the segments.

It is when his daughter says, regarding her father, as follows:  אתה יודע מה? פעם אבא התבטא והוא אמר שהאשכנזים יודעים יותר טוב מהספרדים להעריך מה זה תלמיד חכם. Which the accompanying English rendering gives as “You know what? One time my father stated that the Ashkenazi people know better than the Sephardic how to appreciate a wise student”. Now it is clear that they erred by translating תלמיד חכם as ‘wise student’. It should rather be Torah scholar, or something similar. But however you translate the statement exactly, you still have the great Sepharadic Gaon and champion of the ספרדי mesorah and heritage paying a fine compliment to his Ashkenazic Jewish brethren. Very nice and interesting.

The segment can be seen here starting at 5:28

I wonder what the context of the remark was, by the way.

It reminds me of Rav Yosef Karo, the בית יוסף, and מחבר of the שולחן ערוך, bringing the famous תשובה of the רא”ש, where he says that the Ashkenazic mesorah is superior to that of ספרד, without taking issue with it (טור יו”ד סוף סימן פ”ב). Rav Ovadia is a big advocate of the authority of Rav Yosef Karo, who he calls מרן. And here, he is also doing a similar thing, by praising the Ashkenazim. It is also in the tradition of words of praise by the Rambam, Ramban, and other Sepharadic gedolim over the years, for the great Ashkenazic Torah heritage.

אשרי העם שככה לו, אשרי העם שה’ אלקיו

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6 Responses to “Rav Ovadia Yosef Praises Ashkenazim – הרה”ג חכם רב עובדיה יוסף שליט”א משבח האשכנזים”

  1. BZ Says:

    I wonder what Sefardim think of all this? I don’t know if there’s an equivalent of this blog for Sefardim, but I’m sure they can cite many reasons why their minhagim are better and how everybody is copying from the Ashkenazim now.

    Take “Mode Ani”: “How can you mention yourself before mentioning Hashem?” (I actually heard this one, I’m not making it up)

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      What they think of this? I can’t speak for them. I don’t think they all march in lockstep though. They have many subdivisions and differences among themselves, and different minhagim. Defining Sephardim loosely, you have Spanish & Portugese in Europe and the USA, Moroccans, Libyans, Tunisians, Iraqis, Syrians, Turkish, Edot Hamizrach…..

      We have to do what is right for us, follow our מסורה, and not look over our shoulder thinking, מה יאמרו הספרדים? Do you think they are staying up at night, questioning their minhagim on the basis of מה יאמרו האשכנזים? Maybe they are saying to themselves, wow, look at those of our Ashkenazic brethren, how beautiful and admirable it is how they are so connected to and proud of their mesorah, that was handed down to them by their gedolim and ancestors.

      Not sure what you mean re מודה אני. It is actually of Sepharadic origin. It was part of a previous post here that you might find of interest, about Sephardic minhagim practiced by Ashkenazim, Ashkenazic minhogim adopted by Sephardim, and minhogim shared by Sephardim & Yekkes.

      We respect each other, learn each other’s Torah, and work together for the benefit of Torah and Yiddishkeit, but that doesn’t mean that we must surrender our special heritage of minhogim and mesorah, because retaining such might seem non politically correct to some moderns. We follow the direction of the Torah itself in that regard, which teaches us אל תטוש תורת אמך, to hold on to and not forsake the holy traditions that came down to us from our ancestors.

      • Hayyim Ovadia Says:

        (1) Well, for practical purposes, given the dominance of Ashkenazi institutions in America and Israel, you certainly do see some of this mentality of מה יאמרו האשכנזים (e.g., bachurim wearing their tsitsit out Ashkenazi-style, the general adoption of right-wing Ashkenazi cultural expression and dress, etc.). I’ve been at many Shabbat meals where the children couldn’t even say birkat hammazon according to the Sephardic custom because it wasn’t what they saw and heard in school. That said, there have been attempts at Sephardic resurgence, both generally and among specific groups.

        [Off topic] (2) Re your March 7, 2011 post about the Noam Elimelech switching nusach:

        One commenter noted that the original Sephardic nusach and nusach Sefard (Chasidic) were closer, to which you responded with skepticism. A few points:

        (a) The contemporary “Edut haMizrach” is relatively recent, and is largely based on Lurianic alterations to the Babylonian version of the Sepharadic rite. (Many of the changes actually go back only to the Ben Ish Chai and his followers.)

