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FACTIONS-----sefard and ashkenaz


Rachack Posted - 19 November 2003 18:36

Along time ago, my Ashkenaz principal said to our class that if he had to choose, he would say that Sephardic is the more "correct" way of things.

Today I was reading a history book which seems to imply that the Ashkenaz come up with their ideas and laws that aren't said specifically in the Gemara by thinking and logic, while the Sepharadim learned halacha from the Geonim and Savoraim.

So this seems to imply that the latter are more correct than the former? I'm not sure what to make of that.

Also, which way do people feel more comfortable praying in?

The story is that my father davens either way, it really depends on what shul he goes to/where he lives this is because my grandfather Z"L, died when my father was 7 and he used to daven Nusach Sefarad/Chassidisch, but my father was brought up by his uncle (his aunt's husband) and he was Ashkenaz so my father feels more comfortable in both, and personally, I can also daven both, because I live right next door to an Ashkenaz shul where we go to, but the Yeshiva that I'm in davens Nusach Seferad, but...

I'm not mainly talking about just the davening, I am talking about all the other differences between Ashkenaz and Seferadic, which seem to be that the Ashkenaz came up with their own ideas and the Sepharadic learned their ideas from the Geonim.

That is my main point, that davening issue is just a side point.

my main point was that the Ashkenaz people seem to trace many of their customs and traditions to the French rabbis (i.e. Rashi and his grandkids) who learned things on their own logic using the Gemara, but removed from the Gemara by several generations.

The Sepharadim on the other hand, trace many of their ideas to the Geonim of Babylon, Spain, Morocco, etc... And these Geonim learned from the Savoraim from the Amoraim themselves. Does this make any sense?

By the way, I read this in a book entitled "Masters of the Mesorah," by Rabbi
Zechariah Fendel.

Also from him, it is implied that the last of the Rishonim were like the Ran, Rivash, MaHaRil, etc.. but I was always taught that the Rishonim ended with R' Yosef Karo Z"TL, and doing more research online, I found that that Rishonim ended circa 1492, and Acharonim began circa 1648, and that the period in between is actually a separate era, which he calls Kov'im.

In his view, R Yosef Karo was the first of the Kov'im, and Shach and Taz were the last. After Shach and Taz begins the era of Acharonim.
The site also said that the Shita Mekubetzes is not considered to have been a Rishon himself, though since he didn't write his own opinions, but merely quoted Rishonim, that's a mere technicality, but in my school, we treat the Shita as a Rishon.

(Don't even get me started on the Italian Jews, they are in a different category)

Rav Yitzchok Berkowitz, mashgiach ruchani at Aish Hatorah in Yerushalyim

"The greatest contribution the rishonim made was not just their inherent greatness as people, but that they wrote down their mesorahs. Earlier generations (i.e. the gaonim), for the most part, did not.

Following the rishonim, the acharonim have all been busy trying to best understand what the rishonim were saying, why they argued, and how they would hold on newer cases.

Thus, the rishonim were the last carriers of the mesorah. That is to say, that the Rambam learned his mesorah from the Rimagash, who learned it from the Rif, who
learned it from Rabeinu Chananel, who learned it from his father Rabeinu
Chushiel, one of the gaonim. And the gaonim carried the mesorah from
the amoraim.

This is the chief reason that an acharon cannot argue with a rishon.

A posek today may state that he does not understand a point made by a rishon, but not that he does not agree with him.

Opinion has no place when you're dealing with mesorah. There were some "borderline cases," Jews for whom status as rishon or acharon is unclear. The Trumas Hadeshen, the Maharik, and the Rivash (R' Yitzchak bar Sheishish) are three he names.

However, he categorically and unambiguously calls R' Karo an acharon. The Bays Yosef that he wrote was, as has been mentioned, a compilation of rishonim's commentaries on the Tur. The Shulchan Aruch is his abridged version of the Bays Yosef."

MODERATOR Posted - 19 November 2003 22:05

OK, I'm going to tell you where this idea comes from, where it's mistaken, and then we're going to fix it.

There are numerous reasons why someone might say that the sefardic poskim are more traditional and the ashkenazic ones are more creative, so to speak (I am paraphrasing your post).

First, patterns seems to develop in halachic methodology where ashkenaz minhagim are created not based on tradition but rather the needs of the time or some other reason. You will find the Rama in shulchan aruch all over the place mentioning chumras that comes from custom and not din --- and you will even find him saying:

"there are some places that are accustomed to the following [chumrah] ... and so too I am accustomed to do it due to minhag, but it is a chumrah without any reason" (YD 93:1).

You will also find things like sefardic girls not making the brachah she'asani kirtzono because it is nowhere to be found in the gemora or writings of chazal, and first appeared in the days of the geonim.

You will also find that sefardic poskim are very much into collecting opinions from rishonim and achronim, the more the better, in their responsa, whereas ashkenazi poskim will tend more to learning the sugya and coming out with their own conclusion. (Of course, nobody is going to argue with a Taz, but the issue here is how important is it to find as many opinions as possible, and how much weight does your own opinion hold).

