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Commentary

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk

 

Sephardic Law and Customs

 

We frequently hear about Ashkenazi as well as Sephardic Jews.  German Jews as well as some others are labeled Ashkenazim.  Below we will very briefly describe  Sephardim and some of their laws and customs as described in the Wikipedia encyclopedia.  Sephardim do not constitute a separate denomination within Judaism, but rather a distinct cultural and philosophical tradition.  

"Sephardic and Mizrachi Jewish communities generally maintain a comparable level of religious observance and halakha to Ashkenazic Orthodoxy and have not undergone any split comparable to the Reform movement in Judaism.  Sephardim are, primarily, the descendants of Jews from the Iberian peninsula.  They may be divided into the families that left in the Expulsion of 1492 and those that remained as crypto-Jews and left in he following few centuries.  In religious parlance and by many in modern Israel, the term is used in a broader sense to include the Jews of Ottoman or other Asian or North African backgrounds, whether or not they have any historic link to Spain, though some prefer to distinguish between Sephardim proper and Mizrachi Jews.  Following the expulsion of 1492, the Spanish exiles took  a leading role in the Jewish communities of Asia and Africa, who brought them still nearer to the Spanish rite, which by then was regarded as the standard."

In the 19th century a series of prayer books was published in Livorno, including “Tefilla ha-Hodesh, Bet Obed and Zechor le-Abraham.”  These books included notes on practice and Kabbalistic additions to the prayers designed for public congregational use.

In the Sephardic world today, particularly in Israel, there are many popular prayer books containing the Baghdadi rite.  Older rabbis from North Africa reject these rites in favor of a more conservative Oriental-Sephardic rite.

For greater details of differences and similarities, studies can be found in many locations on the internet and elsewhere. 

  Lehitraot.

 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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