Archive for the ‘Nusach Ashkenaz’ 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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The Lion of Ashkenaz: The Arizal You Didn’t Know – הארי של אשכנז: האריז”ל שלא הכרת

July 17, 2018

Today, ה’ אב, is the yahrzeit of one of the great figures of Jewish history, the אר”י ז”ל, Rav Yitzchok Luria. Although almost four and a half centuries have passed since The Ari passed away as a relatively young man, only in his late thirties, he still is very much alive in terms of his influence on the Jewish world.

To a great extent, as Rav Hamburger שליט”א writes in the recently released fifth volume of שרשי מנהג אשכנז, the Arizal was a riddle, a mystery, during his lifetime, as well as after his passing, to the present day.

Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to get a better understanding of this major figure in Jewish history from what is available to us, כפי שידינו מגעת, and to, בעזרת השי”ת, dispel some of the confusion about him that is quite prevalent among many today.

To that end, a significant section (p. 246-320) in the new sefer, entitled האריז”ל, שורשיו באשכנז ושאלת התפילין, (see p. 20-21 here) is devoted to in depth exploration and analysis of the Arizal from an Ashkenazic perspective.

Contrary to the conception many people seem to have, thinking of the Arizal as a Sepharadic Kabbalist or as Chasidic, Arizal was an Ashkenazic Jew. Let us explore a bit his Ashkenazic identity, practices, and attitude.

Identity

  1. He is referred to over and over again, by his contemporaries, as the אשכנזי רבי יצחק. It was not just a name, an inherited surname (his family name was Luria) from previous generations, as we are familiar with today. Rather it was a description of the man. Although his Ashkenazic father passed away when he was just eight years old, his mother was from a different background, he didn’t live in the main areas of settlement of אשכנז, and lived among many ספרדים, he still retained this strong אשכנזי identity. The moniker אר”י, by which he is known, stands for אשכנזי רבי יצחק.

Practice

2. He davened in an Ashkenazic Shul in Tzefas at key times of the Jewish year, on ימים טובים such as the ימים נוראים and רגלים, as well as at other times, and darshened there as well (while he davened in a Sepharadic shul at other times, e.g. on regular weekdays, as he desired to recite the additional mizmorim, bakashos, and vidui recited there). Source: שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק ה citing קסת יהונתן, דף ה עמוד א (right column, ד”ה גם). Rav Chaim Vital, his talmid, mentions a number of times the מחזור אשכנז that the Arizal used on ימים נוראים.

Attitude

Arizal and Mesoras Ashkenaz: Opponent or Proponent?

3.  Contrary to what many people might think, The Arizal did not renounce or repudiate his Ashkenazic roots, and did not tell his fellow אשכנזים to change their נוסח or מנהגים. On the contrary, he encouraged them to stick with their ancestral minhogim. Here are some words about this from הרב הגדול ר’ יוסף פיאמיטא מאנקונא ז”ל in the ספר פחד יצחק (top of page)

שמעולם האר”י הקדוש לא שלח יד במנהגי הקהלות….והיה מניח לישראל במנהג אבותיהם והיה מזהירם שלא לשנות מנהגם כי היה אומר על כל מנהג יש מלאך ממונה וחלון ברקיע לקבל אותן התפילות וכ”כ בכוונות האר”י 

Free partial translation: The Holy Ari  never touched the customs of the congregations…he would have them continue with the customs of their fathers and warn not to change them….

It is quite possible, or even likely perhaps, based on the above and other material brought in the new sefer, that he davened נוסח אשכנז for the main parts of his davening, and maybe even wore tefillin on Chol Hamoed.

In the zechus of following the מנהגים הקדושים of our ancestors, may we be זוכה to נחמת ציון וירושלים בב”א.

Note: We already wrote a bit about the Arizal in this vein two years ago, but now that a great amount of new information on the topic has come out via the new volume of Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz, it was felt appropriate and worthwhile to revisit and expand upon it. The above is just a limited taste of the great amount of material on this and other related topics in the new sefer. Those interested to learn more are directed there.

