Nusach Sefard - History


It is generally held that every Jew is bound to observe the mitzvot (commandments of Judaism) by following the customs appropriate to his or her family origin: see Minhag. For this reason a number of rabbis disapprove of the adoption of Sephardic customs by Ashkenazi Jews.

However, it was a common Kabbalistic belief that the Sephardic rite, especially in the form used by Isaac Luria, has more spiritual potency than the Ashkenazi, and that, while in general one should keep to one's minhag of origin, this rite reaches a "thirteenth gate" in Heaven for those who do not know their own tribe. Many Eastern Jewish communities, such as the Persian Jews and the Shami Yemenites, accordingly adopted the Sephardic rite with Lurianic additions in preference to their previous traditional rites.

In the same way, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries many Kabbalistic groups in Europe adopted the Lurianic-Sephardic rite in preference to the Ashkenazi. This was however the custom of very restricted circles, and did not come into widespread public use until the rise of Hasidism.

Nusach Sefard, with its variant Nusach Ari, became almost universal among Hasidic Jews. One consequence of this was that, before the foundation of the State of Israel and in the early years of the State, it was the predominant rite used by Ashkenazim in the Holy Land, with the exception of certain pockets of traditional Lithuanian Jews. One reason for this was that Eretz Yisrael was regarded as part of the Sephardic world, so that it was felt that new immigrants should adapt to the local rite. In recent decades, following the immigration of many Ashkenazi Jews from America, the traditional Ashkenazi rite has regained a strong following.

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