Consumer Alert: Minhog Scammery On The Rise! Mislabeled, Cheap Middle Eastern Imports Flooding In, Threatening To Overwhelm Natives!

One of the more difficult challenges we face in keeping the holy minhogim of our Ashkenazic ancestors is posed by present day unrestricted imports from Eretz Yisroel, of Sepharadic minhagim posing as Ashkenazic ones.

With so much travel these days between Eretz Yisroel and the diaspora lands, instant worldwide communication, so many youngsters as well as more mature students studying in the Holy Land, and massive amounts of Judaica produced in and exported from there, we are faced with a virtual invasion of foreign customs.

As we have touched on in the past, many Ashkenazic Jews in ארצנו הקדושה, whether due to past compulsion or present proximity, practice some questionable Sepharadic minhagim (actually they may not be really Sepharadic, but for descriptive ease, I am referring to them that way now), that are not in accordance with their heritage.

When people are aware that practices are not from or in accordance with the holy מסורה of אשכנז, they can more easily be on guard against their infiltration. But when they are depicted as Ashkenazic, and even more so, from the holy Ashkenazim of  ארץ ישראל, the people that some think have a constant virtual halo around them, especially if they are of the ירושלמי variety, people can let their guard down and think that they are 100% acceptable for Ashkenazic Jews. But it ain’t so. The minhogim of the אשכנזים in חו”ל (the diaspora) are actually often more authentic and accurate than those of their cousins in Eretz Yisroel.

So first and foremost, people have to be alerted about this dangerous phenomenon. And then hopefully they will take steps to counter this dangerous fad, and reject the foreign adulterated customs, בעזרת השי”ת.

I will list here a few examples of such dangerous foreign imports, the mislabeled practices that need to be exposed for what they are, Sepharadic minhagim posing as Ashkenazic minhogim. Some of them have been written about previously, while others will perhaps אי”ה will be the subjects of future posts.

1) Chalaka (a word of Arabic origin), also known as Upsherin in Yiddish.

2) Bonfires and other questionable Lag Baomer activities. I wonder if there is a relationship between the widespread Lag Baomer bonfires in Eretz Yisroel and the new problem of an outbreak of Charedi juvenile pyromania there. השם ירחם.

3) Expanded version of the last part of Rosh Chodesh Bentching, starting with יחדשהו, as we have touched on in an earlier post. סידורים from ארץ ישראל can be vehicles for spreading such foreign nuschaos. Hey, the בני ארץ ישראל need to make a פרנסה, I know they sell siddurim overseas, but if they want to sell them to us, they can make them according to our מנהג.

4) Kaddish after Krias HaTorah being given to any aveil, rather than being said by the בעל קריאה, as per the classical minhog.

5) Cheap Judaica trinkets, e.g. Sepharadic/Oriental Shivisis and Hamsas. The former are sometimes purchased by well meaning people and given to Shuls, where sometimes unwittingly they are accepted and hung, usually at the amud, despite being against Ashkenazic practice. The latter may be hung or worn by individuals.

6) Finger pointing (pinky or other) at the sefer Torah during hagbah. The minhag Ashkenaz is to bow toward the sefer Torah then, an earlier recorded minhog mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch, a gesture of reverence and respect toward the holy Torah. But now one sees quite a few people in some places doing the easier finger pointing which lacks the type of giving of kavod to the Torah that bowing shows.

7) Hallel in Shul on Pesach night. Minhag Ashkenaz is only to say it at the seder later.

People have to be aware of this serious problem, take a stand, and refuse to go along with the adulteration of our holy Ashkenazic heritage, which happens when people accept such customs. And then אי”ה we will be hopefully be able to get the אשכנזים of ארץ ישראל to go back to their old minhogim, ולשלוח המנהגים הנכריות , and return to the ways of their ancestors before they came under foreign influences.

יה”ר שנזכה לכך בב”א, ובזכות השבת מנהגי האבות החביבים והקדושים אל הבנים נזכה ל”והשיב לב אבות על בנים ולב בנים על אבותם” בקרוב, אכי”ר

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27 Responses to “Consumer Alert: Minhog Scammery On The Rise! Mislabeled, Cheap Middle Eastern Imports Flooding In, Threatening To Overwhelm Natives!”

