Posts Tagged ‘Nusach Ashkenaz’

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.

 

The Mysterious, Elusive, Elongated, Melodious Borechu – On The Trail Of A Lost Ancient Tradition – הברכו הארוך – חיפוש מנהג אבוד

September 19, 2011

RAMPING UP THE POWER OF OUR דברים שבקדושה – A TREASURES OF ASHKENAZ THREE POINT PLAN TO TURBOCHARGE OUR תפלה בציבור AS WE APPROACH THE NEW YEAR – בס”ד – התשע”ב – 5772

Our תפלה בציבור is comprised of various components. One very important part is the recitation of things classified as דברים שבקדושה, which we are taught require a מנין (quorum) to be said. In this category are ברכו, קדיש, וקדושה. In this series of posts, we share some ideas to strengthen and make more meaningful these parts of davening, בעזרת השי”ת, based on the ancient holy wisdom and practices of our ancestors.

PART ONE – ברכו את ה’ המבורך

To start, let us turn our attention to ברכו.

BACKGROUND

ברכו את ה’ המבורך –  just four words – and another five, adding up to nine, if you count the response of ברוך ה’ המברך לעולם ועד. Yet these words pack a lot of power into them, and therefore have a special status in הלכה.

Perhaps because this utterance, the call to bless הקדוש ברוך הוא, at the beginning of davening/a section of davening/reading the Torah, is so short, and can be mistreated by running through it so fast that it is barely noticed (as we unfortunately see happening at times), with people not given sufficient time to focus on it, and not given the attention it deserves, there is an ancient מנהג to elongate the ברכו and extend its recitation.

DECLINE OF THE מנהג IN THE MODERN ERA

However, nowadays, this minhog has been lost for the most part, in most places, outside of the precincts where מנהג אשכנז is practiced. Though interestingly, it is not only a minhag Ashkenaz, it has a place among (at least some) Sepharadim as well (כמבואר בספר כתר שם טוב). Despite it being featured in ‘mainstream’ halachic literature studied far and wide, where it talks of being מאריך בברכו, to have a special extended ברכו chanted by the חזן, especially at certain times, מוצאי שבת being a prominent example, nevertheless, surprisingly, for most people this minhog nowadays is such an enigma, such a mystery, to the extent that people can even be baffled by references to it.

A VESTIGE REMAINS, EVEN WHERE OTHERWISE LOST

ראש השנה and the ימים נוראים are approaching, where, for most of us, the last remnants of this old minhog resides. One of the most distinctive and beloved features of that time of the year is the special, elongated Borechu, with a special melody, that is used on those evenings. That beloved High Holiday Borechu is part of this general minhog.

FOR FURTHER STUDY

There is a very comprehensive discussion of this inyan in שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק א, p.195-213, and I have been informed by רבש”ה that there will be important additions on the subject in the iy”H forthcoming new edition of the long out of print volume (anyone who would like to have the zechus of lending a hand to this important work, feel free to step up…). Those who want more info on it are directed there.

A TIME TO RESTORE?

Perhaps it is time to consider bringing it back in places where it has been lost, beyond the ימים נוראים. Or are people nowadays too busy to spare the extra few seconds? 😉

SAMPLES TO SAVOR

While you contemplate that suggestion, you can listen to a few clips of special, elongated Borechus from various special times, as chanted by the חזן of קהל עדת ישורון in ירושלים עיה”ק, ר’ מיכאל פרידמאן שליט”א, to get an idea what they can sound like, and to see how they enhance the ברכו experience.

Enjoy!

ברכו for a ‘regular’ Friday night.

ברכו on Friday night for a שבת where two ספרי תורה are read from in the morning.

ברכו for a regular motzaei Shabbos (this clip contains an extended והוא רחום as well)

In the zechus of being מאריך in ברכו, we should be zoche that the אריכות of our גלות comes to an end soon, אמן, כן יהי רצון לפני השי”ת.

P.S. I realize that I neglected to mention a related and associated minhog to this one, namely, the saying of יתברך וישתבח… while the חזן is being מאריך in ברכו. That is also discussed extensively and comprehensively in the aforementioned section of שרשי מנהג אשכנז. It is interesting that it is still printed in siddurim today alongside ברכו despite the fact that almost nobody seems to say it, at least in most Shuls! There are grounds for the extended, elongated ברכו even without the ציבור saying it concurrently, but it definitely is related and relevant to this discussion.

Reverting vs. Converting – The Halachic Basis For Returning To Lost Minhogim – להחזיר עטרה ליושנה בעניני מנהגים – הבסיס ההלכתי

September 13, 2011

If one has, for one reason or another, lost touch with his מנהג, his ancestral, family custom, and grew up with a different one for an extended period, but later becomes more aware and wants to return to the former, may he do so? After all, we prize tradition, מסורה, so much, and typically gaze with suspicion at changes.

Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l, מחבר of אגרות משה and world renowned poseik, addresses a variation of this question in a famous teshuvoh, in Igros Moshe on אורח חיים, ב:כד.

The question posed to him was if an Ashkenazic Jew, who came from a ‘nusach Sfard’ family, but grew up davening nusach Ashkenaz, was allowed to do so. After all, we are taught אל תטוש תורת אמך – not to forsake our traditional minhogim. So could such a change be countenanced?

