Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mixed Davening Epiphany

No, it's not what you think. This past Kabbalat Shabbat, I was in a youth hostel in Jerusalem, where all of the guests who are so inclined gather together, and hope to assemble enough people and know-how to create a smooth and meaningful davening. Since we are in Jerusalem, the numbers were not the problem. However, the assembled group was almost evenly divided between those who daven nusach ashkenaz (prayer arrangement that developed in Eastern Europe), and those who daven nusach sfard (prayer arrangement that developed in Western Europe and North Africa). Leaving aside specifics, suffice it to say that there are difference in the two davening traditions.

So what's the epiphany? It did not matter one bit that half of the kahal (assembled community) was working with one text and the other half working with a different text. I cannot honestly tell you that davening was not the best or smoothest that I have experienced. What I can tell you is that all of those who were present came together to welcome Shabbat, each in the way that is customary for him or her.

Why bother talking about it? Often you hear "Oh, in nusach sfard they do X and in nusach ashkenaz they do Y." For the sake of community and the ushering in of the Shabbat bride, it did not matter whose customs were whose. My broader point is that prayer is a communal undertaking, requiring the participation and commitment of all.

Thanks for reading, chodesh tov. I apologize for the long absence. I haven't forgotten about the second half of amud ettiquete.

1 comment:

Aharon said...

Don't confuse Nusach sfard with nusach sefaradi. Nusach sfard is a family of nusach inspired by the Ari z"l. Sefaradi is a family of nusach originating in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) that was disseminated around the Mediterranean following the Spanish expulsion in 1492. Often enough the nusach sefaradi displaced local nuschaot. This certainly happened with the decline of the Italian Nusach Roma (not to be confused with the Byzantine, Nusach Romaniote -- which also declined). All over the Jewish world you can find liturgical arguments witnessed in Nusach related to the influence of the Ari. German vs. Polish rite Ashkenaz and Baladi vs. Shami in Yemen. Sfard refers to a version of the Nusach Ashkenaz that was highly influenced by the Ari and which became the nusach of Hasidim.