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Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel Pekudei| 5763

Ask the Rabbi



Question: In our community, there has always been one shul.
Over time, there have been major changes in the origin of the Jewish population, and many either want to change the minhagim of the shul or to start a new minyan. Are there issues of "Lo titgod'du" or changing minhagim?
 
Answer: The issue of "Lo titgod'du", not having different sets of rulings and practices within a community is an important halachic concept. However, it is not a problem to have different batei k'nesset in a community, reflecting different age-old approaches, regarding text of the tefilot and halacha. Certainly, communities with different batei k'nesset with different minhagim did not all start the various sub-communities simultaneously (see Chatam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat 188; Maharam Shick, Choshen Mishpat 24).
 In practice, not every time that a group breaks off to form a new minyan or shul with a different nusach, is the true motivation the stated one. It may involve such issues as "local politics" or personalities. Certainly, it is not proper for people from the outside to make rulings without being invited by the sides and learning the situation well. Thus, our statement is a general one about certain parameters of "Lo titgod'du" and is not a specific ruling or advice. It is crucial for the local rabbinic and lay leadership to work matters out in a way which is best for peace and the needs of the community (see also Maharam Shick, ibid.).
 Changing the minhagim within the shul to reflect the present population is a tricky matter. If a beit k'nesset was formed with a clear minhag and nusach, it is not proper to switch it even when the membership has changed significantly (Chatam Sofer, ibid.; Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim II, 21). This is assuming that there is still a significant representation of the followers of the old minhagim (Igrot Moshe, ibid.). When a new congregation is formed, it should follow the majority of the mitpalelim. It is possible that a congregation which was formed with the realization that it would serve a heterogeneous and possibly changing group could be more flexible about changing minhagim (ibid.). On these matters as well, it is the obligation and privilege of the local rav to appraise the situation and rule accordingly. [This response is based on a teshuva in our sefer, B'Mareh Habazak, III, p.53].
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Dedication

This edition of Hemdat Yamim is
dedicated to the memory of R’ Meir  ben
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.

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