Rav Moshe responded that he was allowed to adopt נוסח אשכנז, since, as an Ashkenazic Jew, by doing so he was really going back to his old mesorah, as the practice of some Ashkenazic Jews to daven ‘nusach Sfard’, was only a recent change innovated by the Chassidic movement (without a clear halachic basis that Rav Moshe was aware of), which was a departure from Ashkenazic tradition. So if this man wanted to go back to his pre-Chassidic familial tradition of davening nusach Ashkenaz, it wasn’t a deviation, but rather a return to his roots and authentic ancestral custom (minhog). He was not converting to a different, foreign minhog – rather he was reverting, going back to his old, family custom.

It seems, נראה לעניות דעתי, that this תשובה has broader implications than just the narrow case of nusach hatefilloh addressed. לכאורה the same principle should apply in general to cases of going back back to minhogim that were somehow lost over time, particularly, if an acceptable basis for departures from them is unclear, as in this case.

So, for example, let’s say a congregation wants to go back to the old minhog that only one person says kaddish at a time? Seems to be countenanced, based on this teshuvoh. If it wants to go back to singing LeDovid Boruch on Motzaei Shabbos? Ditto. To having the chazan say a special, long, melodious ברכו at certain special times? Ditto.

This lays the ground for some ideas I wish to write about, בעזרת השי”ת, and hope to post on soon.

P.S. Thanks to my friends and readers for granting me such a generous summer vacation ;-). One needs time to learn and think and reflect, to have, בעזרת השי”ת, worthwhile things to write about. Now that אלול has arrived and the new year is approaching, it is time to get back to work here.

It was and is encouraging to me to see the statistics of the many visits to this site, even during the summer vacation period, when there were no new posts for a long time. It shows that there is a great thirst and demand for ‘דבר ה in the areas of מנהג and מסורה discussed here. Thanks for your support, and may we continue to progress together.

Omer? Laomer? Baomer? Shehayom? Sefiras Haomer Misconceptions Debunked and Nusach Demystified – עומר? לעומר? בעומר? שהיום? מהו הנוסח האמיתי של ספירת העומר

May 6, 2011

(a rendering based on a shiur by Rav Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger שליט”א at Torah Way)

What is common to טו בשבט, עשרה בטבת, שבעה עשר בתמוז, ול”ג בעומר?

Answer – The date. The way the date for all these, including תשעה באב, is rendered. As ‘be’ – be-Av, be-Shevat, not li-Shevat. Lag  ba-omer, not la-omer.

NOT A SIMPLE ASHKENAZ-SEPHARAD VARIATION, AS MAY SEEM ON THE SURFACE

Some time ago a gentleman from Antwerp asked me, why do the Ashkenaz (German Ashkenaz) siddurim have, not lag ba-omer, seemingly ‘everybody’ has that, but hayom yom sheini לעומר? It should be בעומר (seemingly), as we see from the expression ל”ג בעומר, which ‘everybody’ uses.

I have here two identical siddurim which I found here in this בית מדרש, absolutely identical, at least externally, and they are so different. One is labelled Sefard and the other Ashkenaz. I opened the Ashkenaz siddur, and found hayom yom echad בעומר.  I opened the Sephard siddur and found hayom yom echad לעומר. So this seems to be the big difference between the BESHT and Vilna Gaon….old Ashkenaz and the Sephardim. That Ashkenaz says בעומר and Sepharad לעומר.

But it really isn’t. It has nothing to do with those old mesoras at all. So he, this gentleman, comes up with a point, that there is a problem with those people that say la’omer, because they say la-omer, even though they call the thirty-third day lag ba-omer. That is a contradiction.

And why, he asked me, why do you Yekkes also say la’omer, like the Chassidim?

EXAMINING THE NUSCHAOS OF THE RISHONIM

So let’s investigate and see if this expression, which is so dear to us, lag ba’omer…..let us see if this is an ancient expression (to say בעומר) and if it is common or accepted all over the Jewish world in the past.

So I opened a few seforim, of the olden times, from various countries around the world. A sort of United Nations of seforim from different areas.

1) I open ספר האורה דבי רש”י, a sefer written in the beis medrash of Rashi, תלמידי רש”י wrote it, a French sefer from some nine hundred years ago. So he, that sefer, says, כד הוו שבעה יומי, when it comes to the seventh day, אומר היום שבעה ימים לעומר. He’s not Chassidish, and he’s not Litvish, he’s French, and he says לעומר.

2) Now we go to the south of France, which is called Provence, which is a different mesorah, it’s closer to the Spanish mesorah…..

What do they have? ספר המנהיג, not nine hundred years ago, only eight hundred years ago, but still, old. מנהג בצרפת ובפרובינצא לכנוס מל”ג לעומר ואילך וזהו ל”ג לעומר. He calls it lag la’omer. He doesn’t know Hebrew? He doesn’t know that we call it lag ba’omer? No, he doesn’t. He calls it lag la-omer.