  1. Ploni Says:

    You might also mention something of major halakhic severity (de’oratia), namely the absence of tefillin on hol ha-mo’ed. People who do this in Israel have to do it secretly like Marranos…

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Thanks, that is definitely an important issue as well, but the details there are somewhat different, so I’m not sure if it should be grouped with the others above. But definitely an important issue!

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      To elaborate, the post was focused on questionable customs, customs lacking a firm basis, etc. Not on just any different minhog based on a machlokes in halocho. Most, if not all of the practices in the post, are relatively recent on the scene, from recent centuries. The tefillin on Chol Hamoed issue, on the other hand, is an older question that was argued by gedolei olam, so I wouldn’t call it a ‘cheap import’.

  2. kbloom@gmail.com Says:

    I don’t see you complaining about bircas cohanim and pitum haketores in Eretz Yisrael.

    • Jon Baker Says:

      Daily birkas kohanim in EY comes from the Gra. The Gra hewed closer to the Bavli than most Ashkenazim (Chayei Adam, Aruch haShulchan, nosei keilim on SA, etc.). The Bavli is the source of Sephardi and EhM minhag. So it’s more a case of common ancestry than direct derivation.

    • moshe Says:

      How about taking Terumah and Maaser? They never did that back in Ashkenaz😉

  3. Benjamin Of Tudela Says:

    I was Ok until number 6. I honestly did not know this wasn’t an Ashkenazic custom. I will stop and desist immediately.

    Thanks!

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Thanks Ben!

      You mean a world traveler like you didn’t know that? C’mon now!

      Okay, I understand, nowadays there can be a big mishmash of customs, hard to unravel and decipher at times.

      You still on the road these days?

      • Jon Baker Says:

        I pointed for a while, until I asked R’ Barry Freundel why we point (lechovod hatorah), and why davka the pinky (because it’s not polite to point, so we use the least-offensive [smallest] finger). At which point, I decided it was silly, and stopped.

        Nowadays I sometimes lift the tzitzis (which is specifically a Spanish/Portuguese minhag; my parents were married in their shul), and if not wearing a tallis (like at Shabbos Minche), will do the Yemenite thing – raise one’s hands facing each other, bow and kiss one’s fingertips. Why? To do something. I figure, as long as I’m conscious where I’ve adopted it, it’s OK to do so, since I can always explain.

  4. D.C. Says:

    Just two posts ago, you wrote (with no apparent disapproval) about “Sefaradic minhagim commonly practiced by Ashkenazim.” All of these minhagim (e.g. Kabbolas Shabbos, Tikkun Leyl Shavuos) were eventually accepted back in Europe by even the most conservative of Ashkenazi kehilos (Frankfurt comes to mind), though some of them, I believe, were not universally accepted in Ashkenaz until close to the time when another group of Ashkenazim, which had made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, adopted some different Sefaradi minhagim.

    Why were the Sefaradi minhagim that were accepted by the Ashkenazim in Europe not “minhag scammery” and “cheap imports”? Why should Ashkenazim in Ashkenaz have the right to import certain Sefaradi minhagim, and not Ashkenazim living in Eretz Yisrael at around the same time (or slightly later)?

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Hi and thanks for writing.

      Some Sepharadic customs are on a higher level than others. Even in ancient sources we find that some minhogim are described in very favorable terms, e.g. minhog vasikin, while others are not, e.g. minhag shtus.

      We are open to high quality imports, that don’t contradict the Ashkenaz mesorah, that are not from questionable sources. The minhogim discussed in the previous post you cite fall in such a category.

      On the other hand, the ones in this post do not. We are not open for unrestricted imports of any cheap custom cobbled together overseas.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      D.C, I appreciate your engaging me here, with respect.

      It has been brought to my attention that some people were discussing some of the posts of this site, including this one, elsewhere, and evidently missing some vital points. If they are confident of their positions, why don’t they come here and engage the one who wrote the postings respectfully, instead of jumping to conclusions, which may be off the mark?

