But it’s not their נוסח?

Melbourne, Australia became home to many Polish Jews after World War 2. According to some, the number of Polish Jewish refugees who landed on Melbourne’s shores, was second only to the State of Israel. What נוסח did they or their parents daven at home? Regrettably, it’s probably too late to answer this question accurately. To be sure, most such Jews were religiously estranged and caught between feelings of disbelief that Hashem’s world did co-exist with a devastating Holocaust designed to wipe out our and their loved ones, and feelings of benign thanks for the fact that they had been spared and survived. In among these competing and contradictory feelings, the Polish Jewish survivor, in the main, maintained their connection with organised Jewish prayer. In the least this was manifested by attendance at Yizkor services, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashana.

For most of my formative years, I sat among this harrowed and harrowing older generation of Polish Jews at Elwood Shule in Melbourne. Rabbi Chaim Gutnick

Rabbi Chaim Gutnick

was the shepherd to that flock of Holocaust survivors. This is etched indelibly into my psyche and looms as a pervasive shadow tracking many of my thoughts and actions.

After returning from learning in Israel, I became accustomed to engaging in conversation with many of the survivors. They, of course, were only too happy to regale with stories of their Yichus—how holy their Zeyda/Booba or Tatte/Mama was.

Melbourne’s established Shules, derived from Anglo communities all davened נוסח אשכנז. I had suspected that many, if not the majority, of the survivors, however, had davened נוסח ספרד at home. Yet, they had seemingly quietly accepted נוסח אשכנז as “close enough” and didn’t make a fuss. There were one or two shules that were exceptions to this rule and there were “celebrated” splits or machlokesin over the choice of נוסח. For example, Mizrachi Shule, under Rav Abaranok z”l, used to allow either נוסח depending on who occupied (forcefully or otherwise) the Amud. This was based on a personal psak to Rav Abaranok by R’ Moshe Feinstein z”l. I remember Rav Abaranok telling me that Reb Moshe had told him that it was better that there were no fights and a mixed up נוסח, rather than ongoing fighting and an unaccepted נוסח. Rav Abaranok, of course, was Eidel. A Musmach of the Chafetz Chaim was never going to co-exist with Machlokes. It was anathema to Rav Abaranok, which is why his legacy and his memory is universally acclaimed across Melbourne, by all types, to this day.

Rav Baruch Abaranok

Returning to Elwood Shule, I used to approach the different mispallelim and ask a simple question  (in Yiddish)

“what did you say at home “כתר or נעריצך?”

I found that probably 7 out of 10 said כתר. My father also said כתר in his home town of Rawa Mazowiecka, but at Elwood Shule he just davened the נוסח of the Shule. Many children mistakenly assumed that their family tradition was to actually daven אשכנז. In reality, my experience based on the Elwood microcosm (which may well also be a statistically sound sample) was that the majority actually derived from families that davened נוסח ספרד. This was yet another example (at least in my mind) of the peripheral damage to Mesorah that had been caused largely by the dislocation due to the Holocaust. I wasn’t ever going to buy into it, as it would be a capitulation to the damage caused by the tyrant, yimach shemo vezichro.  שמע בני מוסר אביך ואל תיטוש תורת אימך

As an aside, I sometimes played a little game during Kedusha. If I started saying כתר audibly, I found many of the older survivors around me automatically said כתר as well. It was an exercise in  pavlovian reactivity, as if to prove to myself that I had discovered some recessed mesora and was responsible for bringing it out to the open once more. But what is the Halacha? What should you say in קדושה if you daven a different נוסח to the ציבור?

We know that if one is the Chazan in a Shule that davens a different נוסח to one’s own, that you should adopt the נוסח of the Shule. During the year after the Rav lost his father Reb Moshe Soloveitchik z”l, the Rav paid one visit to the Rayatz z”l of Lubavitch. After they had completed their meeting, they went into the Lubavitch Beis Medrash to daven Mincha. The Rav, being a chiyuv, went to the Amud to act as שליח ציבור. Just prior, the Rayatz “reminded” the Rav that even though the Rav followed the customs of the Vilna Gaon, that he had to say the loud Shmoneh Esre, Al pi Nusach Ari (the version of Ari that Chabad uses). The Rav immediately replied that the Gaon’s talmidim, such as the Peas Hashulchan and R’ Chaim Volozhiner testified that this was also the Psak of the Vilna Gaon, and so the Rayatz had nothing to worry about 🙂