3) Let’s move on, we went in the South, let’s go over to Italy. שבלי הלקט. That’s even younger, only seven hundred fifty years ago. ברכת העומר זו היא, this is the brocho of birkas haomer. ברוך אתה ה’ אמ”ה אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על ספירת העומר. היום לעומר יום אחד

La’omer. Again in trouble.

4) Okay, let’s proceed around southern Europe and we go to Spain, we have a very, very powerful representative, the רשב”א, in a teshuvah. What does he say? לאמר היום עשרה ימים לעומר. And again, in a different teshuvoh, שאלת בברכת ספירת העומר….היום כך וכך לעומר.

5) And, even in northern Africa, the ריב”ש – he says, חג השבועות ידוע ליום חמישים לעומר.

And I can go on and on counting all kinds of other ראשונים who give it clearly as la-omer. So, the Chassidim are not necessarily wrong, nor are the Yekkes. I’m not saying that the Litvakes are wrong, חס ושלום. We’ll soon see.

THE SOURCE FOR BA-OMER

6) Ba’omer we find in the minhogim of Rav Isaac Tirnau, which was written some six hundred fifty years ago. He says מברכים מעומד אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על ספירת העומר…..היום יום אחד בעומר . That’s why the Hungarians, Austrians, Austro-Hungarians say it that way. Ba’omer. With a beis. But he himself, this mechaber, sometimes has it with a beis, sometimes he has with a lamed. In his hagohos (מח) he tells a story in the course of which he states כ”ד לעומר היה מילה…. He doesn’t call it ba’omer. So that is slightly inconsistent. Because probably in his time they were not so מקפיד if you’re saying baomer or laomer.

OLD WAY OF COUNTING WITHOUT MENTIONING OMER AFTER THE BROCHO AT ALL

As we saw already, not only the ספירה is counted by most ראשונים with a lamed, also the day of of Lag Ba’omer is being called so by the vast majority, as ל”ג לעומר. But I want to tell you that there is something very interesting about this. Hardly any of these ראשונים, or none of them, almost none of them had the nusach of counting in the exact form we have it in now. Nowadays, we say for example, היום שלשה עשר יום שהם שבוע אחד וששה ימים לעומר. That’s how we say it. Or בעומר. Sephardim would say היום שלשה עשר יום שהם שבוע אחד לעומר וששה ימים. But they all drop in the word לעומר. La’omer, ba’omer. We drop it in, into the counting, not just in the ברכה. In the brocho obviously we say בא”י אמ”ה אק”ב וצונו על ספירת העומר. But we repeat and we mention the word עומר again in the counting. Although logically it’s not necessary, because I’m saying now (in the brocho) I am going to now count the Omer. Then when I go on to do the actual counting, fifteen, sixteen…. I don’t have to re-explain what I have done, what the numbers of days are related to.

After having said that, we understand why, in the very strong representatives of the Rishonim, we don’t find the word עומר at all (in the actual counting). Let’s look at some illustrations of this.

1) The ראבי”ה, one of the giants of אשכנז, eight hundred years ago – הכי מברך על ספירת העומר – שהיום שבוע אחד ויום אחד.

2) The אור זרוע, same period – הכי מברך על ספירת העומר שהם שבוע אחד ויום אחד. No la’omer (or ba’omer) in the counting.

3) The טור, what does he say? ביום שמונה יאמר היום שמונה ימים שהם שבוע אחד ויום אחד. Silence. There’s no ‘omer’.

4) The מהרי”ל. The great authority on minhogei Ashkenaz – מברך עמהם בקול רם בא”י אמ”ה אק”ב וצונו על ספירת העומר שהיום יום אחד. That’s it. No la’omer.

5) לקט יושר – the talmid of the תרומת הדשן records his minhogim. This Austrian sefer says אומר ספירת העומר – היום שבעה ימים שהם שבוע אחד.

6) ספר האגור – An Italian sefer, Ashkenazi Italian. The same thing – מברך ….היום יום אחד עד שמגיע לשבעה ימים ואומר היום שבעה ימים שהם שבוע אחד. And again, ביום שמונה יאמר היום שמונה ימים שהם שבוע אחד ויום אחד. There’s no difference between Sefardim and Ashkenazim here –  the word omer is not mentioned in the counting at all. No la’omer, no ba’omer. נישט קיין ליטוואק, נישט קיין חסיד. Gornisht mit gornisht. נישט קיין שטריימעל, נישט קיין פראק, there’s nothing there, nothing to argue about. There is no word עומר in the text of the counting.

WHY PEOPLE STARTED INCORPORATING THE WORD עומר IN THE ACTUAL COUNTING

So where does this word come in, in our way of counting today? I’m sure if one of us in our days would count and leave out the word עומר, (people would think) you have to repeat the sefirah, avader, you didn’t say it properly, you were משנה ממטבע שטבעו חכמים, after all, the chachomim were mesakein this nusach, right? But no, it was not set down originally in that exact form. So how did it come to us? Where? Who’s responsible for it? It spread to Klal Yisroel. ספרדים say it this way, in the middle of the sefirah, אשכנזים at the end, then they start arguing if it’s לעומר or בעומר. Who’s responsible for all this?