      Some people are complaining about the use of the word scam here. Well, it is true that the word is strong, but I think it is in place, because the customs I am discussing, are infiltrating into many places, due to people believing they are Ashkenazic, since many Ashkenazim in Eretz Yisroel follow them, due to Sepharadic compulsion in the past or influence in the present. To have minhogim posing as Ashkenazic when they are really Sepharadic qualifies as a scam in my book. It is fraud, plain and simple. Like if you buy a pocketbook and it has a certain designer label, saying made in Switzerland, and it is really a cheap knock off from China. Okay, perhaps people are not knowingly trying to fool the masses here, perhaps they are in the dark themselves, but it should be pointed out, so others know what they are dealing with.

      If they would read carefully, some of their questions would fall away. Re other questions, perhaps if they would ask, they would get a satisfactory response. Of course, if just want to vent and make a statement of their feelings, they can write what they wish. But a serious seeker of אמת and חכמה would presumably first seek an answer before jumping to conclusions. So it is a pleasure to engage with you here, thanks for stopping by.

      • D.C. Says:

        I’m glad to stop by. I actually identify strongly with your basic mission and that of Mechon Moreshes Ashkenaz, but I’m afraid that I still don’t see how this post doesn’t reflect a double standard.

        I agree that some of the customs mentioned above, like bonfires and chalaka, may be from questionable (i.e. non-Jewish) sources. But how can Hallel in shul on Pesach night be called a “cheap custom cobbled together”? It is recorded by the Rashba and brought by the Mechaber in Shulchan Aruch!

        If a Sefaradi friend would ask you which minhagim you think he should keep, I assume that you would recommend that he pass on the bonfires (a questionable custom), but I assume that you would not want him to drop all of his legitimate ancestral minhagim in favor of yours.

        If you believe that the only difference between the Sefaradi minhagim in your older post and those in this post is that those are legitimate Sefaradi minhagim whereas these are “minhagei shtus,” then this is really about minhagim that have a legitimate reason vs. those that don’t, and is not about Ashkenazi minhagim vs. “foreign imports” at all.

        Yes, I am all for full disclosure — the more knowledge the better — and those Ashkenazim who say Hallel in shul on Pesach night or omit Tachanun until yesterday should know that it was originally a Sefaradi minhag. As long as it’s done with full knowledge, I don’t see the difference between that and Ashkenazim saying Shir haMaalos before bensching or saying Kabbolas Shabbos.

      • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

        Thanks.

        The customs in the list are of different levels. The ‘cheap custom cobbled together’ referred to some of the more questionable things coming out of Eretz Yisroel today, not things like saying Hallel Pesach night in Shul. However, the latter is also, from the point of view of Minhag Ashkenaz, an incorrect practice.

        Re the last point you make, there is a major difference between an Ashkenazi saying Hallel on Pesach night in Shul and saying Shir Hamaalos at a meal. The former is directly contradicting an ancestral minhog not to do so, while the latter isn’t. And the truth is, I wouldn’t say that Ashkenazim have to say Shir Hamaalos. It is widely done perhaps, but I am not aware that an official Ashkenazic Rabbinic decree was ever issued mandating it.😉

        This site is aimed at Ashkenazim, not at Sepharadim. If Sepharadim visit, I can’t stop them, but it is not aimed at them.

  5. Jon Baker Says:

    BTW, there has long been cross-pollination. Much of the structure of our davening has come from Bavel/EhM, e.g. saying the 3rd para. of Shma at night (see the Behag, which says that in EY they didn’t). Kaddish seems to have been a Bavli invention.

    The text of the Amidah is mostly Bavli – see Yechezkel Luger’s book on Geniza mss. of the davening to see what the old EY/Ashkenaz text was. Fragments of that text survive, in the fringes – duchening (she’otcha b’yirah naavod), Friday night (koney shamayim vaaretz).

    Much of that is historical – the old EY community was destroyed during the Crusades, and EY was repopulated by Sephardim from Bavel, so they brought their minhagim in. Much like the Pharisees – the Saducees and Essenes didn’t survive the churban bayis sheini, so we’re all descended from the Pharisees (Chaveirim/Chazal).

    The Sephardim took daily recitation of Hodu from us, as well as the fear of women touching the Torah, a custom which Acharonim have been trying to stamp out.

