The Yoshon Renaissance and Vintage Minhogim – החזרת עטרה ליושנה: אפשר או א”א? ישן ומנהגים ישנים

Can old minhogim realistically make a comeback?

There are some people, who, upon learning about vintage minhogim whose observance has been lost in some quarters, such as, let us take for example, the singular Ashkenazic kaddish, as well as others mentioned at the conclusion of the previous post, agree that ideally they should be reinstituted or reinvigorated. However, they feel that it can not be accomplished, it is too late, the cat is out of the bag, and so on. They have despaired of them coming back. They think that it is impractical to realistically think or dream such a thing, of such a restoration.

But is such a pessimistic attitude itself realistic/justifiable? Can we really ‘turn the clock back’? Has such a thing ever been done in recent times? The answer is a resounding yes!

The return of Yoshon observance

Leaving aside great modern Jewish examples along such lines of other types, such as those related to ארצנו הקדושה, Eretz Yisroel, let us just examine what has transpired in recent years with regard to the מצוה/practice of ישן/שמירת איסור חדש, in the diaspora, חוץ לארץ.

Consumption of grain products from plants grown after the beginning of Pesach, the time the korban omer was brought בזמן שביהמ”ק היה קיים, is proscribed by the Torah. In the past, in the exile, it was difficult to observe and there were heterim expounded to deal with the issue. Nowadays, in our modern era, ב”ה, it is much easier to observe, and a growing practice, especially among the more learned and pious, is to observe it without recourse to leniencies utilized in the past.

‘They said it couldn’t be done’, but now, the practice of Yoshon is solidly entrenched and frequently incorporated and respected by institutions, manufacturers, caterers, and individuals. I am not getting involved now in the details and different opinions/shitos about it, but rather am just observing how it is possible, and we have seen in our own time, something that was forgotten among the masses, making a remarkable comeback.

Analyzing the Yoshon return

How did it happen? אכשר דרא, a new generation, better educated in תורתנו הקדושה, ב”ה, better conditions of living, ב”ה, and so on. Education led to people here and there taking upon themselves the old-new altneu practice/הנהגה , and, after a while, things snowballed, and it became even better known, and headed into  ‘mainstream’ territory.

A return of Yoshon in the realm of minhogim

So why can’t a similar thing happen with important old practices of our ancestors, such as the Ashkenazic kaddish, the Ashkenazic way of reciting kedushah, LeDovid Boruch on מוצאי שבת, and so on, as well? Such things don’t happen overnight, of course, but to state with absolute certainty that the old ways are gone forever, seems much too pessimistic and misplaced.

Cycles, ebb and flow, in Jewish history

We are now at the beginning of a new chodesh, אדר שני. Rosh Chodesh is a time of renewal. The moon seemingly disappeared. Then there is an invisible rebirth, followed by a glimmer of light, a sliver of white, which proceeds to grow and increase. Just like the לבנה, practices that were neglected can become rediscovered, reestablished, and reinvigorated, like עם ישראל, the Jewish people, who are compared to the moon. Such things have happened many times in Jewish history.

In fact we see nowadays a great and growing interest in classic minhogim in general. There are more publications, seforim, articles, discussions about them, in places where you may not have expected such. In just the last year or so, I have noted in well-trafficked, highly popular fora, online, as well as in a well-known Chareidi newspaper, discussions about the old Ashkenaz way of saying kaddish, in which it was held up as a proper and superior practice, and serious grappling with the question of why it  is not universally followed today. I don’t recall such discussions at such a level growing up. This indicates a growing awareness and interest in such מנהגים ותיקים. And why should it be surprising? We are in a time when people are going back to practices of their ancestors in other areas, so why not here? It is a well-established general trend, going back to roots, חזרה אל השרשים. So why not in the area of minhogim as well? The groundwork, the foundation, has already been laid, conceptually, and in practice.

ב”ה, אכשר דרא באמת, תודה להשי”ת.

In the zechus of such renewal, may we be zoche to national renewal, בביאת משיח צדקנו, במהרה בימנו, אמן!

א גוטען חודש!

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23 Responses to “The Yoshon Renaissance and Vintage Minhogim – החזרת עטרה ליושנה: אפשר או א”א? ישן ומנהגים ישנים”

  1. Richard W Says:

    How about talking about Washing Before Kiddush – a p’sak of the Rema, v’ein Leshanos.