One great man, which we mentioned before, he is called רב שלמה בן אדרת, the רשב”א. He is the father of it. What does he say? He has the following short teshuvoh (תשובות הרשב”א, סימן תנ”ז), and he says – שאלת בברכת ספירת העומר, you asked me regarding the brocho of sefiras ha’omer, if one has to say היום כך וכך לעומר or just היום כך וכך, without the word לעומר. Some Spanish Jew turned to the Rashba and asked him should we add la’omer or not? תשובה – הכל אחד – it doesn’t make any difference. It’s all right. Whatever you do is right. אבל יותר ראוי לומר כך וכך לעומר, כדי לבאר יותר – it is more fitting to say la’omer, to make it even more clear. Clarity – that is the point of רשב”א. The sefirah is there. Counting is there. But clarity is there only if you add omer, so says the Rashba.

Now this רשב”א seems to have become accepted. We find רבינו ירוחם, who lived outside Spain, in Provence, a generation later, he brings – it’s not quite clear if he attributes it to the אשכול or he says his own words – but he says וצריך לאדכורי עומר במנין. And you have to, tzorich…….. It’s not like the רשב”א, who says whatever you do is all right, but it’s more clear to say la’omer. He says tzorich, one has to. And then on the seventh day he says היום שבעה ימים לעומר שהם שבוע אחד. That’s the Sefardishe nusach that we mentioned before. What’s the sevara? He says אם לא נזכיר לעומר לא נראה שנספרים מהעומר כמו שנראה כשמזכירים אותו. He says it doesn’t seem so much as if you’re counting the omer, it’s not on the same level as when you mention la’omer. Coming back to the same sevara of רשב”א, but makes it a bit stronger.

What is the final halocho in this? Let’s have a look in the משנה ברורה. The Mishna Berurah says לרוב פוסקים הנוסח לעומר, מיהו עיקר הדבר הזה אינו אלא לכתחלה וכדי לבאר שהוא מונה מיום שהקריבו את העומר והלאה ואם לא אמר אלא היום כך וכך נמי יצא. The משנה ברורה says that if a Yid nebach mir האט פארגעסען, he forgot, גארניט געשען, biseder. True, the רשב”א, רבינו ירוחם and others say what they say, but מעיקר הדין this is kosher as well. Now I want to come back to the subject of which is more correct, if we already count according to the recommendation of the רשב”א, that we want to have clarity. What makes it more clear, la’omer or ba’omer? That’s a big discussion. A velt’s (world) מחלוקת. As we saw, most ראשונים have it (as) לעומר. But we can find others we say בעומר. Where does this argument come into our life and why does it have nothing to do with Chassidim and Misnagdim?

THE ט”ז COMES OUT IN FAVOR OF בעומר

There is a ט”ז, he is perhaps the very first one to make a big issue if it’s ba’omer or la’omer. The Taz says, referring to the wording in the printed שולחן ערוך which he had in front of him, it says in Shulchan Oruch, hayom yom echad ba’omer and it’s put in  parentheses, בעומר. It’s not clear what the real נוסח is, but he saw in front of him, in his Shulchan Aruch, בעומר with a beis. And he’s very happy about it. He says yes, כן מנהגינו, to say ba’omer, his minhog, of the Taz, in Lublin, was to say בעומר. Ah, but he has a problem. He found the ר”ן, in the end of פסחים, and the בית יוסף quotes him, and there it says לעומר, so what do we do? The Shulchan Oruch says ba’omer, the Ran says la’omer…so he has to be machria, he is a poseik. So what does he do? So he says, נראה יותר נכון מנהגינו, our minhog is better. Why? Why is our minhog better? Now it’s a bit of a linguistic issue. דהא ביום אחד שמנינן בתחלת ליל י”ו – on the first day, the first count, what do we express by saying hayom yom echad ba’ or la’omer? We are referring to the count of the days for the omer, which they bring on the next morning. The עומר hasn’t been bought yet. It’s only the next morning that it will be brought. So when we say היום יום אחד לעומר, we are referring to the קרבן of the next morning. So we are counting to the days he says, not to the actual omer. We are counting to the days. This is the first day of the omer korban period and the counting of it. And ליום אחרים, later on in the counting, that way is also better because you are also counting to the days. And if you say la’omer, it does not refer to the days, it refers to a korban, so he claims. בעומר, however, refers to the days.

I’ll try to sharpen his point. We say שיר של יום every day. How do we say it? In all the nuschaos. We say היום יום שני Be-Shabbos. So that is a count of the day, be’. If we open a kesubah, or a get, רחמנא ליצלן. What do we find there? We all stand, when we come to a chupah, we come to listen to kerias hakesubah. So how does it start? ברביעי be-Shabbos. Again, if he counts the days, then he counts with a ב. But here we have a little bump in the way. When you continue, ברביעי בשבת, חמשה  le-chodesh Adar. Le-chodesh, with a ל. So it’s not consistent. So the ב”ח has an explanation why the first be’revi’i bishabbos is with a ב, the lamed of a chodesh with a ל, davka the chodesh. I’m not going to confuse you with it now, because it is quite complicated. I want to go back to the ט”ז. But the Taz is of the opinion that be- is counting the days, be-, like we say the 12th May, the th is in the day of the month. But to him the be- is in the day of the month, or the day of the week, or days which are counted in this context. But he says if you say le-, in his opinion, le- is referring to the קרבן. So meileh, he says all the other days until שבועות, and you count from the action of bringing the korban, that’s how we arrived. But the first day, when you haven’t brought the korban yet, how can you say from the korban? ל, la-omer to him means counting from the korban.

