Suppose someone is raised without much authentic Judaism but with some. Perhaps his family has a monthly Friday night dinner with kidush; perhaps he wears t'filin for a few days when he turns 13.

Then, as an adult, he finds religion. Not having a family m'sora/minhag, he can pick whatever minhag he wants to follow, so long as it is an accepted minhag of the place he lives. But does he need to follow his family's minhag where it exists? For example, suppose it happens that the family poured water over their hands before kidush (which is the minhag of the Yekkes). Does he need to do that?

Assume that he has no idea (and no way of finding out) whether the minhag in question started with his own father or was passed through the generations to him.

I'm not asking about talis, which is a more complicated issue. My example of washing before kidush was meant to be an uncomplicated one; if it, too, is complicated, then please ignore the example and address only the question, whether such a person must keep a known minhag of his family.

  • dupe? judaism.stackexchange.com/q/10584/759
    – Double AA
    Sep 4 '15 at 20:08
  • @DoubleAA well... sort of. That assumes the custom originated with the father, whereas in my case the baal t'shuva doesn't know whether it did. But close enough. I'm closing it. Thanks for the link!
    – msh210
    Sep 4 '15 at 20:40

A Ba'al Teshuva is no different than any other Jew in this regard. If you father or grandfather has a definite custom (minhag), you would be required to follow it. That is because the halacha follows "Do not abandon the way of your mother." אל תיטוש את תורת אמך Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Pesach 461:27

  • The Mother in this case didn't really have a way to follow, so I don't see how this applies.
    – Double AA
    Sep 4 '15 at 20:00
  • @DoubleAA I think you are misunderstanding. The quotation I referenced actually teaches that a married woman follows the minhag of her husband. She stops following the customs from her father and adopts the custom of her husband. Her children, by following her ways, are actually keeping the minhag of their father. But the details in the original question are not about minhagim. They are about whether someone who returns to observance needs to follow all the practices required by Jewish law. The short answer is yes. They should not pick what seems appropriate to them, but keep the whole Torah. Sep 6 '15 at 8:23
  • @YaacovDeane The question is not what is required by the aTorah but about family minhagim. For example, someone who becomes a Baal Teshuvah and then finds out that his family was sfardi. Sep 6 '15 at 20:12
  • @sabbahillel what you are saying is how I originally took the question. And that was why I responded that in regard to minhag, one is required to keep them. But if you look at the explanation of the original questioner, they give as examples making kiddish for Shabbat night once a month or putting on tefillin for only a few days at Bar Mitzvah. These examples are not issues of minhag. They are issues of actual halacha as found in Shulchan Aruch. In the example you give, if his father and paternal grandfather are sfardi, he would follow minhag Sfard. Sep 6 '15 at 21:05
  • @YaacovDeane The example that he gave was washing before kiddush (a German minhag). The previous part (such as making kiddush once a month) was just to show how he might have learned that minhag. That is the way that I read the question. Sep 6 '15 at 23:49

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