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Based on this thread

What exactly prevents Ashkenazim from accepting Mesorah from other communities on things that we have not done in our own community?

For example, what is it about the Mesorah of the Yemenites on locusts, as in the above linked thread, that precludes us from just accepting it? Just because we haven't seen it? Clearly this shows their Mesorah is stronger than ours (argumentative tone intended for effect, not actually to be argumentative)!

Taking an extreme reverse example, can Yemenites marry into Ashkenazi families, trusting the Mesorah that the Ashkenazim are in fact Jewish?

Ultimately, are we just insecure? Is it that we have some (perceived) majority status? Is there something else - a fundamental principle - that I'm failing to see?

Other similar examples:

"Morrocan Jews eat swordfish."

"Regarding birds, it is clear from the Shach and Aruch Hashulchan that one can rely on the Mesora from another community. But does the same halacha apply to chagavim? There was no uniform answer on this. Many of the Ashkenazi participants asked their own poskim and received divergent answers. While many rabbis ruled against eating, some of the leading poskim in Yerushalaim gave the green light to rely on the Yemenite tradition and eat chagavim." // (Thanks, Isaac Moses.)

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    You could improve this question by including examples of where Ashkenazim don't accept Mesora from other communities. – Isaac Moses Jun 8 '12 at 18:09
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    It is possible that the reason may indeed be that the mesorah from one area isn't necessarily transferrable to another. Consider the statement in the Gemara (Chullin 62a) that a bird having one kosher characteristic (and which is not dores) is kosher, because the only non-kosher birds of which this is true are peres and ozniyah, and those "aren't in settled areas." Now, suppose that a Jew winds up in one of those places, sees a peres or ozniyah, doesn't recognize them as such, and eats them on the basis of his mesorah! – Alex Jun 8 '12 at 18:26
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    @Alex The mesora would be identification of a certain species by its appearance not by rules. So someone who ate a kosher bird in one place should be able to use his mesora to recognize only the exact same species. If someone can't identify the species he knew before then he's just inept and never had the mesora to begin with. – Double AA Jun 8 '12 at 19:20
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    SethJ Do you have a reason for isolating the question to exchanges toward Ashkenazim? Maybe there is an Ashkenazi tradition that Sephardim or Teimanim don't have (I'm sure this is at least the case by various European birds). – Double AA Jun 8 '12 at 19:21
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    @DoubleAA, I'm sure you're right. My question is essentially that - since we don't seem to accept their Mesorah on something, doesn't it make sense that they have the same doubts about us? Shouldn't the Hechsher Kashruth on a person/community allow others to exchange Mesorah with them? (Directed back at you: Should I reword it? Do you think it works as it is?) – Seth J Jun 8 '12 at 19:41
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In response to your first question of why dont Ashkenazim accept things from other Mesorahs: Simply because if it's not part of our Mesorah we dont do it. Mesorah is the most precious thing a Jew can have. It is our connection to the generations before us, to Sinai, and to Hashem Himself. It is our job to preserve this gift, this jewel and to live by it to our utmost abilities. It is essential that we dont change our Mesorah even if other things seem to make more sense. Because if you start taking a little bit from Ashkenazim and then from Chassidus and then from Sefardim you'll be left with nothing, for two reasons: 1) Your own Mesorah which is your connection to Har Sinai and God will have changed. By changing your Mesorah you are actually replacing it with something new which has zero validity and legitimacy, hence you have nothing. 2) Like a good Jew I'll give you a mashul. If someone is a yellow belt in five styles of karate he has nothing. If he learns a little bit from here and then from there and then from somewhere else, he'll never master anything, and he won't have anything concrete. Similarly, if you pick and choose from different Mesorahs you'll end up with a conglomerate of nothing.

