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Minhagim for converts (Bnei Menashe), Part 2

Rav David Lhungdim We have concluded in last week's episode, that, it is better and preferable for Converts to accept the Minhag of Sefardim, (Eduth Mizrakh) so as to avoid dispute among our great Rabbis.

It is not only to avoid disputes among our great Rabbis, but it is the best and preferable choice since by accepting the Minhag of Sephardim one fulfills all the ruling of our Rabbis whether Sephardi or Ashkenazi, because according to some Ashkenazi Rabbis even though they don’t accept the ruling of Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef of blessed memory and other Rabbis, they rule and agreed that Gerim (convert) can choose any minhag he wishes.


Why Sephardi Eduth Mizrakh Siddur for Gerim (convert)?

The book “Mamar Yabok” (Shivtei Tzedek Ch 31) wrote that for every 12 tribes of Israel there are gates in heaven, according to the root of their souls, thus one should not change the way of prayers his forefather taught them.


The book “Shar Hakavanoth”, explains the root of twelve gates for each tribe where their prayers enter, and indeed there is a lot of difference in Nusakh of prayers and blessings, between Sefard, Ashkenazi…and regarding this my teacher Ariz”l told me, that there are 12 gates in heaven, for 12 tribes of Israel, and these sacred twelve gates are the gates mention at the end of Yechezkel, therefore there is no doubt, if the prayers of the tribes were same, there won’t be 12 gates, corresponding to their respective tribes, and each gate has their own pathway where prayers enter since their prayers were different they need a specific gate-way for each tribe.


Therefore it is good that everyone should cling to the minhag prayers of their forefather because he doesn’t know to which tribe he belongs (Shaar HaKavanoth pg 50, Nagidum tzave pg 8 saif 2). And the Pri Megadim wrote regarding this that one should not change his Minhag from Ashkenazi to Sefard.

But according to Maran HaKhida, one shouldn’t change their minhag, because 12 gates in heaven correspond to 12 tribes of Israel, and the prayers of each tribe enter their respective gates, and NusachSefardi can enter and penetrate all 12 gates. Ariz”l. (Bekesher Godel siman 12:9). So too it’s written in “Shalmei Tzibur” (Daf 108 saif 2).


Thus we find according to Ariz”l, Sephardim are not permitted to change their Minhag to Ashkenazi, but Ashkenazim can change their prayers to Sefardi Minhag, for who is greater than our saintly Rabbi Ariz”l, who himself was Ashkenazi but prayed according to Minhag Sefardi as written in “Shaar HaKavanoth”.


And the “Khida” wrote in his responsa “Yosef Ometz” (Siman 20) it is known to me that Azkenazim in holy land doesn’t pray with the Sephardim, and know that Ashkenazi, Sefardi or Italki, whoever pray in which of the three Nusakh has fulfilled his obligation, as written in responsa “Shaar Efraim” (Siman 13), and who among us is greater than Rabbeinu Ariz”l, who was Ashkenazi from the family of Maharshal, that he prayed the whole year according to Nusach Sefardi except on Yamim Noraim, as written in Shaar HaKavanoth. (See also Responsa “Lev Khaim” by Rabbi Khaim Falagi, khelek 2, Siman 9, pg 4 saif 2).


And the Khatam Sofer wrote in his responsa, (O.C Siman 15), that when the holy Ariz”l came and leveled investigate and revised, he arranged everything in his siddur according to its profound meaning and discovered the mysteries and secrets of the Sephardim minhag. Know that he was a Sephardi, and if he was Ashkenazi, a man like him would fix Ashkenazi siddur, and now in the last generations, who come to find the secret of G-d, it is enough for them to understand the words of the Ariz"l, so it is good for them to pray in the Sephardic siddur that was fixed and has its uniqueness according to Ariz”l. Therefore, my teacher the great Rabbi Nathan Adler zt"l, himself when he passed in front of the ark he prayed in the Sephardic version of the Ariz”l

siddur, so too my teacher “Baal Haflah” also prayed in the Ariz”l Nusach. (See also Khatam Sofer O.C siman 197, and Maharam Shik O.C siman 43).

The truth is our saintly teacher Ariz”l was Ashkenazi, according to the Rabbanim mentioned above, thus it is also written in “Petak Dvir” (khelek 3 Siman 285) that the Ariz”l was Ashkenazi, and the Responsa “Keren Le-David” (6:19), was puzzled with what the Khatam Sofer wrote, that Ariz”l was Sephardi because his name proves that he was an Ashkenazi, who was called Rabbi Yitzhak Luria Ashkenazi and was never a Sephardi. (see also Minkhat Eleazar khelek 1, O.C siman 11).


In conclusion, the Nusach Sefard is not the exact Nusach of the Sephardim, which our saintly Rabbi Ariz”l agreed on, as we found in “Shaar Hakavanoth” that the Ariz”l wrote, in summer one should say the blessing “Barkhenu” and in winter “Barekh Aleinu” according to Minhag Sephardim, and which is not like the Nusach Sefard. And in the blessing “Shomea Tefila” as explained in “Shaar Hakavana”, “ShemavKolenuvHashem, Elokeinu Av harakhaman, khus verakhem aleinu”, which is the opposite of Nusach Sefard, and so on, there are a lot of differences (for detail see Yabia Omer khelek 6 O.C Siman 10).


Ger Tzedek (proselyte) that convert to Israel, should follow the ruling of Maran HaShulkhan Arukh, whether it be stringency or leniency, even if his forefather were from the land of Ashkenazi, and even if his father was from Azkenazi country and his mother was a gentile since he did not have all relations with his father, he needs to convert, thus he should follow the minhag of the place where he gets his conversion, that is Maran Rabbi Yosef Karo, for we have accepted his ruling, therefore he should pray according to the Nusach of Sephardim Eduth Mizrakh since it is the accurate Nusakh according to Ariz”l of blessed memory. (Kitzur Yalkut Yosef 453:14, for details see Yabia Omer Khelek 6 siman 10).


Therefore convert like us the Bnei Menashe, we must accept the Ruling of Maran Shulkhan Arukh, and pray according to Nusach Sephardic Eduth Mizrakh which is the most accurate Nusach according to Ariz”l since Nusach Sephardi enters 12 gates, and about what the Ariz”l wrote, everyone should cling to the minhag prayers of their forefather, because he doesn’t know to which tribe he belongs (Shaar HaKavanoth pg 50(the more so for convert proselyte, because we cannot verify exactly whether our forefathers intermingle with others nation after 2700 yrs of harsh exile, as our sages in Yevamot (17a) declares that the status of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel is considered as gentiles, “The Sages did not move from there until they declared them (the ten tribes) as gentiles.” They deduce this from the verse of the Prophet: “They betrayed God, and begat alien children ‘’ (Hosea 5:7).


Since our saintly Rabbis whom we mention above rule that the Minhag of Sephardim Eduth mizrakh enter all the 12 gates in heaven, it is fitting for us to pray in Nusach Sephardi, so that our prayers may merit to enter the 12 gates, or the gates of the tribes Menashe. Moreover, I think, in our days sometimes, when there is a halachic ruling on how to understand Maran HaShulkhan Arukh, it is fitting for us (Benei Torah) among the BeneiMenashe to follow the ruling and rely on Maran HaRishon leTzion Harav Yitzchak Yosef Slita, (Yalkut Yosef) so as not to confuse our communities laymen when asked about day to day life on Halachic matters.

To be continue (Kabalath Horaat Maran Ha Shulkhan Arukh)

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