חק יעקב, אריז”ל, של”ה בעד לעומר

So why do so many people not obey the ט”ז? There’s no explanation without the ב?

There’s a חק יעקב on the spot. He argues. He says it’s not the way you think it is. And he says… בענין נוסח בעומר, which the רב – the Rav means the בית יוסף… – and the ט”ז had, and the Taz goes on how important it is to say דווקא ba’omer and not laomer, I have a problem with that. רוב נוסחאות ישנים, most old nuschaos, in fact the ancient ones, all of them, כתבו שיש לומר לעומר, wrote that one should say la-omer. וכן, he starts counting Rishonim, I didn’t count them all before, because I said we had enough, כל בו which is Provencal, תניא, which is Italian, שבלי הלקט, Rokeach is אשכנז, Teshuvos הרשב”א we heard before, בית יוסף…..they all said לעומר. They didn’t know what the ט”ז knew? With all due respect, they were all ראשונים. They knew something about דקדוק. So they say it can’t be. So מיר דארף צוברעכען די קאפ (one has to break their head), to understand their מהלך (approach). What was their מהלך? They also knew something. So he comes up with the following point. And he says, לעומר, is משמעות to the day, not as you said to the קרבן, and it’s counting the days. Le-, the omer. As I said, in נוסח הגט, נוסח הכתובה, we also have that ל is counting to the month. מה שאין כן, he goes all the way back, not only does he defend the לעומר, he goes on the offensive, he says no, if you say בעומר it’s wrong, because it’s משמע (implies) now,עכשיו, I am right there, by the קרבן, standing there, now it’s עומר. That would be good if you count in the morning of the first day. But what about on the other days? Not good any more. The קרבן is gone. You say ba’omer, but it’s not here anymore. And then he brings also that the של”ה says לעומר. Another thing, that is not mentioned there, is that the אריז”ל says לעומר. Arizal has a tremendous impact on people in later generations, especially in the Chassidic world. If the Arizal says la’omer, so all the Chassidim say la’omer. One Arizal can do more in Klal Yisroel than all the Rishonim together. Very interesting.

UNDERSTANDING THE NUSACH WITH שהיום

Anyway, we still have two minutes, so I want to come to another little issue. We found that some of the Rishonim say בא”י אמ”ה אק”ב וצונו על ספירת העומר שהיום so and so. We saw, we found in the ראבי”ה, and תשובה from the מהרי”ל. But not all of them. Most Rishonim don’t have it. But even if we follow the other ראשונים, we still have to understand the nusach with שהיום. And here again the ט”ז  says that’s wrong, and we, definitely, according to our logic, we would go with the Taz. And here’s what the ט”ז says. אין לומר שהיום – he doesn’t even have to explain why. I’m saying בא”י אמ”ה, I want to be mekayeim מצות ספירת העומר, because hayom (שהיום) so and so לעומר. This is the מצוה? This is explanation to the mitzvoh! And again the Chok Yaakov comes along and he stands up for the old nusach. He says הסכמת האחרונים שלא יאמר שהיום, however, באמת מי שאמר שהיום לא השתבש, we can’t say that it is wrong. יש לו על מי לסמוך, because we find, he cites a few Rishonim which have shehayom, Rokeach, Tanya, Maharil. And then he brings the others, and he says you know what the peshat is? The word of שהיום is an explanation for why we stand up now and do the מצוה. Why do we do it right now? Because shehayom, because today is this and that day, therefore there’s a חיוב on us to count – those are his words. שהיום נתינת טעם על מה דמברך עכשיו על ספירת עומר, לפי שהיום כך וכך ימים. Limayseh, he doesn’t advocate it, but he says that if somebody did it, he doesn’t have to repeat it. It’s kosher.

SUMMING UP

Now I will sum up what we said today. If you say לעומר you are saying the omer of the ראשונים. If you say בעומר you are saying the nusach of Rav Isaac Tirnau and the Taz, and it has been widely accepted by the Lithuanian siddur. It’s not Ashkenaz in the sense of (German) Ashkenaz, which says לעומר. But if you don’t say it (the word עומר in the counting), it’s absolutely kosher, because as we said it’s only a special additional clarity, which the רשב”א  added for us to express ourselves with.

May we be zoche, בעזרת השי”ת, to במהרה be makriv the עומר, to have the omer itself and not just the ספירה, and then all the sefeikos will vanish…

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. 😉

The Development of Kaddish Yasom – part I Fundamentals & History – From ancient times to the modern era.

April 10, 2011

Due to the great importance, power, and holiness of קדיש, and the great interest in the subject, I am posting some of what I was zoche to learn about it in a shiur a while back.

