Posts Tagged ‘Ashkenaz minhogim’

Toras Ashkenaz Online: Additional Important Works Now Available Free of Charge – תורת אשכנז על הרשת: שבעה ספרים נוספים לראיה והורדה בחנם

May 6, 2019

It is a pleasure to share the good news of the availability of a number of important works מבית מדרשו של מו”ר רבש”ה שליט”א, from the circle of Rav Hamburger, chaveirim, talmidim, and followers, online.

Firstly, the first six volumes of the highly esteemed journal ירושתנו, containing important Torah and research in various diverse areas and aspects of the heritage of יהדות אשכנז as well as כלל ישראל בכלל (h/t Friends of Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz), have recently been made available at the renowned website, to whom we owe a deep debt of gratitude.

Additionally, another interesting work, about a “Shabbos Chassunah”, שבת בריילפט – מנהגי ופיוטי שבת חתונה, in more detail חתונה שחופתה ביום ששי וסעודתה בליל שבת פיוטיה ומנהגיה by R. Noach Hofner, has also been posted at the same site, for a while.

Thanks to all involved in providing such treasures to the public.

Enjoy and be illuminated by the exquisite offerings.


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.

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

Spring Mesorah Challenges – מסורה בשבוע אחר פסח

May 5, 2016

We have just finished Pesach, a יום טוב in which our traditions are shared and passed on to children and descendants.

Right afterward, however, we are already confronted with some challenges which test if we have sufficiently internalized the importance of מסורה.

The very evening of מוצאי פסח, some people try to impress upon us their custom of greetings others then with the words “א גוטען זומער” (“a gutten zummer” – “a good summer”). But we know that summer does not start in the month of ניסן, not even in the end of the month. We know that חז”ל comment, referencing the words מוציא אסירים בכושרות – that Hashem took us out of מצרים in a nice month, without extreme weather (not summer or winter, for example), in a time that was conducive to journeying. We also know that חודש ניסן is called by the Torah חודש האביב, the month of spring. In פרשת נח we are told of six seasons of the year, two months for each. It is clear then that Nissan is not the summer. שמור את חודש האביב – watch the month of Nissan – don’t call it something it isn’t, such as summer.

Another example comes a short time later, as the first Shabbos after Pesach approaches. Some of the same circles then are promoting a custom of ‘schlissel challah’ (שליסעל חלה), a practice from outside of מסורת אשכנז that has been questioned on various grounds. While its proponents would like you to believe that “everyone is doing it”, actually, not only it is not part of the mesorah of great segments of כלל ישראל, such as יהדות אשכנז, אובערלאנד, ליטא, ספרד, תימן, וכו, it is not even universally practiced in their own Chasidic camp (for example, אוצר מנהגי חב”ד, p.253, reports that it is not minhag Lubavitch).

No one should be ‘stampeded’ into adopting such practices foreign to their mesorah, in the mistaken belief that ‘everyone is doing it’. Because it just ain’t so. “Everyone” is not doing it. A mythical “everyone” is not our פוסק anyway.

In שיר השירים, which we read on Pesach, we are given guidelines for how we should conduct ourselves. We are told צאי לך בעקבי הצאן – go in the footsteps of your holy ancestors. Our ancestors were not fools, ח”ו. If they did not follow these new practices, we should not either.

In the זכות of going in the ways of our holy מסורה, may we be זוכה to a strengthening and intensifying of our connection with the תורה הקדושה, as we are taught in Pirkei Avos that מסורת סייג לתורה.

א גוטען שבת און א גוטען חודש

Memories of Seder Night With Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l – זכרונות מליל הסדר עם רב שמעון שוואב זצ”ל

April 21, 2016

In an engaging and entertaining presentation last year, R. Yosef Chaim Schwab shlit”a, shared various tidbits from, להבחל”ח, his father Rav Shimon Schwab זצ”ל on Pesach seder night, with various other, related, interesting pieces thrown in for good measure.

Following are some nuggets from the talk (some of you may already be familiar with them, but for those who aren’t, as well as those who might enjoy a chazara, and additional details, we share it). Times in the recording are approximate.

There is a mitzvoh of והגדת לבנך (you should relate to your son about the Exodus) –  in America they changed it to והגדת לאביך (the child tells it to his father). The meaning of the Biblical הגדה is like a monologue, as opposed to a dialogue.