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

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!

Oberlander Ashkenaz Rebbe: Rav Yochanan Schreiber-Sofer of Erlau zt”l – אדמו”ר נוסח אשכנז-אוברלנד: רב יוחנן סופר מערלוי זצ”ל

February 26, 2016

We wrote in the past about a Polish Rebbe that davened nusach Ashkenaz, but that was some time ago. In recent days the frum press has been writing about another “Rebbe” who davened nusach Ashkenaz as well, along with his kehillah. We are writing, of course, about אדמו”ר מערלוי, ר’ יוחנן סופר זצ”ל, who was niftar just a few days ago.  The Erlau (or Erloi) Rebbe, R. Sofer, like R. Shmuel Wosner zt”l, who’s lesser known Ashkenaz side was discussed here a while back, was actually from, and part of, the Oberlander Hungarian nusach Ashkenaz community, which is not so well known to outsiders, and is often confused with other groups.

For R. Sofer, this background, being a descendant of the great Chasam Sofer, towering iconic leader of Hungarian Jewry, particularly the Oberlander segment of it (after moving to Oberland from Germany), was very important, and he worked hard to make sure it continued. עד כדי כך, that not only did he issue many seforim of Torah from משפחת החתם סופר זצ”ל,  his kehillah faithfully kept the nusach hatefillah of the Chasam Sofer and Oberland, נוסח אשכנז. Even more so, Erlau even wears tefillin for morning davening on חול המועד openly, בפרהסיא, in ירושלים עיה”ק at their בית מדרש, as per their ancestral minhog (as is done in a number of other congregations in ארץ ישראל as well, contrary to popular belief). No gartel either. Interestingly, many people considered him a Chasidic Rebbe nevertheless, despite such ‘infractions’.

May the zechus of clinging to the מסורה of Oberland stand in his merit, and may his descendants and talmidim continue in that special path.

 

Rav Shmuel Wosner zt”l, Oberlander Titan: His Ashkenaz side – הרב שמואל וואזנער זצ”ל: הגאון האבערלאנדר מוויען ויחסו למסורת אשכנז

April 29, 2015

A few weeks ago, Rav Shmuel Wosner, בעהמ”ח שבט הלוי, passed away, after more than a century בעוה”ז.

Many of the reports, commentaries, and eulogies (הספדים) that followed described him outright, or gave the impression, that he was a Chasidic leader. While it is true that Rav Wosner had close connections with the Chasidic world (as well as with the Litvish world, and other frum groups), the reality is actually somewhat different, and more complex.

For those that are not aware, to set the record straight, wearing a shtreimel does not necessarily a Chasid make (cf Rav Elyashiv zt”l). In reality, Rav Wosner was an Oberlander (Austro-Hungarian empire Ashkenaz) Yid from Vienna, aka א וויענער, who davened נוסח אשכנז. Having nusach Ashkenaz as one’s personal נוסח התפלה, and being Chasidic, do not typically go together. While it is clear that Rav Wosner adopted some Chasidic practices, the fact that he davened nusach Ashkenaz speaks volumes, and indicates that he retained his core Oberlander identity.

A few months ago, רבש”ה שליט”א spoke at a gathering for a new MMA affiliated minyan in ירושלים , and, in the course of his remarks, related some interactions with various gedolim over the years, with regard to Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz related activities, small excerpts of which re R. Wosner follow. He stated that Rav Wosner was most supportive and helpful, relating that when MMA opened its first shul in Bnei Brak, a week before Rosh Hashanah 5752, Rav Wosner said ‘this is a great זכות for the ימים נוראים, not just for you, but for all of כלל ישראל, that you are returning these minhogim to Klal Yisroel’…..Over the years he always encouraged us….After he encouraged us to open a Shul that says פיוטים and מערבות, he then began to say them in his own shul, which is נוסח ספרד, as well. He began to say במה מדליקין in his shul, and he says all the piyutim in the tefillah, even when the tzibur isn’t saying it. In the last year he even stopped the תקיעות in the ‘shtille shmoneh esreh’ (תפלת מוסף בלחש) on ראש השנה…I owe Rav Wosner a lot, because he gave us a lot of support.

