Endangered minhogim list – רשימת מנהגים הנמצאים בסכנה

The endangered species list is widely known, and has been very successful in raising awareness of the danger of extinction of species among the general public, since it was introduced in the United States decades ago. This increased public awareness, combined with legal protection, has  brought about a great shift, and some species have recovered to the point where they have been removed from the list.

Threats to species can arise from various factors, such as newly introduced, aggressive, exotic species threatening or crowding out more docile native ones, loss of habitat, and imported insects and diseases.

Whereas in the past, great distances, deserts, and oceans, were barriers that lent protection to the status quo, nowadays with cheap and easy modern transportation and shipping, exotic invasive animals, plants, germs, microbes, and diseases, get around easily, and can create havoc far and wide.

A similar situation prevails with regard to minhogim.

Minhogim are not static. They wax and wane in popularity, and sometimes even disappear. Highly aggressive, invasive minhogim (or perhaps more correctly their bearers and promoters) can threaten ancient, more docile ones. A foreign minhog that seems attractive and fun can quickly gain a foothold, and gradually displace a pre-existing one that may not be as cute or colorful, but may be more authentic and correct.

This is not just theoretical. For example, there is an ancient Jewish tradition, that of the Romaniote Jews, that has almost disappeared in our time.

This can happen relatively quietly, without much protest, since religious Jews are often reluctant to argue about such things, fearing machlokes. The foreign custom can soon become entrenched, and proceed to grow to the point of posing a danger to an old established minhog.

The imported minhogim threatening the natives can come from a child’s teachers in Yeshiva, ארץ ישראל, a neighbor, or a new sefer.

Perhaps making people aware of the threat to endangered minhogim can help keep them alive, בס”ד. With that goal in mind, I propose an endangered minhogim list. As with the endangered species list, not all of the minhogim are equally in danger. Some may be on the verge of extinction at present, while others may be just gradually diminishing in their spread and acceptance over a long period of time. While my focus here is on Ashkenazic minhogim, other minhogim can fit the bill as well. Nominations are welcome.

Following are a few examples of what I have in mind for such a list.

1) Singing לדוד ברוך before ma’ariv on motzaei Shabbos in Shul, an ancient minhog with an ancient tune.

2) Only one person recites kaddish at a time (as opposed to the Sepharadic group kaddish).

3) Saying  פיוטים in Shul on special occasions, such as the ארבע פרשיות, and on יום טוב.

4) A Shul having an authentic (raised platform) bimah (as opposed to just an inclined structure or table on the same floor level as the rest of the furniture).

5) The שליח ציבור wearing a tallis when leading davening, even for mincha and maariv.

Each threatened minhog should have a detailed proposal nominating it for inclusion on the list. In future posts we may do just that.

יה”ר that this proposal should be at least as successful as the endangered species list in raising awareness of this issue among the public, and help protect our ancient treasures.

Note: Just to be clear, I am talking about legitimate minhogim that are worthy of preservation, not minhogim that are in the categories of minhag shtus – מנהג שטות (nonsensical minhag), and minhag taus – מנהג טעות (a mistaken minhag). Some things are best consigned to the ash heap of history.

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9 Responses to “Endangered minhogim list – רשימת מנהגים הנמצאים בסכנה”

  1. Zvika Says:

    1) Singing לדוד ברוך before ma’ariv on motzaei Shabbos in Shul, an ancient minhog with an ancient tune.

    Just because I’m interested, can you provide a link to the source (and tune)?

    2) Only one person recites kaddish at a time (as opposed to the Sepharadic group kaddish).

    Agreed. It will get rid of the situation where people are saying Kaddish at different speeds.

    3) Saying פיוטים in Shul on special occasions, such as the ארבע פרשיות, and on
    יום טוב.

    I think most people are too impatient for this, unless Chazzanim can pick and choose which Piyyutim they’d like to say. Wasn’t this the case in the past?

    4) A Shul having an authentic (raised platform) bimah (as opposed to just an inclined structure or table on the same floor level as the rest of the furniture).

    Can we include in this that all shuls must be designed to have better acoustics and this way the Ba’al Koreh and Chazzan won’t have to scream when they daven/layn?

  2. Yedidya Says:

    2) Only one person recites kaddish at a time (as opposed to the Sepharadic group kaddish).

    Agreed. It will get rid of the situation where people are saying Kaddish at different speeds.
    ====
    In my home shul, the rav says kaddish with the tzibbur (loudly) to help keep everyone in sync. I believe everyone should have an opportunity to say kaddish.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      “I believe everyone should have an opportunity to say kaddish.”

      In accordance with the old מנהג, just about everyone had an opportunity to say kaddish sooner or later, as the kaddeishim were divided up. Just that they couldn’t say it any time they wanted, they had to wait for their turn. Just like people don’t always get the amud when they want to have it.

      I hope to write more about this topic one of these days, based on a shiur of רבש”ה, which revealed many interesting things about kaddish that are not known to the masses.

  3. curious cat Says:

    2) Only one person recites kaddish at a time (as opposed to the Sepharadic group kaddish).

    I would imagine the reason the minhag was switched was because of the Holocaust. Imagine every single person in the shul saying kaddish, on Yom Kippur. You simply won’t have time for the actual prayers.