There is no such thing as a better Mesorah. There can be many LEGITIMATE Mesorahs passed down by great great people.The fact that they are different is not a problem either, it is natural that there will be differences over time. Our job is to follow our Mesorah, and our teachers until we master it and pass it on to our children. I am not saying to have blind faith- that is not anyone's Mesorah. Ask away, thats what Judaism is all about. But it has to be balanced with a respect for the Gedolim and any transmitter of your valid Mesorah. With the proper intellectual honesty and balance the truth can be attained.

May Hashem grant us all Beracha and Hatzlacha in our search for the emes.

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    Eli B, thanks for your views, and welcome to Mi Yodeya. I hope you stick around and enjoy the site. Citing sources for your points would improve your answer. Might I suggest you register your account? That will give you access to more of the site's features. – msh210 Jul 6 '12 at 6:11
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    Eli, all of what you said is true. Except that I'm asking about is adding in missing pieces of the Mesorah that were lost, not replacing accepted Halachah. If I meet up with a Moroccan who can tell me that, yes, this is indeed the swordfish that the Gemara permitted, or a Yemenite can tell me that, yes, this is the locust that the Torah permitted, why can't I rely on that Mesorah? Does it make a difference if I study under Moroccan or Yemenite rabbis? If so, for how long? – Seth J Jul 6 '12 at 19:24
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The Rema (Yoreh Deah 64.7) writes that we are unable to do proper examinations on what is forbidden fat and where the fats end. The Mechaber makes no statement about it, and we assume that Sephardim are experts. I know for a fact that HaRav Machpud of Yerushalayim is an expert in treibering (nikor) and can tell you precisely where the fats are and where they end.

The Rema says we are not expert. So its pretty clear that while Sephardim have the Mesorah, Ashkenazim, do not, and therefore cut a cow/sheep/goat etc. differently. This doesn't make anyone better or more stringent. It is simply a reality of how our poskim have shaped our interaction with Halacha. The Rema is one of the greatest Ashkenazi poskim. Many are direct and indirect descedents of himself and his family.

Since Ashkenazim in general do not consider themselves expert in matters of precise determination of halachic definitions, we tend to refrain from matters that require that precision. So when it comes to locusts, since Ashkenazim do not have a Masora, we don't regard ourselves as experts in that area, and hence refrain from accepting the Masora. That doesn't negate the masora for Temanim. However it seems from the שו"ת משנה הלכות חלק טז סימן ח that their mesora is not based on a halachic presumption, but rather from what they know their forefathers ate. In this case then, since they themselves are not expert in their own masora, but rather are simply expert in what their forefathers ate, we cannot rely on their Mesorah. However, when it comes to our own Masora, we do not have the halachic authority and expertise to simply permit or allow aspects of the Masora to change.

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    "We assume that Sephardim are experts. I know for a fact that HaRav Machpud of Yerushalayim is an expert in treibering (nikor)". Note that he is not Sephardi... – mevaqesh May 11 '17 at 0:06
  • Remember the importance of sourcing statements. – mevaqesh May 11 '17 at 0:08
  • He is Temani, but the source here was the Shulchan Aruch - Sephardi halachic source. – D Freedman May 11 '17 at 0:11
  • there were many statements made, and only one source. E.g. " Ashkenazim in general do not consider themselves expert in matters of precise determination of halachic definitions," "when it comes to locusts, since Ashkenazim do not have a Masora, we don't regard ourselves as experts in that area, and hence refrain from accepting the Masora", " we will gladly eat in a temani home, and dine on kosher locusts together". – mevaqesh May 11 '17 at 0:13
  • its mahfud not mahpud. its an arabic محفوض. he is a teimoni and follows the rambam over shulhon orukh if i remember correctly – MoriDowidhYa3aqov May 11 '17 at 0:35
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This answer will not be sourced, it is completely opinion based.

