ערב שבועות התשס”א
ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר – כאיש אחד בלב אחד – חז”ל
Our concentration on and promotion of the holy heritage of Yahadus Ashkenaz here is important, but also has to be kept in proper perspective, lest it overshadow and obscure how much we share with other Yidden.
People should not get the wrong impression, as if Sepharadim and Ashkenazim are two nations or peoples, חס ושלום. We are one nation, מי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ. I think a better way to look at it would be as if we are two שבטים, two constituent tribes of Klal Yisroel, with a sibling relationship to each other. We have so much in common, as tends to be the case with siblings. Sometimes, however, the closer you are to someone else, the more differences are noted. As you might see in your own family at times.
Of course we share the vast expanses of the תורה הקדושה and the תרי”ג מצות. But one should not think that later on, for example after the Talmudic and Gaonic periods, these two great segments of כלל ישראל always traveled in divergent paths.
In shiurim when he was visiting the United States of America about a year and a half ago, Rav Hamburger spent some time discussing the sharing of minhogim between Ashkenazim and Sepharadim.
Three categories were delineated – A) Ashkenazic minhogim adopted by Sepharadim, B) Sepharadic minhogim adopted by Ashkenazim, and C) Minhogim shared by Yekkes and Sepharadim.
I will share some of the examples from the first two categories now. Note however, that they are just a few prominent examples. There are others as well. Note as well that they are all from the last millenium, after the time of the גמרא and the גאונים.
SEPHARADIC MINHOGIM COMMONLY PRACTICED BY ASHKENAZIM
1) The minhog to say מודה אני upon awakening in the morning. This is of Sepharadic origin, from R. Moshe ibn Machir, a sage who lived in צפת with the אר”י ז”ל.
2) The minhog to say kapitlech of Tehillim at meals before ברכת המזון. The common form of this minhog is to say על נהרות בבל during the week, and שיר המעלות בשוב ה’ את שיבת ציון on Shabbos and Yom tov. This minhog is also from R. Moshe ibn Machir.
3) קבלת שבת – The order of mizmorim with the pizmon of לכה דודי that came from צפת.
4) תיקון ליל שבועות והושענא רבה.
5) קדיש דרבנן – this relatively late form of kaddish is brought by the אבודרהם and the רמב”ם.
ASHKENAZIC MINHOGIM COMMONLY PRACTICED BY SEPHARADIM
1) Answering ברוך הוא וברוך שמו when hearing ברכות. This is an old Ashkenazic minhog, from the חסידי אשכנז, promoted by the רא”ש.
2) Saying ויתן לך on מוצאי שבת.
3) Tashlich on ראש השנה. First mentioned in the מהרי”ל.
4) כפרות on ערב יום כיפור. Even though the מחבר (Beis Yosef) opposed it, other Sepharadic gedolim accepted it, and evidently it is widely practiced among Sepharadim today.
5) Moroccan Sepharadim have more Ashkenazic minhogim, due to the great influence of the רא”ש.
MINHOGIM SHARED BY YEKKES AND SEPHARADIM
These minhogim seem to be of more ancient origin.
1) Children wear talleisim. All over. Wherever you go, wherever you go, if you go into a Litvishe Yeshiva and you see a בחור with a טלית, you know he is either a Sepharadi or a Yekke.
2) The חופה at a חתונה. The original chupah, which was widely prevalent in ancient days, was a טלית (meaning a tallis draped over the chosson and kallah, as opposed to the later Eastern European custom of a canopy over their heads held up by four poles). As per the ancient expression חופה אותה בטליתו. Chofeh means to cover. Sepharadim practice this ancient מנהג and Yekkes do as well.
3) תפילין with small בתים. The original type of batim, for both Yekkes and Sepharadim. Nowadays people go to ירושלים and get whatever the Yerushalmiyim give them. Enormous tefillin. But that wasn’t the old way. Both Yekkes and Sepharadim had small tefillin.
This is related to the question of the shiur for size of תפילין. The gemara does not give a shiur (size) for them. However, some ספרים from the גאונים give a size of שני אצבעות. Nowadays people explain שני אצבעות as being a minimal שיעור, a minimum size for the tefillin, so they therefore make them large. However, in the past there was an interpretation, and at least some ראשונים say so, that שני אצבעות was a maximal shiur, that tefillin should not be larger than that size.
4) Reading הפטרות from a ספר אפטרתא (a collection of הפטרות written בקדושה on a קלף). In the Litvishe Yeshivishe world they go by the Gaon’s idea of reading haftoros from ספרי נביאים on קלף. But this wasn’t the minhog for a long time before the גר”א. People (especially before the advent of the printing press) read from a sefer aftarta.
Nowadays we have a new reality, which did not exist in the past on this level. Due to modern advances in transportation and communication, and the movement of large populations in recent times, typical Sepharadim and Ashkenazim are much more exposed to each other, and each other’s ways of lives, than in previous generations. While that enables fruitful and friendly relationships between the two, it can also lead to homogenization and dimunition of distinctiveness, and waning of certain traditions. Let us hope that we can, בס”ד, successfully manage these new challenges and emerge a stronger people.
With best wishes for a גוט יום טוב, חג כשר ושמח!