Are we required to use the Hebrew pronunciation of our minhag in tefilah and for brachot? What is the source for this?

I'm of Yekke Ashkenazi background but as a baal teshuva learnt Hebrew with a modern Israeli pronunciation. I recently studied an online Aish course on brachot which said that we must use the pronunciation of our minhag.

I've been trying to relearn brachot and tefilah with an Ashkenazi pronunciation but of course this is easier said than done, particularly with words and brachot I've been saying for years now, and at the moment I'm saying some brachot with one pronunciation and some with the other. Is this worse?

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    They are pretty clearly making up this requirement. There are no classical sources on the matter because no one ever thought to actively change the way everyone around them pronounced Hebrew. The whole town obviously spoke the same way and that was it. Only in the last ~150 years would anyone have even thought to discuss this. – Double AA Oct 13 '16 at 1:15
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    A colleague of mine was in a similar situation as yours where he was Ashkenaz but went to a Modern Orthodox school where they taught pronunciation like Modern Hebrew. Upon asking Rav Herschel Shachter from YU, he was told to switch, so I'm not so sure as to say that there are no sources if a Posek told him to do such. – TrustMeI'mARabbi Oct 13 '16 at 1:18
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    @PloniAlmoni I'll note also that being required to switch from modern Hebrew to an Ashkenazi variant doesn't answer the OP's question (which was "Are we required to use the Hebrew pronunciation of our minhag?") if the basis for requiring a switch was that modern Hebrew isn't a valid form of Hebrew at all. – Double AA Oct 13 '16 at 2:51
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    Yes, I agree pronunciation is a subjective and fluid thing, which is why I found the Aish advice (which I've otherwise found good) challenging. Do any religious Israelis use one pronunciation when davening and another when conversing modern Hebrew? That would be weird. – Jakub Oct 13 '16 at 20:14
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    @Jakub According to this article by Dovid Katz, it was once common for Jews in Europe to switch between saying Hebrew words in a Yiddish accent when speaking casually and a more elevated Ashkenazic Hebrew accent when davening. He details the differences on pages 16-28 of the .PDF file (pages 56-68 of the printed text). – Mike Aug 22 '19 at 2:35

This question was asked to two prominent Rabbis in the early 1900s. Rabbi Avaraham Yitzhak Kook HaCohein (Ashkenazi), and Hakham Benzion Uzziel (Sepharadi).

The gist of the responsas were as follows:

Rav Kook: Everyone should pronounce in the way that was customarily done by their ancestors. So even if you are now Israeli and are used to speaking Israeli Hebrew, you should revert back to Ashkenazi pronunciation for blessings and reading of the Torah. He said that each custom of speaking had their own strengths and weaknesses. Anyone who deviates from their "ancestral pronunciation" is at risk of not pronouncing Shema' properly.

Benzion Uzziel: Pronounce it according to any legitimate tradition. Including Israeli pronunciation. Rab Uzziel also wanted people to conform to one univeral Hebrew, which would have been the proper Sephardic Israeli Hebrew which no longer exists.

A brief synopsis of the two opinions (and others) can be found here: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwinl-7e6snjAhXQv54KHZb8Dh8QFjABegQIBBAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdownload.yutorah.org%2F2009%2F1109%2F735745.pdf&usg=AOvVaw3ps4IRT6N7qo5g8s1_ga9E


AFAIK, for most Brachos, any Hebrew is fine. For specific Torah readings that are M'Doraisa (e.g. Parshas Zachor), hearing it in anything other than "the correct" pronunciation would raise questions as to whether you are Yotze. (My Rav gave a speech on this a few years back - I have to ask him for the source.)

As for no one mentioning it - from what I understand, having never learned it myself) the Yosef Ometz (written by Rabbi Yosef Yosspe Hahn Norlingen [1570-1637], Av Beis Din and Rosh Yeshiva in Frankfurt) has a whole section dedicated to the proper pronunciation of Hebrew, with proofs, and how the Eastern European pronunciation is entirely wrong and is Halachically problematic.

Also, refer to Rav Hamburger and Shorshei Minhagei Ashkenaz - he has several chapters on this.

That is slightly more than 150 years ago. :)

  • Did the Yosef Ometz discuss an obligation to use the Hebrew pronounciation of your father? Certainly there are old sources that discuss whether or not certain variants are correct. That's not what we're discussing. In fact it's the exact opposite. If someone argues for a specific variant that means they don't think everyone's father's way is equally fine. – Double AA Dec 25 '17 at 0:36

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