Thursday, February 14, 2008

Did You Know That Ashkenazi Wedding Customs Were Ugly and Vulgar?

Apparently Rav Yitzchak Yosef (Rav Ovadiah Yosef's son) seems to think some of them are.

Rav Yosef, it seems, it (rightfully, IMHO) upset about the fact that Sephardim worldwide are being encouraged to adopt Ashkenazi customs. In particular, Rav Yosef focused on wedding customs, including:

  • The seclusion of the bride and groom (yichud) right after the wedding (Sephardim do it after the meal*)
  • Allowing the bride and groom to hold hands as they leave the chuppah (I guess Sephardim don't allow that)
  • Being accompanied to the yichud room by friends and family (Sephardim only allow family).
Now, I understand why Rav Yosef is upset. He feels that Sephardi customs are important and should be followed by Sephardim. They should not, he feels, abandon the ways of their forefathers in favor of Ashkenazic customs. I understand the point... really, I do.

What I don't understand is where he gets off calling Ashkenazi customs "ugly" and "vulgar." I'm sorry, but Rav or not, when you start calling the customs of millions of Jews around the world "ugly" and "vulgar," then you're out of line. It's not like Ashkenazim are a fringe group with "weird" customs... we're the majority here! So, how about a little respect? You don't have to accept our customs, but don't go around denigrating them. If you want young Sephardim to follow Sephardi customs, then show them the beauty and meaning of those customs. But don't denigrate the customs of the majority of Jews in the world.

It's like my mother told me... you don't build up your position by knocking someone else down.

The Wolf

* I'm taking the article's and Rav Yosef's word that these are actual Sephardi customs. I, personally, don't know.


ProfK said...

I'll agree that the Rabbi misspoke terribly in denigrating Ashkenazic minhagim. The way to build up your own customs is not to tear down the customs of others. But it might be fair to point out here that he is only copying what many in the ashkenazic world do as regards the varying ashkenazic customs. Misnagdim who "diss" chasidishe minhagim; Western Europeans who "diss" Eastern European customs and vice versa. Litvakim who "diss" the customs of Hungary etc. etc. and so forth. Why should Rabbi Josef be held to a higher standard then we apply to those in the ashkenazic community? If we are, as you point out, the vast majority in the jewish population then perhaps we ought to be setting a better example ourselves.

Ezzie said...

We also might be misunderstanding ugly/vulgar here. The first two in particular, if you think about the reasons for them, would be viewed as 'disgusting' in a sense if the customs are not supposed to be that way.

If their minhag is not to hold hands going out of the chupah, it's likely either because it's a PDA that is considered improper or because they aren't yet allowed to touch according to the way Sephardim view marriage. (Say, not having been in yichud yet.) And the reason yichud might not be until after the meal is because the concept of yichud and what it is for (even though that's not what it's for by weddings) is improper to have as just a quick thing before the meal after chupah, so instead they wait. Hence (possibly) the reasons for saying it is "vulgar".

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, R. Ovadia Yosef has a LONG history of saying outrageous and insulting things that are unbefitting of a talmud hacham.

yaak said...

Rav Yitzhak Yosef didn't just make this up right now. This is something that is part of Sephardic halacha.
Is it a diss to Ashkenazim? No. Just different strokes for different folks.

As the article states:

Rabbi Yosef deemed this Ashkenazi custom as ‘ugly’ and ‘vulgar’ based upon prior religious edicts issued by top Sephardic rabbis, such as the head of the Ben Porat Yeshiva Rabbi Shaul Tzadakha, as well as Rabbi Ezra Attia and Rabbi Abba Shaul.

BTW, "we're the majority here" is not necessarily true in Israel.

Anonymous said...

Not a diss to Ashkenazim? Different strokes? Gimmeabreak; calling Ashkenazik customs "ugly" and "vulgar" is ugly and vulgar speech.

yaak said...

Zach, first of all, he said that the custom is Mechu'ar, whether it happens to be an Ashkenazic custom or not.

Secondly, I looked it up in Sova Semahot (his book) and he quotes the Aruch Hashulchan (an Ashkenazic Posek) in Even Ha'ezer 55:15, who pretty much says the same thing, so don't play the race card here.

SuperRaizy said...