From all of this and much more, including some of the items mentioned by Rachak, it could seem to someone that sefardic Orthodoxy is somehow more traditional and ashkenazic more creative.

But that would be a mistake. Ashkenzaim and sefardim both have their own legitimate mesorahs.

The measure of creativity involved in the halachic process is itself a subject of tradition: if you’re going to base your approach on the approach of the earlier sages, perhaps you ought to use them as an example of what you should be doing, rather than merely using what they did.

In other words, the early geonim themselves were creative in their halachic process, and now the question becomes does that tradition of creativity end there or does it continue throughout the generations, each generation carefully measuring its own parameters of how far it is allowed to go on its own and how far it must rely on previous generations.

In short, the mesorah of gedolim on both sides is equally legitimate; there is no way to argue in favor of the sefard methodology over the ashkenza and vice versa.

As far as the dates of the rishonim, I've seen that theory about the "kovim," and its baseless. Useless, too. It helps us in no way at all and only serves to confuse the issue: Can Achronim argue with "kovim"? Don’t "kovim" argue with rishonim regularly?

The kovim theory is based on the speculative idea that it is major tragedies that end tekufos and start new ones, and the inquisition seemed to be a nice place to end the rishonim. Matis Kantor (see "The Jewish Timeline Encyclopedia" by Mattis Kantor, Appendix D).

But although clearly defined lines of demarcation between tekufos CAN exist, it doesn’t mean that they always have to. It says nowhere that you are either a "rishon" or an "achron".

Whereas the Gemora was officially sealed and concluded, as was the Mishna, there was no such official seal and conclusion on the works of the rishonim.

It all depends on the greatness of the people on the two sides of the argument --- its stupid for us to argue with the Rambam.

Even in the days of the Tanaim and Amoraim, after the Mishna was closed and sealed, Rav, of the first generation of Bavli Amoraim, is considered a "Tana" by Chazal and can argue with Tanaim. Yet Rav's statements are included in the Gemora, not the Mishna, for the Mishna was sealed.

And so, if you have a blurred edge between the Rishonim and Achronim, so what?

Whether an individual is considered a rishon or an achron depends on who he is.

It so happens that the later generations get weaker and so nowadays its clear where we stand.

In fact, even though no new tekufah has been created since the achronim, clearly, nobody today will argue with the shach and taz.

Re Nusach Sefard. Nusach sefard is really a variation of the Nusach created by the Arizal (what is called Nusach Ari is not from the Ari - it is from the Baal HaTanya).

The reason he changed nusach ashkenaz was because the later, weaker generations were no longer able to direct their tefilos upwards on the path that they needed to go (each shevet has its own "pathway" and thus its own "kavanah"), he created sefard as a generic nusach that people from all shevatim can use.

The main difference between nusach sefard and ashkenza, the Divrei Chaim says, is the reversal of the order of Boruch Sheamar and Hodu - the other changes are of lesser significance.

Rachack Posted - 20 November 2003 9:46

I'm not sure why you posted twice, but thanks for your information, but I have some more questions,

first of all, how can the Vilna Gaon, who is for sure an Achron, argue on the Tur and I've seen on other Rishonim?

And also, I read an interesting thought in R' Moshe Eismann's ArtScroll Sefer on Divrei HaYamim and he explained the Machlokes of why Hodu is before or after Baruch Sh'omar, so it seems like an argument form there, not that it was "changed." And there are other major difference besides Hodu.

MODERATOR Posted - 20 November 2003 10:15

The double posting was accidental.

The words "rishon" and "achron" are used in 2 different ways - chronologically and stature-wise.

Usually the two coincide: a person's stature depends on how far from Har Sinai he lived.

But there are exceptions, and the Vilna Gaon was one of them It says nowhere as an official halachah that if you live 200 years after someone lese you cant argue with him.

Rather, it is obvious to all that the difference in greatness between you and your predecessor would make it unreasonable for you to argue with him.

The Vilna Gaon, therefore, although he lived in the Tekufas HaAchronim was himself great enough to argue with those Rishonim. Does that officially make the Vilna Gaon a "rishon"?

Well, that’s just semantics. It depends what you mean by Rishon - someone who lived in a certain time-period or someone with a certain stature. The word is not in Chumash - its colloquial, and means whatever you want it to. We generally don’t refer to the Vilna Gaon as a "rishon" (except when you want to make a point) because it confuses things, and its not necessary.

Its sufficient to say that the Vilna Gaon is big enough to argue with Rishonim.

Re Nusach sefard. Those other changes may seem major to you, but halachicly and kabalistically they are minor. The major change was the reversal of hodu and boruch sheamar.

I am not familiar with Rabbi Eisenman's book, but whatever he says there is probably the explanation of why the order was changed according to those who changed it; once upon a time, everyone had it in the nusach ashkenaz order.

israel-phile gal Posted - 20 November 2003 13:39

Whoa- that was just a big portion of the historia test I took therefore I can answer 1 thing: Rav yosef kayro is considered the first of achronim b/c in the shulchan aruch, whenever he quote his predecessors (is that the right word??) he called them a rishon. & common sense is that when the ppl before you are rishonim, then you are what’s considered-an acharon...follow?

