The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
DAVENING WAS INSTITUTED BY OUR FATHERS (Berachos 26b)
CONFLICT: INDIVIDUAL VS. CONGREGATIONAL CUSTOMS
Which customs should one follow when davening in a shul where
the nusach and customs are different from his own? While many
people are faced with this issue only occasionally, others must
contend with it on a daily basis. Often, the only available [or
the most accessible] shul is one that davens a different nusach
from one's own. It is difficult and uncomfortable for a person
who is accustomed to daven in a certain way to suddenly daven in
a nusach with which he is unfamiliar. In addition, it is a
general rule that one should not deviate from the customs handed
down to him by his parents and grandparents. But the halachah
may require one to daven according to the nusach of the
congregation where he finds himself regardless of personal
considerations. Let us, therefore, examine the sources before
resolving these conflicting demands.
A terse command in Parashas Re'eh(1), Lo sisgodedu, is
interpreted by the Sages as Lo sa'asu agudos agudos, do not
splinter off into separate groups that perform mitzvos and serve
Hashem in different, somewhat conflicting ways. The Talmud
discusses the nature of this prohibition. Abayei maintains that
Lo sisgodedu applies when two different batei dinim in one city
issue conflicting rulings. This makes the one Torah that was
received at Sinai appear as if it were "two Torahs"(2) and
causes confusion and discord3. Rava, however, does not object to
different batei dinim - even in the same city - issuing
contradictory rulings, since it is within the very nature of the
Torah that different rulings will be rendered by different
schools of thought, as Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel did for many
years. In Rava's opinion, the prohibition of Lo sisgodedu is
meant to discourage one beis din from rendering a split
decision. For the reasons stated above, the Torah did not want
different factions of one beis din to issue conflicting
opinions, giving people a choice of which ruling to follow.
We find in halachic literature that Lo sisgodedu applies even
to deviations from mere custom, not only from prohibitions and
rulings of a beis din. Rama(4), for instance, rules that during
the Sefirah mourning period observed between Pesach and Shevous,
all members of a community should follow the same custom and
observe the mourning restrictions during the same time period.
Chayei Adam(5) rules that that in a minyan reciting Tachanun,
the practice of nefilas apayim should be done in a uniform
manner, all using either the right or the left arm. This
application of Lo sisgodedu is hotly debated by the poskim. Many
are of the opinion that it does not apply in these situations at
all. They base their reasoning on some of the following
arguments: Lo sisgodedu applies only when a scholar instructs
his followers to deviate from local custom(6); it applies only
to prohibitions, not to mere customs(7); minor differences, such
as different nuschaos, are not significant enough to invoke Lo
sisgodedu(8); it concerns only different actions, not different
words(9). But other poskim take a more stringent approach; in
their view any deviation from the accepted custom, as minor as
it may seem, may constitute Lo sisgodedu(10). While the Mishnah
Berurah does not discuss the particular question of nuschaos,
his rulings on related issues(11) point to a stringent view on
In pre-war Europe, Lo sisgodedu was much more of an issue than
it is today. Most communities, especially in the small towns and
villages, had only one Rav and one local custom, and individuals
who practiced their own customs while disregarding local
practice may have possibly transgressed Lo sisgodedu. But
nowadays when there are many shuls and Rabbis in every city each
following ancestral tradition, the situation is similar to the
case of two batei dinim in one city where Lo sisgodedu does not
apply(12) [according to Rava's opinion(13)]. Still, it is
possible that within the confines of a single congregation,
e.g., when an individual davens in a nusach which is different
from that of the congregation's, Lo sisgodedu may still apply.
But even in situations where the Biblical prohibition of Lo
sisgodedu does not apply, we still find(14) an additional
exhortation - this one established by Rabbinical edict - which
calls for uniformity within the same congregation: Le'olam al
yeshaneh adam mi-pnei ha-machlokes - One should never deviate
[from local custom] because it leads to discord. As the Vilna
Gaon warned(15): "Differences in customs lead to differences of
the hearts." Practicing different customs, even minor ones,
could lead to strife and discord.
Harav M. Feinstein was asked numerous times for his opinion on
this matter. For reasons which are not completely clear, he did
not always give the same response. Basically, though, he was
unsure if the Biblical prohibition of Lo sisgodedu applied to
the question of different nuschaos - but the Rabbinical edict
against deviating from local custom was definitely relevant.
