Archive for the ‘Ashkenaz Davening’ Category

Nusach Ashkenaz in the Center of Chasidic Davening: The Interesting Cases of Belz, Sanz, and Berdichev – נוסח אשכנז במרכז תפילות חסידים: נוסחאות בעלזא, צאנז, וברדיטשוב

September 20, 2018

As is well known, one of the major dividing lines between Chasidim and non-Chasidim, and a source of tension at times, is in the area of נוסח התפילה. While Chasidim (with some exceptions, as we have posted about in the past – see for example this post, as well as this post) overwhelmingly discarded the ancient נוסח אשכנז, adopting in its place a so-called “נוסח ספרד” or “נוסח אר”י”, those faithful to the holy מסורה of אשכנז emphatically rejected such change.

What is interesting and noteworthy, however, is that even among major Chasidic groups to the present day, there are major elements of nusach Ashkenaz still in use.

            Ashkenaz in the Nusach of Belzer Chasidim

The Chasidic group of Belz is one of the oldest (going back over two centuries) and largest Chasidic groups in the world, and has been a major force for a very long time. In Belz, the Shemoneh Esrei, the core of our tefillos, is basically a nusach Ashkenaz text (this can be personally witnessed by listening to חזרת הש”ץ at a Belzer minyan. For those not near one, a recent sefer from a Chasidic Rav in Europe, דברי פינחס, reports (top left), in the course of a responsum, “ומאחר שמנהג בעלזא עוד מימי כ”ק מרן השר שלום זצ”ל הוא להתפלל תפלת שמונה עשרה בנוסח אשכנז).

Historical Background

I had known of this phenomenon for some time, but lacked a full understanding of it. However, recently, I saw an explanation of the interesting background behind it. According to a recent release regarding the World of Belz website (paragraphs 8-10), way back in the early years of Belzer Chasidus, circa two centuries ago, the town of Belz was divided between the new Chasidim and the old townspeople that wanted to continue davening nusach Ashkenaz. They came up with a solution in which the Chasidim would lead the davening in the main Shul, however, certain parts of tefillah, including Shmoneh Esrei, the central part of our tefillah, would remain nusach Ashkenaz. The founding Belzer Rebbe himself, known as the Sar Shalom, approved of this arrangement (interestingly, a relatively recent encyclopedia article (first paragraph) described the first Belzer Rebbe, the שר שלום, as a Talmudist who maintained a close relationship with the non Hasidic Galician rabbinate of his time). So the story goes.

  Analysis

If this is all there is to this interesting phenomenon, however, one wonders why this arrangement has persisted for circa two centuries, long after the original principals to it passed on. It should have seemingly been just a temporary concession, an arrangement for a limited time (although perhaps Chasidim didn’t want to change what the first Rebbe did, and there were other people – non-Chasidim – who continued to daven nusach Ashkenaz in Galicia for many years, as even until the WWII period, there were significant numbers of people in Galicia, often in the large Shul of a town, that davened nusach Ashkenaz).

This leads one to suspect that there is more involved. Perhaps there is a recognition, a tacit admission by Chasidim, of the high level of nusach Ashkenaz, as well as persistent issues (textual and others) with Chasidic nusach Sfard.

Ashkenaz in the Nusach of Sanzer Chasidim

The fact that other important Chasidic groups with roots in Galicia also are said to have a nusach Ashkenaz, or mostly Ashkenaz, Shmoneh Esreh (the aforementioned דברי פינחס, mid-right column, states “בגליל צאנז ויתר מערב-גאליציא הי’ המנהג להתפלל שמונה עשרה רובו ככולו בנוסח אשכנז כמנהג קראקא), namely the large, important, and influential Sanzer Chasidim (e.g. the large groups of Sanz, Bobov, Klausenberg, and others), while they don’t seem to have such a story explaining why it is so, leads one to believe that they held that it was the nusach to use, and not just as a tactical concession.

Analysis 

Belzer and Sanzer Chasidim emphasize(d) traditional לימוד התורה, תורת הנגלה (as opposed to, for example, Kabbalistic study and practice for the masses, the המון עם) to a greater extent than some other Chasidic groups did. In Belz and Sanz the Rebbe was referred to as the Rav. He was someone who could pasken she’eilos in הלכה. They retained some אשכנז practices, as well as reverence for גדולי אשכנז, even those who opposed them strongly, such as the נודע ביהודה. Therefore they were not as rejectionist toward נוסח אשכנז as some other Chasidim.