Rachack Posted - 21 November 2003 10:29

Guess what my Rebbe just said in Shuir today? My rebbe (a son-in-law of Rabbi Kalevsky ZT"L former Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel in Baltimore) quoted Rav Moshe Feinstein as saying that an Achron can argue with a Rishon as was the case when everyone's hands went up after our rebbe brought an Ohr Samayach arguing on Rashi, Tosafos and the Ritva!

MODERATOR Posted - 21 November 2003 10:45


Well, kind of. If you say he was the first of the achronim it wont be a lie; if you say he was the last of the rishonim it also wont be a lie; if you say he was both the last of the rishonim and also the first of the achronim that will also not be a lie. It's kind of gray.


Often an achron, even a late one such as the Ohr Someach, will give an interpretation that is different than those of the rishonim.

He may even give reasons why he prefers his pshat to those of the rishonim.

However, when this is done, it is, as a rule, only "derech limudo", but l'halachah, the achron will follow the rishonim despite his own interpretation.

When I was a kid (12 or 13 - one of the two) I wrote a letter to Rav Hutner ZTL in learning, and he sent me)orally, through a messenger) his comments back.

One of the comments were, that "when two people say different answers to the same question, we should not say that so-and-so's answer is 'against' the other one's."

Along the same lines, I heard once from Rav Schneur Kotler ZTL, who heard from Rav Boruch Ber Lebowitz ZTL a pshat in the Gemora's statement that before moshiach comes, "chutzpa yasgi" - there will be much chutzpah. Rav Boruch Ber explained:

In the olden days, when someone had a pshat that answered tosfos's question, he would say that the fact that tosfos does not answer his question with that pshat, it discredits the pshat. Nowadays, however, people say they have another answer to tosfos' question!"

It is very unlikely that the Ohr Someach would, in actual practice, without having support from other rishonim, pasken against Rashi, Tosfos, and the Ritva. However, "derech limud" it would not be surprising at all.

Punims Posted - 26 November 2003 20:02

If Nusach Ari is not from the Arizal, then why is it called that? And which Nusach is the original one that the Arizal wrote?

And why is it that only Lubavitchers daven from it?

MODERATOR Posted - 26 November 2003 20:23

Read my post again. I said that the Nusach Ari was made by the Baal HaTanya (that’s how the world refers to who in Lubavitch they call the "Alter Rebbe").

There were Nusach Ari sidurim before the Lubavitcher one, that included kavanos, usually had no nekudos. It wasn’t easy for the average person to use. The Baal HaTanya made his own siddur that he held followed the kavanos of the Ari as well as the nusach itself.

Note: Not all Lubavitchers always used the Nusach Ari siddur. The women didn't. They used to pray from a siddur with the Yiddish translation in it (MInchas Yeruchalayim I think it was called).

That’s why you will find that the brachah of she'asani kirtzono is omitted from the Nusach Ari siddur. It's NOT because the Lubavitch custom is for women not to say the Brachah - if you ask any old old old time Lubavitch women from Europe they will tell you that they did and do say it - rather, the reason is because the Nusach Ari siddur when it was first printed was made for men, not women, and so there was no reason to print it.

Today in Lubavitch there is much confusion over this Brachah. Some Lubavitch girl’s schools say it and some don’t. They don’t really understand what's flying here because they don’t realize the history.

Lubavitch women SHOULD say she'asani kirtzono, as the author of the Siddur Ari himself writes in Rav Shulchan Aruch (that’s how the world refers to what in Lubavitch is referred to the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch).

Rachack Posted - 27 November 2003 19:33

What about the Gra's siddur and all the major changes he made, some of them if you think about make total sense but most ppl don't accept them (i.e. Magdil in bentching on shabbos and weekdays not migdal, or not saying Baruch HaShem Lolam before Amida by maariv etc...) and why do ppl always say that in Eretz Yisroel we always go like the Gr"a?

MODERATOR Posted - 27 November 2003 19:41

The GRA adjusted the nusach hatefilah according to what his halachic opinion determined was proper. As a rule, only those people who consistently follow minhagei HaGRA use the nusach.

The reason why Ashkenazim in Eretz Yisroel (Yeruhalayim, to be precise) follow the Minhagei HaGRA more than in chutz laaretz is because the first people to establish the Yishuv in Eretz Yisroel were the Talmidei HaGRA, and so the Minhagei HaGRA became the minhag hamakom there.

Shaul Posted - 06 July 2006 15:56

Reb mod,

What you said about The Alter rebbe's shulchan Oruch, and the rest of the world calling it rav shulchan oruch, that isn't what it is called by anyone.

Non lubavitchers and even most lubav call it the Shulchan oruch harov, not rav shulchan oruch

MODERATOR Posted - 06 July 2006 16:17

In writing they'll write "Shulchan Aruch HaRav" orally they'll say Rav Shulchan Aruch. Kind of like when someone say for instance Reb Moshe, but in writing it'll be Harav Moshe. its just the way its usually done. Doesn’t mean anything at all.

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