So, if you find yourself in, say, an אשכנז Shule, and you daven נוסח ספרד, are you permitted to audibly answer כתר in Musaf Kedusha and not נעריצך? Should you say נעריצך like the ציבור? Should you say כתר but do so quietly? May you blurt out כתר even though everyone is saying נעריצך? This question was addressed by Reb Moshe Feinstein in Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 2:23) where he paskened that one should say exactly what the Chazan says, in responsive Kedusha. So that if the Chazan/ציבור says נעריצך it would be wrong to blurt out כתר. Reb Moshe’s reasoning is that since it is a Davar Shebikdusha that has to be said with a minyan, and since the minyan or the ציבור daven נוסח אשכנז, the real Chiyuv to say the Kedusha only comes about because of the ציבור entity and since the ציבור is effectively formed or composed of נוסח אשכנז, he should also only say his Kedusha in the same נוסח as the enabling entity. If he said it in נוסח ספרד, for instance, then according to Reb Moshe, he would not be entitled Lechatchila to say that version of Kedusha because that version of Kedusha didn’t derive from the ציבור entity, and is therefore illegitimately assumed to have been “born” into existence as a manifestation of that ציבור. This opinion of Reb Moshe was preceded by the  שבילי דוד  (Siman 125) in a Pirush on Orach Chaim (cited by Rav Ovadya Yosef) from the 19th Century, whose opinion is identical to Reb Moshe.

On the other hand, Rav Ovadya Yosef, in Yechave Daas (3:6) in discussing a question about נוסח אחיד in the long footnote on page 22 (in my edition) agrees that it is not proper to say a different קדושה to that of the ציבור. However, Rav Ovadya parameterises קדושה into two components: its textual essence and its pre-amble. According to Rav Ovadya, the essence of Kedusha is the same across all נוסחאות. It comprises of the פסוקים of קדוש and ברוך (and according to some, also ימלוך). Accordingly, he argues that only the essence is enabled by the ציבור and the pre-ambles are just that—a pre-amble. Rav Ovadya adduces proof for this argument by observing that someone who has to interrupt his Tefilla (eg during ברכות קריאת שמע) to answer קדושה is only permitted to interrupt using the bare minimum of קדושה. That is, he is permitted to recite the essence (as above) but not the pre-amble. Why? Because the pre-amble (such as כתר or נקדישך) is exactly that. It isn’t really the קדושה per se. Therefore, according to Rav Ovadya, one is entitled to feel free to say כתר while the rest of the קהל are saying נקדישך because the pre-amble doesn’t derive its legitimacy from the ציבור

Rav Moshe in his Tshuva (cited above) also notes the difference between the pre-amble and the actual קדושה but he is of the opinion that the pre-amble is linked to the real קדושה and is only said because of the קדושה and is what we answer (albeit prior) to what the Chazan says. Accordingly, it isn’t “שייך” to use a different נוסח to the ציבור.

In Divrei Harav, Rav Schachter Shlita relates in the name of Rabbi N. Turk of Miami (who was an aide to the Rav for many years) that the Rav did not agree with Reb Moshe and that the Rav felt that one was entitled to say the pre-amble in whatever נוסח was the Mesorah. I do not know, however, if the Rav’s reasoning was like that of Rav Ovadya.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

13 thoughts on “But it’s not their נוסח?”

  1. Have you seen the recent post of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka when she gave a statement for the famous Didan Natzach court case….

    Check whether her hair covering is in line with the stance Lubavitchers claim the Rebbe demanded over the years…..

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    1. Not sure how her alleged hair line is relevant to my post Bill? I’ve always felt though that she would be a very interesting lady to talk to. Many women of that era and area had a certain independence, including her sister Sonia hy”d, none of which worries me.

      There aren’t too many “artscroll” families in reality and the quicker we all realise it, the less pressure we will put on the next generation. It’s hard enough to be an artscroll family if you lived in the times of the Tannaim, but in our era, let’s get real, unless you are hermetically sealed, it’s a pipe dream.

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  2. The vast majority of those who Daven Nusach HaChassidim (also called Nusach Sfard or Nusach Ari) are Ashkenazim whose forefathers probably Davened Nusach Ashkenaz before the spread of Chassidus in Eastern and Central Europe a couple of hundred years ago.

    Nusach Ashkenaz as we have it today, with some textual variations, derives from at least the times of early Rishonim based on Nusach Eretz Yisroel from the times of the second Beis HaMikdosh.

    The Chassidishe Nusach uses Nusach Ashkenaz as its basis, superimposing textual changes from the Sfardic Nusach (and other old Nuschaos) and Kabbala, particularly the Zohar.

    Basic Nusach Ashkenaz has remained virtually unchanged in over 1000 years and is probably the closest Nusach (re: the Amidah, at least) to that established by Anshei Knesses HaGedola among whom sat several Neviim. This makes it more “authentic”.

    The Amidah in Nusach Ashkenaz also has the exact number of words that the Tur counts for the various Brochos therein.

    Nusach Ashkenaz tends to a simpler, purer form of Tfilla without repeating similar words or redundant concepts, albeit it has retained many Gematrias which are not present in other Nuschaos, e.g. the fifteen word concept from Yishtabach to the Shemone Esre.

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    1. If you are referring to the issue of a hierarchy of Nuschaos in respect of which Nusach is “better” or more authentic than another, then I hasten to point out that this was not the point of my post.

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    1. Yes, but that has to do with the so called “superiority” of one Nusach over another. It is the same view as the Minchas Elozor, but it is not the view of R’ Moshe. It’s an old issue.

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