5

If a person grew up Sefardi and wanted to change his minhagim to Ashkenazi (including pronunciations) is it permitted to do so?

6
  • 1
    unfortunatly that is maasim bchol yom here in E'Y out of social pressure. Jun 23, 2015 at 18:49
  • 'including pronunciations' There are way bigger fish to fry. Why is that the example you chose?
    – Double AA
    Jun 23, 2015 at 18:51
  • just thought i would add it
    – user9478
    Jun 23, 2015 at 18:52
  • 1
    Some more-specific/overlapping preexisting questions: stopping wearing a talis, changing custom to match one's environment, hataras n'darim from Ashkenazic to Sephardic
    – msh210
    Jun 24, 2015 at 5:53
  • 1
    Teshuvas Chasam Sofer OH 15 sefaria.org/… makes it clear that he holds that a person is permitted to change to daven Nusach Ari if he wants to follow the kavanos of the Ari z"l, and that his two rebbeim did so - but that they did not let their congregants do so.
    – MichoelR
    May 25, 2021 at 17:11

2 Answers 2

4

I was told by a very well respected rebbe in the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem that he, who was raised a sefardic home, was told by Rav Elyashiv that he was permitted to switch minhagim, including nusach hateffila, change his teffilin to Ksav Beis Yosef. But he still had to retain Chalak Beis yosef meat in which ashkenazim are more lenient.

Rav Elyashiv:

Rav Eliashiv adds, though, that the prohibition against changing Minhagim is not without exception, as demonstrated by a ruling of the Chatam Sofer (Teshuvot Chatam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat 188). The Chatam Sofer was approached by members of a town where two Kehillot (communities), one Sephardic and one Ashkenazic, had formerly functioned. However, a pogrom had caused most of the Jews to leave, and since the remaining populace could not sustain two separate Minyanim, the two groups now had to combine into one functioning synagogue. The Chatam Sofer ruled that the remaining members of the community should choose which of the two synagogues would continue to function, whose Minhagim they then would follow. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabi’a Omer 6, Orach Chayim 10) cites numerous authorities who concur with the Chatam Sofer’s ruling. The Chatam Sofer reasons that one may change from practicing all Ashkenazic traditions to practicing all Sephardic traditions and vice versa. Just as a non-Jew who converts to Judaism fully integrates into the Jewish community, so too may an Ashkenazic Jew fully integrate into a Sephardic community and vice versa. Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (Eidut LeYisrael p. 162) similarly rules that if an Ashkenazic Jew decides to join a Sephardic community permanently, he may change his Nusach HaTefillah (liturgy) to the Sephardic one. He notes that historically, the entire Chassidic community changed from Nusach Ashkenaz to Nusach Sefard with the noble intention of praying in accordance with the mystical teachings of the Arizal.[4] Of course, one should consult with a Rav before deviating from any family practice, as great caution must be exercised before deviating from practices observed by one’s ancestors for generations. This also explains the rulings of twentieth-century authorities like Teshuvot Igrot Moshe (Orach Chayim 1:158) and Teshuvot Yabi’a Omer (5, Orach Chayim 37) that Ashkenazic women who marry Sephardic men, or vice versa, should follow the husband’s traditional family practices.[5] Although doing so entails deviating from the wife’s family tradition, these Poskim apparently believe, as the Chatam Sofer asserts, that a Jew may fully integrate into the practices of a different Jewish community. Based on this, Rav Eliashiv rules regarding the case addressed to him that from the vantage point of Minhag, the son may continue to practice Torah in accordance with Ashkenazic tradition despite his Sephardic ancestry. Rav Hershel Schachter similarly rules that if someone was raised in a non-Chassidic community, he need not practice Chassidic Minhagim even if his paternal grandfather was Chassidic (see Beit Yitzchak 39:520). Indeed, most Modern Orthodox Ashkenazic Jews pronounce Hebrew differently than their European paternal forebears.[6]

Further, I know someone whos brother sent this question into Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Chaim permitted him to change his minhagim completely to Ashkenazic Minhagim.

Rav Ovadia Yosef illustrated in the following story was of the opinion that once a Sefardi - always a Sefardi:

Rav Ovadia Yosef and Rav Shlomo Amar Although I am unaware of Hacham Ovadia addressing this particular issue in his voluminous writings or in his son’s writings, I am aware of two situations in which Rav Ovadia in practice ruled that once a Sepharadi, always a Sepharadi. Rav Shlomo Amar told me the following story when he visited Teaneck’s Congregation Shaarei Orah on Shabbat Nachamu of 5777: A young man whose father was a Persian Jew and mother was a Yemenite Jew was raised in his mother’s predominantly Yemenite neighborhood. His maternal grandfather had a large influence upon him and trained him to pray and read Torah in the distinctive Yemenite style. Upon reaching the age of maturity, he posed a question to Rav Amar as to whether he was permitted to follow the practice of his mother’s family or whether he must adopt the more general Sephardic practice of his father and his family. Rav Amar referred the young man to Hacham Ovadia who instructed the young man to abandon Yemenite practice and change to his father’s family practices. Rav Amar relates that the young man followed Rav Ovadia’s ruling despite the considerable difficulty involved in making this transition. The current president of Congregation Shaarei Orah in Teaneck, Mr. Joshua Murad, relates a similar story. Mr. Murad was raised in the overwhelmingly Ashkenazic Jewish section of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Both the synagogue and Yeshivot he attended were Ashkenazic, and despite his father’s Sephardic origin, Mr. Murad practiced Ashkenazic Halachah from A to Z. During his year of study in Israel when he was eighteen years of age, Mr. Murad had the opportunity to meet Rav Ovadia Yosef. Mr. Murad asked Rav Ovadia if he was obligated to return to his ancestral Sephardic practices. Mr. Murad reports that Hacham Ovadia insisted that he must “Machazir Atarah LeYoshenah,” “Restore the crown to its original luster,” and fully observe Halachah in accordance with Sephardic tradition. I am delighted to report that Mr. Murad is very proud to be an enthusiastic follower of Rav Ovadia’s ruling, to the extent that he currently serves as the devoted lay leader of the Teaneck Sephardic congregation.

13
  • 1
    Why is Chalak Beit Yosef different? Do you know why they wanted to change?
    – Double AA
    Jun 23, 2015 at 18:59
  • He didnt explain why. he told me he wanted to change because he had basically grown up in ashkenazic yeshivos and when he moved to eretz yisroel he wanted to merge into the broader ashkenazic israeli scene Jun 23, 2015 at 19:01
  • I can see this heter causing confusion for a married man. Wouldn't his wife have to automatically follow along as well?
    – DanF
    Jun 23, 2015 at 20:44
  • 1
    Wonderful anecdotes and truly rounds out your answer. Hazaq we’emaz!
    – Lee
    Sep 17, 2019 at 13:49
  • 1
    @Lee Thank you for the umph. I hadn't seen this answer of mine in years. Was in need of revisiting Sep 17, 2019 at 13:49
1

NO.

First of all, regarding switching to Ashkenazi minhagim, Rav Ovadia forbids it. Ashkenazim are allowed to replace their Minhagim with the Sephardic Minhag, not the other way around. Sorry, but that’s how it is; you're stuck a Sephardi.

Now, you are also ENTIRELY forbidden from adopting an Ashkenazi pronunciation over a Sephardi one. Because you are capable of pronouncing the Hebrew letters distinctly, pronouncing them differently would be considered speaking nonsense. In fact, many Rabbis, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, have ruled that Ashkenazim should adopt distinct pronunciations of letters wherever possible.
There are tens of Rabbinical sources, many of them famous, one of the most persuading being the Yavetz. He was always extremely critical of his own congregation’s Hebrew pronunciation, writing about “our shame” and even “constant transgression” that he and his community couldn’t pronounce Hebrew correctly. If he knew the correct pronunciations, he obviously would have tried adopting them.

You already know good pronunciation. Your tradition from your parents is a privilege. Don’t allow yourself to forget it. Having an old Mesorah is valuable.

Other sources include: Rav Yihya Yishai Hallewi’s introduction to Tephillath Kol Peh, Rav Ovadia Hadaya’s Yaskil Avdi volume II chapter 13, Rav Yehiel Weinberg’s Sidrei Esh volume II chapter 5, and Ben Ish Hai’s Rav Pealim volume II answer 25.

10
  • Regular sefardi doesn't distinguish kamatz and patach, segol and serei, or some of the dagesh variants like gimmel/jimmel, taf/thaf, daled/daleth. My native Adeni does better but not perfect, and loses some gains like bet/vet (if that's even a gain?). Would you be able to bring some explicit sources so I can look more into this?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 20 at 19:01
  • 1
    I think I've come across that, so indeed would be curious for some further reading to find out more. Interestingly, I think Adeni has that soft ghimmel, but would need to be sure
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 20 at 20:53
  • 1
    Other sources include: Rav Yihya Yishai Hallewi’s introduction to “Tephillath Kol Peh”, Rav Ovadia Hadaya’s “Yaskil Avdi” volume II chapter 13, Rav Yehiel weinberg’s “Sidrei Esh” volume II chapter 5, and Ben Ish Hai’s “Rav Pealim” volume II answer 25. Mar 20 at 20:56
  • 1
    Not such a surprise that Rav Ovadia holds that. And the ashkenazi poskim forbid ashkenazim from becoming sefardim but permit sefardim to become ashkenazim. It's hard to take either too seriously.
    – Double AA
    Apr 2 at 23:51
  • 1
    Once I read a whole article writing about the permissibility of reverting from Nusach Sefard to Nusach Ashkenaz, unfortunately I don't have it at hand. But the question should make it clear whether we were talking about an "ethnic" Sefardi or a Chassidic person. Apr 4 at 10:12

You must log in to answer this question.