  6. Hillel Levin Says:

    What bothers me about this whole discussion is it is focusing on keeping divisons in Klal Yisroel. Rather then a focus on Ashkenazim and Sephardim which are adjectives and not focusing on the noun which is the ikar: Yehudim or Klal Yisroel.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Hi and thanks for stopping by.

      What nusach do you daven, if I may ask? Nusach achid? Whatever nusach you daven, you are perpetuating divisions in Klal Yisroel yourself, with all due respect. What do you propose as a solution? Create an Esperanto version of minhogim? I think it would be successful as the Esperanto language has been (not much).

      Hey, achdus is great, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up our holy ancestral minhogim. Achdus means getting along with people despite our different minhogim, rather than forcing people to give up such practices.

      Let’s see what happens when Moshiach comes iy”H (assuming he is wearing the right yarmulka/hat😉.

    • S. Says:

      In the spirit of accepting truth wherever it is found, the Koran says that “We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another.” I confess that I never could quite understand exactly what it’s trying to say, but I like the idea that heterogeneity is not a bad thing. There are many, many points of commonality between all ethnic communities of Jews. A little spice and flavor, the differences, are a good thing. Whenever I hear about attempts to override all the differences what I really hear is a campaign to wash away the flavor of the different communities.

  7. Yekkishe Bekishe Says:

    There is a major difference between scholarly criticism (which could also be called Lhachazir Hoatoro Lyoshnah) and bigotry. Calling a practice which has some Halachic source, albeit unfamiliar to you, is not a reason to call its practice scamming.

    BTW, are you aware that in Berlin an Oveil said the Kaddish after Krias Hhatorah on the weekdays if he received Shlishi? This is clearly written in the Minhogei Berlin printed in 1938.

    Are you also aware that many of the German Rishonim made a Brocho on Hallel by the Seder? In fact, a Brocho for hallel is printed in the Hagodas Maharal.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Hi and thanks for commenting.

      In response to what you wrote,

      1) People seem to be missing the point here. The word scam was used, because Sepharadic minhagim are being passed off as Ashkenazic ones. Plain and simple. Let us have some truth in labelling. I don’t think you like to buy things with phony labels, right?🙂

      2) I don’t recall that off the top of my head. But I don’t see the relevance of it here, since Berlin followed minhag Polin and not minhag Ashkenaz. Here we are talking about minhag Ashkenaz.

      3) I don’t recall that off the top of my head either. I am not on the level of say רבש”ה. Be that as it may, that is a separate discussion and is not the same as mandating a double recitation of Hallel on Pesach night by mandating something that was done in a limited way for some am haaratzim (e.g. unlearned and perhaps close to illiterate people in ancient times) for everyone today.

  8. Shifchat Olam Says:

    Does reciting Yedid Nefesh before Kabbalat Shabbat also count?

  9. Harold Zvi Says:

    I suggest adding the following 2 Minhagim to those shared by the Portuguese Nusach and that of the German Kehillot

    [a] The chanting of “Mizmor Shir Leyom Hashabbat ” while Gelilah is being done for Shabbat Mincha

    [b] The accompanying of the last 3 verses of Kaddish Titkabal with the chanting of “Kabel…” Yehi Shem…” and “Ezri meim Hashem…}

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Thanks for your comment. Perhaps you can post it under that post as well (or perhaps I will, if you don’t).

    • Rabbi Rallis Wiesenthal Says:

      Regarding the two minhogim you mentioned:

      Mizmor Shir L’Youm HaShabbos:The addition of מזמור שיר ליום השבת on שבת מנחה is a מנהג הספרדים advanced by the אבודרהם. It was commonly recited in Hamburg because of the many Portuguese Jews there. It was added by the Hamburg אשכנזים only after ר’ יעקב עמדין, the Rav of Hamburg incorporated it in his סידור. As mentioned before, it is strictly מנהג הספרדים.

      Kaddish Tiskabel “Kabel”, “Yehi”, “Ezri”: The פסוקים in the middle of קדיש are not mentioned by the ראשונים, but were added in the סידורים from the first printing onwards. The source for them is unclear, therefore, some are accustomed to say them, while others are not.

