Posts Tagged ‘Pesach’

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


Categories, Tags, and Pesach

April 6, 2012

I have been working in recent days on labeling past posts with categories and tags to make them more accessible and inviting to readers.  It would add a sort of partial index to the site as well. The project is not finished yet, but much has already been done, ב”ה. One can see the categories and many of the tags on the right side margin of the Treasures of Ashkenaz homepage. By holding your mouse over them, you are shown the number of linked posts. By clicking on them, you are taken to relevant and connected material previously published at the site.

So, for example, if you want to see past posts related to Pesach, just go to that area, find the Pesach tag, and click on it, to get a nice collection of Pesach material for ענינא דיומא from the site archives.


Wishing  readers, supporters, and other fine Jews, א פרייליכען און כשר’ן פסח….

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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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…

How Rav Akiva Eiger got his Chassidishe son in law to put on tefillin on Chol Hamoed – מעשה רב בענין הנחת תפילין בחוה”מ ושאר דברים מהגאון רע”א

April 21, 2011

לכבוד היום, which is the first day of חוה”מ פסח in the diaspora, there is a very interesting story, which רבש”ה mentioned in a shiur, which I think is worthy of repetition, especially in view of the fact that it seemingly happened this very day (or tomorrow), the first day of חוה”מ פסח outside ארצנו הקדושה, approximately one hundred and eighty years ago.  Here it is, together with some thoughts and comments.

The great רב עקיבא איגר, mechaber of דרוש וחידוש רע”א, וכו, had a Chassidishe son in law (according to the sefer referenced below, he actually had sixteen children, listed in footnote nine here), a great תלמיד חכם by the name of Rav Chaim Shmuel Birnbaum. He was from Poland, of a Kozhnitzer Chassidic background.

רע”א took him as a son in law (I guess he aced the farher ;-), and supported the new couple for a number of years after the חתונה, during which רח”ש studied Torah in Posen, where רע”א was מרא דאתרא. Some of his תורה was later published in a sefer called שו”ת רחש לבב.

The different backgrounds of the shver and eidem (father in law and son in law) led to some interesting interactions, such as one which occurred the first חוהמ”פ the son in law spent in Posen with his great father in law, which the former recalled some forty years later.

Here is what happened, as recorded in the foreword to the aforementioned sefer.

The first חוה”מ פסח that he spent with רע”א, he relates, he did not put on תפילין, since his father and the other Chassidim had stopped doing so, as per Chassidic custom. רע”א noticed his lack of adornment and was quite disturbed by it. He objected strongly, stating that the Torah leaders of אשכנז and surrounding lands accepted on themselves and their children the pesak of the רמ”א, not to deviate from it right or left, להקל או להחמיר (see the actual words in לשון קודש to get a sense of their power), and the רמ”א had  paskened clearly that תפילין should be worn.

And the son in law’s reaction? So he says, I listened to his holy word. Even though it was difficult for me to change from what I was accustomed to doing. He listened to the holy words of his shver, from then on, and put on tefillin on חול המועד (without a ברכה however, and with a תנאי, see his words).

We see from this story how firm the great Rav Akiva Eiger was that one must follow the pesak of the רמ”א and wear tefillin on chol hamoed, עד כדי כך that he got his Chassidishe son in law to do so as well. Rav Akiva Eiger was aware of those who felt otherwise, but he insisted that the פסק of the רמ”א must be carried out. And we see the greatness of the son in law as well. זכותם תגן עלינו.

May we be zoche to learn from them and have a proper חוה”מ.

Hallel in Shul on Pesach night – Understanding the basis of the מנהג אשכנז to refrain – מדוע א”א הלל בבית הכנסת בליל הסדר בפסח לפי מסורת אשכנז

April 18, 2011

(An important post from a few years ago, improved and updated, and moved to the front page for review, as Seder night approaches)

Singular Hallel, for a singular evening, or a duplicated Hallel? 

All proper Jews say הלל, praising הקדוש ברוך הוא, on פסח night, during the סדר. This joyous recitation is one of the highlights of the evening. Some others, however, recite it a second time that night as well, in Shul. It is the latter custom, to do a double recitation of Hallel, and the stance of מנהג אשכנז toward it, that is the subject of this posting.

A few years ago, I received a booklet of circa seventy pages from מכון מורשת אשכנז on the topic of הלל בבית הכנסת בליל פסח. It was a greatly expanded version of the chapter on the subject in שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק א (app. fifteen pages), by רבש”ה, of ten years earlier.

It is a very thorough treatment of the subject from various angles, that shows very clearly, based on ancient (as well as more  recent), classical sources, that הלל on פסח night is, according to our holy מסורה, properly recited only at home, during the seder, בשעה שמצה ומרור מנחים לפניך, and not a second time in Shul at night as well. I highly recommend it.

For those who are not clear about the issue, and don’t have access to the aforementioned booklet, I will write some words, a combination of what I saw there, mixed with some of my own thoughts.

