From my understanding, it's generally considered obligatory or necessary to participate in the minhagim of your community. However, say that person, person A, travels elsewhere where the minhag is not practiced. Would it be a mitzvah for another person from that foreign community, person B, to help them in fulfilling a minhag? That is to say, if person A travels from, say, Poland to Morocco, for whatever reason (vacation, business, et cetera), would it hold any halachic value for a native of that Moroccan community, person B, to help person A in his Polish minhag?

By mitzvah, I mean is it a halacha? Not necessarily that it's a good thing or something recognized as a normative value within Jewish life.


Mitzvah and halacha are two very different things... halacha is the law, and mitzvah is the commandment to perform. Halacha gives us the direction in how to perform that mitzvah. So when you ask, "is it a mitzvah?", and then say "is it halacha?", that's pretty confusing. For that reason I'm ignoring the word mitzvah and focusing on halacha, since that's your self-correction.

According to R. Moshe Elefant at the OU, who of course quotes someone else, it depends on whether or not you're just visiting or moving there permanently. If you're moving there permanently, then you're expected to take on the minhagim of the new community. Otherwise you're expected to maintain the halachic standards of the community to which you still belong.

The wrinkle here -- and there always is one -- is that should your own customs conflict or perchance cause some sort of issue within the community you're visiting, you should take steps to ensure that in your practice you should be discreet to ensure not to upset the community or otherwise be rude. Rav Elefant tosses around a lot of Yiddish I can't define or keep up with, but I get the gist.

  • This doesn't seem to answer the question. You are answering when a traveler must take on the destination's customs, not if a traveler should assist the locals in maintaining their customs. – Double AA Dec 26 '14 at 17:49
  • Halacha on which customs the traveler must use is answered. It's necessary to the individual for the individual's sake to be part of the community (eg.the story of the Rabbi who visited the old man who wouldn't leave his home: he moved the coal from the fire and watched as it slowly started to die, then moved it back to the main fire where it re-gained life). Of course all are important to the group as a whole, but that takes many and it is not a specific mitzvah to simply join in the community. There are specific mitzvot: visiting the sick, comforting the bereaved, etc. THOSE are mitzvot. – Shel West Dec 26 '14 at 17:59
  • "Halacha on which customs the traveler must use is answered." But that wasn't the question he asked... – Double AA Dec 26 '14 at 18:01
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    Seems like that would fall under: kindness to the stranger, for you were once a stranger in the land of Egypt. – Shel West Dec 26 '14 at 18:31
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    Shel, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for your diligence in attacking this question and learning the ropes! I hope you stick around and keep participating. You might be interested in looking at more of our halacha-theory collection. – Isaac Moses Dec 26 '14 at 19:59

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