(Based on a comprehensive shiur delivered in ארץ ישראל a bit over a year ago by רב בנימין שלמה המבורגר שליט”א, edited and arranged by your’s truly)

It’s an honor for me to give a shiur לעילוי נשמת …the first יאהרצייט of החבר ר’ יחיאל ב”ר יוסף ראזענבערג, Mr. Max Rosenberg, who was, as Rabbi Vachsman mentioned, the chairman of the board of directors of Yeshiva R. Shamshon Rafael Hirsch in Washington Heights, New York. Therefore, this shiur tonight is going to be linked to a מנהג, an old minhog, which the whole כלל ישראל used to obey and observe, and is still being kept in that community of Washington Heights which we know as קהל עדת ישורון, the Breuer’s kehillah. This is the way of reciting a kaddish, קדיש יתום. Yahrzeit is a time for saying kaddish, therefore it is appropriate to talk about such a topic.

We all know that if someone is an אבל, or if he has יאהרצייט, then he is trying to say קדיש, or even better, to daven in front of the עמוד. And there’s a lot of competition to get the amud sometimes, and in the past there was also competition to get the kaddish. Why? Because the kaddish was never a group kaddish, rather a single kaddish….which leads to the development of how the single kaddish turned (among some) into a group kaddish, which we will discuss later on in this shiur. But first, some basics.

HOW DOES THE KADDISH HELP THE NIFTAR?

The first question which I would like to address, is how is it that an action or a deed that is taken after petira of a niftar, after a person is already deceased, can help him out of his trouble after he has already gone to the world of truth? So we find Sefer Chassidim (1171) explaining it very clearly. We find an expression in Chazal, ברא מזכי אבא (BT Sanhedrin 104a) – a son adds זכותים, adds merits to his father. How? If the father sinned, and he, at the same time, gave his son over to a Talmudic school, ללמוד תורה ומעשים טובים, he sent him to cheder, sent him to a Jewish school…….and there the son learns Torah, he learns how to behave himself properly, and do good deeds, הואיל ועל ידי האב זכה הבן, since this good behavior of the son is a result of the education which the father saw to, whatever the son does now as a result of this education, is bera mizakeh abba – that son adds zechusim to his father. And furthermore, if the father commanded the son, he left a צוואה to do this and that, to do something after his petira, הרי כשעשו הבנים כאילו יעשו האבות, what the son does based on that is as if the father did it, even though the father is not here anymore. From this comes the minhog that people give tzedokkoh לעילוי נשמת the deceased. Similarly, davening for niftorim, is also a תועלת – it does give help to them, because מה לי תפלה מה לי צדקה. What difference does it make to Hakodosh Boruch Hu if it is this מצוה or that mitzvoh, if all of it is done as a result of the father’s chinuch.

KADDISH IS NOT THE ONLY THING ONE CAN DO FOR A NIFTAR

But here we don’t see anything about kaddeishim. We have plenty of midroshim which point out the special koach of the kaddish. But we have to keep in mind that קדיש is only one of many means to help a נפטר. There are plenty of others. Which brings us to the Yosef Ometz, a member of the Shelah’s beis din when the של”ה was a Rav in Frankfurt, Rav Yosef Hahn Nordlingen of Frankfurt, who wrote a ספר called יוסף אומץ. It’s a מנהג sefer and הלכה sefer. He writes a very important note. He writes that the idea of קדיש, ברכו, ברכת המזון, שיר המעלות, ולמנצח for aveilim, (going to the omud for ashrei, lamenatzeach, and uva letzion), going to omud for borchu (saying borchu is an expression for davening before the omud)…. also birkas hamazon, meaning the aveil getting zimun, which is also a zechus for the niftar, not seen so much nowadays…….מעלין המה על ידי הם מגיהנום (they raise the niftar through their actions from gehinnom). Of course, he says, davening the whole תפלה is better than bits of it. And of course kaddish is also very important. But the best thing, which people overlook however, he says, the best zechus, is לימוד תורה, learning Torah, which we do in this shiur. The other things, he says, tefillos, kaddeishim, borchu.. are mainly for עמי הארץ (unlearned people) – but if you can learn, you do learn, לימוד תורה מועיל שבעתים (limmud Torah helps seven times as much), than all these תפלות…. Through that, not only מעלין מגיהנום, but מכניסין לגן עדן (they take the niftar to gan eden), which is higher. And if the son goes further and he is מחדש חידושי תורה, he’s a למדן and is on that level that he can have his own חידושים? Then the kavod that his father gets in gan eden is even more. He cites the זוהר, that in such a case הקדוש ברוך הוא calls everyone in פמליא של מעלה, and says ‘come in, assemble, to hear the beautiful חידושי תורה of this person, the son of פלוני בן פלוני (true chiddushim, not just made up ones), the son of this neshomo’. So that is the greatest honor that one can give, to say חידושי תורה…