May the memory of רב וואזנער זצ”ל be for a blessing, and hopefully there will be, of his many followers, admirers, and descendants, those that continue on in his ways of following the traditions of Oberlander Yiddishkeit, including davening nusach Ashkenaz.

יהי זכרו ברוך

Updates: Hespedim for Rav Wosner with maspidim wearing a טלית גדול, have been held in multiple locations: See e.g. LucerneParis (Strasbourg Rav שליט”א being maspid in tallis)London Satmar.

Comprehensive reports on the yichus of Rav Wosner זצ”ל.

Avinu Malkeinu, A Closer Look: Customs & Insights – תפלת אבינו מלכנו: מנהגים וביאורים

September 13, 2013

One of the tefillos that especially colors and characterizes this time of the year is אבינו מלכנו. Though its basis is ancient, based on a gemara, it was further developed as time went on, and divergent customs developed around it in some places. As with tefillos in general, it is highly recommended to learn more about it, to make your prayer more meaningful, and hopefully more effective, and to leave rote prayer behind (hopefully).

The renowned siddur Avodas Yisroel, as is its wont, sheds significant light on the prayer. It informs us that the amount of supplications starting with Avinu Malkeinu therein varies greatly between Sepharadic, Ashkenaz, and Polish versions, from 29, to 38, to 44, respectively, with a total of 53 different versions existing. In addition, there is a difference in sequence between nuschaos as well. One difference in sequence which caught my attention in particular, is that while in nusach Polin (Eastern European), אבינו מלכנו החזירנו בתשובה שלמה לפניך, asking Hashem to bring us back in complete repentance before Him, follows lines such as א”מ סלח ומחל לכל עונותינו, א”מ מחה והעבר פשעינו וחטאתינו מנגד עיניך, א”מ מחוק ברחמיך הרבים כל שטרי חובותינו, in nusach Ashkenaz it precedes them. That seems to have significant logic on its side, as at the least, praying, yearning, and striving for repentance (hopefully followed by actual repentance), should lead the way, rather than asking for an outright, unequivocal pardon from above first (although it is true that part of repentance, the admission of sin, was already addressed by the first line, אבינו מלכנו חטאנו לפניך).

Another difference in אבינו מלכנו between nusach Ashkenaz and nusach Polin, is that nusach Ashkenaz says it during aseres yemei teshuvoh, but not on a regular calendar taanis tzibbur in other parts of the year, while nusach Polin, in a relatively recent development, does. Update: I looked at a Sepharadic siddur and it seems to be the same as Nusach/Minhag Ashkenaz here, meaning that Avinu Malkeinu is not routinely recited during a regular taanis tzibbur outside Aseres yemei teshuvoh.

May we be zoche, in the zechus of עיון תפלה, analysis and delving into our prayers, which we are taught (as said in tefillas Shacharis) is one of the things שאדם אוכל פירותיהן בעולם הזה והקרן קיימת לו לעולם הבא (sounds like a great investment!), to more meaningful and spiritual davening, תשובה שלמה, and a שנה טובה.

Thanks to all for their support.

חתימה טובה

Will That Be Life Or Good Life? Understanding the Ashkenazic Kaddish – A Guide For The Perplexed חיים או חיים טובים? להבין נוסח הקדיש של האשכנזים

October 10, 2011
Why No Request For ‘Good Life’ in Our Kaddish?
Some aspects of the נוסח אשכנז kaddish seem to baffle certain people, especially outsiders who’s conception of קדיש is influenced by the נוסח ספרד version. Bewildered, they are at a loss to understand what seems to them the strange behavior of the Ashkenazic faithful, who still adhere to that ancient, holy rite, stubbornly refusing to change.
For example, they wonder why, toward the end of kaddish, their nusach is the ‘plain vanilla’ יהא שלמה רבה מן שמיא וחיים עלינו ועל כל ישראל, rather than the longer יהא שלמה רבה מן שמיא וחיים טובים עלינו ועל כל ישראל.

