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I was reading some questions about changing minhagim and I began to wonder -- if I took on my father's minhagim when I grew, and then, later, he changed a minhag because he learned something new, or for some other reason, then do I change my minhag to go along with what he practices now or what I accepted when I was raised?

This assumes that he didn't change because he learned that the previous minhag was in error, or that he moved to a new place so he changed. Let's assume that he and his family had no minhag so he adopted one at a certain point, it became "his" that I would take and then later, when he studied more, he adopted a new one.

I'm trying to explore the tension between adopting a father's minhag (which other questions seem to source in the gemara, making it a rather binding notion) and changing a minhag that has been adopted.

Any edits or clarifications to the scenario would be appreciated. I can give more specifics if required but I would like to keep this on the level of the general.

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    My father uses his father's original minhag, despite my grandfather changing it a few times (wrt standing/sitting for kiddush, at least). – Scimonster Feb 9 '15 at 13:59
  • I don't see why you would have to follow your father's personal decisions wrt his own Minhagim once you are grown. If I misunderstood your question, please revert. – Seth J Feb 9 '15 at 14:34
  • In general if my father followed the same as what his father did I will follow too unless there is a good reason not to. If he didn't then I have no reason to follow it as it's my father's only personal minhag not family tradition. – CashCow Feb 9 '15 at 14:36
  • @SethJ re: "grown child" are you foreseeing any difference between a 14 year old and a 45 year old, or someone with his own children and someone who doesn't have a family? – rosends Feb 9 '15 at 16:33
  • @Danno, I'm thinking someone who is in his father's house vs. out of his father's house. Don't know if I'm right, but that's what I was thinking. – Seth J Feb 9 '15 at 22:04
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I think that the assumption that the minhag has binding force should be challenged. In general, the adherence to these minhagim causes rifts -- certainly across different groups of Jews (esp. Sephardi vs. Ashkenazi, but also across different sects or versions of Judaism). Phrased Talmudically, the issue is whether a mere custom which divides the people has binding force.

[edit] More particularly, I assumed from the question that the minhag in question was "minor", in the sense that one's father might change practice without rabbinic consultation or decree.

With respect to "major" minhagim, many rabbinic authorities have ruled that it is permitted (and perhaps even obligatory) to do away with them, particularly if they are "foolish customs". [EDIT] For example, with regard to the eating of kitnyot on Pesach - a "major" minhag, relevant citations for doing away with a "foolish custom" include: (see original source here: Schechter.edu Mishnah Eruvin 10:10 = BT Eruvin 101b; Ḥullin 6b-7a; Yerushalmi Pesaḥim 4:1, ed. Venice, fol. 30d; Yerushalmi Pesaḥim, ibid., fol. 30c at bottom; Tosafot on Berakhot 48a, s.v. veleit hilkheta; Responsa of the Rambam, ed. Blau, Nos. 308-310, pp. 566-578; Responsa of the Rosh 55:10, and more at the link provided, toward the bottom of the page.

The references above relate to a minhag for which there is uncertainty in the Halacha. When there is no uncertainty, the weight of the rabbinic opinion is that we are compelled to change the minhag. Where the issue is minor, all of these arguments apply a fortiori. [/Edit]

There are excellent reasons to do away with many minhagim:

  1. They detract from the joy of holidays and Shabbat by causing angst, annoyance, or friction
  2. They emphasize the insignificant at the cost to the significant (by definition, these customs are not as significant as the actual mitzvot to which they relate)
  3. They cause people to scoff at the commandments in general (if this custom has no purpose and is observed, then there is no reason to observe other commandments)
  4. They cause unnecessary divisions among Jews (and possibly families).

Against these negative outcomes, there is only one reason to observe most minhagim: the desire to preserve a custom. It seems clear that this desire cannot be dispositive.

Thus, you are neither obligated to change nor to follow the original custom (though if the question is stand vs. sit, presumably you must choose one or the other or begin to lie down). In your own life, the minhagim should have no bearing - make up your own mind just as your father will make up his - you too may change a minhag because you learned something, etc. When in your father's (or anyone else's house), the minhag has no power to affect the mitzvah, so broadly invoke shalom beto, go along with whatever the people do there.

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