Spanish and Portuguese Jews - Liturgy


Although all Sephardic liturgies are similar, each group has its own distinct liturgy. Many of these differences are a product of the syncretization of the Spanish liturgy and the liturgies of the local communities where Spanish exiles settled. Other differences are the result of earlier regional variations in liturgy from pre-expulsion Spain. Moses Gaster (died 1939, Hakham of the S&P Jews of Great Britain) has shown that the order of prayers used by Spanish and Portuguese Jews has its origin in the Castilian liturgy of Pre-Expulsion Spain.

As compared with other Sephardic groups, the minhag of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews is characterised by a relatively low number of cabbalistic additions. The Friday night service thus traditionally starts with Psalm 29, “Mizmor leDavid: Habu LaA.”. In the printed siddurim of the mid-17th century, “Lekhah Dodi” and the Mishnaic passage Bammeh madlikin are also not yet included, but these are included in all newer siddurim of the tradition except for the early West London and Mickve Israel (Savannah) Reform prayerbooks, both of which have Spanish and Portuguese roots.

Of other, less conspicuous, elements, a number of archaic forms can be mentioned—including some similarities with the Italian and Western Ashkenazi traditions. Such elements include the shorter form of the Birkat hammazon which can be found in the older Amsterdam and Hamburg/Scandinavian traditions. The Livorno (Leghorn) tradition, however, includes many of the cabbalistic additions found in most other Sephardi traditions. The current London minhag is generally close to the Amsterdam minhag, but follows the Livorno tradition in some details—most notably in the Birkat hammazon.

One interesting feature of the tradition (at least in New York and Philadelphia) is that, when reading the haftarah on Simhat Torah and Shabbat Bereshit, the Hatan Torah and Hatan Bereshit chant two extra verses pertaining to bridegrooms from Isaiah 61:10 and 62:5 at the end of the standard haftarot for the days themselves. This seems to be a unique remnant of the old tradition of reading Isaiah 61:10-63:9 if a bridegroom who had been married the previous week was present in synagogue.

Read more about this topic:  Spanish And Portuguese Jews

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