Usually, he advised that the local custom be strictly upheld,
unless the individual could keep his practiced undetected by
others in the shul. The following is a digest of the guidelines
that Harav Feinstein offered on this subject and its specific
applications [see footnotes for the opinions of some other
Any part of davening, e.g., Shemoneh Esrei, which is normally
recited in an undertone may be recited in one's own nusach(16).
Preferably, Pesukei d'Zimrah and Birchos Kerias Shema should be
recited according to the nusach of the minyan, since they are
sometimes recited out loud. If, however, it is difficult for one
to change from his own nusach, they may be recited in one's own
nusach provided that they are said in an undertone(17).
Kedushah or any other part of davening which requires a minyan
should be recited according to the nusach of the minyan, even if
it is recited in an undertone(18).
Viduy and the Thirteen Midos should be recited with the
congregation before Tachanun, even if one's own custom is not to
One may recite Viduy in an undertone in a shul that does not
recite Viduy, but one may not strike his chest as he usually
does. The Thirteen Midos cannot be recited, since a minyan is
required to recite them(20).
A sheliach tzibbur must always daven according to the nusach of
the tzibbur, even while reciting his own silent Shemoneh
On Pesach night, one should recite Hallel with the tzibbur even
if his custom is not to do so; he may not leave shul to avoid
reciting Hallel. If he can avoid reciting the blessing without
it being noticeable he should do so; otherwise he should recite
the blessing as well(22).
One who follows the view of the poskim that yire'u eineinu is
not recited at the nightly Ma'ariv, need not recite it with the
congregation if the people around him will not notice his
If the officers and members of a shul do not mind, there is no
halachic objection to having men who put on tefillin on Chol
ha-Moed and men who do not, daven in the same shul(24).
1 Devarim 14:1.
2 Rashi, Sukah 44a; Yevamos 13b.
3Rambam, Avodah Zarah, 12:14.
4 O.C. 493:2. See Magen Avraham 6 and Pri Megadim for an
8 See Eishel Avraham O.C. 51; Teshuvos u'Vacharta b'Chayim O.C.
24; Kaf ha-Chayim 661:2 (concerning different customs in a
sukkah). See also Aruch ha-Shulchan 651:22 (concerning different
customs of shaking the lulav).
9Salmas Chayim 22-23.
10 Pe'as ha-Shulchan 3:14. See also Chayei Adam 32:33 mentioned
13 Generally, the halachah is like Rava when he disagrees with
Abbaye. The ruling of the Rambam concerning this issue, however,
is unclear and subject to much debate by the later commentators.
14 Pesachim 51b, and quoted in O.C. 468:4. See Avnei Nezer O.C.
15 Ma'asei Rav, She'iltos, 90.
16 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:23. This is also the opinion of most
poskim with the exception of the Pe'as ha-Shulchan who rules
that one should always daven according to the nusach of the
tzibbur. Harav S.Z. Auerbach writes that it is not our practice
to do so (Yom Tov Sheini K'hilchaso, pg. 180).
17Igros Moshe O.C. 2:23. [In other Responsa, however, Harav
Feinstein required that Pesukei d'Zimrah and Birchos Kerias
Shema be said according to the nusach of the tzibbur; see O.C.
2:104.] Harav S.Y. Elyashiv is quoted (Tefillah K'hilchasa, pg.
92) as permitting these tefillos to be recited according to
one's own nusach.
18 Igros Moshe O.C. 2:23. This is also the opinion of other
poskim, see Meishiv Davar 17 and Minchas Yitzchak 7:1. [In a
later ruling (O.C. 5:35-5), however, Harav Feinstein writes that
this not required.]
19Igros Moshe O.C 3:89.
20Igros Moshe O.C. 4:34.
21Igros Moshe O.C. 2:29. Other poskim disagree; see Shoel
u'Meishiv 3 1-247 and Sheorim Metzuyanim B'halachah 26:3. Harav
S.Y. Elyashiv is quoted (Yom Tov Sheini K'hilchaso, pg. 131;
Avnei Yashfei 1:14) as ruling like this view.
22Igros Moshe O.C. 2:94. It is reported, however, that the
Brisker Rav left the shul when the congregation said Hallel
(Hagadas Mo'adim u'Zemanim).
23 Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:96-8. If, however, he generally omits
yire'u eineinu only on Motzaei Shabbos, then he must recite it
along with the tzibbur; ibid.