The Hidden Costs Of The Shtiebel On Your Block – Davening in a Shul of a different minhog than your own – Is it a good idea?

לילך לשטיבעל סמוך לבית או להעדיף להדר ולהתפלל במקום שמתפללים בו כאבותי, אפילו בריחוק מקום מה? שאלה מעניינת

An issue that we sometimes hear about these days involves parents complaining that their children have adopted a different religious path than the one they were raised in. For example, Modern Orthodox parents may complain that their children have become Haredi. Balabatish/Torah Im Derech Eretz (TIDE)  type parents may complain about children learning in Kollel. Non Chassidim may complain about children joining a Chassidic group, and Chassidim may complain if their children leave the Chassidic path and join another frum category. And so on.

An oft heard response to the above involves shifting the blame to the parents. For example, telling them, hey, if you didn’t want your son/daughter to become like that/join this other frum group, why did you send them to an institution where the faculty is of that group and teaches that their way is the proper way to live?

The above issues have been much discussed elsewhere and this website was not created to repeat what others have already covered.

However, I wish to point out that this issue has a counterpart in the area of מנהגים as well.

People daven in various venues. Shuls, Botei midrash, Yeshivos, shtiebels…..Sometimes people choose the places where they daven based primarily on the nature and quality of the Torah and tefilloh offered. Other times, however, factors such as how close the venue is to your house loom large in the calculations. Or how you get along with the people. Or if the place has a good kiddush.

Now these decisions are not necessarily simple. There are various factors involved. But I do wonder when people give too much weight to geographic proximity, and don’t go the proverbial extra mile to find a minyan that is a better fit for them and their ancestral minhog. Many people seem to feel that, hey, what is the difference if the Shul has a different minhag/nusach? I can daven my own nusach privately anyway. I can have a siddur of my own nusach for that. Maybe the minyan even provides such siddurim.

But what these people may not realize, is that by doing so, their own proficiency in their personal מנהג will erode over time. We know that people are influenced by their surroundings. The nusach they were raised with can start to mix and merge with the one around them in their mind, forming a new creation that is neither one or the other, נישט אהין און נישט אהער, neither here nor there. This phenomenon is sometimes on display when such people go to the amud.

Also, as a friend of mine, let’s call him Reb Yisroel, mentioned to me, if people daven in a minyan of a different nusach/minhag than their own, even if the father retains his knowledge of the different tradition that he was raised in, if his children grow up in the ‘other’ minhog environment, they will not have the deep rooted background in their ancestral custom the way their father has, and at times, that can even lead to them ultimately leaving that minhog altogether, and assimilating into the ‘new’ minhog they grew up hearing around them during davening. I have heard of such cases.

I realize that life is complex and that there might be other factors that outweigh the minhog/nusach angle. But to ignore it and leave it out of the deliberations? Wrong and foolish, if you ask me.

To clarify, I am focusing more on sustained long term exposure here, which has a greater effect than short term, rare, and ad hoc experiences, which are not as dangerous.

על פי הלכה, an argument can be made for this as well, it seems to me. אל תטוש תורת אמך is interpreted by our tradition as an exhortation not to leave one’s מנהגים. If someone places themselves into a situation where their connection to ancestral tradition will be endangered, even if only gradually and long term, and that of their children to it even more so, is there not a halachic issue? And even if someone would dispute that, would they not at least concede that it would be at least a הידור מצוה for someone to daven in a place that follows their ancestral minhog? And we live in a time when people seek הידורים and חומרות, right? So why not this one too? A הידור in תפלה. Gevaldig!

Do we need an explicit פסק הלכה that one should or must travel extra, as in the case of getting water for נטילת ידים, or finding a מנין, to get to a minyan of one’s own tradition, to make people aware that this should be an area of concern? Is convenience everything? Are you willing to accept erosion of your connection to your personal mesorah, your family heritage, just because some shtiebel opened up near your house, to save yourself a little bit of walking? And if someone says, hey, there is no Shul according to my מנהג near me anyway………well, maybe you should start one then!

So walk the extra mile for your מנהג אבות. It will be both physically and spiritually healthy for you, and you will rack up the miles in sechar halicha/שכר פסיעות!

שבוע טוב – גוט וואך

P.S. I hope the Association of Shtiebel Owners and Operators (ASOO) doesn’t get too angry at this post, but hey, I think the issue needs to be raised!😉

Update : In further contemplating this question, other scenarios come to mind as well.

