Talk:Sephardic law and customs

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Hardly, Morrocans Use velvet,Turks used velvet,Greeks used velvet, sure tiqs are NOW popular in israel with morrocans etc but cmon traditionally moroccan jews used a velvet mantle that is even more like that of ashkenazim than the dutch sephardim have! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:19, 14 August 2008 (UTC)

Thanks. I've corrected the article accordingly. --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) (talk) 08:44, 14 August 2008 (UTC)


This is the question that should be asked before anything else. To me, a Sefardi Jew, it sounds like the misleading hogwash of a Hasid, and most likely an Ashkenazi one, who has an agenda to push. If nothing else, for most (Balkan) Sefardim today, Kabbala is of questionable value -- past some history -- and the Ari whoopla has little validity, if any!

Rumsefardi 19:22, 24 May 2007 (UTC)Sign

Answer. I wrote most of this article. I am neither Ashkenazi nor Hasidic, nor do I have any brief for Kabbalah (if anything the reverse, see my edits to Dor Daim), nor do I have any agenda to push. I was simply tracing the history of the present text of the Siddur as accurately as I could, relying on scholarly resources (see Bibliography). I stand by my statement that, historically speaking, the "Lurianic-Sephardic rite", in the form of the Livorno prints, pushed out most of the previous local rites, the extreme cases being the Persians and the Shami Yemenites: it does not follow that I think this a Good Thing. I freely concede that, for most Balkan Sephardim (and a fortiori for Spanish and Portuguese Jews, which is "where I am coming from" if you really must know, though my ultimate background is Syrian), these Kabbalistically-flavoured passages are simply fossils and have little relevance to their actual beliefs. However, if you look at the beliefs of many Mizrahi Jews in Israel, I think you will find that the "Ari hoopla" (sp) is alive and kicking! And no, I don't want to get into an argument about whether Mizrahim are Sephardim or not, I am simply saying that they use the same or a similar Siddur. So please, let's not play motive games and get on with any corrections you have on matters of hard fact, if you can verify them.
PS I have never been taken for a Hasid before, I can't get over it, it's really too funny!--Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) 09:04, 25 May 2007 (UTC)

Just to clarify further. The certain fact is that, at the time of the expulsion from Spain, there was a very wide variety of rites in the Sephardic and Mizrahi world, while by the late nineteenth century there was far closer uniformity. The difficulty is about the reasons. The various factors are:

  1. The Spanish exiles were regarded as an elite and supplied many of the chief rabbis, so that the Spanish rite tended to be favoured over any previous native rite;
  2. The invention of printing meant that siddurim were printed in bulk, usually in Italy, so that a congregation wanting books generally had to opt for a standard "Sephardi" or "Ashkenazi" text, thus pushing out most of the local variants (such as the Provençal rite)
  3. The Shulhan Aruch presupposes a "Castilian rite" at every point, so that that version of the Spanish rite had the prestige of being "according to the opinion of Maran"
  4. The Haham Bashi of Constantinople was the official head of all the Jews of the Ottoman Empire, further encouraging uniformity (and the North Africans in particular were influenced by Greek and Turkish models, hence the fact that so many of them claim to pray according to "minhag Hida")
  5. Finally, there was the influence of Lurianic Kabbalah and the theory of the "thirteenth gate".

The article emphasises this last factor because, in most histories of the liturgy for public consumption, this is the "elephant in the room" that seems to be generally ignored; whereas if you look at primary sources such as the Hida and the Ben Ish Hai, it looms very large indeed. The point is that, even if the other factors were the practical motive for the standardization, still they needed an ideological justification, and this is where they found it.

In summary:

  1. The Ari's bits and pieces only existed as attachments to a standardized "Sephardi" rite;
  2. Therefore, any community that wanted to pray "according to the Ari" tended to adopt, not just the Ari's bits and pieces, but the whole "Lurianic-Sephardic" rite (as codified in the Livorno editions) as a package deal;
  3. Even if they later decided to cut out the Ari's bits and pieces, they were still left with a standard "Sephardi" rite as opposed to their own original local customs.