Looking at the Sources

The practice to say Hallel in Shul, in addition to the recitation at home during the seder, is not mentioned in the גמרא. It is contained in what is referred to as מסכת סופרים, a later compilation of teachings that were deliberately excluded from the גמרא, that is not on the level of the Talmud, where it is mentioned for people who were not learned (yes, believe it or not, not everyone learned in ישיבה and כולל for many years then ;-), and could not be relied upon to say it properly on their own, at home during the seder.

The רמ”א states clearly that we don’t say it. The משנה ברורה and ערוך השלחן do so as well. Interestingly, even the שלחן ערוך הרב, authored by the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, states that ‘we do not read it in Shul in these countries’ in his code of law (though in his siddur, which was made for his Chassidim, he says to do so).

Yemenite minhag not to duplicate Hallel on seder night

Also worthy of note is that Yemenite congregations that hew to their ancient minhog, mostly those categorized as Baladi, also do not say it.

What did the GRA, the Gaon of Vilna, do?

Some claim that מנהג הגר”א is to say הלל in Shul on Pesach night. However, that is not listed as a practice of the Gaon in the well known work מעשה רב, which records his minhogim. If the Gaon would have said Hallel in Shul, in opposition to the general minhag Lita around him, it would have certainly stood out and been sufficiently noteworthy to qualify for inclusion there. That omission speaks volumes. What seems to have happened is that some of the פרושים in ארץ ישראל  got it from the local ספרדים, among other non-Ashkenaz practices such as chalaka/upsherin, saying אין כאלקינו daily, and an expanded version of יחדשהו in ראש חודש bentching, for example, as when they settled in ירושלים circa two centuries ago, they were not permitted to have their own Shul for some time by the government, and had to daven with the ספרדים in order not to stand out. The ספרדים then were dominant there, and they had to subjugate themselves to them, and try to blend in.

Gedolim who said Hallel only once on seder night, even after moving to Eretz Yisroel 

Staunch advocates of the ancient Ashkenaz tradition not to duplicate Hallel on that night who came later on to ארץ ישראל, when אשכנזים were able to practice their faith and מנהגים more freely, rejected this anachronistic, submissive stance to Sepharadic (later Sepharadic – early Sepharadic practice in Spain didn’t have it either, but that is another discussion, עיין שם) practice, and maintained the מנהג אשכנז of saying it only once, during the סדר. For example the גרי”ז, Rav Velvel Soloveichik, whose refraining from saying הלל in Shul then was well known (שו”ת תשובות והנהגות חלק ב, סימן רמ”ה, הגש”פ מועדים וזמנים, ירושלים תש”מ, עמוד נ-נא), and the דעת סופר, Rav Akiva Sofer of Pressburg.

It seems quite ironic that at the very outset of the חג הגאולה, during זמן חרותינו, the festival of freedom, when ב”ה we are free to practice our ancestral faith, some people still slavishly follow a practice that some of our brethren were compelled into doing, in opposition to their ancestral מנהג. Presumably they just don’t know what the background of the matter is.

Another big problem with it to me, on an experiential level, in addition to all the other issues, is doing the same thing twice on one night. People should rather do it once correctly. Doing it twice the same night diminishes the experience.

If one finds themselves in a place where Hallel is duplicated, how should one act? מעשה רב ממרן הגרי”ז זצ”ל

Another angle to this issue, that should be addressed, is the situation that arises at times when people whose minhog is not to say it, are davening where they do say it. Sometimes such people are cajoled (by themselves – or imagine feeling so, perhaps a figment of their imagination? – or others), and convinced into believing that they must join the recitation, with the argument that it is not proper to be פורש מן הציבור. However, in that regard, they should know that when the Brisk’er Rav, the גרי”ז, was in such a situation, he would exit, and go to another room (סדר הערוך לרמ”י וינגרטן, פרק כח, הערה 16).

להבחל”ח הגאון ר’ שמואל קמנצקי שליט”א, the Gaon Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlit”a, has paskened that if someone who follows Ashkenaz minhog in this is in a place where Hallel is said, he should leave unobstrusively – and furthermore, if he cannot do so, he should recite Tehillim during the Hallel – but not Hallel itself!

The trend of continually adding on new things, at the expense of the old, is not recommended. As חז”ל teach us,  כל המוסיף גורע – whoever adds, subtracts. On the other hand, the one that follows the minhog of his holy אשכנז ancestors, is הולך בעקבי צאן קדשים, and is הולך בטח, striding securely in the steps of his forefathers.

In the zechus of following the מנהגים of our holy ancestors, may we be זוכה to have a meaningful and proper יום טוב.

Get into the פסח spirit with the KAJ Heights choir

April 14, 2011

While preparing for פסח and waiting for new posts here, get in the festive יום טוב spirit with these beautiful clips from the choir of KAJ, in the Heights of Ashkenaz, in New York.

Our deep gratitude to for sharing them, and to the choir, and the whole קהילה קדושה.

בצאת ישראל ממצרים (Rockoff)

בצאת ישראל ממצרים (Lewandowski)

הודו לה’ כי טוב

אנא ה’ הושיעא נא

מה טבו אהליך יעקב


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