No, wait. Before you shake your head in disgust and think, "What are you thinking? Of course he's Ashkenaz!"consider what he writes in סימן מז סעיף יב:

ברכה ראשונה היא: "אשר קדשנו במצותיו, וצונו על דברי תורה". כלומר: לדבר וללמוד בתורה. והאשכנזים גורסים "לעסוק בדברי תורה"

He writes the Sephardic/Kabbalistic minhag first! Furthermore, I recently heard from a very learned and well known Rabbi that him being Ashkenaz is a misconception, and he was actually Sephardic.

Are there any sources to this?

P.S.- Yes, I know his last name is Epstein. And also, I know it's hard to believe, but I can't just disregard what this Rabbi said as completely incorrect.

Something that I think should be clarified: Look, I don't believe he's Sephardic either. I'm just asking whether somebody else has something revolutionary that I or you have never seen before that establishes him as Sephardic. If you don't think so, feel free to ignore this question then.

  • Yeah..... Wikipedia isn't always the best source. Maybe it was either written by someone else or maybe he was secretly Sephardic?
    – 147zcbm
    May 7, 2015 at 2:14
  • It's plausible to suggest he was influenced by his interaction with Chabad Chassidim, and perhaps was closeted about that (they also say על דברי תורה), but sefardi? No.
    – Yishai
    May 7, 2015 at 2:39
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    @147zcbm You are welcome to ask why in this case he wrote things a little funny. To establish that he must have been a closeted Sefardi bc of this quote is beyond absurd, to put it politely.
    – Double AA
    May 7, 2015 at 2:59
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    @147zcbm Because the Rama (Ashkenaz) was written on the Shulchan Aruch (Sefardi), and people tend to say the main opinion last (Basraah) Jan 8, 2018 at 1:51

3 Answers 3


147zcbm made what even 147zcbm thought was a wild inference from how things are ordered in the Aruch Hashulchan. You'll never believe what happened next.

The Aruch Hashulchan was written by R' Yechiel Michel Halevi Epstein. His son, R' Baruch Halevi Epstein, author of the Torah Temima, also wrote an autobiographical work called Mekor Baruch. His research, presented there in Section 1, pages 671-2, indicates that the Levite Epstein family originated as an offshoot of the prominent Benveniste family of Spain. Apparently, when the Benvenistes were expelled from Spain with the rest of the Jews in 1492, some of them landed in the Hessian German town of Eppstein and took its name as their surname.

So, based on this lineage, the Epsteins could consider themselves Sepharadim, as their forebears quite literally came from Spain. However, it seems that in the ensuing centuries in Germany and Eastern Europe, they integrated into the Ashkenazi community. R' YM Epstein's primary mentor was R' Eliyahu Goldberg, the Av Beit Din of his home town, Russian Babruysk, who most likely didn't transmit Sepharadi traditions to him. He served as the rabbi of the mainly-Chabad community in Novozybkov and then of the community in Navahrudak, and neither community would probably have hired a rabbi who would transmit primarly Sepharadi traditions. That said, maybe he still had a certain affinity for his Sepharadi roots as a result of being aware of his lineage, which comes out in his writing.

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    +1 respect to the hard work got put in, agav his family already by the point of the Aruch Hashulchan was completely "assimilated" as Ashkenazim May 7, 2015 at 4:23
  • I totally set out to find counter-evidence by finding documentation of where RYM"E's forebears and mentors came from, so I could write an authoritative "no." But Hebrew WP had other plans.
    – Isaac Moses
    May 7, 2015 at 4:32
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    +1 IIRC the people of Eppstein were very nice to the family and it was out of Hakaras Hatov that they took on that name. But there is nothing AFAIK in any of his writings about minhagim and the like which indicate he kept anything Sefardic. The basis of this question forgets that the in Shulchan Aruch land, sefardi comes first, ashkenazi second. Ordering his words like this proves nothing about anything.
    – user6591
    May 7, 2015 at 12:51
  • @user6591 IYRC from where?
    – Isaac Moses
    May 7, 2015 at 12:54
  • @Isaac from the Mekor Baruch. I don't see that in the page you linked so either I saw it somewhere else in the book or I am mistaken.
    – user6591
    May 7, 2015 at 13:02

The Aruch Hashulchan was himself Ashkenazi. But he claimed that he descended from a prominent Sephardic Rabbinical family.

The Aruch Hashulchans son Rabbi Baruch Epstein writes in his book Mekor Baruch which details his life and family history, that his family had a tradition that they were originally expelled from Spain along with the majority of Spanish Jewry in 1492. He writes that his family as well as some Horowitzs are descendents of the great Rabbinical Benveniste family. His family eventually made its way to Lithuania and took on Ashkenazic minhagim, but this tradition always held a prominent place in the home of the Aruch Hashulchan.

H/t to IsaacMoses

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    Where did you get "this tradition always held a prominent place in the home of the Aruch Hashulchan" from? I didn't see anything about the AH"Sh's attitude to his Sepharadi roots in the immediate vicinity of his son's discussion of their Benveniste lineage. Is it later in the book?
    – Isaac Moses
    May 7, 2015 at 4:25
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    I remember reading that either in a book from Aharon Rakkeffet "Rakkeffet Aharon" or in Mekor Baruch itself. May 7, 2015 at 4:26
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    You could improve this answer by editing in your sources, even if vaguely cited.
    – Isaac Moses
    May 7, 2015 at 4:28
  • What I mean by prominence I mean that it was a source of pride in his home. May 7, 2015 at 4:32
  • Ah, yes. His son goes on at length about the significance of the fact that the family goes all the way back to the exile in Spain mentioned in Tanach.
    – Isaac Moses
    May 7, 2015 at 4:34

Many years ago, I saw an earlier print of the Aruch HaShulchan and as I recall, it had his Spanish family name in brackets under his name.

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