Volume 29 Number 68
                 Produced: Mon Aug 30 11:44:37 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Different Customs in the Same Shul (A Proposal)
         [Sheri & Seth Kadish]
Lifnei Iver
         [Israel Botnick]


From: Sheri & Seth Kadish <skadish@...>
Date: Sat, 21 Aug 1999 13:49:06 +0300
Subject: Different Customs in the Same Shul (A Proposal)

The following is something I worked on recently, and which I thought
some people might find interesting.  I also thought I might be able to
benefit from your comments, criticisms, and suggestions.

What I've posted here is a suggestion on how, in Israel, to create the
guidelines for a new minyan (and a new kind of minyan) that can
accomodate Jews with vastly different customs from all over the world.
This is something actual, because where I live we now have a place for a
new minyan and will start, God willing, after the chagim.  It is planned
to be an "Ashkenazi" minyan meeting in the basement of our neighborhood
bet knesset (which is sefardic).  But we want to make it as open as
possible, because the local community is very mixed.

Even though the problem this tries to solve is mostly relevant in
Israel, I think the issue may be at least theoretically interesting to
people in other places as well.

Please send me any comments or corrections you may have: Is the
following idea a good one?  What things should be changed?

"Prayer Customs and the Ingathering of the Exiles"

	God blessed our generation with the opportunity to live together
as a nation in our land, after ingathering our exiles from the far
reaches of the world.  This ingathering, however, involved uprooting
ancient communities, a process that was always traumatic (and very often
violent).  Today, hardly any Jews in the world live together in
communities that been in place for many generations.  And most Jewish
communities are made up of families who originated in many different
countries.  As a result, the halakhic principle of minhag ha-makom ("the
custom of the place") has lost much of its force, and perhaps even its
very meaning.
	In our present reality, there is no perfect way to create a
unified "praying community" when each of its members wants
(justifiably!) to continue praying according to the customs of their
fathers.  How is it possible to unify public prayer in a synagogue, and
at the very same time to leave room for the all the various customs kept
by the community, both the customs of the majority and of the minority?
	Some have tried to solve this problem once and for all, by
choosing a "unified nosah" and mandating its use by all of Israel.  But
this solution rejects the customs of a large number of those who pray in
our synagogues (sometimes even of the majority!).  As a result, the idea
of a "unified nosah" was rejected (consciously or unconsciously) by the
spiritual instincts of Jews loyal to the Torah.  Instead of creating
artificial unity through the forced sacrifice of age-old traditions, we
suggest a different path, namely: *public prayer open to a wide variety
of customs*.
	The strategy suggested here is far from perfect.  It does not
have the ability (at least not yet) to bridge the gaps in style and in
melody between the prayers of the eastern communities (Sefaradim) and
the prayers of the Jews of Europe (Ashkenazim).
	Nevertheless, we must do as much as we can.  At the very least
we can create a "minyan" that will be open to the wide variety of
customs that exist among Ashkenazic Jews, and to a large degree even to
other customs as well.

	As an introduction, here are some necessary definitions having
to do with Ashkenazic prayer customs:

	"Nosah" = the words (text) of blessings and prayers, as printed
in siddurim.

	"Nosah of the Hasidim" = A nosah created by the students of the
Baal Shem Tov in eastern Europe more than two centuries ago.  According
to hasidim it is the "nosah ha-kollel," i.e. a sort of "master key" that
can unlock the gates of heaven for the prayers of Jews from any of the
twelve tribes.
	This nosah is commonly called "nosah sefarad", and it was also
dubbed "nosah ahid" by Rabbi Shlomo Goren of blessed memory, who chose
it for his "unified nosah".
	The students of the Baal Shem Tov brought this nosah to the Land
of Israel in the great hasidic aliya of 5537 (1777), and through their
influence it eventually spread to most of the Ashkenazic synagogues in
Israel.  Because of Rabbi Goren's choice of it for his "nosah ahid," it
also became widely used in Religious-Zionist circles.  (Also: The "Nosah
ha-Ari" used by Lubavitcher hasidim is one edition of the nosah of the

	"Nosah Ashkenaz" = The siddur according to the customs of the
Jews of Europe (except for the hasidim).  To this very day, it is the
nosah of prayer for the overwhelming majority of Jews in the diaspora.
Nosah Ashkenaz represents one basic custom, though there were small
variations between the customs of eastern Europe and the customs of
Germany and western Europe.  The Gaon of Vilna also studied and edited
the Ashkenazic nosah, and his customs were brought to the Land of Israel
by his students (who arrived some thirty years after the hasidic aliya).
All siddurim published in Israel today and labeled "Ashkenaz" are
arranged according to the customs of the Vilna Gaon ("Nosah ha-Gra").

