Posts Tagged ‘Mesorah’

Law & Order on Pesach Night: Dealing With The Afikoman – האם יש מקום לגניבת אפיקומן בליל הסדר?

April 16, 2019

A well known custom some people have at the Seder is that a youngster takes the Afikoman in the beginning of the proceedings after it is set aside, and then, later in the evening, when the time comes to bring out and eat that portion of matzah, negotiates its return with the Seder leader in exchange for some type of consideration.

The question is, however, if such practice is proper. Even though it is usually understood by most people as some type of game played with the kids, nevertheless, for various reasons, including the fact that some people refer to it as “stealing the Afikoman”, and stealing is viewed with abhorrence in the Torah, it has been the subject of strong rabbinic opposition by various great Torah leaders.

Recently, breuers2gether posted a synopsis of a shiur on the topic given last year by Rav Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger שליט”א. As usual, רבש”ה presents a masterful survey of the practice and Rabbinic attitudes toward it through generations.

He shows us that an array of גדולי ישראל opposed, or did not accept the practice. Included in this group are giants like the Chavos Yair, Rav Yaakov Emden, the Chasam Sofer, the Chazon Ish, the Steipler Gaon, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Shimon Schwab, and the Erlauer Rav/Rebbe (Rav Yochanan Sofer) זכר צדיקים לברכה. Additionally, he notes that a long list of Chasidic Rebbes did not allow it at their own seders.

It is true that some rabbis were more tolerant (some such are mentioned in this recent talk), and offered some creative ex post facto explanations for it. Since special means of keeping children engaged at the seder is an ancient tradition, some viewed it in that vein. However, there are other ways of keeping children involved, as taught by Rabbis over many generations.

As the custom is a relatively late arrival on the Jewish scene, and due to various objections raised with it, people may want to re-examine and rethink it, ע”פ דעת תורה. The idea is not to be a scrooge though. One could and should give special gifts to children לכבוד יום טוב in other ways.

Certainly, in the old country kids didn’t hold up the seder for the latest electronic game.

In the זכות of זהירות in ישרות, and proper practice of our great heritage, may we be zoche to גאולה שלמה במהרה בימינו, אמן.

בברכת חג כשר ושמח


All Ye Into The Melting Pot! Melting Pot Minhogim vs. Minhag Avos – Minhogim Fads vs. Mesorah

June 17, 2011

In the Western world in recent decades (e.g. in the USA, Western Europe, and Australia), the melting pot model, encouraging the assimilation of immigrants into the dominant white culture, formerly the prevailing approach, has been dropped (a similar thing has happened in Eretz Yisroel, to a degree). In it’s place, a more enlightened approach of cultural pluralism was adopted. People of different backgrounds could still (or were even encouraged to) maintain their culture, language, links to homeland, etc.

But from what I am reading and hearing from some people, it seems that some frum Jews still adhere to the melting pot assimilationist model. They seem to believe that we all must go into a melting pot with regard to מנהגים. Everyone must accept the new frum commandments of upsherin and the like. After all, it is a מצוה דאורייתא of ערלה, right 😉 ? And חס ושלום that you refrain from dancing around a bonfire on ל”ג בעומר. How can anyone have the חוצפה to do such a thing, after all? What are you anyway? Some type of killjoy?

These assimilationists use euphemisms like ‘development of minhogim’. ‘Minhogim have always changed’, they claim. So how dare you insist on keeping the commandment of אל תטוש תורת אמך, sticking to the Ashkenazic minhogim of your מסורה, and resisting the latest fads, whether from ארץ ישראל, a Chassidic group, or elsewhere? After all, the grass is greener there, you know. Their מנהגים must surely be better than the ones of your father, right? So you better change and assimilate. You must accept all the fads that come along. Get with the program! Point your finger at the sefer Torah during hagbah, say Hallel on Pesach night in Shul in addition to your old way of saying it just during the seder at home, stop wearing tefillin on Chol Hamoed, give your son an upsherin even if you, your father, and grandfather didn’t….. You must conform and jump into the new frum melting pot, ASAP!  Don’t waste a minute!

Is this what ‘frumkeit’ has come to today?

Well, I, for one, am not going along with this new, PC (politically correct) ‘frumkeit’. I am not jumping into the melting pot to join all the latest fads. Nope. Mesorah is more important to me. I am not giving up my Ashkenazic מסורה, just because someone may think it is old fashioned.

Enough of this phony PC frumkeit already. Vive la difference!

The Hidden Costs Of The Shtiebel On Your Block – Davening in a Shul of a different minhog than your own – Is it a good idea?

