Thursday, January 15, 2009


Apologies for not blogging over the last couple of weeks....

We begin this week's blog with a joke recently told me by my next-door-neighbor (and chavruta) --- So What's the difference between rude and crude?
Rude is where you thrown your underwear against the wall. Crude is when they stick.

(hat-tip to Yoni --- Mazal Tov on Passing Shlav Aleph)

Why do I begin with such a disgusting and tasteless joke (other than the fact that almost all of my own jokes are disgusting and tasteless?). Because this week's blog is about distinctions and specifically what is yekkish and what is litvish.
Now I'm not going to go into the fact that the yekkish nusach is pretty distant from the litvish nusach in respect to melodies, trop, minhagim and actual texts. That's pretty much a given. Rather, what behavior is yekkish and what is litvish?

A good friend of mine, "J", a superb baal tefilla with excellent nusach who typically arrives to shul on time (although vatikin is not his thing) began showing up to shul around leining starting a few weeks ago. The reason: "J" was concerned that in the winter months the mitzvah of seudah shlishit was not being observed properly. By the time lunch ended, it would be time for mincha and who wants to wash and have a meal just after finishing lunch. So---- "J" began attending the neighborhood hashkama minyan at 7:00 AM, went home after Schacharit, made kiddush and hamotzi so as to be yotzai the second seuda and then came --- at roughly 8:40 --- to the 8:00 minyan to catch leining and musaf. After shul, "J" could go home and have seudah shlishit. (One question for "J" --- isn't there an inyan to have seudah shlishit after davening mincha? The last time I checked, there is no mincha gedola miyan on Shabbat in our neighborhood)

So "J" finished expaining all of this to me one Shabbat and then asked --- "so you like it, huh? Pretty yekkish of me, yeah?"

My response: First of all, it is not yekkish, it is litvish and while I appreciate the somewhat elegant solution "J" has developed (and "J"'s committment to having all three seudot shabbat al hasovah), it's not for me - I'll explain why below.

Litvish means that there is ultimate dedication to meeting halachic requirements as best as possible. Yekkish means that there is ultimate dedication to minhag (and of course being on time). That is not to say that the yekke's aren't dedicated to meeting halachic requirements.

Given "J"'s example, a litvish solution focuses on attending two different shuls, potentially missing part of kriat hatorah and being 100% yotzai the more machmir deot regarding seudah shlishit (I'm assuming "J" can explain the mincha issue to me). In contrast, the yekke will insist on eating seudah shlishit exactly at 4:47 PM (and 31 seconds), beer, kaiser rolls and herring will be served and exactly 4 zemirot will be sung so that benching will be completed 2.5 minutes (the amoutn of time it takes to put on your jacket and hat and get to the beit knesset) before "ldovid" is started before aarvit motzash --- just like in Frankfurt before the war.

So why don't I like the Litvish approach? First of all, having grown up with yekkes I developed an affinity for both beer and kaiser rolls. You can eat the herring yourself. More seriously,
1. I don't like solutions that don't work for the entire world. What I mean by that is, if everyone wanted to do what "J" was doing in regard to Seudah Shlishit, everyone would go to Hashkama and then leave before leining thus ending the hashkama minyan. Meanwhile no one would show up to the main minyan on time...(another example is the minhag/chumra not to buy/use chametz that was sold over Pesach to a goy --- people who follow this chumra/minhag will wait a few weeks until supermarket goods that were "sold" over Pesach are effectively turned-over.... except that if everone followed this minhag these good would never move off the shelves)
2. While "J"'s solution elegantly finds away to observe two complete shabbat meals in a short time span, he must go to 2 seperate minyanim for Shabbat morning davening to do so. That's just weird in my book but to each their own.

Shabbat Shalom