If one has, for one reason or another, lost touch with his מנהג, his ancestral, family custom, and grew up with a different one for an extended period, but later becomes more aware and wants to return to the former, may he do so? After all, we prize tradition, מסורה, so much, and typically gaze with suspicion at changes.
Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l, מחבר of אגרות משה and world renowned poseik, addresses a variation of this question in a famous teshuvoh, in Igros Moshe on אורח חיים, ב:כד.
The question posed to him was if an Ashkenazic Jew, who came from a ‘nusach Sfard’ family, but grew up davening nusach Ashkenaz, was allowed to do so. After all, we are taught אל תטוש תורת אמך – not to forsake our traditional minhogim. So could such a change be countenanced?
Rav Moshe responded that he was allowed to adopt נוסח אשכנז, since, as an Ashkenazic Jew, by doing so he was really going back to his old mesorah, as the practice of some Ashkenazic Jews to daven ‘nusach Sfard’, was only a recent change innovated by the Chassidic movement (without a clear halachic basis that Rav Moshe was aware of), which was a departure from Ashkenazic tradition. So if this man wanted to go back to his pre-Chassidic familial tradition of davening nusach Ashkenaz, it wasn’t a deviation, but rather a return to his roots and authentic ancestral custom (minhog). He was not converting to a different, foreign minhog – rather he was reverting, going back to his old, family custom.
It seems, נראה לעניות דעתי, that this תשובה has broader implications than just the narrow case of nusach hatefilloh addressed. לכאורה the same principle should apply in general to cases of going back back to minhogim that were somehow lost over time, particularly, if an acceptable basis for departures from them is unclear, as in this case.
So, for example, let’s say a congregation wants to go back to the old minhog that only one person says kaddish at a time? Seems to be countenanced, based on this teshuvoh. If it wants to go back to singing LeDovid Boruch on Motzaei Shabbos? Ditto. To having the chazan say a special, long, melodious ברכו at certain special times? Ditto.
This lays the ground for some ideas I wish to write about, בעזרת השי”ת, and hope to post on soon.
P.S. Thanks to my friends and readers for granting me such a generous summer vacation ;-). One needs time to learn and think and reflect, to have, בעזרת השי”ת, worthwhile things to write about. Now that אלול has arrived and the new year is approaching, it is time to get back to work here.
It was and is encouraging to me to see the statistics of the many visits to this site, even during the summer vacation period, when there were no new posts for a long time. It shows that there is a great thirst and demand for ‘דבר ה in the areas of מנהג and מסורה discussed here. Thanks for your support, and may we continue to progress together.