As the author has noticed, nearly every other Jewish community is willing to trust the mesorah of the Ashkenazi community while Ashkenazim in general reject the mesorah of everyone else. Therefore things that are technically problematic to halakha/mesorah of most other Jewish communities are brought in despite the problems because they want to be accepting of Ashkenazi mesorah. An example of this would be Challah (sweet varieties), which is a bread that is technically mezonot according to Sepharadi and Yemenite Halakha. Yet despite this bread's problematic status many Sepharadim have started using it. Not only that, times when I have hosted Ashkenazim for Shabbat and tried to make hammotzi on pita or lavash has led to problems since the Ashkenazim were unsure if they could even make hammotzi on a bread that wasn't "challah" for Shabbat, requesting that I provide challah for them. As someone who makes matzah himself (which is called soft matzah) I run into a problem every year of certain Ashkenazi friends who are unsure if they can eat in my house during Pesah since I make/eat "soft matzah." This tendency of Ashkenazim silently expecting their mesorah to be accepted everywhere while remaining resistant to anyone else's mesorah can be felt in outside of food as well. Ashkenazim as a whole will refuse to adopt chet and ayin from Sepharadim and Yemenites while at the same time tell their own people they can't adopt other pronunciations because the vowels aren't as authentic as Ashkenazi mesorah. Oddly enough, proper pronunciation of the consonants is passed down in the halakha from our earliest sources, vowels are not (Megillah 24b). Ashkenazim in general also spend little time understanding other Jewish communities in any meaningful way, tending to lump all other Jews into the category of "Sfardi." This is shocking not only because the word is "Sefaradi" but because many other communities are not actually Sephardic. This issue only occurs amongst Ashkenazim but because every other Jewish community is sensitive to these distinctions. A great example of an Ashkenazi Rabbi doing this in the midst of a Semikha program can be seen here. In the video you can see the Rabbi call his guest a "Sefardi" and the guest has to correct him to say he's actually a Yemenite, and when this guest talks about Sefaradim he always uses the term Sefaradim/Sefaradi. These issues bleed into the realms of Jewish education in the US. We are starting to hear the stories of Sephardic children who grew up going Jewish school, only to experience teachers who know they are Sephardic but force them to disregard Sephardic practice anyways.

The person asking the question asked if it's possible that Ashkenazim are just insecure. An insecure person is often described as someone who delegitimizes others to make themselves feel more secure. Based on the behaviors described for individuals who are insecure, it appears that Ashkenazim as a whole are insecure. Sefaradim and Yemenites have even coined a term describing the trend for Ashkenazim to feel that their Jewish experience defines what Judaism is while at the same time dismissing the authenticity of other forms of Judaism: Ashkenormative or Ashkenormativity.

Having said all that. This is clearly not the case for all Ashkenazim. Just like there are Ashkenazi Rabbis who permit following the mesorah of other Jews, there are Ashkenazim who are very aware of Judaism outside of their own received tradition. This answer is not an attempt to attack Ashkenazim, but rather to highlight an issue that is starting to be noticed on a large scale in hopes we can have a productive response to it.

  • You're not embarrassed to post this vile racism in public? While you may find somewhere on the internet an Ashkenazi who's unfortunately ignorant of Sefardi practice and history, you are broadcasting your deliberate, "informed" hatred for all to see! Way to give normal Sefardim a bad name. Every group has some ignoramuses and crazies, but most Jews are just nice people who do their thing without hating everyone different. (I discourage people from ranting about problematic Sefardi stereotypes here in response. Take the high road and just call out this user as a ranting underinformed bigot.) – Double AA Dec 31 '18 at 3:22
  • @DoubleAA I don't believe your comment calling me racist is called for. I never once stated that anyone "hates everyone different." Americans are often ignorant in world politics and geography, does it make me racist for saying Americans don't prioritize learning or adopting practices from around the world? I don't think so. I also don't think that Ashkenazim are a race anymore than Sepharadim are a race. Sepharadim span countries and colors across the whole spectrum and the same is true of Ashkenazim. – Aaron Dec 31 '18 at 6:25

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