Sephardic Law and Customs - Instances of Sephardic Usage

Instances of Sephardic Usage

Code Description
L Sephardic usage derived from Lurianic Kabbalah (some of these are accepted by Greek and Turkish Sephardim and Mizrahi Jews but not by Western communities such as the Spanish and Portuguese Jews)
P Sephardic usage inherited from Palestine while the Ashkenazic usage is Babylonian
B Sephardic usage conforming to the Babylonian while the Ashkenazic usage is Palestinian
  • Sephardim do not put on tefillin during Ḥol ha-Mo`ed (the middle days of festivals). L
  • They say only one blessing to cover the tefillin of the arm and the head, rather than one for each.
  • They wind the tefillin strap anti-clockwise (for a right-handed person). The form of the knot and of the wrappings round the hand is also different from that of the Ashkenazim.
  • Mezuzot are placed vertically rather than slanting, except among Spanish and Portuguese Jews in western countries.
  • In the tzitzit, each winding loops through the preceding one, and the pattern of windings between the knots is either 10-5-6-5 (in some communities, L) or 7-8-11-13 (in others, per Shulḥan `Arukh).
  • The script used in Torah scrolls, tefillin and mezuzot is different from the Ashkenazic and nearer to the printed square characters.
  • In many of the prayers, they preserve Mishnaic patterns of vocalization and have mostly not altered them to conform with the rules of Biblical Hebrew: examples are "Naqdishakh" (not "Naqdishkha") and "ha-Gefen" (not "ha-Gafen").
  • The second blessing before the Shema begins "Ahavat `Olam" (and not "Ahavah Rabbah") in all services.
  • In the summer months they use the words Morid ha-Ṭal in the second blessing of the `Amidah. P
  • The Qedushah of the morning service begins "Naqdishakh ve-Na`ariṣakh", and the Qedushah of musaf (the additional service for Shabbat and festivals) begins "Keter Yitenu L'kha".
  • There are separate summer and winter forms for the "Birkat ha-Shanim".
  • There is no Birkat ha-Kohanim in minḥah (the afternoon service) on any day except Yom Kippur (Ashkenazim also say it on the afternoons of fast days). P
  • The last blessing of the `Amidah is "Sim Shalom" (and not "Shalom Rav") in all services.
  • They are permitted to sit for Qaddish.
  • Adon Olam has an extra stanza (and is longer still in Oriental communities).
  • In many communities (mostly Mizrahi rather than Sephardi proper) the Torah scroll is kept in a tiq (wooden or metal case) instead of a velvet mantle.
  • They lift the Torah scroll and display it to the congregation before the Torah reading rather than after. B
  • Most Sephardim regard it as permissible to eat rice or beans on Passover.
  • Sephardim only say blessings over the first and third cups of Passover wine, instead of over all four.
  • The items on the Seder plate are arranged in a fixed hexagonal order (except among Spanish and Portuguese Jews: this usage is increasingly popular among Ashkenazim). L
  • Seliḥot are said throughout the month of Elul.
  • Sephardic Rishonim (medieval scholars) reject the customs of Tashlikh and Kapparot, though they were re-introduced by the Lurianic school (Spanish and Portuguese Jews still do not observe them).
  • Only one set of Hanukkah lights is lit in each household.
  • The shammash is lit together with the other Hanukkah lights, instead of being used to light them (which would be impractical, given that the lights are traditionally oil lamps rather than candles).
  • The laws of sheḥitah are in some respects stricter and in other respects less strict than those of Ashkenazim (modern kashrut authorities try to ensure that all meat complies with both standards).
  • Many Sephardim avoid eating fish with milk, as in Eastern Mediterranean countries this is widely considered to be unhealthy (by non-Jews as well as Jews). Ashkenazim argue that this practice originated from a misprint in the Shulḥan `Arukh, and that Caro's intention was to forbid the eating of fish with meat.

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