Berdichev nusach

There is also a Chasidic nusach called nusach Berdichev, used by some, including members of the Bostoner Chasidus which is similar to the above. I don’t have much material on it at this time.

Conclusion

The adoption by the Chasidism of a new נוסח התפלה, in place of the traditional נוסח אשכנז, was apparently a later development in the movement, said to be from the time of the Maggid of Mezrich, rather than from R. Israel Baal Shem Tov, who is called its founder.

There is much difference of opinion and variation among Chasidim as to what the exact text of this nusach should be. Among many Chasidim, including very large and significant Chasidic groups, to this very day, important segments and elements of נוסח אשכנז surprisingly still persist, even at the heart of their תפילות.

א גוט געבענטשט יאהר און א גוט יום טוב

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Torah Blessings of Ashkenaz Explicated: Profundity, Brevity, & Simplicity – להבין ולהשכיל בברכות התורה נוסח אשכנז ובמסורת יהדות אשכנז בכלל

September 19, 2017

In ברכת התורה that individuals recite in the morning, there are a number of small variations in נוסחאות, particularly in the section beginning with the words והערב נא.

Two main differences in text between (historic, classic) נוסח אשכנז and נוסח ספרד are, with the latter having extra words in various spots (typically), as follows.

A) After praying that the words of Torah should be sweet in our mouths, we continue on to ask that our children, וצאצאינו, be Jews who are learned and know G-d as well. In נוסח ספרד this is extended even further to וצאצאי צאצאינו, our children’s children. Why is it done so? The explanation given (brought in the famed סידור עבודת ישראל) is based on a teaching of Chazal in the gemara, that whoever is a talmid chochom, his son is a talmid chochom, and his grandson is one as well, the Torah does not depart from them forever. Therefore the request is extended to that next level, to (seemingly) get a lock-in guarantee of Torah forever in the family.

In classical נוסח אשכנז, however, צאצאי צאצאינו are not mentioned (note: as in some other cases, over time, in some more recent allegedly nusach Ashkenaz siddurim the additional words do appear, in parentheses, or as part of the regular text. But those texts are not the ones that are most reliable with regard to exactness and fidelity in text. The classical, old nusach can be seen, fully, or partially, in various prayer books, of the modern era and earlier years. It is also maintained in siddurim that follow the text of the גר”א מווילנא).

How do we understand the omission in classic nusach Ashkenaz?

Firstly, since the text of the brocho in the gemara doesn’t mention it, it is not a problem for us to omit it. One can always daven for grandchildren in shmoneh esreih or elsewhere. Our first, or main focus is our children, as it says in the posuk ושננתם לבניך. In a typical case, a father teaches his son Torah, while his child handles the grandson. The brocho is based on such a scenario.

We are focused here on our basic short term daily obligation, as opposed to our family legacy. If we take care of the short term, אי”ה the long term will follow and fall into place just fine.

Others say that וצאצאינו means/includes all descendants, not just sons. Although that is disputed by some.

Other approaches could be to cite the teaching of בני בנים הרי הם כבנים (grandsons are like sons), and to say that grandchildren are included in וצאצאי עמך בית ישראל.

Interestingly, the Lubavitcher nusach with regard to this is in accordance with the classic Ashkenaz one.

B) The other difference is that in נוסח ספרד the word לשמה is added just before ברוך אתה ה’ המלמד תורה לעמו ישראל. Why? Presumably due to importance of proper intent in תורה ומצות.

So why does classic נוסח אשכנז omit it then? On a basic level, we can say that it is not in the gemara. Some also cite the famous Chazal that לעולם יעסוק אדם בתורה ובמצות אפילו שלא לשמה, שמתוך שלא לשמה בא לשמה. However, even if there is a place for שלא לשמה at times, it is not the highest, most desired, preferred level, and can lead to difficulties (ח”ו).

So how can we understand why לשמה is omitted then? לענ”ד a few explanations can be given.

