I have read that Rabbi Avraham Yosef (the son of Rav Ovadiah Yosef) paskened that a Baal Teshuva in Israel should adopt the Sephardic Minhag, regardless of family history, as their immediate ancestors did not provide a Mesorah and the named Minhag is the one dominant in and traditional to the region. Does any one know of a counter-ruling on this issue? Is there an analogous ruling on appropriate BT Minhag in America?

  • The named Minhag?
    – Seth J
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 2:43
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    What do you mean by counter-ruling? That he should follow what his family Minhag would have been? That Sephardi isn't the dominant Minhag in Israel? That a Sephardi BT in an Ashkenazi-dominated place should go Ashkenazi?
    – Seth J
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 2:46
  • FWIW, generally the adoption of minhagim is not only a question of "who is your father". It is more generally related to where you are. There are differences if you are visiting versus whether you permanently move somewhere. So it would depend where this baal teshuva was located, but in principle the answer could be extended to anyone who has moved from their original location.
    – bondonk
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 14:46

5 Answers 5


R' Dovid Cohen (in Monsey, NY), who is a particular expert in areas of halacha concerning ba'alei teshuvah, rules that a ba'al teshuva (whose parents aren't observant and therefore has no minhag avot) may choose from among the accepted minhagim. I used this psak to choose Sepharadi minhagim, but one could just as easily use this psak to choose Ashkenazi, Chassidic or Yemenite minhagim.

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    Would the same ruling apply to adopting Teimani (Yemenite) minhagim?
    – Lee
    Commented Jun 3, 2013 at 19:14
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    @Lee Fogel, why wouldn't it?
    – Seth J
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 1:36
  • I assumed it would, but was hoping for verification from @Chanoch.
    – Lee
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 6:52
  • It would also be interesting to know what constitutes one's parents being "not observant". For example, what if kiddush was done on Erev Shabbat, but nothing more?
    – Lee
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 6:58
  • @LeeFogel, presumably it means that one is not observing Mitzvoth and not following the Minhagim of one's ancestors and/or community. One can take on new Minhagim that don't contradict one's old Minhagim; changing established Minhagim is more problematic. Hence, in this opinion (I believe), if one has no related Minhag, one is free to choose his Minhag.
    – Seth J
    Commented Jun 4, 2013 at 15:17

The Rabanim Yosef's psak is based on the Halacha that once an authority has been established in any region that authority becomes the "Mara D'Atra" (the regional authority). All those living in, or joining, this area are then required to follow the Halachic rulings (psak) of that authority.

The question then becomes is there a Mara D'Atra in Israel, and if so who would that be. The Rabanim Yosef chose the Beit Yosef (Rav Yosef Karo) and they have good reasons for that (beyond the shared name).

When one follows the Beit Yosef he is considered to be following the Sefardi psak. Other rabbis, Sefradi rabbis included, have given different decrees, but are still "Sefardim".

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    David Perlman, hello and welcome to mi.yodeya! Thank you for the useful contribution to the question of determining minhag. Does every place have a mara d'asra and can such a term be applied across geographical bounds to include all members of some familial lineage?
    – WAF
    Commented Apr 21, 2011 at 14:39
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    @WAF, thanks for the warm welcome. Your questions are very interesting, even worth a post for themselves. My answer was only to introduce the term Mara D'Atra (mara d'asra). v'Idach Zil Gmor ... as they say. I am not an expert on the subject. Commented Apr 21, 2011 at 19:10

I know of a Chasidishe Rav in Antwerp that told a Baal Teshuva to adopt the Chasidishe Minhagim. I think it would be a more interesting Pesak if it came from an opposing side (A Sefardi rav saying "adopt Ashkenazi Minhag" and a Ashkenazi Rav saying "adopt Sefardi Minhag").

  • a) Do you happen to know the Chasidishe Rav's argument for this? b) Agreed, that would be really cool. Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 16:25
  • My understanding was that this Baal Teshuva has joined the Chasidishe Kehila there, so I guess it was the same argument as Rabbi Avraham Yosef as it was the dominant Minhag there. Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 17:12
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    Rav Shlanger, Mashgiah of Yeshivat Porat Yosef in the Ir Ha'atikah of Jerusalem is a born Ashkenazi who keeps Sefardi minhagim. If I remeber correctly Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach ZT"L paskened that he must do so since he is a manhig of a Sefardi "Kehilla". It appears Rav SZA held that this was considered joining that Kehilah.
    – Yahu
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 22:53

I don't think there is one specific set of minhagim that one must absolutely adopt. However, a person should not pick and chose minhagim according to his or her liking. Taking on a specific way of understanding halachah and jewish practice should not be taken lightly. If a b't knows his/her family history it makes it much easier to decide which minhagim to take on. on the other hand if not then best to ask your mentor/teacher or rav on specific decisions.


I have heard from Reb Elyashiv that the minhagim must follow the mesorah of the parent or in this case of lack of parent chinuch the mesorah must follow the rebbe which means whoever was the mekarev of this person.

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