What is wrong with you guys, they think (though not usually voicing such thoughts aloud in polite company)? No request for חיים טובים from הקב”ה? Why not? Don’t you want a good life? Doesn’t everyone?

Understanding And Maintaining The Special Nature Of Kaddish

Actually, however, the Ashkenazic קדיש, in addition to preserving ancient nusach, also preserves the ancient view of kaddish associated with it, in a more pure manner. Here’s how.

Let us first remember what the idea of kaddish is and what kind of prayer it is. Is it like the שמונה עשרה, where we ask הקב”ה for personal needs (in designated parts of the tefilloh)? Or is it like other types of davening, such as praise, thanksgiving, exalting Hashem…. where personal petitionary prayer is not allowed?

The answer is that it is a prayer focused on the greatness of Hashem, praising the great name of הקב”ה. It is not a prayer to ask for needs such as פרנסה, רפואה, וכו. There are other places in davening designated for such requests.

So therefore, we can say that in the Ashkenazic view, the place to ask for chaim tovim, ‘a good life’, is דווקא, specifically, not in the kaddish, and therefore it is excluded. On the other hand, basic life is needed in order to praise הקב”ה, as it is stated, לא המתים יהללו קה, so that is acceptable there.

(As an aside, there are also issues regarding word and letter counts in our prayers being symbolic and corresponding to various things, as we have mentioned in the past, that need to be considered when contemplating our holy traditions.)

The special nature of kaddish is also reflected in its name and its designation as a דבר שבקדושה. Kaddish is not, to use the לשון of the Zohar, a prayer of הב הב, of personal requests, for a so to speak shopping list to ask of Hashem.

If people start adding requests to the kaddish, they can end up where the Sepharadic kaddish is, where the text for that segment reads יהא שלמא רבה מן שמיא, חיים, ושבע, וישועה, ונחמה,ושיזבא, ורפואה, וגאולה, וסליחה, וכפרה, ורוח, והצלה, לנו ולכל עמו ישראל, ואמרו אמן, twenty two words, as opposed to the twelve in nusach Ashkenaz, almost double the length!

Further Insight From Our ימים נוראים Tefillos
רבש”ה called to my attention (and generously shared with me some of his many resources on the inyan, from which I cite below) that additional insight on this matter, re chaim vs. chaim tovim, can be garnered from discussions surrounding some special additions to our tefilloh that we recite during the high holiday season, at the beginning of each year.

There are special insertions in the שמונה עשרה then, from the time of the גאונים. Let us focus on the first one, זכרנו לחיים מלך חפץ בחיים וכתבנו בספר החיים למענך אלקים חיים. We ask that הקב”ה remember us for life. Not good life. Just plain life. Even ardent nusach Sfard advocates here just request חיים, and not חיים טובים.

Various explanations are given for this.

The ערוגת הבשם explains that it is understood that we want חיים טובים when we make such a בקשה. That is the default, ideal form of chaim.

רבינו תם explains that הקב”ה gives then בעין יפה. We need only ask for plain חיים.

In the view of the mussar master R. Isaac Sher of Slabodka, we are asking for life סתם. Life in general. There are many types of life, with a great variety of conditions and challenges. Life is precious. Even if it is not what people may think of as ‘good life’. All types of life give us opportunities to serve Hashem and live fulfillingly. Life with significant challenges, that wouldn’t be generally viewed by the masses as ‘good life’, can also be very meaningful. It is not our place to demand from הקב”ה that we have only a certain type of ‘good life’.

May we be zoche to great and meaningful and holy life. שנת חיים ושלום to this virtual Ashkenazic community.

A גוט יום טוב, מועדים לשמחה, און א גוט יאהר!


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