By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
The events you are about to read are real. The names have been changed to protect the shidduchim prospects of the two daughters of the perpetrator of what you are about to read.
Recently, a Sephardic Jew was davening in an Ashkenazic Shul. The Sefardic Jew recited the Sephardic version of Kaddish, not the Ashkenazic version.
The Sephardic version of Kaddish has some minor differences as well as two major differences: the first major difference are the extra words, V’yatzmach Purkanei vikareiv meshichei.
The second major difference are the additional words at the Yehei Shlama Rabbah section, “Chaim v’savah viyeshuah venechama, v’shayzavah, urefuah, ugeulah, uslicha v’chaparah, verevach, v’hatzalah, lanu ulechol amo Yisrael.”
One of the Ashkenazim members of the Shul (the one with the two daughters) went over to him and said, “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do, to recite a different version of Kaddish than the official nusach of the Shul.” The Sephardi responded, “Yes, the Rabbi also told me that..”
The Ashkenazi Jew was taken aback that the person had nonetheless continued to recite the Kaddish in the Sephardic Nusach. The next time that the Sephardic gentleman said the Kaddish, when he got to Yehai Shlama, the Ashkenazi recited aloud the similar words found in Megilas Esther, “Revach v’hatzalah yaamod layehudim mimakom acher.”
The Sephardic Jew was rather insulted. The Ashkenazic Jew felt justified in his behavior and wanted to prove to the Sephardic Jew that all Poskim, both Ashkenaz and Sephardic, do not allow a person to publically differ from the accepted Nusach of the Shul. He suggested to this author, that the topic might very well be a good halachic column for the Five Towns Jewish Times.
Unfortunately, for the Ashkenazi, he is not quite right. Although Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l does write plainly (in the Igros Moshe OC III #89) that it is indeed forbidden for the Sephardi to recite his own Nusach of Davening when it is public – Sephardic Poskim disagree and rule that he can recite the Sephardic version of Kaddish.
Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l (Orh L’Tzion Vol. III 5:11) rules that a Sephardi does not have to follow the custom of the Ashkenazi Shul and states that he should say VaYatzmach Purkanei etc. He does, however, recommend that the longer version of Yehei Shlamah should be omitted.
What is the rationale of Rav Abba Shaul?
The issue revolves around a debate concerning the understanding of the verse called, “Lo Sisgodedu.” The Rambam (Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 12:14) writes that this verse, which the sages darshen to mean, “Lo saasu Agudos Agudos, Do not make groups and groups..” refers only to a Bais Din – not to have two Batei Dinim in the same city – this one conducting itself one way and the other conducting itself in a different manner. He writes that this leads to major arguments and is a violation of Lo Sisgodedo.”
The Rosh on the other hand, writes (Yevamos 1:9) that Lo Sisgodedu is not limited to a case of Beis Din but applies to halachos across the board. The Mogain Avrohom (OC 493) and the Remah rule in accordance with the Rosh.
Since Sephardim rule like the Rambam, generally speaking, there would not be a Lo Sisgodedu here and the Sephardic Jew was justified in maintaining his custom. The Sha’ar HaKavanos writes that the wording of Kaddish is very important and Rav Abba Shaul writes that the first part of the Kaddish should not be changed. He writes that for purposes of maintaining Shalom, however, the Sephardic Jew should not recite the longer Yehei Shlama version since it was a mere addition to the Kaddish as the Rambam writes at the end of Sefer Ahavah regarding the text of Kaddish.
It is interesting to note that, in his responsa, Rav Feinstein zt”l doesn’t just deal with the issue of Lo Sisgodedu, but deals with the issue of Machlokes. In his citation of the Talmud in top of Psachim 50b, it is clear that he understood the import of the previous Mishna as a Halacha that stems from the desire to avoid disputes and arguments and that the issue applies to shuls too. Rav Feinstein having cited the Gemorah then points out that it may also be an issue of Lo Sisgodedu. Clearly then, Rav Feinstein’s view is that the issue of not changing from the custom of a particular venue is rooted in the issue of Machlokes. Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul, however, seems to understand the passage in Psachim otherwise – that it would not pertain to shuls.
Since this is the case, it is clear that the Ashkenazi’s reaction in our case, violated the principles espoused by Rav Moshe Feinstein. The Sephardi, on the other hand, followed his own Poskim and upheld his traditions. Interestingly enough, an Ashkenazi davening in a Sephardi Shul should daven like they do in any public setting where the text he is using is recognizable.
Clearly, the Ashkenazi should apologize to the Sephardi for the embarrassment. Someone could point out to the Sephardi member that while V’Atzmach should be recited according to his own Poskim, the longer Yehei Shlama should not be.
It would be interesting to know if the Sephardi member has any sons that might be available to date one of the daughters of the Ashkenazi gentleman.
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com