  10. YDL Says:

    Way to go TOA. Would like to add that the long יחדשהו was not accepted by the Chazon Ish – in Eretz Yisroel. Also, the earliest source of bowing toward the Torah (as far as I know) is a Tosefta – I believe in Shabbos… I am not sure that Jon Baker is correct in the assertion that the, “Bavli is the source of Sephardi and EhM minhag.” I refer you to R’ Hamburger’s introduction to the Miמhagim of Worms of R. Jousep Shamash where he discusses the exact breakdown in Ashkenaz between Talmid Bavli/Yerushalmi. To further understand why some outside Minhagim were accepted in Ashkenaz, if I recall, R’ Hamburger lays down some rules in SMA in his discussion of Tikun Leil Shavuos (in the context of Kabbalistic Minhagim).

  11. Danny Schoemann Says:

    I fully agree that one has to take a stand against behavior that is not Jewish and has no relationship to Halocho, and may even go against Halocho. Bonfires, trinkets, an obsession with graves, etc.

    But by fighting Minhogim that have a basis in Halocho – even though they go against one’s own Minhogim – may be an Issur of Machlokes… way more serious than adopting a local Minhag with a basis in Halocho.
    Halocho clearly states that each community should have ONE set of rules; insisting on being different is itself a violation of Halocho.

    How to decide whose Minhogim one follows cannot be done in a public setting; it needs the Rov and/or the shul board of directors to decide “behind the scenes” so as not to start a public Machlokes.

    • Treasures of Ashkenaz Says:

      Thanks for expressing your agreement, even if only partial.🙂

      Machlokes is indeed a very serious issue, which I am definitely cognizant of and take into account. I am not forcing anyone to visit or read this website. I am just sharing some Torah and information with the ציבור. Those that disagree are under no obligation to read it.😉 If people argue about something I wrote, that is their choice. Hopefully, any such thing would be a מחלוקת לשם שמים, an exchange of views with דרך ארץ, as in the gemara, ending with the disputants becoming friends, as Chazal say on the words את והב בסופה.

      “Halocho clearly states that each community should have ONE set of rules; insisting on being different is itself a violation of Halocho.”

      Not so simple. I would say that a great many Yidden today live in places which are in the category of שני בתי דינין בעיר אחת, in which case everyone does not have to conform. Is there only one Shul where you living with everyone davening the exact same way with the same minhogim? Somehow, I doubt it.

      When the רא”ש went to Spain and opened there a Yekke Yeshiva/community, was he doing something wrong? When he wrote his famous teshuvo about how he doesn’t accept the Spanish mesorah, but only the Ashkenaz one, was he doing something wrong? By the way, as the חתם סופר pointed out, the great בית יוסף himself, one of the foremost Sepharadic gedolim, brings this רא”ש in his writings with attacking it. I heard an explanation of this from רבש”ה שליט”א in which he said that it is like if a Rav from Europe came to America in the 1800’s and stated that the Yiddishkeit then and there was weak and not necessarily reliable. Should he be attacked for that? No, that was the fact at the time. The same thing in this case, there was a weakness in the Spanish mesorah compared to the Ashkenazic one, in the view of the גדולי אשכנז. And the רא”ש was (nevertheless) highly esteemed by our Sepharadic brethren. When he came to Spain, the רשב”א saw what great a man he was and arranged for him to become Rav of Toledo (Spain, not Ohio😉. And he had a great impact on Sepharadic practice and halocho. The Beis Yosef chose him as one of the three pillars of the Shulchan Aruch, upon which his legal decisions were based, along with the Rambam and the Rif.

      “How to decide whose Minhogim one follows cannot be done in a public setting; it needs the Rov and/or the shul board of directors to decide “behind the scenes” so as not to start a public Machlokes.”

      חז”ל say אין לך דבר היפה מן הצניעות, and of course, I don’t dispute that. גדול השלום. The aim here is just to raise certain issues and people can decide on their own if they agree. See the disclaimer on the top right of the home page. להגדיל תורה ולהאדירה.

      The fact is that there are serious problems in this area which haven’t been sufficiently addressed to date, and it was felt that a forum in which they could be brought to the attention of the public was in order.

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