  1. A plain, סתם, mention of learning is assumed to be one of spiritually healthy לשמה. It does not have to be mentioned, it is understood/assumed.
  2. As we just davened/requested that the words of Hashem’s Torah be sweetened in our mouths, in the following words we assume they were so rendered, thereby rendering subsequent Torah learning  לשמה (something sweet is sufficiently attractive without ulterior שלא לשמה motives). This could also be connected/related to the old debate as to what learning לשמה means. As famously expounded upon by Rav Chaim of Volozhin, לשמה means לשם תורה. So if the words Torah are sweet in someone’s mouth, he is presumably learning לשמה. On the other hand, others (for example Chassidim) maintain that לשמה means for דביקות. So for them having the Torah sweet in someone’s mouth doesn’t mean that לשמה would necessarily, ordinarily follow.
  3.  It says ונהיה אנחנו וכו’ כולנו יודעי שמך.  Now what does יודעי שמך (Knowers of Your Name) mean? לענ”ד it can/does signify an exalted spiritual level (e.g. אשגבהו כי ידע שמי, ויבטחו בך יודעי שמך, ןכן). If I recall correctly, R. Aryeh Kaplan understands it in a kabbalistic way, as being someone who is knowledgable in Divine name(s). If so, it might be presumed that someone who has attained such a high level is in the category of לומד לשמה.

Interestingly, it seems that the גירסא of the רוקח is just ונהיה אנחנו וצאצאינו יודעי שמך, without the words ולומדי תורתך following it. Which could be explained לענ”ד as above, that יודעי שמך is a high level of, כביכול, “knowing הקב”ה”, higher than just basic learning. So if someone is on the level of יודעי שמך already, he has already incorporated and passed beyond the basic level of לומדי תורתך, hence it does not need to be mentioned, and can even possibly be seen as out of order/sequence if it follows in the text. And even if it is mentioned, the word לשמה doesn’t need to be added.

In this case, as in other instances, classic נוסח אשכנז seems to generally shy away from adding words, preferring brevity over verbosity. As the expression goes, less is more.

In the זכות of adherence to the great מסורה of אשכנז, may we be zoche to its great תורה heritage.

כתיבה וחתימה טובה – א גוט געבענטשט יאהר

R. Israel Baal Shem Tov Davened Nusach Ashkenaz – ר’ ישראל בעל שם טוב התפלל נוסח אשכנז

May 28, 2017

On Shavuos is the yohrzeit of the founder of the Chasidic movement, R. Israel Baal Shem Tov.

It seems that there is significant evidence that he davened nusach Ashkenaz. A site devoted to him says as much.

See section ה. סידורי הבעש”ט, where the writer states וכידוע ומוכח שהבעש”ט הקדוש התפלל נוסח זה בלבד ולא שינה ממסורת אבות חסידי אשכנז (and as known, and is shown, that he davened that nusach alone and did not change from the tradition of his ancestors, the pious of Ashkenaz). Pretty strong words there (h/t).

There was an important, extensive article on this topic a few years ago by רב יש”י כהן in the קולמוס special Torah supplement of משפחה magazine, which can be seen here (at a Lubavitcher website – where, although some try to obfuscate things, the essential facts remain).

So for those of the Chasidic persuasion who want to follow in his footsteps, now you know what nusach to daven.

יה”ר שנזכה לקבלת התורה באמת ובפנימיות ע”פ המסורה הקדושה הישנה שלנו

How to Make Your Kedushah More Heavenly, Angelic, and Powerful – איך לעשות הקדושה בעוה”ז יותר כמו הקדושה של המלאכים בשמי מרום ויותר חזקה

December 1, 2016

                            A look at kedushah in davening

Kedushah is one of the most important, and prominent, parts of davening. So much so, that a typical regular Shul goer will say it  three times each standard weekday morning with his minyan: once in ברכות קריאת שמע, once in חזרת הש”ץ, and once before aleinu (קדושה דסידרא).

It should be noted, however, that the three קדושה recitations are not totally identical  and interchangeable.

The first one, in the ברכת יוצר אור, appears in a context of a more lengthy and more detailed description of the heavenly sphere, and how the angels there praise הקב”ה.

