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Beit Midrash Prayer

Chapter six-part two

Can i pray in other nusach?(part one)

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4. Immigrants and Communities that Migrated
In the past, when the distance between communities was great, Ashkenazim lived in Ashkenaz, Sephardim in Spain, and Yemenites in Yemen. Any person who moved to another place would adopt the minhag of his new place and practice the customs of the local Jews regarding halachah and prayer. For example, people with the family name "Ashkenazi" follow the Sephardic customs yet are called "Ashkenazi" because they migrated from Ashkenaz to Spain. Likewise, families that migrated from Spain to Ashkenaz accepted upon themselves the Ashkenazic customs. Even if, over the course of time, many people migrate to a community and become the majority there, as long as they arrive as individuals, they are outweighed by the community in which they settle, and must practice according to the custom of the new place (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 214:2; Orach Chaim 468:4; Mishnah Berurah 14).
The law is similar regarding a woman who married a man from a different ethnic group. She is considered someone who migrated from her community to his. She must abide by his practices, whether they are more strict or lenient, and she need not perform a hatarat nedarim (an annulment of vows) (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim, part 1, 158). 2
When an entire community migrates to another place, since it is its own entity, it does not need to conform to the customs of the people there (Bei’ur Halachah 468:4). Even if the original people are the majority, as long as the new ones are united as an independent community, they should continue their initial minhagim. Similarly, that is the law in Israel today. By Hashem’s grace we merited a great ingathering of Jews from the Diaspora (kibbutz galuyot). Myriads of differing ethnic groups arrived, including talmidei chachamim, and each and every ethnic group founded its own synagogue. Therefore, no ethnic group is invalidated in regard to another and each must preserve its own minhagim.

5. Praying in a Minyan Conducted in a Different Nusach
Some poskim say that when a person who is accustomed to one nusach goes to pray in a minyan held in a different nusach, he must pray according to the nusach of the minyan he is attending, because the individuals must follow the majority. If he practices according to his own minhag in front of the people in the congregation, it constitutes a transgression of the prohibition "lo titgodedu" (fragmenting the nation into divergent groups). This prohibition disallows having one court of law (beit din) with some judges who rule according to the method of Beit Shamai and others who rule according to Beit Hillel, so that the Torah will not be divided into two seemingly different Torahs (Yevamot 14a, according to the Rif and the Rosh). Hence, the people of one synagogue should not pray in two different nusachim. Furthermore, the Chachamim teach (Pesachim 50b) that a person must not stray from the custom of a place so as not to generate dispute (Pe’at HaShulchan 3:14).
According to most poskim, one is permitted to pray in his family’s nusach those parts of the prayer service that are recited silently. Since the differences are not noticeable, there is no fear of dispute, nor is there any transgression of the prohibition, "lo titgodedu." However, prayers recited aloud should be prayed in the nusach of the minyan so as not to create controversy and disparity among the members of the congregation. 3
One who must regularly pray in a minyan conducted in a different nusach, e.g., because he moves to a place in which the only minyan prays in a different nusach or because he prays in the minyan that will strengthen his religiosity, is permitted to decide whether to pray in its nusach, or adhere to his own family’s custom, reciting the parts said aloud like the congregation.
The chazan leading the prayer service in a synagogue employing a nusach that is different from his own must pray according to the minhag of the place because he is praying as the people’s emissary. However, for the silent prayers, he may pray according to his own minhag. 4

6. Preserving Minhagim versus Strengthening the Community
The preservation of minhagim, in addition to maintaining the nusach of the prayer, entails upholding the pronunciation of the prayers. Each community – the Yemenites, the Sephardim, and the Ashkenazim – pronounces the prayers according to its own particular dialect. In addition, l'chatchilah, it is proper that each ethnic group continue to pray in its own traditional tunes (see Rama, Orach Chaim 619:1). Clearly, it is permissible to introduce new melodies. However, in the main part of the prayer, the traditional tune that was sanctified throughout the generations should be preserved. For that reason, a person must initially pray in a synagogue which conducts the service in his family’s nusach. 5
Judaism is comprised of numerous different minhagim. The nusach of the Sephardim is divided into many customs. Concerning matters of halachah, the key distinctions are evident between those who practice according to the Shulchan Aruch and those who follow the Ben Ish Chai. Furthermore, there is a specific nusach for Jews from North Africa. While the differences in nusach and halachic matters among those from North Africa and Iraq and Syria are relatively minor, their melodies contrast more strikingly. Even among the immigrants from North Africa there are such distinct disparities in melody, so that Algerians sound dissonant to Moroccans; and to Jews from Libya, both Algerians and Moroccans sound off-key. To perfectly preserve the numerous minhagim, there would have to be individual synagogues for immigrants from Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco, as well as differing synagogues for immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Persia, and Turkey.
Among Ashkenazic immigrants there are different minhagim as well, the primary distinction being between the Chassidim and all remaining Ashkenazim. Still, there are other significant differences in types of diction and melody. The tunes of those who pray in the Nusach Ashkenaz from Western Europe are completely different from the tunes in the Nusach Ashkenaz from Lithuania. Furthermore, regarding diction, there are at least four variations of pronunciation – those of immigrants from Lithuania, Poland, Galitzia, and Hungary. Different sects of Chassidim also have varying minhagim and distinct melodies. Additionally, among the Yemenites there are two main nusachim – Baladi and Shami.
However, if strictly safeguarding the minhagim will bring about the dismantling of the community, it is preferable to forgo the preservation of the customs. In general, when a community is unified, and it arranges Torah study for men, women, and children, and people perform acts of kindness for one another, it succeeds in keeping its members committed to Torah and mitzvot. On the other hand, when a community lacks unity and a communal dedication to Torah, its members become are weak and above all, its children are adversely affected.
Although l’chatchilah every person should pray according to his family’s minhag, if this necessitates the establishment of dozens of small synagogues, making it difficult to assemble a minyan and organize regular Torah classes, it is preferable that ethnic groups with similar minhagim merge to form a stronger community. For example, all Jews from North Africa should pray together and if that is not sufficient, then all people who pray in the Sephardic nusach should pray together. 6
Therefore, in each and every place, it is necessary to weigh the pros and cons, i.e., the importance of preserving the minhagim against the significance of establishing a strong, solid community. When there are enough families from the same ethnic group living in one place, enabling them to establish a large synagogue while preserving the traditions of their minhagim, all the better. But when the number of families is insufficient, it is best that they join a group with customs similar to their own, provided that they form a strong congregation. If the consolidation of similar ethnic groups will not be adequate to ensure a strong community, it is better that all the members of the differing groups – Sephardim, Ashkenazim, and Yemenites – merge to become one community. This issue requires serious consideration, and for that reason, it is up to the mara d’atra, the primary rabbi of the place, to resolve such matters.


