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Frankfurt Minhagim and Me

Part II

Earlier I mentioned what the Rödelheim Siddur says about Keil Melech Ne’eman in Frankfurt minhag. At the end of the third paragraph of Shema there is also an instruction. It says “Hier schliesst das Wort Emet unmittelbar an,” here the word Emet is immediately connected. In other words, it is made clear that the last three words are not repeated.

Again, I had no problem with this minhag, since my not repeating the last three words did not interfere with anyone else’s davening, nor with the cantor who would repeat those three words loud.

While on the subject of German minhagim there is another one that I would like to mention but one that was more difficult to resolve in shul. It is the way the Kedusha is said in the Shemoneh Esrei.

I am told that according to early tradition, most halachic decisors and the great German rabbis, the congregation should not recite the preface to the Kedusha or the intervening segments that were initially assigned to the chazan. Nevertheless, it has now become customary in many communities for the congregation to participate in the recitation of these three segments that had originally been assigned only to the chazan.

This practice marks a deviation from the original tradition as documented in halachic sources including the siddur texts of Rav Saadia Ga’on as well as the Rambam. These and other sources clearly indicate that only the chazan recites these portions of the Kedusha.

The first recorded instance of this deviation appears in the writings of the Rosh, at the time he settled in Spain, who strongly objected to some members of the congregation joining the chazan. His ruling is codified in the Shulchan Aruch. This was the prevailing practice both in Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities for many generations.

This began to change in Eastern Europe when the Arizal held that the congregation should say these portions silently along with the chazan. Over time, “silently” became “loud.” The Vilna Ga’on and most Acharonim insisted on following the time-honored tradition of remaining perfectly silent.

Ultimately, the custom to join the chazan spread throughout Europe to the point where the original, authentic practice was forgotten altogether. German communities, however, stood out in their firm insistence upon adhering to the original practice.

When I was first confronted with this difference between the minhag I had always followed in Washington Heights and the minhag in the community where I now found myself, I needed to either continue my way of davening as before or adjust myself to the new community. My decision, as in others above, was again based on what would be the consequence of my not changing. I decided not to change since my not saying the three sections out loud would not disturb my fellow congregants; in fact, they would not know what I am doing. So that is what I am still doing now.

I am sure there are many other examples of differences between minhagim that I could cite, but one stands out in my mind because my decision on compliance is totally different from those that I described above.

That is the minhag of wearing a tallit or not while performing a mitzvah. My recollection is in the community of Washington Heights, and I do not necessarily mean only “Breuers,” but the some 10 or so Orthodox shuls that existed in Washington Heights during the 1940s and 1950s. I had not been to all the shuls then, but I am quite sure that in all it was a requirement to wear a tallit whenever performing a mitzvah.

(To be continued next week…)


Norbert Strauss is a Teaneck resident and Englewood Hospital volunteer.

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