I remember hearing an opinion somewhere that nusach Ashkenaz and nusach Sefard (but not real nusach Sfaradi/Edot Hamizrach!) are both basically the same nusach, since they are structurally very similar. I think this would mean that a chazan in an Ashkenazic kehillah could use either nusach without worrying about lo tisgodedu. Is this a real opinion, and if so, who brought it down?
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There are many differences between Nusach Ashkenaz, the traditional German and Lithuanian nusach, and Nusach Sefard, the Chassidishe nusach. One way they are different is in the way the prayers are ordered. I've included the order of Pesukei D'zimrah for weekdays for both nusachim:
נוסח אשכנז פסוקי דזמרה לחול
תהילים ל, קדיש יתום, הריני מזמן...בשם כל ישראל, ברוך שאמר, הודו, תהילים ק, יהי כבוד, אשרי, תהילים קמו, תהילים קמז, תהילים קמח, תהילים קמט, תהילים קנ, ברוך ה' לעולם אמן ואמן...אמן ואמן, ויברך, וכרות, ויושע, אז-ישיר-משה, ישתבח, חצי קדיש
נוסח ספרד פסוקי דזמרה לחול
הודו, תהילים ל, ה' מלך...ושמו אחד, הושיענו...קה, הללוקה, תהילים סז, הריני מזמן...בשם כל ישראל, ברוך שאמר, תהילים ק, יהי כבוד, אשרי, תהילים קמו, תהילים קמז, תהילים קמח, תהילים קמט, תהילים קנ, ברוך ה' לעולם אמן ואמן...אמן ואמן, ויברך, וכרות, ויושע, אז-ישיר-משה, ישתבח, חצי קדיש
Obviously, the order of the prayers differs between the two nusachim. But there's more than just order that makes them different. A few textual differences (there are many between the two, here are just some examples):
And here's how Nusach Sefard begins it:
There's clearly some differences here.
And here's how Nusach Sefard renders it:
LOTS OF DIFFERENCE. And this is just in Pesukei D'zimrah for weekdays. Some other differences in the Shacharis for Shabbos include the inclusion of L'chai Olamim, even though most Nusach Sefard congregations don't recite it aloud, and more. One big difference is right here:
Clearly different as well.
As for Shemoneh Esrei, some people have informed me that the ArtScroll Nusach Ashkenaz and Nusach Sefard differ in this regard. However, I've davened from both and haven't found any differences. If anyone would like to show me the differences IN AN ARTSCROLL SIDDUR (I'm sure the Shemoneh Esrei is different in other Nusach Sefard publications), I would really like to see them. To my knowledge, since ArtScroll-Mesorah is a primarily Litvish publishing company, their Shemoneh Esrei doesn't change between the nusachim.
Hope this helps. And a lot of the portions I've listed are recited by the chazzan, so a person who davens Nusach Sefard might have a hard time following in a shul that uses Nusach Ashkenaz or vice versa.
By the way, I've used סדור תפארת צבי for the Nusach Ashkenaz, and סדור תפארת יעקב for the Nusach Sefard. Both are printed by ArtScroll and are both all-Hebrew editions.)