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You Say Tomay’to, I Say Tomah’to

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Just as Jews from different countries have different ritual customs, so too do their prayerbooks have slight but important variations. The different formats of the prayer service is known as a Nusach.

Nusach Ashkenaz came from central and eastern Europe and is the shortest of the different prayer versions. While the wording and prayer order of Nusach Ashkenaz is the same in all Ashkenazic communities, the tunes of the prayers vary greatly between the communities of Germany and Western Europe and those of Eastern Europe.

Nusach Sefard, a second Central/Eastern European Ashkenazic custom, used mostly in Poland, Hungary, Romania and the Ukraine. Nusach Sefard developed after the resurgence of the study of Kabbalah under the guidance of Rabbi Isaac Luria (Safed, Israel 1534-1572), better known as the Ari. Under the premise that the Sephardic rite is more spiritual, Nusach Sefard incorporates part of the genuine Sephardic nusach into already existing Ashkenazic traditions. Almost all Chassidic sects use Nusach Sefard.

Nusach Ari is a version of Nusach Sefard specific to the Chassidic sect of Chabad Lubavitch. In 1803, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (Lubavitch) compiled a siddur including what he believed to be the most accurate recreation of the Ari and Chassidic teachings.

Nusach Teman, the rite of the Jews of Yemen, is as distinctive as their unique pronunciation. There are two versions: Baladi and Shami (incorporates some Sephardi customs).

Nusach Sepharad is from the many Sephardic communities (i.e. North Africa, Middle East, Iran, etc.), which have many different, but basically similar, nuschaot. Many of the customs that differentiate these services are not based on written texts but are oral traditions. One of the most common Sephardi nuschaot is Nusach Edot Hamizrach, which originated in Iraq, but has grown in influence in the State of Israel.

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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