    Also, it’s very pragmatic in large dining rooms, and on Sukkos. Just Wash, make kiddush, followed by Hamotzi.

  2. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    Thanks.

    Rav Hamburger שליט”א wrote about it comprehensively way back in שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק א, which came out close to twenty years ago (!).

    I believe that in Telshe Yeshiva in OH it is practiced, in addition to among יוצאי אשכנז of course.

  3. Richard W Says:

    Even the Chayyei Adam said all should wash before Kiddush except for the Mekadeish himself. I’m told that the Bach held like this, too.

    It not only reinforces kiddush bemakom seudah, it is very practical. Also it affords several continuous minutes of peaceful quiet before eating. A most welcome expereience before Shabbos or Yom Tov, when all remain silent.

  4. casual observer Says:

    It is different, comparing Yoshon which is mentioned in the Torah to Kaddish, which is not.

    I am told that one big Posek actually instituted the “one man says kaddish” rule in his shul – until he himself was an Avel…

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Of course the cases are different. If two things are exactly the same, they are not two different things, right? ;-)

      Re your alleged anecdote – assuming all the details are true – and I am not certain that your account contains the full story – maybe the Rav was not strong enough, and didn’t pass the nisayon for some reason. But that doesn’t mean that others wouldn’t succeed.

      Kaddish is an emotional thing for some people, it is true. But there are others who have their מוח שולט על הלב firmly, and, fortified with strong sources, if they really understand the inyan well, they could withstand such a test. Such has happened in the past as well. You seem to be implying that this minhog has collapsed very easily whenever anyone couldn’t say kaddish as they pleased and has no staying power. I beg to differ. If that was the case, the minhog would not have lasted for centuries, it would have collapsed after like five minutes. ;-) I don’t think it is as frail and weak as you seem to believe.

      The key is education. If people really understand the inyan it could be done. Easiest would seemingly be in a Yekke minyan where the inyan is strongly rooted, or a smaller, elite congregation, one that follows מנהגי חזון איש, גר”א, and so on.

      • Richard W Says:

        Some shuls reserved a Kaddish for Yahrzeits. Maybe a compromise could be made where the old minhog would be restored, and then allow for one Kaddish, and one Kaddish only to be recited the “modern way”, EG when all availim could not be accommodated.

  5. Yehuda Nathan Says:

    I have this problem with most of these “Ashkenaz” experts. Most of them assume that if it wasn’t done in FrankfurtAm it doesn’t count. My father O”bm came from Munich, which had different Minhogim. The original Southern German Minhag – as recorded in the 13th century Machzor Nuremberg, was much closer to what is derided as the Polnischer (OstJuedischer) Ritus than to the Deutscher Ritus.

    BTW, in Germany – for the most part – Chodosh was not kept for the last few centuries. Thus, it seems you feel that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence!

    Yehuda Nathan

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      This is a recurring issue I see. It is true that in some places in Germany (which, by the way, was not, in the old days, the large, unified modern state it is today. That only came about in modern times) the practices varied from those of the old Rhineland (think Worms, Mainz, Speyer, the heartland of old Ashkenaz). But they didn’t claim that those that followed the old Rhineland minhog, sometimes called מנהג ריינוס or מנהג אשכנז המובהק, were wrong or were imposters, did they? We have to understand that in the old days, communication was not what it is today. They couldn’t pick up the phone or send an e-mail to Ashkenaz HQ in Worms when they had a sheila, right? ;-) They didn’t have e-mail then either. ;-) So some variations in practice existed in some places. But does that mean that there is no thing as minhog Ashkenaz then? No.

      Re the minhog re chodosh in Ashkenaz/Germany, I have some sources on that, which I will ב”נ share a bit later. Like from the של”ה and חתם סופר. Stay tuned.

      • Richard W Says:

        And there were MANY great poskim who often differed. EG Ohr Zarua, Raabiyah, Maharil, etc. There is little doubt that underlying them all was a common approach to Minhog and Halachah, but they often differed on the details.

        My approach would be to focus upon restoring those that were “common denominators” first.