	"Nusach" = In Yiddish, the meaning of the word is: a basic
melody for chanting the prayers, which changes at special times.  For
example: in Ashkenazic communities there is a special "nusach" for
weekdays, one for each part of Shabbat (Kabbalat Shabbat, Maariv,
Shaharit & Musaf, Minha), one for the three festivals (for night ad for
day), and an elaborate "nusach" for the Yamim Noraim (The Days of Awe,
namely selihot through Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur).
	It is important to add that "nusach" (as a basic melody) is the
most important component of prayer dividing Ashkenazic custom from that
of the Eastern communities (Edot ha-Mizrah).  For "nusach" (melody) the
difference are sometimes hard to adjust to, as opposed to the
differences in the prayer-text (nosah) which are smaller and of less
practical importance.  It is possible to overcome the differences in the
wording to pray together with relative ease, as opposed to the
differences in melody and style.

	"Tunes" = Above and beyond the "nusach" (i.e. the basic melody),
in Ashkenazic communities the custom is to singe certain prayers with
elaborate melodies, while weaving this special music in with the basic
"nusach".  In the past, such tunes usually meant professionally hired
hazzanut for the community to listen to, but nowadays they are often
popular tunes that can be sung by the entire community (such as those of
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach of blessed memory).

A. Prayer Customs in a New "Minyan" (A Proposal)

	In order to pray together as a community following the sheliah
tzibbur (prayer-leader), and at the same time to leave a place in the
synagogue for a variety of customs and different styles of avodat Hashem
(serving God) - we must differentiate between three components of public
	A.  The order of the prayers.
	B.  The melody and tunes for the the prayers ("nusach" in Yiddish).
	C.  The nosah (text) of blessings and prayers.

 The Order of Public Prayer.
	We must set one common standard for the *order* the prayers to
be said in, so that the community will not be confused.  In our
"minyan", the *order* will be according to the nosah of the hasidim, and
specifically as printed in "Siddur Rinat Yisrael Nosah Sefarad".  We
chose this siddur because the majority of the community is familiar with
it and the its order of prayers is well-known.
	Example: Saying "Hodu" and the mizmorim for Shabbat before
"Barukh She-Amar" and not afterwards (as opposed to Nosah Ashkenaz).
	Example: Lifting the Sefer Torah ("hagba") after reading it, not
beforehand (as opposed to the Eastern custom).
	Example: "Alenu" at the very end of Shaharit (as opposed to
Nosah Ashkenaz).
	During the Yamim Noraim - a time when the hazzanut customs in
Ashkenazic communities are very complicated, and there are significant
variations among the different communities - each hazzan may pray
according to his custom even regarding the *order* of the prayers
(mainly: the selection and order of piyyutim).  But this is on condition
that the hazzan write a list of changes before the holiday, and explain
them to the gabbai, who will in turn guide the community through them.

B.  The "Nusach" (Melody) of Prayer
	In accordance with the custom of most members, the regular
"nusach" in our minyan will be the variety of melodies common in
Ashkenazic communities.
	However, there will be no objection whatsoever to weaving
pleasant melodies into the basic "nusach".  Any sheliah tzibbur who
wants to introduce a melody that adds a new dimension to avodat
sheba-lev (the service of the heart) is encouraged to do so, as long as
the melody is acceptable to the community and causes no disagreements.
	There will also be no objection whatsoever for a member of a
non-Ashkenazic community to function as sheliah tzibbur at times, and to
pray according to his custom.  When this happens, the *order* of the
prays will remain according to the nosah of the hasidim, but the text
*and the melodies* will be according to the custom of the hazzan.  The
gabbai will guide all shelihei tzibbur regarding the order of the
	Anyone reading the Torah may sing the te`amim according to his
own custom, and should try to read accurately according to that custom.