The second one, in the shliach tzibbur’s חזרת הש”ץ, is an attempt by us humans in actual angelic imitation, sanctifying Hashem’s name in this world, as it is done in the heavens above (as per the introductory words to it). To that end, not only do people say it standing, in the manner of מלאכים above (as opposed to the other two, which are typically said seated), but they also customarily recite it with legs and feet together as well, imitating the posture of the angels, as well as rocking up and down on their toes at certain points for the same reason.

The third one, is done by reading the פסוקים (verses) as given in תנ”ך, accompanied by their Aramaic targum (translation),  surrounded by a collection of other verses from various places.

The special status of the kedushah of the שמונה עשרה historically

We have shown so far that the קדושה דעמידה (standing kedushah during the repetition of שמונה עשרה), is special, and different than the other two recitations, being an exercise in actual angelic imitation.

Since it is already treated in such a special manner, it would be quite appropriate to elevate and strengthen it even more, if possible, within the bounds of our tradition, by extending the angelic imitation even further. In fact, if we look into the matter thoroughly,  we will learn that in ancient days (and to this day in part or full in some communities), the קדושה דעמידה was recited differently than the most commonly practiced way of the present.

How exactly was it done, you may ask? The answer is, that as opposed to the congregation saying the introductory segment of נקדש את שמך בעולם, וכו, in addition to the חזן leading the prayers, that segment (as well as other segments not being actual pesukim recited up above) was reserved for, and recited solely by, the שליח ציבור, with the congregation listening to it in absolute silence, in a hallowed hush that came over the assemblage. That extended hallowed hush, a thunderous speaking silence, brought an additional aura of heavenly holiness to the proceedings, cultivating the proper mood for the actual kedushah to shortly follow. Those that have merited to experience this very special and historic manner of saying kedushoh know what I mean.

In ancient times, that was the way of saying this kedushoh. Both in אשכנז and ספרד. In recent centuries, however, many people and congregations departed from it (often in a mistaken belief that they were following an alternate way of the Arizal), to the point where today, it is a practice followed only by a minority. But this venerable, meaningful, and powerful מנהג ותיקין is still practiced, known, and cherished, by connoisseurs of tefillah and old minhogim, and stands waiting, with ancient, venerable dignity for restoration to the position of common practice that it had in the past (as we discussed previously, based on a psak of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l).

      Some reasons for conducting קדושה דעמידה the ancient way:

1) The angels don’t give such introductions before saying this kedushah on high. So why should we, when claiming to imitate their practice, do so? (ר’ דוד אבודרהם , renowned Sepharadic ראשון).

2) Practical benefits of increased focus it brings to קדושה, with more power, and ancient aura added. For those who have never experienced it, try it sometime. It grows on you too.

To focus in on this a bit more, and elaborate on how it works, I am adding some analysis, as it seems from here, לעניות דעתי, based on a typical נוסח אשכנז weekday קדושה.

a) The introduction, נקדש, וכו, is, by far, the longest segment of the kedushah, at a length of 18 words. The other parts that are not pesukim, namely לעומתם ברוך יאמרו, and ובדברי קדשך כתוב לאמר are an additional 7 words. That computes to a total of 25 words for what we can call the instructional and explanatory segments.

b) The essence of the kedushah, on the other hand, the actual פסוקים, total just 21 words.

Those who make the tzibbur say both parts a and b, are having them recite forty six words. On the other hand, those who limit them to the pesukim only, give them just twenty one words to say. So the second way then, reduces by more than 50% the required recitation, enabling a better focus on the essence that remains. It is known that requiring people to say more words, can lead to increased speed, and a dimunition of kavannah. As stated in the first siman of שלחן ערוך אורח חיים, quality trumps quantity, טוב מעט בכוונה מהרבות בלא כוונה.  

3) Say the קדושה of the מלאכים the way the ראשונים כמלאכים said it. Experience the kedushah of the רא”ש, בעל הטורים, מהר”ם מרוטנברג, מהרי”ל, ריטב”א, רשב”א, רבינו יונה, וכו’, וכו

                       For further study and contemplation

For those who wish to learn more about this, the matter is discussed at greater length in the great שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק א (an updated and expanded version of the long out of print volume awaits sponsorship for publication at this time), as well as in the Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz English language synopsis volume.

כידוע למבינים, a slight bit of tweaking, of adjustment, can go a very long way, and bring a huge payoff in the form of greatly enhanced results. That goes for things like a car tune up, a Chanukah menorah, a cooking light, as well as with עבודה שבלב, and our קדושה recitation.