Thus, even if the "Ari hoopla" is now of no importance at all for many of these communities, it remains the case that, historically speaking, it was the vehicle on which the Livorno Sephardic text arrived. Does this sound reasonable? --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) 21:06, 29 May 2007 (UTC)


The prayer books used in Istanbul in the 1950s and 1960s were invariably printed in VIENNA, I believe at the end of the 19th century. Some were falling apart but carefully preserved and repaired, the kind of thing people would give as a gift to a son-in-law. Afterwards books printed in Israel started arriving but people did not like those, because their format and pagination were different (even if the text was the same). Later some Israeli publisher came up with reprints of the Vienna editions, in the same format, except that the Ladino explanations and notes interspersed were replaced by Hebrew ones, but still set in the Rashi script to differentiate them from the prayer text. The old men did not like that but accepted these reprints (certainly better than the new format texts). The ability to read Ladino in the Rashi script was already disappearing and the new generation did not mind the exclusion of Ladino from these new prayer books. These Sephardic Vienna editions are not in the list of editions of the article, an important omission. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:18, 30 April 2008 (UTC)

Very good point. So if you know any of the Vienna editions, add them (I think there was one published by Schlesinger). The body of the article also needs amending to say that there were Vienna editions after the Livorno ones (this is already mentioned in the corresponding section of Syrian Jews). --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) (talk) 08:56, 30 April 2008 (UTC)
Now done! --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) (talk) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:13, 30 April 2008 (UTC)


The article needs a list of prominent Sephardic rabbis by century and country. Can someone else have a shot? --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) 14:25, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

Shalom Sharabi has nothing to do with Sephardic Judaism, it belongs in the Yemenite Jews thread. Please remove it. Shalom Sharabi has nothing to do with Spain.

This minidiscussion points up two problems. (1) Nowhere have we ever made a sound definition of who is/n't "Sfaradhi"...whether Wikipedia follows the real meaning (descendants of the expulsees of Spain and Portugal in 1492 and 1497, respectively) or the modern Israeli [aka "Ashkenazi definition of "Sephardi" as the "other"] definition... and (2) that this is a discussion page for the article at hand, not a "thread" in a chatroom. TIA, Tomertalk 04:55, 5 November 2006 (UTC)

The point of the article is that, however different Sephardim and Mizrahim may be as people, their religious law and ritual (leaving aside Baladi Yemenites) largely coincides. That is, while there is an article on "Mizrahi Jews", there is no need for a separate article on "Mizrahi Judaism".

Shalom Sharabi certainly should not be listed among "Sephardi rabbis". But his siddur was a version of the Sephardic rather than the Yemenite liturgy, and is relevant to any discussion of Sephardic prayer-books. Similarly, no one could deny the impact of Isaac Luria on the Sephardic liturgy, though he was ethnically an Ashkenazi (as this follows the father).

The list should mainly concentrate on actual Spanish-descended Sephardim, such as Alfasi, Maimonides, Caro, Confanton, Azulai, Palaggi, Uziel and so on, but include rabbis of any origin who have held office in Spain (e.g. the Rosh) and Mizrahi rabbis widely accepted as authorities within the Sephardic rite (e.g. Ben Ish Hai, Ovadia Yosef). Agreed? --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) 17:22, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

New section?[edit]

Does the article need something on their religious literature and intellectual history, beyond the factual details of observance? Or is this too ambitious an undertaking? Marc Angel's "Voices in Exile" is a start. --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) (talk) 17:13, 1 May 2008 (UTC)

Another possibility would be to rename this article "Sephardic laws and customs" and have a separate article for the intellectual history (for which "Sephardic Judaism" would be more appropriate). What do you think? (talk)