^ 2.However, if her husband does not mind, she may continue to pray according to her previous nusach (Halichot Shlomo 1, note 7). Nevertheless, it is proper for her to switch to her husband’s nusach before her children reach the age of understanding, so they will not be confused why their parents are praying in different nusachim (Tefillah Kehilchatah 4, note 4).
^ 3.The prayers recited silently may be prayed in one’s own nusach. However, the Kedushah, which is recited out loud, should be prayed in the chazan’s nusach, as written in Shut Sho’el U’Meishiv Edition 3, 1:247, Meishiv Davar 1:17, Shivat Tzion 5, Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim, part 2, 23, and Minchat Yitzchak 7:5. Regarding Pesukei d’Zimrah, Birkot Keriat Shema, and Nefillat Apayim, the poskim are uncertain. According to the Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim, part 2, 23, since one is permitted to say Pesukei d’Zimrah out loud, it is better that he says them in the chazan’s nusach. Similarly, concerning the matter of Nefillat Apayim on Mondays and Thursdays, there is a difference in custom. According to Nusach Sephard, we put our heads down before Tachanun, and according to Nusach Ashkenaz, after Tachanun. The Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim, part 3, 89, writes that one may not stray from the custom of the place because it would be noticeable. However, the widespread custom is that every person prays according to his minhag. Since it is known that there are many different minhagim in prayer, the prohibition of "lo titgodedu" is not applicable in this case. Yet, those praying in a nusach different from that of the chazan should not call attention to themselves by praying out loud, as mentioned in Tefillah Kehilchatah 4, notes 23 and 26. However, the Yabia Omer, part 6, 10, maintains that even prayers which are recited out loud should continue to be prayed by each person in his own nusach and there is no fear of "lo titgodedu" nor controversy because everyone knows that different minhagim exist. Nonetheless, even according to his opinion, it seems that one should not actually recite those prayers aloud, because if he does, he incites controversy.
In practice , the person praying is permitted to choose a nusach – his or the chazan’s – however, for the more noticeable prayers, it is proper to pray according to the chazan’s nusach. Further, see Igrot Moshe Orach Chaim, Part 4, 34, outlining the aspects of the prohibition to pray according to different minhagim in one synagogue.

^ 4.However, Yabia Omer, part 6, Orach Chaim 10:8, discusses a mourner who is accustomed to praying in one nusach and comes to a place in which the people pray in a different nusach. If they let him lead the prayer service according to his nusach, he can lead. If not, it is better that he does not lead the prayer service and that he prays silently according to his own nusach. However, most poskim do not agree. The Igrot Moshe, part 2, 29 and part 4, 33, maintains that even while praying silently he must pray like the congregation because the silent Amidah prayer was intended as preparation for Chazarat HaShatz. The Halichot Shlomo 5:19 responds to this, saying that since he is reading from a siddur, there is less need for preparation.
^ 5.In the opinion of the Rashdam 35, the warning, "Do not abandon your mother’s teachings," does not apply to minhagim, rather only to laws. Therefore there is no concern in changing one’s nusach of prayer. However, the Hagahot Maymoniyot, based on the Yerushalmi, writes that we are not to switch our family’s nusach, and the Magen Avraham 68:1 cites his opinion as the halachah. That is the opinion of the majority of poskim as well. In practice, concerning an issue of law, it is more important to preserve the minhag. However, regarding non-law-related matters, such as liturgy, and even more so melodies, it is possible to be more lenient in changing them.
^ 6.In addition to this, even though it would be proper that every group preserved all its own minhagim and melodies, there is also a positive aspect to the merging of the Diaspora communities in Israel. Since a person does not necessarily choose a place to live based on his ethnicity, a situation is already created in which the similar nusachim can consolidate. Today most Ashkenazim practice that way; people with different traditions pray together.

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