Posts Tagged ‘Sepharadic minhagim’

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.


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!

‘Sephardic Yekkes’ – Western Sepharadim And Some Of Their Yekke minhogim – מנהגי אשכנז אצל הספרדים של מערב אירופה, וצפון ודרום אמריקה

May 22, 2011

A great sefer for research on minhogim, among other things, is the sefer כתר שם טוב, penned by the Chacham R. Shem Tov Gaguine, a great Sepharadic talmid chochom, who was a Rav in England, among other places. Some of the volumes are available via the great website.

I have recently become more acquainted with it, and have found some very interesting things there.

I have seen a number of cases, where, surprisingly, the minhogim of Spanish and Portugese Sepharadic communities discussed there are the same as those of Yekkes. The Western European Sepharadim are a community parallel to the Yekkes among Ashkenazim in a way and to a degree, in that they preserved certain old Spanish minhogim like the Yekkes have preserved old Ashkenaz ones. So that points to old traditions of ספרד and אשכנז  being in accordance with regard to those matters.

I assume that as time goes on I may אי”ה find even more such correspondences, but for now I will share a few such cases.

1) בריך שמיה is not said when the ספר תורה is taken out.

2) The section starting  רבונו של עולם הריני מוחל is not recited in the beginning of קריאת שמע על המטה (see footnote toward bottom of page).

3) Upsherin custom not known to them.

4) Tefillas Rav is not said in Rosh Chodesh bentching (footnotes).

5) It states that the old minhog in London was that on Shabbos it was announced who would say kaddish in the coming week (footnotes near bottom of page) (as only one person said kaddish at a time, as in מנהג אשכנז, as we have been discussing recently. So we see that Sepharadim practiced the singular kaddish in the old days as well).

This has bearing also with regard to early American Sepharadim and their congregations, such as the Spanish and Portugese Synagogue in NY, where some, if not all of the minhagim of the Western European Sepharadim are followed as well.

So we see that despite what people may think, Sepharadic and Ashkenazic practices are not always so different, and there can be surprising and significant convergences. After all, we are brothers, of course.

(There are other minhogim which a broader range of Sepharadim and Yekkes share as well, which רבש”ה spoke about in shiurim last time he was in the USA, which we may discuss in the future, אי”ה).

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?

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