Why is there no ברכה of shehechiyanu recited on biur chametz? Answer given – it is not recited when something is destroyed.

Why is a kittel worn at the seder? (40:00)

Ma nishtana – why is the term rather not למה נשתנה instead, as typically used for questions?

Why is there no ma nishtana on other Yomim tovim, which have unique practices as well?

What Rav Schwab zt”l asked his son after he visited the zoo with his children (about zebra stripes) (18:30).

Why is there no ברכה of בא”י אמ”ה שעשה ניסים לאבותנו בימים ההם בזמן הזה on Pesach? That is what hagada is, as stated re why there is no הלל on Purim (one explanation given), because the megillah reading takes that role.

Why do some people dip four times during the seder, e.g. adding dipping the Koreich sandwich in charoses, as well as matza in salt, when in the מה נשתנה it says that we dip twice? Rav Schwab, and other respected authorities advocated strictly dipping two times only, so he felt should be done to be true to the הגדה and honest.

מעשה ברבי אליעזר, ורבי יהושע, ורבי אלעזר בן עזריה, ורבי עקיבא, ורבי  טרפון, וכו  – Why are these five in Bnei Brak singled out? There were many others doing so, having sedorim, were there not? These were descendants of groups that were not subjugated in mitzrayim, being e.g. Leviim, or in the case of Rabbi Akiva, a ben Gerim.

Meaning of the expression חוטפין את המצות – get to matzos/afikoman quickly – you can be מאריך later 22:35 app. The famous Rishon known as “The Mordechai” says that in olden days they ate first, and then said the הגדה, so the children would be around for the eating. Not to  be overly lengthy in saying the haggodoh before the meal(22:35.

Rav Schwab was opposed to the idea of (even) children (even) playfully “stealing” the afikoman (see here for more on that). That term should be avoided.

A vort from R. Shimon Schwab’s father about צפון (tzafun) (26:50).

Numerological  discussion re the numbers four, seven, and others.

The connection of modern human rights doctrine to יציאת מצרים.

R. Shimon Schwab’s father, החבר ר’ יהודה שוואב ז”ל, asked his five sons  (dubbed by some חמשה חומשי תורה) which one of four types of sons of the הגדה do you want to be? Four gave the same answer, but one son, the later ר’ מרדכי שוואב, differed. Hear why (44:55).

He (R. Shimon’s father) also said to them, I want you to know boys, I love you very much, but if you go against the Torah, I don’t want to know you (quite different from the “unconditional love” doctrine advocated by some educators today) (45:50).

חג כשר ושמח

The Disappearing Doctor of Iyyar: Virtual Vanishing of a Venerable Minhog – הרופא הנעדר של חודש אייר: מנהג ותיק בכתיבת שם ה’, שהולך ונתמעט

May 6, 2015

There is a popular vort that some people like to say over, especially around this time of the year, which interprets the letters of אייר, the month we are now in midst of, as standing for אני ה’ רופאך, I am Hashem your healer (‘doctor’). The aleph stands for אני, the two yuds for הקב”ה, and the ר for רופאך. The month is thereby depicted as a month of healing. The vort seemingly is based on an old minhog of many generations among Yidden, in which the letters י-י  (sans hyphen) are used to represent the venerated name of Hashem (in particular the שם הוי-ה), in place of the spelling out of it with the letters Yud-Kay-Vov-Kay (י, followed by ה, followed by ו, followed by ה).

Writing the Shem Hashem – background, past, and present practices

Jewish custom is that the Shem Hashem is treated with special respect. When people write, they do not write the Holy Name as it appears in a sefer Torah, for example. Rather they write ה’, ה’ יתברך, or similar. This was followed not only in private writing, but even in the printing of סידורים, where in the past, Shem Hashem was not written out explicitly, based on venerable, old practice. In other words, the spelling out of the letters, Yud – Kay – Vov – Kay in the past was done in Biblical texts, such as ספרי תורה וספרי נ”ך. In texts of תפלות, however, it was not done. Instead, Yud – Yud was substituted. The reason for this, was as part of the great veneration and respect Jews had for the great and awesome name. Just as people don’t enunciate it when they speak, rather they say instead ‘Hashem’ (the name), הקדוש ברוך הוא, etc., so too, they were careful not to spell out the name in writing as well. Recently, however, almost all נוסח אשכנז siddurim have abandoned this ancient practice (with the notable exception of some Yekke ones, whose circulation and numbers are quite limited at this time though) and started to write out the sheimos explicitly, with the letters ‘Yud – Kay – Vov – Kay’. It has gotten to the point, that one is hard pressed to find a siddur which follows that venerable minhog in many nusach Ashkenaz Shuls.