This beautiful minhog has been preserved through the centuries (in greater or lesser measure) by followers of מנהג אשכנז in German lands, as well as some others, for example people who follow מנהג הגר”א מווילנא. Hopefully those in this new seeking generation who are not yet familiar with it, will grant it the consideration and respect it so rightfully deserves.

 

יה”ר שבזכות החזרת עטרה ליושנה נזכה במהרה להחזרת השכינה בשלמות למקומה

א גוטען חודש

What Selichos Can Learn From Kinnos – מה שאמירת סליחות יכול ללמוד מאמירת קינות של ט’ אב

September 30, 2016

In recent years there has been a growing movement for מנינים on תשעה באב to have a learned person speak about קינות of the day, preceding each קינה with words of introduction and explanation. This helps make the kinnos more meaningful, by helping people better understand what is being said, as well as by slowing down the pace of the davening. In the past we have shared a proposal for treating פיוטים similarly.

In this time of the year, when סליחות are said, we might consider similar treatment for them as well. Kinnos and Selichos are actually alike, in that they are different types of piyyutim, complete with difficult language and esoteric allusions. So what is good for piyyutim and kinnos should be good for selichos as well. Just a relative few words of learned explanation (a good translation/elucidation text helps as well, of course)  can transform lip service, ח”ו, to serious, heartfelt davening.

יה”ר שבתפלה בכוונה ובהבנה נזכה לתשובה שלמה ולכתיבה וחתימה טובה

Arizal: Ashkenazim Should Follow The Way Of Ashkenaz – האריז”ל: אשכנזים ינהגו כמנהג אשכנז

August 9, 2016

Today, ה’ אב, is the 444th yohrzeit (יום השנה) of the renowned Arizal (מדת האר”י), one of the most influential figures in the Jewish world in recent centuries.

The Ari z”l was born to a Sepharadic mother and an Ashkenazic father. His father passed away when he was eight years old, however, and he grew up in a Sepharadic environment. To give some perspective timewise, he lived about two hundred years before the modern Chasidic movement of Eastern Europe, which views itself as connected to and influenced by him. One prominent way in which this relationship is seen, is with regard to נוסח התפלה, with almost all Chasidim having adopted a new nusach, referred to by some as nusach Sfard, and by others as nusach Ari.

Interestingly enough, however, the Arizal himself, hundreds of years ago, is recorded as having regularly stated that people should stick to their ancestral customs, and that Ashkenazim should stick to מנהג אשכנז.

That teaching of the אר”י is brought by the של”ה in sefer דרך חיים on the words איש על דגלו באותות לבית אבותם in במדבר ב:ב.

A good thing to know. The Arizal respected the way of Ashkenaz.

ובזכות הליכה בדרכי אבותינו ורבותינו הקדושים, יה”ר שנזכה לילך בפעמי אבותינו בארץ קדשנו, בדרך העולה בית א-ל, בנחמת ציון וירושלים בב”א

א גוטען חודש

How Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev Learned to Respect Nusach Ashkenaz -איך ר’ לוי יצחק מברדיטשוב למד להחשיב נוסח אשכנז

June 30, 2016

In various sources, an interesting story regarding the famed Chasidic leader R. Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev is related, related to nusach hatefilloh, along the following lines.

Some years after the petira of the famed Rav Zvi Hirsch (Horowitz) of Czortkov, Reb Levi Yitzchok spent a Shabbos there and prayed in the Shul where R. Zvi Hirsch used to daven. The shul’s minhog was to daven nusach Ashkenaz, as R. Zvi Hirsch did. Reb Levi Yitzchok nevertheless led the prayers in nusach Sfard, as was his wont. All of a sudden, he fell deeply asleep, and dreamed that Rav Zvi Hirsch was standing over him, rebuking him in a vein of ‘How did you dare change the local accepted nusach after I worked so hard to make a path to heaven for the tefillos thus said’?

Upon this scathing rebuke, Reb Levi Yitzchok ceased leading the prayers in nusach Sfard.

The story can be seen in English in the book “Mamma Used to Say: Pearls of Wisdom from the World of Yiddish“, on page eighty seven (at times it can be seen online in the book preview via the attached link).