The history of Sephardic (in the broad meaning of the word today, rather than the meaning that those of the S&P persuasion would like it to have) liturgy here is masterfully presented. I'ma go clean it up a bit though: some spurious claims like 'Sepharadim do not say Birkat haShanim in Min7a' or 'Sepharadim that use tiqim do not do Haqqama (a.k.a. 'Hagbaha')' need to be taken out, and transliterations should be standardized. Bilditup1 (talk) 02:45, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for those kind words. On the points of detail:
Birkat ha-Shanim: it does not say this. The relevant passage concerns the Birkat Kohanim (or Barekhenu, which replaces it) on minhah of fast days; and this can be verified from the S&P prayer book. I'm not sure about other Sephardic subgroups.
Haqqama: the source for this is Ades' "Derekh Ere"ss", concerning the Syrian community. At all events, the view that there is no need for hagbahah because the script is visible all the time is one that has been held, and is followed in some communities. I agree that it does not extend to all tiq-users.
Transliteration. The attempt to standardize Hebrew transliteration across Wikipedia is a vain task! The transliteration in the article is mostly internally consistent, and consistent with the pronunciation. Please let's discuss any changes you want, rather than just going ahead and doing it. --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) (talk) 11:46, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
The changes I've made to the transliteration I've already committed, but only to the P-L-B list near the end; you can review them and decide if it's inappropriate. This being an article on Sephardic Laws and *Customs*, it would be a shame if we didn't at least try to be a bit more accurate transliteration-wise. I'm not even talking about using hardline Iraqi pronunciation here, just the lowest common denominator.
When I get home, I'll take a peak at DeSola Pool's siddur, but in any case if you'd like to add that bit back in I suggest you explicitly say '"Bar'khenu", a substitute for Birkat Kohanim when no Kohen is available'. That text does not begin 'Bar'khenu' for, say, the Syrians or Turks, leastways not in any siddur I've ever seen or minyan I've ever been to.
As for Haqqama, even within the Syrian community, I don't believe this is consistently true, especially for the weekday readings. But of course I don't have a source for this as yet, so it can't be committed, but think I'll ask the usual suspects. Bilditup1 (talk) 20:11, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
More on Haqqama. A knowledgeable friend claims: "Halabiyeh used to do what you call Haqamah. Even in America this was done. We have a clear question by Hakham Yisshaq Laniado to Hakham Meir Waqnin in Vayomer Meir about this. The Halabi custom was to do Haqamah."
But of course I don't have this book and would not feel comfortable inserting it in wikipedia - I don't edit it often and don't know its standards well enough - though of course I trust my friend's claim. Bilditup1 (talk) 21:00, 16 August 2010 (UTC)

Halachic flexibility and talletot[edit]

Some days ago I deleted some recently added sentences on flexibility in halachah and white talletot. I note that another editor (or perhaps the same editor from a different IP address) has since reinstated them.

In my edit summary, I gave full reasons for my edit. Fuller reasons are as follows:

On the whole I agree that Sephardim do tend to a more lenient and "centrist" view of halachah, but there are exceptions: Zimmels, in his Ashkenazim and Sephardim, lists examples of "Sephardic strictness and Ashkenazic leniency" as well as the reverse. The more important point is that section in question was a list of specific customs and usages. It was not intended to set out the general intellectual methodology of the different communities, which would require an article in itself. (On the talk page of the article I did raise the question whether there should be a separate article on "Sephardic Judaism" about the intellectual approach of the communities.) Or if it is to go in this article, there should be a separate section, with full discussion and citation of sources: Zvi Zohar, "He'iru Pene Ha-mizraḥ", might be a good place to start. Just saying "Sephardim are more reasonable" or words to that effect, without discussion or substantiation, is unencyclopaedic (and being reasonable is not a "custom"!).

On talletot, I know that plain white talletot are recommended by the Ovadia Yosef school. Also, many people wear "white on white" striped talletot on Rosh Hashanah and Kippur for Kabbalistic reasons, but some Ashkenazim do this as well. Traditionally, Spanish and Portuguese Jews wore silk talletot (which did have blue stripes); the Ben Ish Hai holds that wool is halachically preferable but says nothing about colours. Similarly, Spanish and Portuguese Jews wear them like a shawl with all four corners in front, while Syrian (and I believe Moroccan) Jews fold the two back corners over their shoulders like the Ashkenazim. All in all, the picture is too diverse to allow any meaningful statement about what "Sephardim" do about talletot.

I would welcome further discussion to improve the article; and I shall hold off reinstating my edit till we have tried to resolve it. But I would rather not engage in an edit war. --Sir Myles na Gopaleen (the da) (talk) 10:32, 7 January 2014 (UTC)

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