Since the Conservative movement tends to take most of its minhagim from the German tradition due to its German roots, most Conservative Jews in America tend to practice the German customs (such as wearing a tallis after bar mitzvah and waiting 3 hours between meat and milk).

According to Orthodox Judaism, should someone whose parents are Conservative Jews continue to follow his parents' customs, or should he follow the customs of his ancestors before them? What if he doesn't know what the customs of his great-grandparents, etc were? Does it matter whether the customs taken on by his parents are stricter or less strict than those of his ancestors (for example they were Dutch and only wait 1 hour)?

Here's an example: the common Conservative practice is to don tefilin on chol hamoed. Among Orthodox Jews, some do and others do not. Upon becoming a Baal Teshuva, should a formerly Conservative Jew put on tefilin on chol hamoed, or should he follow the practice of his rabbi?

  • 6
    Any excuse is good enough to get to wear a tallit from bar mitzva :)
    – Double AA
    Aug 17, 2012 at 6:14
  • @DoubleAA What exactly do you mean by that?
    – Daniel
    Aug 17, 2012 at 13:31
  • 1
    @Daniel, it is thought that the reason why Eastern European Jews (chassidim, litvaks, et al.) don't wear a tallit until marriage is due to economic conditions. However, what I think Double AA is trying to say is that it is preferable to wear a tallit gadol during davening if one is able to. Feb 14, 2014 at 5:15

3 Answers 3


This is only a partial answer. I have heard from Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, (formerly in South Africa where he was my family's Rav, now Raavad of the Edah Hachareidis, Jerusalem), that a Baal teshuva does NOT wear tefilin on Chol Hamoed as this is lechumrah. One only wears tefilin, if one has an existing family tradition to do so.

  • 3
    How does R' Sternbuch derive this? All of the Ashkenazi Rishonim as well as the Rambam, the Tur, and the Rif say that one should wear tefillin on Chol haMoed. How can this then be a chumra. I would think that it would be a very popular kula to NOT wear them, rather than the other way around. Apr 15, 2015 at 13:14
  • Also, whoops! I should have gotten to this first: Welcome to Mi Yodeya! Apr 15, 2015 at 13:15
  • With Svaras like this you uproot your whole distinction. Every Chumra is a Kula too and vice versa.
    – Double AA
    Apr 15, 2015 at 15:10
  • Although I do know that my Rov said to a baal teshucvah to accept the shul minhag (to wear on Chol HaMoed) even though in his words "No-one in my family remebers wearing tefilin) Apr 27, 2022 at 20:08

Unless of course you are in Israel, as there are major Sephardi big wigs who say something entirely different.

"Rav Avraham Yosef, the Chief Rabbi of Cholon and son of Rav Ovadiah Yosef, is now following in his father’s footsteps and promoting the psakim (customs and laws) of the Sefardim, according to the Beit Yosef, as the overruling authority in Eretz Yisrael. Rav Avraham recently said that while everyone should adhere to the customs of his anscestors, and therefore Ashkenazim should follow minhagei Ashkenaz and Sefardim should follow minhagei Sefard, that only applies to religious people who have religious parents who kept those minhagim and piskei halacha. Anyone who is a baal teshuvah, (becoming more religious) one whose parents are not religious and they themselves did not adhere to their minhagim and psakim, even an Ashkenazi person, would need to keep the Sefardic halacha and minhagim, said Rav Avraham. Since such a person has no ancestral custom to follow, he must accept the Sefardi custom, which is the overruling authority in Eretz Yisrael." Source


If you do not know the minhagim of your parents, or are unsure as to their validity, you are supposed to take on the minhagim of your personal Rav. If you don't have a personal rav, or are unsure what the minhagim are, then you are supposed to take on the minhagim of the place you live. If the place you live does not have it's own minhagim and you do not have your own personal rav or school, then you follow the answer of whomever you ask a question to, when you ask the question.

  • 5
    Can you provide some sources?
    – Double AA
    Aug 19, 2012 at 22:14

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