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Generally siddurim for European Jewry are labeled nusach Ashkenaz or nusach Sefard. However, Selichos are often labeled nusach Lita or nusach Polin. My understanding is that Lita is Ashkenaz, and Polin is Sefard. In other contexts, it seems that nusach Ashkenaz might be broken down into Lita and Polin sub-dialects. Even inside a standard Sefard siddur there are two versions of the Kel erech apayim prayer when taking out a sefer Torah, titled Ashkenaz Lita and Polin versions.

I'm a bit confused how this taxonomy works. Can someone explain it to me please?

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    Even only with regards to selichot there are dozens of different rites. I've made a useful table to compare the major ones, but even this one doesn't include all of them: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selichot#Selichot_rites Nov 12, 2021 at 11:10
  • Regarding your other question (currently without a good answer): judaism.stackexchange.com/q/30249/15256 Nov 12, 2021 at 11:13
  • Thank you all for the replies! It sounds like perhaps the answer might be that the various nusach terms depend on context. It's not intentional, but sort of the effect of historical changes.
    – jacob
    Nov 21, 2021 at 11:17

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Each town had its own slight variations in davening, and these differences were especially pronounced in Selichos and other piyutim. When they started mass producing siddurim, and especially in America when everyone was mixed up and they had to print "common denominator" siddurim, things got simplified, and in some cases oversimplified. It's mostly visible in things that depend on minhag, like piyutim.

The situation is even worse for Yom Kippur. The selichos for Yom Kippur didn't make it into most machzorim at all.

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  • The same holds true for the way people spoke and the way people wrote. People nowadays talk about a single "beit yosef script" as if that's how all Eastern Europeans wrote and a single Ashkenazi Hebrew accent as if all Eastern European Jews sounded the same, when in truth there were so many regional dialects and scripts that there's virtually no way what almost anyone uses to daven and has in their tefillin are exactly what their great-grandfather used and had.
    – Double AA
    Nov 12, 2021 at 19:03
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Really what Artscroll and others today calls Ashkenaz is a bit of a misnomer. Nusach Ashkenaz really means the German/Yekkish rite of davening with today is called "Minhag Ashkenaz". What Artscroll calls Nusach Ashkenaz is really what in the past was referred to as Nusach Polin. Nusach Lita has pretty much fallen out of use although some aspects of it are incorporated into modern "Ashkenaz" siddurim. I personally have never seen a selichos labeled as Nusach Polin. The Artscroll Selichos that says Lita on it means that it is the standar Eastern European selichos rather than the Yekkish/German aka "Ashkenaz" selichos. I am not 100% if Nusach Lita is minhag Ha-Gra or something else that was done in Lithuania. Before WWII there was also "Nusach Ungar" from Hungary which has survived to some degree in non Chasidish Hungarian Shuls and there was also "Nusah Russ" from Russia.

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  • Welcome to MiYodeya and thanks for this first answer. Since MY is different from other sites you might be used to, see here for a guide which might help understand the site. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Nov 13, 2021 at 16:19
  • Keminhag Polin: hebrewbooks.org/49921 I suppose you're mixing up too many things. There are various German selichot rites (Frankfurt, Straßburg, Fürth, Worms etc.). Nusach Lita is mostly used by non-Chasidic Jews of Eastern Europe, while Nusach Polin (in the selichot sense) is the tradition of Chasidic Jews. But it's a trivially imprecise oversimplification, as we haven't discussed the (Czech-Moravian-)Hungarian tradition you've mentioned, while the Italians, (real) Sefardim and Mizrachim would be just way too much. Read this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selichot#Selichot_rites Nov 13, 2021 at 17:54
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The concept of a universal minhag or nusach is very much a modern invention. In previous generations, these things could change and vary depending on the region. In other words, each locale might have had its own unique customs and variations. As mentioned by other users on this question, Nusach Ashkenaz generally refers to the nusach of German Jewry and eventually this term broadened to include other areas of Europe as well such as Lithuania, Poland, etc.

Nusach Lita refers to the way non-Hasidic Ashkenazi Jews would pray, while Nusach Polin refers to the Hasidic rite. This can be seen in the way that ArtScroll labels their "Ashkenaz" Selichos as Lita (Lithuanian) and their "Sefard" Selichos as Polin (Polish).

Many communities in Poland were Hasidic, and even those that were not sometimes still followed the Hasidic nusach. It is not uncommon to find a non-Hasidic person of Polish ancestry who davens Nusach Sefard, wraps tefillin outwards, etc. customs that are Hasidic in nature.

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    I think this is backwards. Lita was the rite of Lithuanian Jewry, and Polin of Polish Jewry, centuries before the rise of the Hasidic movement. Because hassidut became much more entrenched in Poland than in Lithuania, you get the identification of Polin = Hasidic and Lita = non-Hasidic
    – Joel K
    Nov 14, 2021 at 20:32
  • @JoelK I suppose one point of confusion is that the general nusach and the selichot nusach is not distinguished. The "general" Polish nusach is mostly the one described by the Rema (and marked as Polish in Rödelheim siddurim), which was mostly superseded by Chasidic rites in that region. But this doesn't necessarily have much to do with the selichot. Nov 14, 2021 at 21:31
  • @JoelK As I mentioned in the first part of my answer it’s very difficult to get a true answer we have to oversimplify
    – ezra
    Nov 15, 2021 at 4:03

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