E.g. a person can say, it is a מצוה to help the new shtiebel. Have רחמנות on the Rav/Rebbe. Help a fellow Yid. Maybe he needs a פרנסה. Maybe he needs a tenth man (and a ninth, and an eighth, and a seventh..) to make his minyan. And then you, the nice guy who likes to help people, are gradually roped in. But at what cost? Short term it may be seem innocuous and even admirable. But long term? You are going to be exposed to customs that are not your own and that exposure can have a significant effect on you and your family, heritage and future generations.

If the shtiebel does not have a constituency of it’s own in the location, to the extent that it has to recruit others from different עדות and מנהגים to survive, does it really belong there? Perhaps it really belongs in a different location. How about all Shtiebel owners having a comprehensive market survey of a location to ascertain that they have a constituency, before moving in? Yes, I know that I am a dreamer.😉

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9 Responses to “The Hidden Costs Of The Shtiebel On Your Block – Davening in a Shul of a different minhog than your own – Is it a good idea?”

  1. Shlomo Says:

    The basic halacha is that you must ABANDON your personal minhag and adopt that of the community you live in. Granted, in general we now accept that different minhagim coexist in one city, so the minority is not forced to abandon their minhag. But adopting the minhag of the local shul is not so far from the original intent of the halacha.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      But who says that a local shtiebel, which let’s say, for arguments’s sake, davens ‘nusach Sfard’, which maybe moved in a year or two or three ago, and may be, in a sense, a private business, represents ‘minhag hamakom’? Perhaps the older local Shul, which has been there for sixty years say, which let’s say davens nusach Ashkenaz, is the one that really represents the minhag hamokom, even if it may be further away from your home than the shtiebel? So perhaps the shtiebel then needs to adopt nusach Ashkenaz to fit in according to your thinking?

      Do you agree? If so, please let us know. If not, please explain why not.

  2. Mike S. Says:

    When I began to read the piece I thought you would be discussing the communal price of dividing up into so many splintered groups based on minor deviations in minhag or hashkafa. Given the rate at which people from different ancestral communities move around and marry one another in Israel and the US, I would think the “B’rov am hadrat melech” should get more weight in our communal organization than each group maintaining its own shtieble.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Yes, ברב עם הדרת מלך is certainly a factor to consider as well.

      I didn’t discuss that because it has been raised by others in the past. I wanted to draw attention to a different angle, the angle of מנהג אבות, which perhaps has not gotten sufficient consideration in such deliberations.

  3. Sam Kahan Says:

    In Venice, Italy there is a shul called the German shul. It was built initially around early 1500. At present the bima is at the opposite the aron just like the sfaradi shuls. However, when one looks at the floor, it is clear that the bima used to be in the middle.

    Is the move a mistake or changing minhag?

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      I don’t know, haven’t been there, but seems like it may have been a change.

      I asked רבש”ה and he didn’t have information on it.

      I have heard from him in the past though that in Italy there were various minhogim, such as Ashkenaz, Sepharad, and ancient Italian minhog, so it seems to me that it is quite conceivable that control of a Shul may have changed at some point from one group and minhog to another, perhaps due to demographic changes.

  4. A non Says:

    Great article. Of course, proximity or the kiddush should not be the primary factor in choosing a shul. Mesoras Avos is important, but I think in modern times, baavonoseinu harabbim, we have far more basic issues to worry about, and more important things that affect our ruchniyus need to be considered in choosing a shul (in my opinion, most importantly being a place where we, and our children, get a good hashpaah from the rav and tzibur). If you can find a shul that also follows Masoras Avos, that’s icing on the cake, but I think we need to be primarily focused on the cake itself today.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Thanks.

      To me mesoras avos is more than just icing on the cake, it is a vital part of the cake itself. Masores avos is an important aspect of mesorah in general. We are taught in Pirkei Avos, מסורת סייג לתורה. Mesorah is a vital safeguard for the Torah itself. If it is not given sufficient respect, the foundation of our entire Torah edifice can be eroded and endangered, ח”ו.

      P.S. Your comments are welcome, but it would be appreciated if you use some kind of name or moniker when you post, rather than anonymous.

  5. Yirmiyahy Says:

    For a time I davened with a Sephardi minyan, and having to partially , 60-70% tune out the constant chatter of the shaliach tzibbur, I found that I gained incredible focus in the bais medrash, I was able to tune out, and nothing disturbed me. Now and then I go back for a recharge.

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