Askinu seudasa – The minhog NOT to say/sing it – אתקינו סעודתא – המנהג שלא לומר או לזמר אותו

אתקינו סעודתא, a Kabbalistic zemer in Aramaic from the Arizal, which is a few hundred years old,  is widely sung these days at Shabbos seudos, even in some non Chassidic places. Especially at סעודה שלישית. How many people understand it is another matter.

It  may be less well known that there are those who specifically have refrained from, or opposed such a practice.

It is hard for people to abstain when a group is singing something, with a lively tune, especially in our culture that puts such value on being part of a tzibbur and going along with the group. But people should know that there are differences of opinion about this practice.

What if your minhog is not to sing it? What if your father didn’t? Which is the case I found myself in. I felt that it was not my minhog, but didn’t fully understand why (beyond perhaps a vague feeling that ‘we don’t get into that heavy Kabbalistic stuff’, at least not in public). And then some could say, hey, your father didn’t sing it, but was he opposed to it, or maybe he just didn’t grow up with it? Is abstaining from something a minhog davka (specifically) not to do it, or just a neutral stance, no minhog on the matter either way, which would not be in opposition to someone adopting it if he wishes?

Recently, while glancing at a Torah journal by the name of צפונות, from ארץ ישראל in תשמ”ט, א, לד-ה, I noticed a piece there with a תשובה (responsum) from the  מהר”ם שיק, senior talmid of the חתם סופר, who was asked if it should be said.

The  מהר”ם שיק says that he doesn’t say it and neither did the חתם סופר. The reason he gives is that we are not on that level, just as it is brought down in Shulchan Aruch (שו”ע או”ח סימן ג, הלכה א)  that we nowadays do not say התכבדו מכובדים before entering the בית הכסא, so kal vachomer this שיר, which is even holier.

I asked רב בנימין שלמה המבורגר שליט”א about it and he furnished me with additional information on the matter, as follows.

The Chasam Sofer’s son, Rav Shimon Sofer, the מכתב סופר, reported that the Chasam Sofer did not say the zemiros of the Arizal אסדר לסעודתא, אזמר בשבחין, ובני היכלא because “עס איסט צו פיעל ארויסגעזאגט”  it expresses too much openly of matters that should be more hidden (brought in באר מרים introduction to מכתב סופר). Esoteric, Kabbalistic manners are not for every person. One should be on a high level, a holy person to get involved with such things.

מהר”ם א”ש, the famous talmid of the Chasam Sofer and Rav of Ungvar, didn’t say it either, as brought down here, a little less than halfway down the page, in the paragraph starting קודם סעודת צהרים, where it states לא מלאו לבו לומר האתקינו סעודתא ולומר דא היא סעודתא.

The בן איש חי brings (בן איש חי, שנה ב’, פרשת חיי שרה, סעיף יג) that even among Sepharadic mekubbalim there were those that refrained from saying it due to פחד. And he concludes by saying that ‘we are not נוהג to say it at all‘!. And he was a great מקובל!

Western European Sepharadim, in London and Amsterdam, also didn’t say it, as reported in sefer כתר שם טוב of רב שם טוב גאגין, חלק א’ עמוד רא

So quite a line up of gedolim there who didn’t say it, for various reasons. So there are definite grounds for a practice/מנהג to refrain. And if you refrain from it for the reasons mentioned by the above גדולי עולם, I dare say that you are definitely מקבל שכר על הפרישה (are rewarded for refraining).

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10 Responses to “Askinu seudasa – The minhog NOT to say/sing it – אתקינו סעודתא – המנהג שלא לומר או לזמר אותו”

  1. Dr. Yitzchok Levine Says:

    R. Binyamin Hamburger devotes an entire chapter in one of the volumes of his 4 volume set Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz to whether or not one should say B’rich Shemei when the Torah is taken out. This is not part of Nusach Frankfurt and was clearly added at some point after the Zohar was “revealed.” He gives a number of reasons why one should not say B’rich Shemei.

    Indeed, Nusach Frankfurt does not incorporate any of the Kabbalistic prayers that were added by the followers of the ARI.