        (b) The Sephardic nusach in the time of the emergence of the Chassidic movements is better exemplified by the siddurim printed in Livorno (most notably the siddurim “Tefillat haChodesh” and “Bet Oved”), and comparison of these siddurim to the (non-Lubavitch) Chassidic adaptations makes it quite clear that the Livorno tradition was the direct source of many modifications. (Examples include: “vehitqin meorot mesammeach…” in yotser or; “ki kel melech gadol veqadosh atta” in “atta qadosh”; “yachad mehera” in “teqa` beshofar”; and “vetashpilem” in borkat haminim. These are lacking in most contemporary, Lurianic-based Edot haMizrach siddurim). Among the Temanim, there was a similar merger of the traditional Temani (Baladi) rite with Sephardic elements, producing nusach Shami. Most nusach Shami siddurim unabashabedly proclaim their roots in Livorno tradition.

        (c) In other instances, both Chassidic (including Lubavitch) and Sephardic rites independently took on various modifications based on qabbala (e.g., dea, bina, vehaskel –> chochma, bina, veda`at is a qabbalistic change, not a difference of Ashkenazi vs. Sephardi, and there are still many Sephardic communities that have resisted this change), or Sephardim were even influenced by nusach Ashkenaz (e.g., the Sephardim adopted the 87-word version of baruch she’amar based on qabbala; the nusach of the Abudarham and the Rambam, retained nowadays by S&P and Temani Jews, respectively, are much longer, as was the nusach in the 16th-century Machzor Aram Tsoba). So really there are two independent phenomena: the adoption by Chassidim of elements of the pre-Lurianic Sephardic nusach, and the modification by Chassidim and Sephardim of their respective nuschaot with Lurianic elements.

        (d) North African Jews and S&P Jews, as well as their cousins in the Turkish/Rhodes community, have retained much of the traditional pre-qabbala nusach. Part of the resurgence mentioned among Sephardim that I mentioned above is coming from Moroccans (and other North Africans) who are trying to reassert their traditional minhagim and nusach against Eastern and (especially in terms of nusach) qabbalistic influences.

      • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

        שלום and welcome!

        Thank you very much for your learned comments. Please feel free to come back and share further with us from your learning, להגדיל תורה ולהאדירה.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Re Modeh Ani, I don’t recall if this was discussed before, but in reality the main idea of it, namely thanking Hashem for returning our neshamos after sleep, is already mentioned in Elokai neshama, which is an older part of davening. So I could understand if someone at the time it was innovated/introduced by R. Moshe ibn Machir, about five hundred years ago, would have objected to it, and not accepted it, saying that it is new and already basically included in Elokai neshama. Nevertheless, I am not aware of it being rejected at the time by Ashkenazic authorities, although perhaps it was, but we have no record of it. Perhaps they didn’t make a big issue over it because it is very brief, doesn’t have a beracha or, shem Hashem in it (giving it the advantage over Elokai neshama that it could be recited even before hand washing, I believe some say), and adds some extra aspects not explicity mentioned in Elokai neshama, namely בחמלה and רבה אמונתך.

      Re the question “Mode Ani”: “How can you mention yourself before mentioning Hashem?” (I actually heard this one, I’m not making it up)” – The same question can be asked about Modim in Shmoneh esreh. Modim Anachnu Loch – how can we say anachnu before Loach, which refers to Hashem? I assume there are other places in davening with similar expressions as well. It doesn’t seem to be a problem.

  2. BZ Says:

    Sorry for the late reply. I did not mean any disrespect. I’m genuinely curious about whether Sephardim have reasons they think Ashkenazi minhagim are wrong.

    Mode Ani was meant to be an example, but I guess I was misinformed as far as its origin. The reason Sephardim (supposedly) are/were against it specifically (and not Modim or whatever) was that this is the first thing you say when you wake up. In other words, at the start of the day you put yourself before Hashem. I guess this argument should generalize to a lesser extent to the beginning of other things, but Modim is in the middle of Shemone Esrei, so maybe it doesn’t count. Or maybe the plural of anachnu has something to do with it. I am just repeating what I was told. I am not nearly enough of a scholar to bring counterexamples that don’t have some flaw in them.

מה אתה חושב? וואס זאגט איהר - What do you think?

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