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Nusach Ari means, in a general sense, any prayer rite following the usages of Rabbi Isaac Luria, the AriZal, in the 16th century, and, more particularly, the derivative version of it used by Chabad Hasidim.
In 1803, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Hasidism, published a prayer book that was arranged according to (Sephardic-Kabbalistic) Nusach HaAri, amalgamated with the new-risen 18th-century Hasidic Nusach Sefard (and his own). This early 19th-century devised prayer rite has been used ever since by Chabad Hasidim.
History of the Siddur
The Ari and his immediate disciples did not themselves publish any prayer book, though they established a number of characteristic usages intended to be used as additions to the existing Sephardic rite. After Rabbi Isaac Luria's passing in 1572, there were various attempts, mostly by Sephardic rabbis and communities, to publish a prayer book containing the form of prayer that he used: an example is the Siddur of Rabbi Shalom Sharabi. Many of these remain in use in Sephardic communities: for more details, see Sephardic Judaism.
Prayer books containing some version of the Sephardic rite, as varied by the usages of the Ari, were also in use in some Kabbalistic circles in the Ashkenazic world in preference to the traditional Ashkenazic rite. In particular, they became popular among the early Hasidim. These prayer books were often found to be inconsistent with the AriZal's version, and served more as a teaching of the kavanot (meditations) and proper ways to pray rather than as an actual prayer book.
Then, in the 18th century, Rabbi Schneur Zalman decided to undertake the task of compiling a prayer book which amalgamated Kabbalistic-Hasidic teachings (including his own) with what he considered to be the most correct version of the Lurianic Sephardic rite. The difference can be seen when comparing Sephardi prayer books containing Lurianic usages with Hasidic versions. The Alter Rebbe, as Rabbi Schneur Zalman is commonly known, is said to have researched approximately sixty different versions of siddurim so as to come to the most correct version of the liturgical text. In 1803 the Alter Rebbe had the siddur published, and it was released in two volumes to the public. The new siddur was reprinted three times within the first ten years.
While much of Rabbi Schneur Zalman's siddur is based on the Nusach Ari as composed by the AriZal himself, it is also compiled based on rulings and compositions from various other sources. The Alter Rebbe acknowledged this by entitling his work "Al Pi Nusach Ari," meaning "according to the version of the Ari". It differs from the other versions of the AriZal's siddur by incorporating some features of the Ashkenazic rite. It also contains some meditations from the Siddur of Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, but very much condensed compared with the original.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman's Siddur is used today by Chabad Hasidim (Lubavitch), and the current edition is called Siddur Tehillat Hashem. Many of the other siddurim that are based on the AriZal's siddur are categorized under the title of Nusach Sefard, and are used by other sects of Hasidic Judaism.
It is generally held—even by Luria, the AriZal, himself—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. Originally, Luria taught that twelve gates of prayer exist, one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel, hence twelve nusachs for Jewish prayer ("nasachot ha-tefillah") emanated accordingly. In alteration of this concept, especially in 18th/19th-century Hassidism the claim emerged that a superior Nusach Sefard would reach a believed "thirteenth gate" (Shaar ha-Kollel) in Heaven. Almost naturally Nusach Sefard, with its variant Nusach Ari, became predominant among the various sects of Hasidic Judaism. For this reason, a number of non-Hasidic rabbis (see Mitnagdim) disapprove of the adoption of these different rather recent 18th/19th-century devised customs by Ashkenazi Jews.
Siddurim Adapted from the AriZal's Siddur
- Siddur Tehillat HaShem (the version used by Chabad)
- Siddur Torah Or (the Alter Rebbe's original edition)
- Siddur Tefillot Mikol Hashanah
- Siddur Od Yosef Hai (Baghdadi rite)
- "There are many differences between the [various] prayer books, between the Sefardi rite, the Catalonian rite, the Ashkenazi rite, and the like. Concerning this matter, my master [the Ari] of blessed memory told me that there are twelve windows in heaven corresponding to the twelve tribes, and that the prayer of each tribe ascends through its own special gate. This is the secret of the twelve gates mentioned at the end of [the book of] Yechezkel. There is no question that were the prayers of all the tribes the same, there would be no need for twelve windows and gates, each gate having a path of its own. Rather, without a doubt it necessarily follows that because their prayers are different, each and every tribe requires its own gate. For in accordance with the source and root of the souls of that tribe, so must be its prayer rite. It is therefore fitting that each and every individual should maintain the customary liturgical rite of his forefathers. For you do not know who is from this tribe and who from that tribe. And since his forefathers practiced a certain custom, perhaps he is from that tribe for whom this custom is appropriate, and if he comes now and changes it, his prayer may not ascend [to heaven], when it is not offered in accordance with that rite. (Sha'ar ha-Kavanot, Inyan Nusach ha-Tefila)" Navon, Chaim (Rav); Strauss, translated by David. "THe various rites of Jewish liturgy". The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash. Yeshivat Har Etzion. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- Sears, Dovid (Rabbi). "Tefillah be-Kavanah". breslev.co.il. Breslev Israel. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
- Nusach Sefard is the name for various forms of the Jewish siddurim, designed to reconcile Ashkenazi customs with the (believed original) kabbalistic customs of the Ari. See: Wertheim, Aaron, Law and Custom in Hasidism, Ktav Publishing House, Inc. Hoboken, NJ, 1992, p146.
- Remer, Daniel (Rabbi). "SIDDUR TEFILLAT HAIM". http://www.virtualgeula.com. VirtualGeula, 2007. Retrieved 9 March 2015.