  6. Sam Says:

    What happens when the minhag Ashkenaz contradicts the new practice? It is no secret that yoshon was not followed by the early communities of Ashkenaz. See Ta Shema’s sefer הלכה, מנהג ומציאות באשכנז for a very long discussion of this. So if you want to adopt this praiseworthy chumra now, it would seem to be abandoning the minhag to be lenient? How does one choose when the “classic minhag” seem to be b’dieved at best?

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      The Chasam Sofer talks about this in his שו”ת, יו”ד יט, and says כמה טרחו ליישב מנהג היתר בחדש לפני העומר והכל ליישב המנהג ומ”מ בעל נפש יחוש לעצמו

      • Sam Says:

        Perhaps I wasn’t clear. My point is that the whole heter for chodosh (in all cases) was an identifying feature of Askenazi society. To be machmir on it completely undermines the Ashkenazi halachic tradition. Of course plenty of poskim think one should be machmir — no one disputes this — the question is what to do when being machmir means abandoning the Ashkenazic heritage? How do we balance the value of being careful in mitzvah observance with the value of not being מוציא לעז על הראשונים? I think this is a difficult and interesting question which would make for a worthwhile follow-up post if you have thoughts on this issue.

      • Richard W Says:

        Indeed. Many who attack or undermine the old Minhag Ashkenaz do so based on a viewpoint, that now we know better. I ran into this when debating whether Maariv Layl Shavuos needed to be recited after Tzais. The MG”A and Sh’LaH both were only makpid on Kiddush, not Maarav. But some said, we may not rely upon the old Minhog, at least in any new Minyon.

      • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

        I just looked at the chapter in Ta-Shema that you referenced in your earlier comment, as well as some other sources here. From what I saw, there were people who were nizhar in it going way back, for hundreds of years, back to the times of the Rishonim, alongside the matirim.

        I think “completely undermines” is too strong and sweeping. Food for thought, interesting questions – yes, agreed.

  7. BR Says:

    Part of the change to allowing multiple to say kaddish at once was because of Machlokes. Not enough Kaddeshim to go around. Case in point, my cousin once had to be someplace on a parent’s yahrzeit. The only shul where he could catch Minchah was a Yekkishe place. They didn’t let him say Kaddish. They didn’t add a perek Tehillim or anything. This minhag may have been good when everyone was part of the kehillah, but now with people travelling and what not, such a minhag will cause more trouble than it’s value.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Thanks for your comment.

      Of course, what you say is a common reaction. But I think the solution is not consigning an venerable, old minhog to the trash heap. Rather, the solution is education. The person can educated, in a nice manner, that the sky will not fall in if he says one less kaddish on that day. He probably has said multiple kaddeishim during other tefillos on that day already anyway, right? In the old days saying just one kaddish a day alone was considered enough to be ‘yotzeh’, by the way.

      And even if, let us say, he said no other kaddeishim on that day, the sky won’t fall in either.

      The person should be advised that כשם שמקבלין שכר על הדרישה כך מקבלין שכר על הפרישה – just like there is reward for doing something actively, when appropriate, so too there is recompense for refraining from same when the situation calls for it. Also, that, as the Yosef Ometz, a member of the beis din of the של”ה, wrote hundreds of years ago, kaddish is not the only thing one can do for a niftar, a departed person. He says that it was established for amei ha’aretz, ignorant people, and that much more – sevenfold – seven times as much! – can be accomplished for the niftar through limud haTorah, Torah study. Take a look at his powerful words.

      See also this earlier post, which discusses how realistic such a fear, that the old minhog will result in constant machlokes, is, or if it is more like exaggerated fearmongering.

      P.S. In the places where the overwhelming majority of Yidden reside today, AFAIK, there are multiple places to daven. So if the yahrzeit observer/kaddish reciter is so concerned about saying ten or twenty kaddeishim when he has yahrzeit, he could always go to another place, or make his own minyan, no? Your concern seems to apply more to a small community, or to the old days when there were strong kehillos, which didn’t allow other minyonim, but with the reality nowadays, when there are so many options, such a person, who would get so offended, however many still exist, could just drive over to the next minyan, make a minyan in his workplace, or house.

      • Richard W Says:

        I like the idea of keeping the old Minhog
        AND ALSO
        Allowing one Kaddish at the end for all to say.
        Futhermore,
        I would do it as Shaarei Tikvoh in Washington Heights does it. All “zuggers” go to the front near the amud, wear Talleisim, and recite the Kaddish in unison in a dignified manner.