It can also be seen in Hebrew here (top of page twenty eight).

Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev is one of the best known and loved Chasidic leaders of all time, a legendary and iconic figure. So this story is a מעשה רב, a story of a leader that is to be looked to for guidance by his followers. וממנו ילמדו אחרים וכן יעשו אי”ה, אכי”ר.

To our dear friends and supporters, א גוטען זומער!

Parah Piyyut Podcast Video: מבוא לפיוטי פרשת פרה

April 1, 2016

A short video has just been posted online about the piyutim for this Shabbos, Parashas Poroh.

Parah

It gives an introduction to some of the music and meaning involved, giving a nice flavor to the text and practice. Hopefully we will see additional, expanded such efforts in the future, to share the beauty of the practice of reciting the special piyutim with those not attuned to it yet.

א גוטען שבת

 

Poetic Justice: Piyyutim Get Some Overdue Attention – חיבורים חדשים רמי מעלה על פיוטים

March 3, 2016

Once again, we are at that time of the year, as winter winds down, just weeks from Purim ב”ה, the beginning of one of the high seasons of piyyutim in Shul. It is no secret that piyyutim are a ‘hard sell’ for numerous people, and that many have long abandoned them.

But there is yet hope. With a comprehensive, intelligent approach, that shows the wisdom and beauty within them to people, rather than trying to force feed them to the masses, inroads and advances can be, and are being made, in perpetuating their ancient, holy legacy.

In recent years there has been a profusion of new, improved siddurim issued. Piyyutim, however, have gotten a lot less attention. Understandable, on the one hand, after all, they are not the same as regular tefilloh, but nevertheless cause for concern if they didn’t yet get their fair share of attention perhaps.

In that vein, some recent publications featured at the מכון מורשת אשכנז website are a hopeful sign, specifically two works on piyyutim which have come out in the last half year or so, adorned with the blessings of מורנו הרב המבורגר שליט”א and others.

(Of course, there have been other fine works previously  issued on piyyutim in recent decades, but some were quite academic, of limited circulation, etc., great for the more scholarly among us, but not necessarily a perfect fit for the המון עם, the masses of daveners. And/or they may have focused on more widely recited parts of the poetic heritage we have, omitting other, lesser known, but still worthy segments. The fine new works of which we speak, attempt to fill gaps left in the past.)

The most recent new work in the category of which we speak, which includes piyutim for the special Shabbosos of the ‘ארבע פרשיות’, which we are about to start, בס”ד, is very new, ‘hot off the press’, as some might put it.

title page

With skillfull innovation, scholarly, but not overly weighty and tedious, features, introductions, and explanatory comments, it was put together as a machzor for the masses. It has already gotten some nice publicity, and is worth looking at. You can get a taste of it via the Machzor Shivchei Yeshurun website.

We wish the people involved in these initiatives ברכה והצלחה, and hope that they continue to progress מעלה מעלה with their worthwhile activities לטובת הציבור.

The Glory of Chanukahs Past and Present: A Chanukah Stroll Down Western European Jewish Memory Lane: Breuer’s and IGB Basel – הוד חנוכה של שנים קדמוניות בזמננו – קהל עדת ישורון וואשינגטאן הייטס, ביהכ”נ באסל

December 14, 2015

Just in time for זאת חנוכה (important correction: commenter D. has written to me that in מסורת אשכנז the last day of Chanukah is called חנוכת המזבח, rather than Zos Chanukah, and Rav Hamburger shlit”a commented that his point was very correct, and so it is in ספרי רבותינו הראשונים והאחרונים, so I stand corrected with regard to the terminology, שגיאות מי יבין….וה’ ירחם עלי), a commenter, Mendel, has alerted us to some fine, important newly posted videos, one of historical footage showing Chanukahs past in KAJ-Breuer’s, as well as one of a program focusing on IGB Basel on Chanukah in the past.

Viewing them, one gets a renewed appreciation, feeling, and yearning for the glory and majesty of the past, as seen in Western Ashkenaz type kehillos, and a renewed desire to help them continue enriching our lives.

We thank the poster for sharing these newly virtually available treasures with us, and invite our community of readers to view and enjoy them.

יישר כחו וחילו

א פרייליכען חנוכה