Thursday, November 10, 2011

Choosing: Ashkenazic vs. Sephardic

I've been meaning to post this question for quite some time (okay, since the divorce), but after talking it over very briefly with a few friends, here I am finally posting it.

Before I got married, I had the option -- as a convert -- to choose my minhagim or customs. That means that technically, because I didn't grow up with any, I had the option of choosing the lifestyle of the Sephardim. Beans and rice on Passover! And a lot of other really awesome, fascinating, unique customs that would have made me more normal in Israel than here in the U.S.

(Sephardim, oddly enough, are more strict on many things, including bishul akum, which forbids a Jew to eat food prepared by a non-Jew, something I observed when in the conversion process that I had no problem with -- this is where that "Jew turns on the flame" bit comes in handy for a non-Jew at a grocery store bakery or the like).

Then I got married, to someone with nominally Ashkenazic traditions and a strong Ashkenazic genealogy. Although he grew up not always following the no-leavening bit on Passover, he loosely identified with the Eastern European ways, considering his family came from Romania and areas around there. So we took on those customs, despite my pleas and knowing that we technically could choose our customs. We adopted our rabbi's Yekki tradition of washing our hands before both kiddush (blessing over wine) and motzi (blessing over bread), which, by the way, has a very legit and sense-making reason if you're interested.

But now, since I'm divorced, does that take me back to square one? Do I get to choose my customs? Or am I bound to the 16-month commitment to Ashkenazic traditions? I mean, I look like I'm straight-up Eastern European (note: my family hails from England and France and Switzerland), but ... until I get married (please HaShem) again, can I just have a little bit of Sephardic fun?!


I don't like the eggs, but ... 

For those of you interested in the halachos that are out there, they're incredibly confusing, and opinions are incredibly varied, but there's a great response and plenty of contradictory sources cited over at Fifth Avenue Synagogue. According to Rav Schachter, community comes before family, but how often do any of us live in a community anymore where there is a single established minhag

Can't wait to hear your thoughts!