    3) Saying פיוטים in Shul on special occasions, such as the ארבע פרשיות, and on יום טוב.

    Most people don’t find piyutim fun or fulfilling. It’s akin to making a bunch of high school students read Macbeth, they don’t enjoy it very much. The only reason piyutim are said at all on Shabbos is because they are usually sung and are looked at more as songs then poems.

    The reason these minhagim must go is a) they are time consuming. b) They don’t hold any particular level of importance over the general minhag. c) not all minhagim should be guarded from extinction and we should allow the people to decide which minhagim to keep, this is established by saying “phuk chazi”. Minhagim cause strife and machloket within klal yisrael and it would be much better if people would decide on minhagim to be established across the board and which to be tossed. It got to a point where brothers cant eat at each other’s Pesach tables and in-laws think their counterparts are mamish amei haaratzim, simply because of minhagim.

    Rav Ovadya Yosef has the right idea. His motto is Lehachzir ateret liyoshna. What this basically means is that he disregards minhagim and makes on uniform halacha for all Sefardim like the Shulchan Aruch intended. Minhag backwards spells gehinom because not all minhagim are as heavenly as their followers make them out to be, and many a time cause more trouble then they are worth.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      “Most people don’t find piyutim fun or fulfilling. It’s akin to making a bunch of high school students read Macbeth, they don’t enjoy it very much.”

      So would you say that older students shouldn’t study Macbeth either, just because high school students don’t like it (I am not a hired advocate for Shakespeare, just addressing the משל)?

      “The only reason piyutim are said at all on Shabbos is because they are usually sung and are looked at more as songs then poems.”

      The idea of incorporating music with the piyyutim is very good, important, and integral to having a fulfilling and uplifting experience with them. That is what proper נוסח התפלה is.

      Am I correct that you are Sepharadic? Welcome to the blog and thank you for your comments. This blog really has the Ashkenazic ציבור in mind, as the target audience, but if a ספרדי wants to participate, להגדיל תורה ולהאדירה, they are welcome.

      “we should allow the people to decide which minhagim to keep, this is established by saying “phuk chazi”. Minhagim cause strife and machloket within klal yisrael and it would be much better if people would decide on minhagim to be established across the board and which to be tossed.”

      So there should be a popular vote on all minhogim? What about the opinions of the רבנים and גדולי תורה? Should they not have a greater say in this matter than a plain person who is not a חכם?

      “Rav Ovadya Yosef has the right idea. His motto is Lehachzir ateret liyoshna. What this basically means is that he disregards minhagim and makes on uniform halacha for all Sefardim like the Shulchan Aruch intended.”

      I don’t think it is accurate to say that Rav Ovadya disregards minhogim in general. Just that he selects the ones that he, בחכמתו, deems proper, and feels that others not meeting that standard should not be followed.

      “Minhag backwards spells gehinom because not all minhagim are as heavenly as their followers make them out to be”

      Agreed.

  4. Cheski Says:

    On the website of Kehal Adas Yeshurun Ramot (http://www.kayj.org/nusach/nusach.html), you will find the Dutch nusach for both the first (http://www.torahmedia.com/downloadlink.php?fid=25155&bw=high) and the second (http://www.torahmedia.com/downloadlink.php?fid=25156&bw=high) mizmor that is sung, although it misses out on the ‘ezri me’im Hashem oseh shamayim va’aretz’ sentence😉

  5. Dannie Klompsma, Passaic, NJ. Says:

    A very old minhog that is almost totally forgotten is the Yekkishe minhog of not turning your back on the Aroun HaKoudesh (at any moment but most prominently not) during Lecho Doudi at Kabolas Shabbos. This is still the official Dutch minhog. The last stanza of Lecho Doudi is sung standing facing Mizroch, at the first ‘Boi Chaloh’ one bows slightly to the left, at the second ‘Boi Chaloh’ slightly to the right side. The Maharal writes that ‘Queen Shabbos is arriving from the East (as ‘the night’ that brings shabbos in comes from the East and travels to the West) one bows to greet Shabbos from where it is coming: East. To pretend that Shabbos needs a door to come in (which was brought as a reason to receive Shabbos; and the door often times is opposite the Aroun) seems somehow a little silly….

    Another minhog that I like to mention (and a Yekkish Talmud Chochom, Rabbi Hamburger -May he live and continue to be well- writes about it extensively) is the the way to act properly during the Kedusho at repetition of the Amido. In Yeshivishe circles it seems to be the competition who is able to shout the loudest Kedusho. While in fact the Gemoro brings that it is supposed to be said responsively: the Ba’al Tefiloh says the whole Kedusho; the Kehal is supposed to just answer the 3 sentences…….. Nobody seems to care about this anymore.

    I could add a few things, but I am not sure if this would be interesting for people…. let me know.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Thank you very much for the interesting and thought provoking comments!

      Re the less than ideal manner in which kedushah is recited in some places – it is not only in some Yeshivishe places that that takes place, it also exists among other types as well.

      I would be very interested in reading more such information and reflections, please treat us if you can.🙂

      P.S. Did you mean Maharil or Maharal?

  6. The Kaddish Choir – Hyehudi.org Says:

    […] not an innovation by the Chazon Ish? This was, in fact, the ancient custom (not by Sefardim), as claimed here on the Treasures of Ashkenaz […]

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