  2. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    Your point is valid of course, but since this is something said during a meal, at a table, many people don’t look at it as part of the siddur/davening, so they still might feel compelled to say it, since it is in so many bentchers out there. And there is peer pressure if it seems that ‘everybody else is saying/singing it’. Which is not true of course.

    I think that a lot less people say or sing it during the first two meals, as opposed to seudoh shelishis, which is much more likely to be in a non-family group, and for which there is a well-known melody.

    • Dr. Yitzchok Levine Says:

      Just because many people do something does not mean that someone who wants to stick with authentic Ashkenaz minhagim should do it. Many things have been changed (here I am being kind, because corrupted comes to mind) over the years.

      You wrote, “I think that a lot less people say or sing it during the first two meals, as opposed to seudoh shelishis, which is much more likely to be in a non-family group, and for which there is a well-known melody.”

      I have never understood how men could leave their families on Shabbos and eat this meal in shul. Shouldn’t one be with one’s family for all of the Shabbos meals. YL

  3. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    “I have never understood how men could leave their families on Shabbos and eat this meal in shul. Shouldn’t one be with one’s family for all of the Shabbos meals.”

    At the KAYJ Ashkenaz forum, it is stated that in Ashkenaz the minhog was to eat סעודה שלישית before mincha. See http://kayj.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1369&sid=24e99c3c1523c751803b703fc9ecbdcd#1369

    I assume that that was typically done at home and not in Shul, due to the timing being before mincha. Also, I know that minhag Ashkenaz is quite strict about eating in Shul, so that might be an additional reason for it to be eaten at home, rather than at Shul, for MA (minhag Ashkenaz) people.

    I believe that the widespread custom to have seudah shlishis together in Shul, as opposed to at home, is a relatively new thing. It may have become popular among Chassidim, where the Rebbes had a tish then, and then spread to others. I would be interested to get more information on the matter.

  4. Dr. Yitzchok Levine Says:

    You wrote, “I believe that the widespread custom to have seudah shlishis together in Shul, as opposed to at home, is a relatively new thing. It may have become popular among Chassidim, where the Rebbes had a tish then, and then spread to others. I would be interested to get more information on the matter.”

    This is just one of many things that Chassidus changed in Yahadus.

    A few months ago I heard a Chassidishe rabbi give a talk in which he urged his listeners to preserve mesorah. I thought to myself, “Does he really know what he is talking about? Chassidus is historically responsible for having destroyed much mesorah. Chassidim should be the last people to talk about preserving mesorah.”

  5. Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

    You have a point, but there are others who have changed mesorah as well, so the problem is not limited to one group.

    And interestingly, there are some cases of old minhogim, including old Ashkenazic minhogim, that Chassidim, at least some of them, have preserved better, in some cases, than some non-Chassidim.

    On the one hand, in the beginning of the Chassidic movement there was a lot of changing things, but later on many became very conservative and wanted to preserve old minhogim.

    So perhaps if a Rebbe today says that he wants to preserve mesorah it is a good sign. Despite the appearance and image that Chassidim never change things, Chassidism is not static. Things change over the years. So a movement among them toward greater identification with their Ashkenazic roots is not inconceivable.

    There was a Rebbe in the past that actually davened nusach Ashkenaz, by the way.

    Maybe I should try to write a post about this topic actually. Thanks for the idea.

  6. Yisroel Gradmann Says:

    My great aunt told me that where she grew up – Ichenhausen, Bavaria – men and women would go to shul for seudas shelishis followed by Maariv.

    There is a Takono from the Gr”a, in his cheirim on chassidim, not to eat seudas shelishis with a minyan because that is what chassidim do.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Thanks.

      Re the first point, perhaps that was done in later years מפני צורך השעה.

      Re the second statement, I have heard that said, but I am not aware of proof or sources for such a thing.

      • Yisroel Gradmann Says:

        I have seen it in sefer HaGaon by Rav Dov Eliach. I don’t remember where though, I have to look for it.

      • Yisroel Gradmann Says:

        By the way (in the earlier comment here) I meant Mincho, not Maariv.

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