May 1, 2011

לילך לשטיבעל סמוך לבית או להעדיף להדר ולהתפלל במקום שמתפללים בו כאבותי, אפילו בריחוק מקום מה? שאלה מעניינת

An issue that we sometimes hear about these days involves parents complaining that their children have adopted a different religious path than the one they were raised in. For example, Modern Orthodox parents may complain that their children have become Haredi. Balabatish/Torah Im Derech Eretz (TIDE)  type parents may complain about children learning in Kollel. Non Chassidim may complain about children joining a Chassidic group, and Chassidim may complain if their children leave the Chassidic path and join another frum category. And so on.

An oft heard response to the above involves shifting the blame to the parents. For example, telling them, hey, if you didn’t want your son/daughter to become like that/join this other frum group, why did you send them to an institution where the faculty is of that group and teaches that their way is the proper way to live?

The above issues have been much discussed elsewhere and this website was not created to repeat what others have already covered.

However, I wish to point out that this issue has a counterpart in the area of מנהגים as well.

People daven in various venues. Shuls, Botei midrash, Yeshivos, shtiebels…..Sometimes people choose the places where they daven based primarily on the nature and quality of the Torah and tefilloh offered. Other times, however, factors such as how close the venue is to your house loom large in the calculations. Or how you get along with the people. Or if the place has a good kiddush.

Now these decisions are not necessarily simple. There are various factors involved. But I do wonder when people give too much weight to geographic proximity, and don’t go the proverbial extra mile to find a minyan that is a better fit for them and their ancestral minhog. Many people seem to feel that, hey, what is the difference if the Shul has a different minhag/nusach? I can daven my own nusach privately anyway. I can have a siddur of my own nusach for that. Maybe the minyan even provides such siddurim.

But what these people may not realize, is that by doing so, their own proficiency in their personal מנהג will erode over time. We know that people are influenced by their surroundings. The nusach they were raised with can start to mix and merge with the one around them in their mind, forming a new creation that is neither one or the other, נישט אהין און נישט אהער, neither here nor there. This phenomenon is sometimes on display when such people go to the amud.

Also, as a friend of mine, let’s call him Reb Yisroel, mentioned to me, if people daven in a minyan of a different nusach/minhag than their own, even if the father retains his knowledge of the different tradition that he was raised in, if his children grow up in the ‘other’ minhog environment, they will not have the deep rooted background in their ancestral custom the way their father has, and at times, that can even lead to them ultimately leaving that minhog altogether, and assimilating into the ‘new’ minhog they grew up hearing around them during davening. I have heard of such cases.

I realize that life is complex and that there might be other factors that outweigh the minhog/nusach angle. But to ignore it and leave it out of the deliberations? Wrong and foolish, if you ask me.

To clarify, I am focusing more on sustained long term exposure here, which has a greater effect than short term, rare, and ad hoc experiences, which are not as dangerous.

על פי הלכה, an argument can be made for this as well, it seems to me. אל תטוש תורת אמך is interpreted by our tradition as an exhortation not to leave one’s מנהגים. If someone places themselves into a situation where their connection to ancestral tradition will be endangered, even if only gradually and long term, and that of their children to it even more so, is there not a halachic issue? And even if someone would dispute that, would they not at least concede that it would be at least a הידור מצוה for someone to daven in a place that follows their ancestral minhog? And we live in a time when people seek הידורים and חומרות, right? So why not this one too? A הידור in תפלה. Gevaldig!

Do we need an explicit פסק הלכה that one should or must travel extra, as in the case of getting water for נטילת ידים, or finding a מנין, to get to a minyan of one’s own tradition, to make people aware that this should be an area of concern? Is convenience everything? Are you willing to accept erosion of your connection to your personal mesorah, your family heritage, just because some shtiebel opened up near your house, to save yourself a little bit of walking? And if someone says, hey, there is no Shul according to my מנהג near me anyway………well, maybe you should start one then!

So walk the extra mile for your מנהג אבות. It will be both physically and spiritually healthy for you, and you will rack up the miles in sechar halicha/שכר פסיעות!

שבוע טוב – גוט וואך

P.S. I hope the Association of Shtiebel Owners and Operators (ASOO) doesn’t get too angry at this post, but hey, I think the issue needs to be raised! 😉

Update : In further contemplating this question, other scenarios come to mind as well.

E.g. a person can say, it is a מצוה to help the new shtiebel. Have רחמנות on the Rav/Rebbe. Help a fellow Yid. Maybe he needs a פרנסה. Maybe he needs a tenth man (and a ninth, and an eighth, and a seventh..) to make his minyan. And then you, the nice guy who likes to help people, are gradually roped in. But at what cost? Short term it may be seem innocuous and even admirable. But long term? You are going to be exposed to customs that are not your own and that exposure can have a significant effect on you and your family, heritage and future generations.

If the shtiebel does not have a constituency of it’s own in the location, to the extent that it has to recruit others from different עדות and מנהגים to survive, does it really belong there? Perhaps it really belongs in a different location. How about all Shtiebel owners having a comprehensive market survey of a location to ascertain that they have a constituency, before moving in? Yes, I know that I am a dreamer. 😉

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