Posts Tagged ‘Arizal’

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.


  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.


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.


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.


Minhag Eretz Yisroel – What is it? Who is the mara de’asra in Eretz Yisroel? מיהו המרא דארעא קדישא?

March 11, 2011

Rafi, of the fine Life in Israel blog, recently reported about a very interesting case, related to a phenomenon of some Sepharadim adopting Ashkenazic practices. He mentioned the position of Chacham R. Ovadia Yosef shlit”a, that Rav Yosef Karo, aka מרן, Maran hamechaber of the שלחן ערוך, is the mara de’ara (halachic authority) in Eretz Yisroel.

I would like to share with you some thoughts that I heard in a talk by Rav Hamburger about this inyan, who discussed from a minhag Ashkenaz viewpoint, the inyan of מנהג ארץ ישראל, and also touched on the issue of מנהג ירושלים as well.

This is an edited rendering from my notes, not an exact transcription. I cannot guarantee every word, but I attempted to transmit the basic ideas properly.

I want to re-analyze what is מנהג ארץ ישראל. I am living in Eretz Yisroel over fifty years, I don’t know yet what is מנהג ארץ ישראל.

He goes on to describe a street in Bnei Brak. “… there are אפשר seven apartment houses of twelve apartments each and fifteen shuls. And each Shul is different. This is a Bukharan shul, this is a Yemenite, this is Sfardi,…this is the Kuzhmirer, this is the Spinker, and everything…” ……. two brands of Spinka…. now we’ve got three Vizhnitz in Bnei Brak….This is (a singular and unitary) מנהג ארץ ישראל?

He goes on to talk about מנהג ירושלים :

מנהג ירושלים, this is considered to be the epitome of מנהג ארץ ישראל. Rav Shlomo Zalman (Auerbach זצ”ל) told (a relation of his) that I have a kabboloh, from Rav Dovid Baharan, Rav Dovid Baharan was a poseik in Yerusholayim, az ‘oib einer vet kumen tzu eich un vet zogen dos iz minhag Yerusholayim, zolst vissen, er iz a ligener, veilst s’iz nisht doh kein מנהג ירושלים’ (there is no single [unitary] minhag Yerusholayim).

Farvos iz nit doh aza zach (Why not)? Who was the first Yerushalmi? …..דוד המלך. He conquered the place…….. His minhogim, besides saying Tehillim………I don’t know of from his minhogim a link to מנהג ירושלים.

After that, we have a more detailed account of minhog Yerusholayim, which is Talmud Yerushalmi. ..מנהג ירושלים. You can’t have much more ירושלים than the תלמוד ירושלמי. And after that, we have the Mustarbim, the old people that were left in Eretz Yisroel after the churban. You know what the Mustarbim are? I explained it yesterday to my audience. You have American Jews. You have Hungarian Jews. An Ingarishe Yid. A Deitche Yid. A Moroccaner Yid. You have, a Poylishe Yid. There was a term of ’Arabishe Yid’. An Arabishe Yid. In today’s terms it doesn’t sound politically correct……they used to call it, in (the) Middle East, in Arabic, must’arab. Musa is Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe Rabbeinu, Musa. Abu Musa. Musa Arab. Must’arab. So these are the old Eretz Yisroel’dike Yidden, which remained after the time of the churban. But they were am horatzim. Their minhogim were taken from (elsewhere, from) the Rambam. They took everything from the רמב”ם. Later on, the Beis Yosef, after the big exile of the Spanish Jews, they had the בית יוסף coming to צפת, and we had the אריז”ל coming to Tzefas. And from now on we have two trends. Some people go by the Beis Yosef and some people go by the Arizal. Look at Rav Ovadiah Yosef. He has such a struggle. ….. He goes by the בית יוסף, the others (among Sepharadim/Eidot Hamizrach) go by the אריז”ל……

And after that came a Yid, a Frankfurt’er Yid gradeh, של”ה הקדוש, he was the Rav of Frankfurt, and, he had his own minhogim. He accepted from the Sepharadim three or four minhogim which he counts in the beginning of his sefer, his siddur Shaarei shomayim. שערי שמים is a siddur which the Shelah composed in Eretz Yisroel because ארץ ישראל is shaar hashomayim. So the סדור של”ה is an Eretz Yisroel’dike siddur, and there he has got tefillin (wearing on) chol hamoed, he has got boruch Hashem leolam amein viamein, he has all these things. It didn’t occur to him that because it’s ארץ ישראל he has to do Sfard’ishe minhogim.

So what’s מנהג ארץ ישראל so far? We have Mustarbim, Arizal, Beis Yosef, and the Shelah.

…..Shpeter zenen gekumen (later came) תלמידי הבעל שם טוב…They didn’t do any of their minhogim (going by) the Sepharadim. Efsher here and there, but generally not ….The Baal hatanya, anyway, the בעל התניא took the Arizal as his model…..The Chassidim did not accept the Sfardishe minhogim. Okay, besides a few things that fitted… the חסידים and the ספרדים are not exactly identical in minhogim. Very far from it. And later on came, after them, came תלמידי הגר”א. They (generally) did what they liked, what fit what the Gaon did. So you have all kinds of walks of life, all kinds of communities.

(In more recent years) when people of Ashkenaz origin came to Eretz Yisroel, they have been told ‘this is minhog Eretz Yisroel’. (The minhog of the) פרושים…… (But) The (Vilna) Gaon himself was never in Eretz Yisroel. Why is he the master there then? Why not the Beis Yosef? Why not the Arizal? Why not the Mustarbim? Why not the Rambam? The רמב”ם is considered מרא דארעא דישראל by many people still. The Rambam was niftar here, he was brought here. The (Vilna) Gaon never came here. So there are many question marks, what’s minhog Eretz Yisroel. And limayseh, if you walk around, in ירושלים, in בני ברק, in every town, you find all walks of life (different eidos, kehillos, shitos)

עד כאן

So basically there are different shitos about who is the מרא דארעא קדישא.

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