To better bring out the above, one can take a look at pages from a variety of נוסח אשכנז siddurim over the centuries, by clicking on the links below, thanks to

1. The kabbalistic סידור שער השמים of the famous Kabbalist, the של”ה, from approximately three hundred years ago, here.

2. The famous סידור בית יעקב (also strongly Kabbalah influenced), of the great Rav Yaakov Emden,  here.

3. A siddur from one of the גדולי ירושלים, ר’ זונדעל קרויזער, from a few short years ago, here.

Note the difference between how the Shem is written in the first two and how it is seen in the third.

Why should this be cause for wonder and concern, לעניות דעתי, as it seems from this vantage point?

For a number of reasons. If this was the minhog of the gedolim and masses of the past, how can people later, who are presumed to be on a lesser level, make such a change, on such a broad scale, to the extent that the old tradition is threatened with disappearance ח”ו? Do they think we know better than so many previous generations, and their leaders, the gedolim? How can such an old tradition be so easily abandoned? It should be stated that the question is more for people involved in putting together סידורים than the masses who daven from them, who are likely not aware of the issues involved, to be fair.

Kabbalistic siddurim have previously followed such a path, of printing out sheimos explicitly, and in Sepharadic/ Eidos Hamizrach siddurim one sees many varied sheimos spelled out. But the minhog among Ashkenazim was not so.

הרב יעקב לויפר, who wrote about this recently, feels that Kabbalistic influence is involved in the shift. He also mentions a responsum of Rav Moshe Sternbuch שליט”א, who/which advocates as much, as well as a claim that the Brisker Rav held so as well (which he states requires investigation), but feels that R. Sternbuch is in the minority.

It still surprises me, however, as this is not a small, minor matter, but a venerable old minhog that was kept for centuries.

The extent of the strength of the minhog can be seen from strongly worded declarations from very prominent Rabbonim in support of it over a century ago, which can be seen online, once again thanks to, two examples being

1) ר’ אלעזר הכהן, son in law of ר’ יעקב מליסא, the famed Nesivos Hamishpot (בעמח”ס נתיבות המשפט), wrote strongly about this inyan over a hundred years ago, with his message entitled אזהרה למדפיסים.


2) A few years later, a קונטרוס came out in support of the same, entitled הסכמות הרבנים, with statements of a group of renowned Rabbonim, including R. Chaim Berlin, and R. Eliyohu Boruch Kamai of Mir.

Rav Sternbuch, in his reponsum where he discusses the matter, from circa thirty years ago, states that most siddurim do not spell out the sheimos, but rather use י-י instead. But if that was true at that time, it definitely is not so now, as the tide has swung dramatically, to the point where I think the old minhag can be placed in our ‘endangered minhogim‘ category. The fact that it has reached such a situation, hopefully will spur people to give it more thought and consideration.

In the zechus of התבוננות in, and hopefully, at some point, החזרת עטרה ליושנה in this inyan, may we be zoche to אני ה’ רופאך, בב”א.

Note: (The info in the above is primarily based on an excellent מאמר in קובץ חצי גבורים פליטת סופרים ז, אלול התשע”ד by הרב יעקב לויפר, ירושלים, עמודים שמז-שסה)

Punctuality: Yekkes, Stereotypes, Minhag Ashkenaz, and Bein Adam Lachaveiro

June 21, 2012

One of the most common and prominent traits, as well as stereotypes, of Yekkishe Yidden (Jews from German lands), is related to punctuality. That they are/do things on time, and are not late. And that that is very important to them. There is, lehavdil, a similar stereotype about non-Jewish Germans (just like the being cold/reserved/unemotional stereotype is similarly shared). As Rav Dessler wrote in מכתב מאליהו (cited by  רבש”ה at the beginning of page three here), Jews in various places can share certain traits with, להבדיל, other residents of those locales.