DEVELOPMENT OF NUSACH OF KADDISH

However, kaddish nevertheless is a big tool and everybody is after it……. Where does the kaddish come from? You are talmidei chachomim, you know גמרא…….Has you ever seen the nusach of kaddish in גמרא? In any gemara? Bavli? Yerushalmi? No. We only find a small mention in Bavli mesechta Shabbos, אמר ריב”ל כל העונה איש”ר מברך בכל כחו (רש”י – בכל כוונתו) קורעין לו גזר דינו , he answers the kaddish, which can mean koach hakovonnoh, according to Rashi and Tosefos, or with all his strength, according to a second peshat brought in Tosefos, his bad gezar din is torn up, what is written for him badly in the ספר החיים up there. We also find in מדרשים that Rabbi Akiva tried to help a נשמה he found in big trouble in עולם האמת, to get his son, to teach him to say ברכו and קדיש, to get him out of גיהנום. So kaddish is mentioned in gemara, and the midrash says that it can take people out of gehinnom. But the נוסח of the kaddish is not mentioned anywhere, not in midrash, not in gemara. The first time (place) we find it is in סדר רב עמרם גאון, the oldest siddur we have, a Babylonian siddur , an early siddur – and there we find the nusach of the kaddish, but without ויצמח פורקניה ויקרב משיחיה, like nusach Ashkenaz. That is the very first kaddish we find in Jewish literature. Veyatzmach purkonei we find in a later Babylonian siddur, that of רב סעדיה גאון. But just ויצמח פורקניה, not ויקרב משיחיה, so that must have been a later development.

PURPOSE OF KADDISH IN MIDST OF TEFILLOS

So what is the purpose of kaddish? We find קדישים  besides kaddish yasom. קדיש יתום is a very particular kaddish that is said after a תפלה. But we have kaddeishim inside tefilloh as well. Comes the ספר האשכול, and says that we have the kaddish for the purpose of separation. He says that the first kaddish is to separate between פסוקי דזמרה and ברכת יוצר אור, in שחרית, that is the first kaddish, after ישתבח (the kaddish said nowadays after korbanos is very recent, we have to come back to that later). The second kaddish is after we finish שמנה עשרה, after shmoneh esreih we have תחנון, which is attached to it, so if there is tachanun we say kaddish after it, and that kaddish is a separation between the Shemoneh Esreih part of tefillah and the leining part. If there is leining, after that part as well, to separate it from אשרי ובא לציון, which is a new section. Then kaddish after ashrei uva litzion, קדיש תתקבל, which ends all קדישים. That is the halachic structure of kaddish.

THE EMERGENCE & DEVELOPMENT OF KADDISH YASOM

Kaddish yasom, which has nothing to do with davening before the amud, was instituted later, perhaps in the beginning of the second millenium למספרם. We find it in מחזור ויטרי already, and it was introduced for יתומים קטנים that can’t go before the omud. He’s a minor, can’t help his father that way with kaddish, so they instituted it for them. But how many times does a yasom have a chance to say kaddish? Initially, not at all. After עלינו? No, it (Aleinu) was not said daily in the early days. After שיר מזמור לאסף? Some American Shuls say it, you may know it from them, some after shacharis, some have it even after maariv. But this did not exist in the time of the גאונים. So they instituted some מזמור after תפלה, and they said kaddish after that, for ketanim. At the beginning, this was not done on a weekday, it was only done on a שבת. Only on Shabbos was there kaddish yasom. We find on Shabbos that we say במה מדליקין after maariv, that’s what you find in chutz la’aretz, as used to be said in European countries. במה מדליקין, then אמר רבי אלעזר אמר רבי חנינא, which is אגדתא, then kaddish yosom. Nowadays people say קדיש דרבנן, but that is a late development. Initially this kaddish was a קדיש יתום for yesomim, kaddish for ketanim who can’t say kaddish during tefilloh. The second kaddish yasom they had was on שבת morning, after פטום הקטרת, after another אמר רבי אלעזר אמר רבי חנינא…. The third one, on מוצאי שבת after ויתן לך, after שיר המעלות אשרי כל ירא ה. So these were the only three kaddeishim in time of the ראשונים…….they eventually introduced kaddish yasom on weekdays as well……but that was even a later development. They started saying shir mizmor leasaf, after oleinu. שיר של יום developed much, much later. So the principle is that one can only say kaddish yasom after פסוקים – so we never find that after a shiur when קדיש is said, that they say kaddish right away, rather they say pesukim, רבי חנניא בן עקשיא אומר רצה הקב”ה לזכות את ישראל……or אמר רבי אלעזר אמר רבי חנינא…. but not after a mishnah. The kaddish said nowadays after the שלש עשרה מדות דרבי ישמעאל in the morning, before ברוך שאמר, is a disputed minhog because it doesn’t fit with ancient הלכה, only fits in with the system of the אר”י ז”ל, but that is not the topic for tonight. Now we come to another point..

