The Palestinian minhag or Palestinian liturgy, (Hebrew: נוסח ארץ ישראל, translit: Nusach Eretz Yisrael) as opposed to the Babylonian minhag, refers to the rite and ritual of medieval Palestinian Jewry in relation to the traditional order and form of the prayers.
A complete collection has not been preserved from antiquity, but several passages of it are scattered in both the Babylonian Talmud and Jerusalem Talmud, in the Midrashim, in the Pesiktot, in minor tractate Soferim, and in some responsa of the Palestinian Geonim. Some excerpts have been preserved in the Siddur of Saadia Gaon and the Cairo geniza yielded some important texts, such as the Eighteen Benedictions. One fragment of a Palestinian siddur discovered in the genizah was written in Hebrew with various introductions and explanations in Judaeo-Arabic. The Geniza fragments mostly date from the 12th century, and reflect the usages of the Palestinian-rite synagogue in Cairo, which was founded by refugees from the Crusades.
Though the Jerusalem Talmud never became authoritative against the Babylonian, some elements of the Palestinian liturgy were destined to be accepted in Italy, Greece, Germany and France, even in Egypt, against the Babylonian, owing to the enthusiasm of the scholars of Rome. The Babylonian rite was accepted mainly in Spain, Portugal and the southern countries.
Liturgies incorporating some elements of the Palestinian minhag fall into three distinct groupings.
- The German ritual, itself divided into two rituals, the western or Minhag Ashkenaz and the eastern, or Minhag Polin. Minhag Ashkenaz was introduced in Palestine itself during the 16th century by German and Polish Kabbalists.
- The Italian minhag, perhaps the oldest Palestinian-influenced ritual.
- Lastly the Romaniot Minhag, more accurately, the Rumelic or Greek ritual; this ritual of the Balkan countries has retained the most features of the Palestinian minhag.
It has been argued that Saadya Gaon’s siddur reflects at least some features of the Palestinian minhag, and that this was one source of the liturgy of German Jewry. Another historic liturgy containing Palestinian elements is the old Aleppo rite (published Venice, 1527 and 1560).
This traditional view, that the Sephardi rite was derived from that of Babylon while the Ashkenazi rite reflects that of Palestine, goes back to Leopold Zunz, and was largely based on the fact that the Ashkenazi rite contains many piyyutim of Palestinian origin which are absent from the Babylonian and Sephardi rites. However, the correspondence is not complete. First, a few Sephardi usages in fact reflect Palestinian as against Babylonian influence, for example the use of the words morid ha-tal in the Amidah in summer months; and Moses Gaster maintained that the correspondence is the other way round (i.e. Ashkenazi=Babylonian, Sephardi=Palestinian). Secondly, Palestinian influence on any of the current Jewish rites extends only to isolated features, and none of them substantially follows the historic Palestinian rite.
- A comparative list of Babylonian and Palestinian customs, known as Hilluf Minhagim, is preserved from the time of the Geonim: most of the Palestinian customs there listed are not now practised in any community. The most important and long-lasting difference was that Torah reading in Palestinian-rite synagogues followed a triennial cycle, while other communities used an annual cycle.
- Similarly, Palestinian prayer texts recovered from the Cairo Geniza are not reflected in any current rite.
- Abraham I. Schechter; Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning. Rose Adler Fund (1930). Studies in Jewish liturgy: based on a unique manuscript entitled Seder ḥibbur berakot. Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning. p. 40-51. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
- Ezra Fleischer, Eretz-Yisrael Prayer and Prayer Rituals as Portrayed in the Geniza Documents (Hebrew), Jerusalem 1988.
- Shemuel Safrai (September 1987). The Literature of the Sages. Van Gorcum. p. 407. ISBN 978-0-8006-0605-3. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
- Eric Werner (June 1976). A voice still heard: the sacred songs of the Ashkenazic Jews. Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-271-01167-7. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
- Isaac Landman (1943). The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia ...: an authoritative and popular presentation of Jews and Judaism since the earliest times. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, inc. p. 170. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
Two groups of rituals, or Minhagim, are to be distinguished, the Palestinian Minhag and the Babylonian Minhag. 1. The Palestinian group includes: (a) the German ritual; this is itself divided into two rituals, the Western or Minhag Ashkenaz, and the eastern, or Minhag Polin. The Elbe River forms the boundary between these two. (b) the Italian Minhag, perhaps the oldest branch of the Palestinian ritual, (c) the Romanic Minhag, or, more accurately, the Rumelic or Greek ritual; this ritual of the Balkan countries has retained most features of the Palestinian Minhag.
- Encyclopædia Britannica, inc (2003). The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-85229-961-6. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
Thus, the acceptance by the Ashkenazi Jews of many elements of the Palestinian minhag and by the Sephardic Jews of many elements of the Babylonian minhag resulted in distinctive rites, which are also referred to as minhagim.
- Central Synagogue Council of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain & Ireland; Synagogue Council of the Zionist Federation (1946). The gates of Zion: quarterly review of the Central Synagogue Council of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain & Ireland. The Council. p. 7. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
- E Fleischer, Eretz-Yisrael Prayer and Prayer Rituals as Portrayed in the Geniza Documents (Hebrew), Jerusalem 1988, p 202 n 207.
- Leopold Zunz, Die gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden, historisch entwickelt, Frankfurt am Main 1892
- See Sephardic Judaism#Instances of Sephardic usage
- Moses Gaster, preface to the Book of Prayer of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, London, 1901: reprinted in 1965 and subsequent editions.
- S. Reif (1993), ch 6 "Authorities, rites and texts" (p 153 et seq.).
- Lewin, B. M., Otzar Ḥilluf Minhagim.
- Jewish Encyclopaedia article on "Triennial cycle", citing Megillah 29b.
- Except for that published by Rabbi David Bar-Hayim of Machon Shilo in Jerusalem, which is a conscious attempt to revive the Palestinian rite.
- Fleischer, Ezra, Eretz-Yisrael Prayer and Prayer Rituals as Portrayed in the Geniza Documents (Hebrew), Jerusalem 1988
- Reif, Stefan, Judaism and Hebrew Prayer: Cambridge 1993. Hardback ISBN 978-0-521-44087-5, ISBN 0-521-44087-4; Paperback ISBN 978-0-521-48341-4, ISBN 0-521-48341-7
- Reif, Stefan, Problems with Prayers: Berlin and New York 2006 ISBN 978-3-11-019091-5, ISBN 3-11-019091-5
- Wieder, Naphtali, The Formation of Jewish Liturgy: In the East and the West