Avraham Avinu was a Sepharadi? Who knew! – אברהם אבינו עליו השלום אכן היה ספרדי? מי ידע

In the past, we posted on the topic of Chassidim and Ashkenaz, exploring the complicated relationship between Chassidim, and Sepharadic and Ashkenazic ways.

Recently I saw an interesting report and video online, from a visit that a Chassidic Rebbe from the USA held with Chacham Rav Ovadia Yosef  שליט”א.

In the video, the Rebbe relates that his father stated that 1) Avrohom Avinu was a Sepharadi, as he came from Aram Naharayim, and that 2) he loves Sepharadim so much, that it must be, that in a previous גלגול (incarnation) he was a Sepharadi.

While I understand that the remarks should be taken with a grain of salt, realizing that they were uttered with poetic license (or should we say as מילתי דבדיחותא) , nevertheless, in accord with the aphorism that many a truth is said in jest, I believe that they reflect an attitude that exists among many Ashkenazim, particularly Chassidim in some respects, toward Sepharadim. In that way of thinking, Sepharadim are the pure, unadulterated, old fashioned Jews, while Ashkenazim are some Johnny come lately, distorted version of same. The problem is, of course, that such broad, sweeping generalizations and attitudes are quite problematic, for various reasons.

1) Avraham Avinu was not a Sepharadi! He never was in Sepharad (Spain). There is a difference between Sepharadim and pre and non Sepharadic Middle Eastern Jews (aka בני עדות המזרח), which is what Avrohom Avinu was. Sepharadim are Jews from Spain, ספרד, while bnei Edot Hamizrach are members of ancient Middle Eastern communities who may well have never even been near Spain. In fact, when Sepharadim entered some Middle Eastern communities following the expulsion from Spain, they clashed with the local pre-existing, non Sepharadic communities, with regard to different minhagim and so on.

2) The romanticizing of Sepharadim. The grass is not always greener on the other side. Nowadays we have a phenomenon of masses of Sepharadim clamoring to enter Ashkenazic institutions of Torah learning, which they believe to be superior (though they are not always so, I’m afraid). And at the same time, Ashkenazim romanticizing the Sepharadim and their derech. It is quite humorous and ironic.

3) One wonders why people who think so highly of Sepharadim and their ways does not join them. Should they not change their pronunciation and minhagim to align with Sepharadi ways, if that is what they believe?

4) If Avraham Avinu was a Sepharadi, since he was from ארם נהרים, does that mean that יצחק אבינו, יעקב אבינו, and so on, were Ashkenazim because they came from ארץ ישראל?

נלענ”ד that statements like ‘Avraham Avinu was a Sepharadi’ belong in the same category as the Chassidic children’s books that depict Moshe Rabbeinu attired in a shtreimel and bekishe.

By way of contrast, showing how a great gadol took a different tack, openly expressing strong pride in his Ashkenazi background, I am reminded of the famous statement of הודאה with regard to his roots penned by Rav Yaakov Emden, in his sefer מור וקציעה, אורח חיים נג, where he states על כן שמח לבי ואודה ה’ בכל לבי שעשאני יהודי אשכנזי בניבי (therefore my heart is glad, and I praise Hashem with all my heart that he made me an Ashkenazic Jew in my pronunciation). I think that kind of attitude is historically in accord with the mesorah of Ashkenazic Jewry.

P.S. The above was about what the Rebbe said re Sepharadim. If you want to look at the other side of the coin and see what Rav Ovadia thinks/holds of the Rebbe’s and other Ashkenazic pronunciations, one can hear his words clearly in a video online. Quite different. Rav Ovadia states his view openly, that the Ashkenazic way is wrong. It gives a good view of the other side of the coin here.

If Rav Ovadia can make such statements, why do some think it is inappropriate for Ashkenazim to revel and rejoice in their great mesorah? צע”ג לענ”ד

והאמת והשלום אהבו

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