PROPER TO LIMIT/MINIMIZE THE AMOUNT OF KADDEISHIM

Saying kaddish is a wonderful thing. חזרת הש”ץ is also a wonderful thing. What would you say, however, if someone said chazoras hashatz is a wonderful thing, I will say it twice. I will repeat שמונה עשרה twice. How would we look at such a person? Is he doing something good? He repeats shemoneh esreih twice. What if a person will have some Coca Cola, and say שהכל נהיה בדברו. And then have more, and say it again. And again, and again, after a sip or two. Is he more frum? Or if he says three times borei nefoshos – is he more religious? Or is it a brocho she’eino tzericha/berocho livatala? So here we come to the point that many poskim bring down, including the משנה ברורה, that just like we don’t like to repeat ברכות again and again, because the more you repeat them, the more difficult it is halachically, because of ברכה שאינה צריכה or ברכה לבטלה, the same way, we should not say one kaddish more than needed. According to simple הלכה in the Mishna Berura and earlier poskim, saying extra kaddeishim is wrong. And he says, כשם שממעטין לומר קדיש…… The ערוך השלחן comes out in very, very sharp terms against it. He says (אורח חיים נה, ג) that there are common people who believe that the more kaddeishim you say, the better. And how wrong are they. You don’t use the scepter of הקדוש ברוך הוא more than He allowed you to use it. There is a limit to the amount of usage. Because by saying kaddish you are crowning Hakodosh Boruch Hu. And if you repeat it again and again, it’s a zilzul, you’re degrading the divine. And we find the poskim saying that those who increase the number of kaddeishim are sort of weakening the divine kedusha of the great sacred name of הקב”ה.

KADDISH RECITED BY AN INDIVIDUAL, NOT A GROUP

But we find nevertheless that the desire is so great to say kaddish, it increased so much, that people increase it, not only the amount of times, but also in terms of the amount of people saying it, what we call nowadays a group kaddish, which we didn’t have in the past. Like we don’t have a group חזרת הש”ץ. Did you ever see two בעלי תפלה going to the עמוד and saying chazoras hashatz together? The same with group kaddish. It was made for ketanim, a katan he can’t daven before the amud, so now he has a kaddish he can say after davening. And now people join him! It’s like joining the shliach tzibbur! We have a klal that תרי קלי לא משתמעי (two simultaneous voices are not heard). Imagine if two people would be standing up here talking. Someone would join me talking. We would get confused. Same thing is with the kaddish. That is the conception of the classical poskim.

SEPHARADIC ATTITUDES TOWARD KADDISH, ADOPTION OF GROUP KADDISH

But we find that Sepharadim have believed so much in the power of kaddish that they found all kinds of היתרים to say a group kaddish. They invented the idea of group kaddish. And it went so far in some places of the Sepharadim, that in Iraq, we find the Ben Ish Chai recording (בן איש חי, שנה א, פ’ ויגש, סעיף טז) that in his town, in Baghdad, the minhag was that everybody used to say every kaddish possible during davening. They finished ישתבח… what happens after we finish yishtabach? Even in those places that have group kaddish, only the shliach tzibbur says kaddish and then says ברכו. But in Baghdad, the whole community stood up and everybody said קדיש. And that was not only that kaddish. Every kaddish. After shmoneh esreih, everybody stood up and said קדיש. He was very disgusted by it. Meileh kaddish yasom, he could still tolerate it. But every kaddish? He said that these people think that when they say kaddish they cause תחיית המתים. They believed so much in this kaddish, out of proportion, that they erred. And that’s how we find that a kaddish that at one time was only for the shliach tzibbur, like kaddish after leining, became a kaddish yasom by Sepharadim, and that has even spread to some Ashkenaz communities as well (in an article in ירושתנו א, קיג-קכה – Rav Hamburger  shows conclusively that this kaddish properly belongs to a shliach of the tzibbur, such as the בעל קריאה, not to just any anyone who wants it).

MINHOGEI ASHKENAZ RELATED TO RECITATION OF KADDISH

But we want to go back to that kehillah of the late Mr. Rosenberg whose yahrzeit is tonight. In Washington Heights, which still obeys the old rules. And they still give respect to the one saying kaddish yasom as deserved. He is treated as a שליח ציבור. The first thing of a shliach tzibbur is, that he goes to the עמוד. He doesn’t stand anywhere in the Shul and say kaddish, he goes to the omud. Seeing that by the עמוד is still the chazan, who still has to say some מזמורים or something, so the one saying kaddish stands next to the omud, in any Frankfurt’er kehilloh, Yekkishe kehilloh, he stands as close as possible to the omud. And this is brought down in several poskim, including the משנה ברורה. Second thing, I don’t know why it stopped in Washington Heights, I never found out why, is that everyone saying kaddish puts on a טלית, because he is like a שליח ציבור, and this is also brought down in פוסקים.

Are piyyutim a hefsek? What about on ראש השנה and יום כיפור?

March 5, 2011

One of the arguments that is heard when piyyutim are discussed, is that they are omitted totally by some, or at least not recited during chazoras hashatz or during other sensitive parts of davening, such as ברכות קריאת שמע, because they constitute a hefsek.

In a comprehensive shiur given in London a few years ago, Rav Hamburger discussed this argument. I am not going to get too deep into the shiur now (perhaps more later), but in regard to this specific point, he questioned, if those who say this believe piyyutim are really a hefsek, how can those same individuals and congregations say piyyutim during chazoras hashatz on ימים  נוראים? Actually, come to think of it, he asked it with regard to saying selichos during chazoras hashatz during a taanis tzibbur vs. during neilah on Yom Kippur for example, but basically the point is the same, as piyyutim and selichos are basically the same. To take such liberties at ‘the holiest time of the year’? Are there any congregations who don’t do so?

Are there any answers to this question?