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HALACHA-----which minhag for baalei teshuva

Renée Posted - 02 October 2000 13:40

Regarding following the customs of one's father:

Dr. Rick Kramer wrote:

Converts and Baalei Teshuvah are in two different categories. While gerim can pick their minhag (after consulting with their Rav) BT's must search back in the past as to what their minhag would be IF their family continued the traditions. For example, if the FATHER'S (always the fathers' father's father, etc.) grandfather came from Vilna, then he would be litvish (Lithuanian) and daven nusach ashkenaz, etc.

This is absolutely incorrect. Ba'alei Teshuvah have absolutely no obligation whatsoever to follow their family customs. Once the chain of observance was broken in their family, they are free to choose which custom they wish to follow. Of course, many are probably more comfortable choosing their families customs, and probably do so - and this is praiseworthy. But it is not incumbent upon them.

Eli Linas
[Torah Forum from]

Moderator--I'm really confused here about which is correct. Are there any sources to support each viewpoint?

I mean, who decides this stuff? Are there any writings?

MODERATOR Posted - 02 October 2000 15:47

Usually, but not always, a Baal Teshuva will be under no obligation to follow the Minhagim of his ancestors. Here’s how this works:

The Gemara (Pesachim 50b) says that when a community accepts a Minhag, that Minhag is binding on their descendants as well. But:

(1) There are those who hold that this is only if the children began to follow the custom themselves (even without an official commitment); but if they never even began to follow the custom, they have no obligation to begin doing so. According to this, Baalei teshuva would not be obligated to follow their parents’ customs.

(2) The Gemora is only discussing children who remain in the community where their parents accepted the Minhag. It does not say that children who leave the community are obligated to follow their former community’s Minhagim. Therefore:

If someone came to America, say, after the war, it is questionable whether he is obligated to follow his old Minhagim. Rabbonim have been accustomed to tell immigrants to follow their old Minhagim, but I believe this was more sound advice than Halachic mandate. If these people were not religious, then their children, who are growing up in a completely different community than that which accepted the Minhag in the first place, has zero obligation to follow that Minhag.

It may be a good idea for him to do so anyway, but if there are problems, such as if he grows up in a Yeshiva where the Minhagim are different than those of his ancestors, he can surely accept the Minhagim of his educators.

However, if there was an establishment of a community Minhag here in America, for instance, say the father is a Gerer Chosid, and they have clear established Minhagim, then the father’s accepting of that minhag would qualify as a new Minhag HaMakom and be binding on his descendants as well, so long as someone does not leave the Gerer community.

So if, let’s say, the son of a Gerer chosid went off the Derech and his grandson became a Baal Teshuva, if the father who went off the Derech did not leave the community (despite his going off the derech) the grandson would be obliged to follow his Minhagim.

In other words, the Minhag of your family is obligatory only if it qualifies as "Minhag HaMakom", but familial Minhagim are not intrinsically binding at all.

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