C.  The Nosah (Text) of Prayer
	Although the *order* of community prayer will be according to
the nosah of the hasidim, the sheliah tzibbur may recite individual
blessings and prayers according to his own nosah, no matter what his
custom is.
	We want our children to be familiar with and respect all of the
different nosahim, knowing that all customs are acceptable to God.  We
also want our children, when they are older, to be able to (and want to)
pray with together comfortably within any community, regardless of what
their custom is.
	We will never reject a sheliah tzibbur or a baal koreh because
of his custom for pronouncing Hebrew (e.g. Ashkenazic, Sefardic,
Yemenite, or "Israeli" pronunciations).  But each sheliah tzibbur and
reader of the Torah should learn to read accurately according to the
rules of grammar as they apply to the pronunciation he is familiar with.

The Kadishes: Seth (Avi), Sheri (Shoshana) and David Zvi
Rehov Megiddo 5/10, Karmiel 21950


From: Israel Botnick <icb@...>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 16:53:22 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Lifnei Iver

Eli Clark wrote:
< You cite two well-known cases: (a) a parent who angers a child, thereby
< inducing the child to strike the parent and (b) one who sells an
< expensive forbidden object at a discount, thereby inducing Jews to buy
< it.  In each case, lifnei iver is violated because the action is a
< necessary condition to the commission of the sin.  In other words, the
< halakhah recognizes that an ordinary child would not strike a parent
< unless angered and that an ordinary consumer would not purchase the
< forbidden object except at a discount.  Thus, motivating a person to
< commit a sin is lifnei iver, where that person would not otherwise
< commit such a sin.

< But I think it absurd to say that providing kosher food induces mixed
< dancing or constitutes a necessary condition for mixed dancing.  Just as
< it is absurd to say that the providing ginger ale induces drinking wine
< or is a necessary condition for drinking wine.

I see the distinction that you are making, i.e that angering someone or
selling a forbidden product at discount, is a motivation that will
attract the ordinary person to sin. As opposed to providing a Nazir with
ginger ale, which is not a necessary condition for drinking wine, and is
only an enticement for this one Nazir. However, I don't see why this
distinction is relevant.

Rashi explains based on the Sifri, that Lifnei Iver is a prohibition
against giving bad advice. Helping or causing someone to sin, is Lifnei
Iver because it falls into this more general category of 'giving bad
advice'. Given this, why should it matter if you motivate someone to sin
in a standard way, or if it is in a non-standard way, that only this one
person will fall for.

If you know that the Nazir will drink wine only with ginger ale, then
giving him the wine/ginger ale is causing him to sin (even if he already
had wine).  The ginger ale is a necessary condition for him despite
being non-standard.  It is no different than any other type of bad
advice, such as convincing a Nazir that he should drink wine by telling
him that it tastes good.

[The case of the (added by Mod)] son is an obvious example. Being a
witness to a loan that charges interest is another. If I convince
someone that they should rob a bank, then I have certainly violated
lifnei Iver, without providing a prohibited item.

< Indeed, I think your argument is contradicted by the Gemara in Nedarim,
< which explains that one can sell wood to people who worship fire because
< rov etzim le-hasakah nitnu (=most wood is used for fuel).  In this case,
< one is providing the actual item to be used in the sin, i.e., the wood,
< but one can rely on the fact that wood is generally used for permitted
< purposes, rather than idolatry.  This rationale should certainly apply
< to the hypothetical ginger ale case, especially given that the ginger
< ale itself is not prohibited to be drunk.

The difference is, that the fire worshipper who buys wood, might use it
for worshipping, and he might use it for regular firewood. Therefore the
gemara concludes that we can assume he will use it for a permitted
purpose.  However, giving ginger ale with wine to a Nazir, knowing that
he will drink it (as the gemara of giving wine to a Nazir implies),
there is no permitted purpose to rely on.

Israel Botnick


End of Volume 29 Issue 68