Origins: Minhag Ashkenaz or Menschlichkeit? 

Let us stop a minute and think. Where does this association of Yekkishe Yidden and punctuality come from? Is it an ancient  minhag Ashkenaz to be exactly on time, from gedolei Ashkenaz of yore, such as the מהר”ם מרוטנברג, מרדכי, מהרי”ל? As far as I know they don’t mention any minhag or halocho about  carrying around a watch and making sure to be punctual to the minute. It appears to be of relatively recent origin, perhaps from the last few centuries or so, related to changes as the world modernized and new technology entered into lives.

It seems to be related to the spread of modern timepieces, especially personal ones, such as watches, among the populace.  As a  magazine issue on on the influence of inventions upon civilization stated over a century ago, before the general use of clocks and watches, punctuality, as it is now understood among business-men, could hardly have been reckoned as a duty. German areas were advanced technologically, so presumably they were early adopters of new timepiece technology and attendant punctuality.

Religious Aspects of Punctuality 

But there are religious aspects with regard to being on time as well. For example, if someone has a meeting, appointment, or chassunah scheduled, and it is not on time, and people are kept waiting unnecessarily, it would be seem to be a major issue בין אדם לחבירו, of ‘wasting’ people’s time. Okay, sometimes unexpected things come up which cause delays, but to wantonly waste other people’s time is a serious matter. I will not get into the related issues of  the importance of zemanim in halocho, such as zemanei kerias Shema, tefilloh, Shabbos and Yom tov, which are well known here, beyond saying that if people know the importance of being on time from them, they should  understand the importance of it in other cases as well.

If a wedding invitation, for example, says that the chupah will be at seven o’clock, how could it considered acceptable to actually have it one or two hours later, in good conscience? I realize that in some places people understand that such times are not to be taken literally, that they are לאו דווקא, loose, suggested, general ballpark figures, but 1) not everyone knows that, 2) even if they know it, they may not know if the ‘custom’ in that place is to be one hour late or two, and 3) there is another problem of writing a time which you know will not be adhered to, namely that of למדו לשונם דבר שקר.

So it seems that there are issues of wasting (or theft) of people’s time, as well as sheker. גנבה\גזילה along with שקר – sounds scary!

Not Just A Yekke Thing 

It should be noted that there are others who are known to be makpid on punctuality as well, such as some Litvaks (Telz being one prominent example), and Oberlander Yidden, among conscientious fine people from other groups as well.

מעשה רב – Lessons On Punctuality From מורנו הרב לוי יוסף ברייער זצ”ל, Rabbi Dr. Joseph Breuer z”l

In the recently released issue of ירושתנו, there are a number of stories in the great English section article by Rabbi Yaakov Lorch שליט”א on Rav Breuer z”l, relating to punctuality, which can help us see how a great Jewish leader, a גדול בישראל, dealt with it.

First, of course, let us mention perhaps his most famous teaching on the matter, namely, the famous statement that just like being late is not on time, being early is not considered on time either (cited on p.54 of the article, see there for more info).

Additionally, we learn the following –

1) “He ignored the clock when it came to learning”. He learned overtime, not stopping, even when the time for lunch arrived and was announced. So Torah was docheh punktlichkeit for lunch (p.42-3) (I assume he wasn’t too late, just that he didn’t feel obligated to stop on a dime, when he was in the middle of an important piece of learning לכאורה).

2) How he handled a talmid suspected of sleeping late and missing davening (p.30, top).

3) His criticism of lack of punctuality and general disorder at chassunahs (p.33, top).

4) His practice was not to be mesader kiddushin in Brooklyn, after an incident in which he got lost/delayed en route to a wedding there (p.71), and how embarrassed/uncomfortable he was when he walked in late then.

So we see that punctuality was very important to him. But he realized that it had to be combined with שכל and חכמה as well.

May we be zoche, in the זכות of our concern and improvement, בעזרת השי”ת, in the area of punctuality/punktlichkeit, to greet משיח צדקנו, soon, במהרה בימינו, אמן, without him being delayed any longer!

