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In the paragraph before Kriyat Shema, the Ashkenazic custom is to begin with the words "ahavah rabbah" by Shacharit, and with the words "ahavat olam" by Ma'ariv/Arvit.

The Sephardic custom is to always begin with the words "ahavat olam" by both Shacharit and Ma'ariv/Arvit, and this is the custom of (most) Hasidim as well.

There is an argument in the Gemara (B'rachot 11b) about whether the paragraph begins with the words "ahavah rabbah" or "ahavat olam". I assume the reason Ashkenazim say both versions is to satisfy both the opinions of the Gemara. If this is so, why do Sephardim always recite "ahavat olam" instead of trying to satisfy both opinions, especially when it seems to me that the Gemara prefers the wording of "ahavah rabbah"?

(Ignore all the other textual differences between the Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Hasidic nusachot and focus only on the opening words of the paragraph.)

  • How does reciting different things at different times satisfy all opinions? Seems more like you're for sure getting one wrong according to everyone. – Double AA Feb 12 '18 at 17:23
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    related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/66225/759 – Double AA Feb 12 '18 at 17:26
  • Perhaps you could say further that since the Gemara seems to prefer Ahavah Rabbah why do Ashkenazim try to satisfy both opinion? – DonielF Feb 12 '18 at 17:28
  • There are two versions in gemara and tosfot says that because of this was prefer to say the one shacharit and the last arvit. Rif choose the lishna Batra – kouty Feb 12 '18 at 17:49
  • Also about a morning/evening difference in this benediction: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/28568 – msh210 Feb 12 '18 at 20:14
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Note: This answer is from the OP.

Thanks to DanF, who pointed out that I should look on the website Beurei Hatefila for an answer, and to "go to that site when [I] have a tefilla-orientated question."

First of all, my understanding of the Gemara in question (B'rachot 11b) was incorrect; the preferred wording of the paragraph is not "ahavah rabbah" but rather "ahavat olam"!

ואידך מאי היא אמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל אהבה רבה

Which is the other b'rachah? R. Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel: "ahavah rabbah", an abundant love.

The opinion of Shmuel is that the wording is "ahavah rabbah". The Rabbis, however, say that the proper wording is "ahavat olam", an everlasting love:

ורבנן אמרי אהבת עולם וכן הוא אומר ואהבת עולם אבהתיך על כן משכתיך חסד

The Rabbis say "ahavat olam", an everlasting love, is said, [based on the Yirmiyahu 31:3] "And I loved you with an everlasting love, therefore with affection I have drawn you near."

So the question is not on why the Sephardic custom is to always say "ahavat olam", but rather on the Ashkenazic custom to recite "ahavah rabbah" in the morning (like Shmuel) and "ahavat olam" in the evening (like the Rabbis)!

The following is based on this article from Beurei Hatefila. One should refer to this article.

Tosfot comment that there became a practice to recite both versions to satisfy both opinions in the Gemara, as I had assumed initially. The Rosh wrote that the Geonim said we should follow both opinions, and therefore it is the practice in Germany and France to recite "ahavah rabbah" during Shacharit and "ahavat olam" during Ma'ariv/Arvit.

And interesting reason provided by the Siddur Avodat Yisrael: "ahavah rabbah" is recited during Shacharit and "ahavat olam" is recited during Ma'ariv/Arvit to avoid accidentally reciting the Birkat Kriyat Shema of Shacharit during Ma'ariv/Arvit and vice-versa.

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There is a concept found in Kabbalistic/Chassidic literature that ahavah rabbah, unlike ahavat olam, is available only on the ethereal plain of Atzilut, which is inaccessible to us. I do not understand this stuff at all, but I can point you to where it says this in the Tanya (Part One, The Book of the Average Men, Chapter 43, #2):

והנה, באהבה יש גם כן שתי מדרגות: אהבה רבה ואהבת עולם. אהבה רבה היא אהבה בתענוגים, והיא שלהבת העולה מאליה, ובאה מלמעלה בבחינת מתנה למי שהוא שלם ביראה, ... ובלי קדימת היראה אי אפשר להגיע לאהבה רבה זו, כי אהבה זו היא מבחינת אצילות, דלית תמן קיצוץ ופירוד חס ושלום. אך אהבת עולם היא הבאה מהתבונה ודעת בגדולת יקוק אין סוף ברוך הוא הממלא כל עלמין וסובב כל עלמין, ...

R' Ya'akov Emden, in his Siddur Beit Ya'akov (p. 122), acknowledges this concept in the course of justifying why Ashkenazic custom (including as represented in his Siddur) doesn't follow it, as Sefaradic custom does, by only saying ahavat olam. He provides some justifications in terms of the kabbalistic contexts, but mostly says "this is the established practice in these communities, and it does follow an opinion in the Talmud, so this is what they should keep doing." From the great extent to which he emphasizes the importance of retaining communal practice in this context, it seems to me that he would have been inclined to side, in theory, with Sefaradic practice, if not for the Ashkenazic custom to the contrary.

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The Arizal/Rav Chaim Vital instructed as such (that only ahavas olam should be said) IIRC.

  • He might have, but it's in the Gemara as well (B'rachot 11b). See my answer. – ezra Feb 14 '18 at 1:21
  • How do you know this? Sources would improve this answer. – ezra Feb 14 '18 at 1:22
  • S&P communities only recite Ahabat 'Olam and they removed almost all Lurianic emendations following the Sabbatai Sbi affair – Noach MiFrankfurt Feb 14 '18 at 4:36
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    @NoachMiFrankfurt The idea of saying "ahavat olam" by Shacharit and Ma'ariv is not from the Arizal, it's from the Rabbanim! See B'rachot 11b. Rishonim come to defend the Ashkenazi custom to say both "ahavah rabbah" and "ahavat olam" which is clearly agains the mainstream halacha from the Gemara. The Arizal may have endorsed only saying "ahavat olam", but it didn't originate from him as this answer implies. – ezra Feb 14 '18 at 5:08
  • @ezra, that's precisely my point: the "answer" above is heavily reductionist – Noach MiFrankfurt Feb 14 '18 at 5:26

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