        Maybe education can work in the Long Run. Meanwhile, a lot of bad feelings may be generated.

      • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

        I am not advocating ‘forcing’ it (if such a thing would even be possible nowadays :) on congregations that are not familiar with it, or supportive. That would not be wise. The idea here is to raise the matter for consideration (many people do not even know about it!) and make people aware of the great benefits of it (often times the discussion is very unbalanced, unfortunately, focusing solely on the possibility that someone might take offense). So the places that still maintain it could be encouraged to maintain it, and other places can consider adopting it (especially new minyonim).

        We have many people today that are very well educated Jewishly, ב”ה, and I think they would understand and appreciate it. Also, today we live in a time of smorgasboard Yiddishkeit in many places. There could be all kinds of minyonim in a community, with different minhogim. such as Ashkenaz, Ashkenaz Yeshivish, Litvish, Perushim, Yekkes, Oberlanders, Dati-Leumi, Chardal, Carlebach, Modern Orthodox, Young Israel, Lubavitch, Lubavitch, Breslov, General Chasidic, Breslov Na Nach, Lubavitch Moshichist, Belz, Gur, Sepharadi-Morocco, Syrian-Aleppo, Syrian-Damascus, Teimani-Baladi, Teimani-Shami, Turkish, Bukharan, Iranian, Spinka, Bobov, Sanz, Satmar, Vizhnitz, Munkatch, Spinka, Nadvorna, and on and on. Is almost any other type of minhog for a minyan okay, even if controversial, but this one cannot be tolerated at all? Seems unfair and unbalanced.

        A campaign of education is priority number one. If a tzibbur then wants to go further, in consultation with a Rav, let’s say they vote or agree to try it, let us say give it a trial period of a month or three months, we can see how it goes. If more than twenty fistfights break out in front of the amud, then feel free to cancel it immediately, even before the trial period ends. ;-)

      • Richard W Says:

        I agree that we should gradually restore these customs over the course of time, especially those well-rooted in the Maharil and other classic sources.

        Question: how can we request a topic to be started?

      • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

        People can share ideas, suggestions via the comments, and they will ב”נ be given appropriate consideration.

      • BR Says:

        I appreciate you are trying to defend minhagei ashkenaz. However your response comes across as somewhat condescending.

        This cousin of mine is a Marbitz Torah, knows how to learn and is someone who is mevater constantly. Otherwise he couldn’t do what he does. His circumstances required him to leave town and the only minyan early enough was there. He wouldn’t get to the other side until after Shkiyah.

        I see no reason to respond to the details you present. Suffice it to say. Do you really think that stopping someone from saying kaddish for a parent on a yahrzeit is really be marbeh k’vod shomayim?

      • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

        I don’t know what happened with your cousin, I wasn’t there. Of course people should be sensitive to others in Shul, as elsewhere. It is unfortunate that sometimes feelings are hurt. The gabbaim of a Shul should be careful with such things. Maybe they could have handled it better, negotiated an arrangement to accomodate him somehow (like asking the other chiyuv if he would be open to forego his right, and stand aside for the visitor), or some other way.

        The thing is, however, if they would have thrown out their established minhog to please him, they would have presumably upset their regular tzibbur. Let us say ten people would have been disturbed. And now one guest is dissatisfied. So which is the better choice, if you were in their shoes? Should they prioritize the feelings of ten regulars, or a single visitor? It seems that the regular tzibbur outweighs a lone visitor. Just like Chazal teach us, that when you are a guest in a home, to listen to the baal habayis, כל מה שיאמר לך בעל הבית עשה, when one is a guest in a בית הכנסת or בית המדרש, should that not apply as well? That would be marbeh kevod shomayim, respecting the מנהג המקום. I have trouble understanding why people are so fixated on saying a certain quota of kaddeishim, as if it is the be all and end all of things, which it is not. והאמת והשלום אהבו.

      • Richard W Says:

        I’ve been a guest in non-Yekkish shuls on yahrzeits. Somedays they gave me the amud and sometimes they did not. As a guest, I had no expectations that they honor me, if they did “Mah Tov”.

        What about “shomei’a k’oneh”? Can’t those who are not given a Kaddish to say themselves, be considered as saying it by listening attentively to the one who is saying it?

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