Nusach Sefard


Nusach Sefard

Nusach Sefard is the name for various forms of the Jewish siddur, designed to reconcile Ashkenazi customs (Hebrew: מנהג "Custom", pl. minhagim) with the kabbalistic customs of the Ari. [1] To this end it has incorporated the wording of Nusach Edot Mizrach, the prayer book of Sefardi Jews, into certain prayers. Nusach Sefard is used nearly universally by Hasidim, as well as by some other Ashkenazi Jews: it has not gained significant acceptance by Sephardi Jews. Each Hasidic dynasty uses its own version of the Nusach Sefard siddur, often with great divergence between different versions.

Prayers and customs

Some versions are nearly identical to Nusach Ashkenaz, while others come far closer to Nusach Edot Mizrach: most versions fall somewhere in between. All versions incorporate the customs of the Ari. Jews who follow Nusach Sefard adopt certain Sephardi customs, such as not wearing tefillin on the middle days of Pesach and Sukkot. However they usually also observe Ashkenazi customs such as avoiding kitniyot on Pesach.

The Anshei Sefard synagogues are notable for being non-Hasidic synagogues that use the rite, typically the version found in Artscroll Nusach Sefard siddurim.

History

It is generally held that every Jew is bound to observe the mitzvot (commandments of Judaism) by following the customs appropriate to his or her family origin: see Minhag. For this reason a number of rabbis disapprove of the adoption of Sephardic customs by Ashkenazi Jews.

However, it was a common Kabbalistic belief that the Sephardic rite, especially in the form used by Isaac Luria, has more spiritual potency than the Ashkenazi, and that, while in general one should keep to one's minhag of origin, this rite reaches a "thirteenth gate" in Heaven for those who do not know their own tribe. Many Eastern Jewish communities, such as the Persian Jews and the Shami Yemenites, accordingly adopted the Sephardic rite with Lurianic additions in preference to their previous traditional rites.

In the same way, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries many Kabbalistic groups in Europe adopted the Lurianic-Sephardic rite in preference to the Ashkenazi. This was however the custom of very restricted circles, and did not come into widespread public use until the rise of Hasidism.

Nusach Sefard, with its variant Nusach Ari, became universal among Hasidic Jews. One consequence of this was that, before the foundation of the State of Israel and in the early years of the State, it was the predominant rite used by Ashkenazim in the Holy Land, with the exception of certain pockets of traditional Lithuanian Jews. One reason for this was that Eretz Yisrael was regarded as part of the Sephardic world, so that it was felt that new immigrants should adapt to the local rite. In recent decades, following the immigration of many Ashkenazi Jews from America, the traditional Ashkenazi rite has regained a strong following.

There is also a small group of Sephardi Jews that observe the customs of Ashkenazi Jews, hence giving them the name "Nusach Ashkenaz".[citation needed]

References

  1. ^ Wertheim, Aaron, Law and Custom in Hasidism, Ktav Publishing House, Inc. Hoboken, NJ, 1992, p146.

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