א גוטען שבת און א גוטען חודש

Crossover Hits – (Selected) Prominent Sepharadic Minhagim Practiced By Ashkenazim, Ashkenazic Minhogim Practiced By Sepharadim, and Minhogim Shared By Yekkes and Sepharadim

June 6, 2011

ערב שבועות התשס”א

ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר – כאיש אחד בלב אחד – חז”ל

Our concentration on and promotion of the holy heritage of Yahadus Ashkenaz here is important, but also has to be kept in proper perspective, lest it overshadow and obscure how much we share with other Yidden.

People should not get the wrong impression, as if Sepharadim and Ashkenazim are two nations or peoples, חס ושלום.  We are one nation, מי כעמך ישראל גוי אחד בארץ. I think a better way to look at it would be as if we are two שבטים, two constituent tribes of Klal Yisroel, with a sibling relationship to each other.  We have so much in common, as tends to be the case with siblings. Sometimes, however, the closer you are to someone else, the more differences are noted.  As you might see in your own family at times.

Of course we share the vast expanses of the תורה הקדושה and the תרי”ג מצות. But one should not think that later on, for example after the Talmudic and Gaonic periods, these two great segments of כלל ישראל  always traveled in divergent paths.

In shiurim when he was visiting the United States of America about a year and a half ago, Rav Hamburger spent some time discussing the sharing of minhogim between Ashkenazim and Sepharadim.

Three categories were delineated – A) Ashkenazic minhogim adopted by Sepharadim, B) Sepharadic minhogim adopted by Ashkenazim, and C)  Minhogim shared by Yekkes and Sepharadim.

I will share some of the examples from the first two categories now. Note however, that they are just a few prominent examples. There are others as well. Note as well that they are all from the last millenium, after the time of the גמרא and the גאונים.


1) The minhog to say מודה אני upon awakening in the morning. This is of Sepharadic origin, from R. Moshe ibn Machir, a sage who lived  in צפת with the אר”י ז”ל.

2) The minhog to say kapitlech of Tehillim at meals before ברכת המזון. The common form of this minhog is to say על נהרות בבל during the week, and שיר המעלות בשוב ה’ את שיבת ציון on Shabbos and Yom tov. This minhog is also from R. Moshe ibn Machir.

3) קבלת שבת – The order of  mizmorim with the pizmon of לכה דודי that came from צפת.

4) תיקון ליל שבועות והושענא רבה.

5) קדיש דרבנן – this relatively late form of kaddish is brought by the אבודרהם and the רמב”ם.


1) Answering ברוך הוא וברוך שמו when hearing ברכות. This is an old Ashkenazic minhog, from the חסידי אשכנז, promoted by the רא”ש.

2) Saying ויתן לך on מוצאי שבת.

3) Tashlich on ראש השנה. First mentioned in the מהרי”ל.

4) כפרות on ערב יום כיפור. Even though the מחבר (Beis Yosef) opposed it, other Sepharadic gedolim accepted it, and evidently it is widely practiced among Sepharadim today.

5) Moroccan Sepharadim have more Ashkenazic minhogim, due to the great influence of the רא”ש.


These minhogim seem to be of more ancient origin.

1) Children wear talleisim. All over. Wherever you go, wherever you go, if you go into a Litvishe Yeshiva and you see a בחור with a טלית, you know he is either a Sepharadi or a Yekke.

2) The חופה at a חתונה. The original chupah, which was widely prevalent in ancient days, was a טלית (meaning a tallis draped over the chosson and kallah, as opposed to the later Eastern European custom of a canopy over their heads held up by four poles). As per the ancient expression חופה אותה בטליתו. Chofeh means to cover. Sepharadim practice this ancient מנהג and Yekkes do as well.

3) תפילין with small בתים. The original type of batim, for both Yekkes and Sepharadim. Nowadays people go to ירושלים and get whatever the Yerushalmiyim give them. Enormous tefillin. But that wasn’t the old way. Both Yekkes and Sepharadim had small tefillin.

This is related to the question of the shiur for size of תפילין. The gemara does not give a shiur (size) for them. However, some ספרים from the גאונים give a size of שני אצבעות. Nowadays people explain שני אצבעות as being a minimal שיעור, a minimum size for the tefillin, so they therefore make them large. However, in the past there was an interpretation, and at least some ראשונים say so, that שני אצבעות was a maximal shiur, that tefillin should not be larger than that size.