"Unfortunately, R. Ovadia Yosef has a LONG history of saying outrageous and insulting things that are unbefitting of a talmud hacham."
Zach is absolutely right about that. R. Yosef has used terms such as donkeys, idiots, and apikorsim to criticize everyone from Ashkenazi women who wear wigs to Jews who go to college to Sephardim who adapt Ashkenazi customs. He has been saying hurtful and outrageous things for decades, and people still kiss his hand and call him chacham.

BrooklynWolf said...

Just to reiterate two points here:

1. The person in question is not Rav Ovadiah Yosef, but his son, Yitzchak.

2. I think that Rav Yosef has a valid concern. My problem is the language that he chose to express it in.

The Wolf

yaak said...

Obviously, those who wish to denigrate Rav Ovadia do so at their own risk. I wouldn't recommend it, to say the least.

2. I think that Rav Yosef has a valid concern. My problem is the language that he chose to express it in.

The language used ("MeChu'ar") is the same language used by the Aruch Hashulhan, and is also used in Rav Yitzhak Yosef's book - Sova Semahot.

BrooklynWolf said...


I don't believe that I was denigrating Rav Yosef. I firmly believe that I can disgree with something he says/does while still maintaining the proper respect for his position.

I'm not familiar with the AHS's ruling (can you provide a place to make it easier for me to look up?). The fact that the same language is in Rav Yosef's book is no defense... he wrote it himself.

In any event, even if the AHS explicitly states it, I would *still* hesitate to do so publicly, especially considering the fact that thousands, if not millions, of frum Jews do it this way.

The Wolf

-suitepotato- said...

I don't know. It seems like the words might be taken in many ways as too extreme, but they are in their way applicable if I am taking his meaning correct with regard to propriety and custom.

Different strokes indeed. Just don't bring up beans and rice. Please.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it wasn't R. Ovadia. But like father like son.

What do the ROY apologists have to say about his Katrina statements? In case you conveniently forgot,,2506,L-3138779,00.html

“There was a tsunami and there are terrible natural disasters, because there isn’t enough Torah study… black people reside there (in New Orleans). Blacks will study the Torah? (God said) let’s bring a tsunami and drown them.”

No, this is par for the course. The man is worth of respect for his Torah knowledge but certainly not for his denigration of others.

Pesky Settler said...

I don't know about any of you, but after the meal, we went to a hotel. Not to knock Minhagim, but it sort of makes sense to me to have the Yichud room after the ceremony...

Commenter Abbi said...

"It's not like Ashkenazim are a fringe group with "weird" customs... we're the majority here!"

Maybe you mean you're the majority in your Brooklyn community- here in Israel, I think Sephardim are the majority by quite a bit.

Anonymous said...

In his picture on the article he is wearing askenazi yeshivish clothing, maybe all sefardim yeshiva students should wear typical sefardi clothing. They may feel better that way about following their own minhagim. I simply cannot blame sefardim from following ashkenazi wedding customs if they are encouraged (or forced) to imitate the ashkenazim in so many other wys (such as the yeshiva uniform)

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


good point! i never understood why Shas, the Sefardic Power people, dress like Ashkenazic Hhareidim.

yaak said...

BrooklynWolf, my first point earlier was not directed at you - rather at other commenters. Sorry for the confusion.

Regarding why he said it publicly, it seems that his words were directed at Sepharadim to keep their own minhagim - as this one, to Sepharadim, is Mechu'ar. I doubt that he was saying that Ashkenazim should not do so either because it's Mechu'ar. Ashkenazim have their own valid sources for doing Yihud after the Huppah (as he writes himself in his book). Sepharadim, however, shouldn't follow this practice, as it looks Mechu'ar, and have had a different Minhag for generations.

If this sounds like apologetics, it's not. It actually fits nicely into the context of what he said.

G said...

It might behoove those of us not living in Eretz Yisroel, and not familiar with the history there regarding Israeli's & Ashkenazim and their actions towards some Sefardim and their customs, to hesitate before commenting.

It's a touchy subject to say the least.

Sanegor said...

Yusup is entitled to enforce any custom he sees fit, but he should be put in Cherem for calling millenia-old custom of holding hands as "vulgar" - whether it's Sephardic or Yemenite.