4) Reading הפטרות from a ספר אפטרתא (a collection of הפטרות written בקדושה on a קלף). In the Litvishe Yeshivishe world they go by the Gaon’s idea of reading haftoros from ספרי נביאים on קלף. But this wasn’t the minhog for a long time before the גר”א. People (especially before the advent of the printing press) read from a sefer aftarta.

Nowadays we have a new reality, which did not exist in the past on this level. Due to modern advances in transportation and communication, and the movement of large populations in recent times, typical Sepharadim and Ashkenazim are much more exposed to each other, and each other’s ways of lives, than in previous generations. While that enables fruitful and friendly relationships between the two, it can also lead to homogenization and dimunition of distinctiveness, and waning of certain traditions. Let us hope that we can, בס”ד, successfully manage these new challenges and emerge a stronger people.

With best wishes for a גוט יום טוב, חג כשר ושמח!

18 vs. 26, 52, and 101 – Ashkenazi and Sepharadic ‘minhogim’ in צדקה – charity pledges

April 1, 2011

I heard an interesting thing on Nachum Segal’s ערב שבת JM in the AM radio program earlier today, app. seven and a half minutes before the end of the program.

He was hosting some Sepharadic guests, Rabbi Moshe Tessone and Nissim Contente.

Nachum remarked that while אשכנזי donors often donate in various multiples of חי (eighteen), among ספרדים (presumably not all of such a large and varied group, but I am not sure which sub-groups fit the bill. Anyone know?), other numbers are popular. It was explained that Sepharadim often pledge and give using the numbers of twenty six (Yud-Kay-Vov-Kay), fifty two, בגימטריא בן, which was said to be a סגולה לבנים, and one hundred and one (בגימטריא מיכאל, מלאך מיכאל).

You can hear the piece at

Anyone know more about this?

Synagogue poetry month – poetry readings in your local synagogue! The current state of piyyutim.

March 4, 2011

We are about to enter one of the high seasons of synagogue poetry, aka פיוטים.

No, your Shul wasn’t overrun by a group of artists and poets. It’s just that time of the year again.

Piyyutim season is here. The ארבע פרשיות – which feature the most widely recited piyyutim perhaps, at least outside the Yomim noraim, are almost upon us. I am not sure if Sepharadim say them too. Anyone know?

The state of piyyutim today seems to be poor, from my observations over the years (as the state of poetry in general today perhaps?). A negative attitude is widespread. But it wasn’t always that way. The great talmid of the נודע ביהודה, רב אלעזר פלעקעלס, author of responsa תשובה מאהבה, who was his successor in the rabbonus of Prague,  in a famous teshuvoh, at the beginning of his teshuvos, exclaims, בא וראה כמה חביבים הפיוטים בעיני רבותינו הקדושים הראשונים, come and see how beloved piyyutim are to the holy Rabbis of earlier generations. And he brings a whole list – Rashi, Tosefos, Rishonim….who talk and bring proofs from language of piyyutim to explain Torah. To explain a gemara. To explain a midrash. Piyyutim are handled like Chazal. So piyyutim are the holiest of the holy. Viata – and now – hachareishim – the deaf – haivrim – the blind – habitu – look – im harishonim bnei haElokim, baalei hoasufos, Rashi viTosefos, Ramban, Rashba.. he brings…they all ahovu vechibevu divrei hapiyyutim, they loved the words of the piyyutim, we can come now and criticize them?

How many still say them? How many understand them?

How many enjoy them? How many look forward to them?

Who says them?

Who omits them?

Who says them in a quality manner?

Some say them during chazoras haShatz, some after.

What can be done to improve the situation?

Simple things come to mind. Say them slowly, with no speeding.  Have a fitting shliach tzibbur leading them – one that understands them, and knows the nusach with which they are traditionally chanted.

I heard a very interesting shiur from רב בנימין שלמה המבורגר שליט”א on piyyutim (from which the תשובה מאהבה piece above came) a while back. One of the things he suggested to improve the situation was to have shiurim, explaining the piyyutim, before they are to be recited, as is brought by the son of the של”ה, רבי שבתי שעפטל הורוויץ, ווי העמודים, פרק י, who reports that he instituted in Frankfurt when he was אב”ד there that groups should study the meaning of תפלות, פיוטים, ויוצרות so they should know what are saying, be able to have proper kavonnoh and not just emit sounds like birds.

%d bloggers like this: