On Nusachim

In my havurah, when we recite אהבה רבה אהבתנו ה׳ אלהינו, (“Lord our God, You have loved is with a great love”), our cantor adds words that are not in our siddur. The reason for this is primarily because there are different nusachim (singular: nusach) within the Jewish liturgical framework.

So what are nuscahim? A nusach describes or identifies the text, pronunciation, or musical cadence of the liturgy used in particular communities. The most commonly known nusachim are Ashkenazi, Sephardic, or Mizrahi, but there are others such as Ari (Chabad), Teman (Yemenite), and Sefard (a blend of eastern European Ashkenazi tradition and Sephardic tradition with a kabbalistic slant from Ari).

In our havurah, our book and PowerPoint follow the standard Ashkenazi tradition,

וְלֹא נֵבוֹש לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד (v’o naivosh l’olam va’ed), translated “we will never be put to shame for all eternity.”

However, in this section, our cantor reads a Sephardic nusach,

לֹא נֵבוֹש וְלֹא נִכָּלֵם וְלֹא נִכָּ ֵשׁל לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד (v’o neivosh, v’lo nikaleim, v’lo nikasheil l’olam va’ed), translated “we will never be put to shame, or be humiliated, or stumble for all eternity…”

Neither tradition is right or wrong, only different. Although some might see the Sephardic tradition as more emphatic, that does not make it any better than the Ashkenazi tradition.

There is another point of divergence, this one being most popular in some Messianic communities. In the Ashkenazi tradition, the first paragraph of the Kaddish reads,

וְיַ ְמלִיךְ ַמלְכוּ ֵתהּ ְבּ ַחיֵּיכוֹן וּ ְביוֹ ֵמיכוֹן (v’yamlikh mal’khutai b’hayaikhon uv’yomaikhon), translated “may He establish his kingdom in your (our) lifetime and in your (our) days…”

However, the Sephardic tradition adds something that has caught the eye and heart of many Yeshua-believers. You’ll note the Sephardic tradition inserts a phrase in the middle of the Ashkenazi version (bolded below). The first two words and the last two are the same in both versions. The Sephardic nusach reads,

וְיַ ְמלִיךְ ַמלְכוּ ֵתהּ וְיַצְ ַמח ֻפּ ְר ָקנֵהּ וִי ָק ֵרב ְמ ִשׁי ֵחהּ  ָא ֵמן  ְבּ ַחיֵּיכוֹן וּ ְביוֹ ֵמיכוֹן (v’yamlikh mal’khutai v’yatzmach purkanei v’kareiv mishichei (amen) b’hayaikhon uv’yomaikhon), translated as “may He establish his kingdom, sprout forth his salvation, and bring near his Messiah (amen) in your (our) lifetime and in your (our) days…”

I think this is an important addition as it links the kingdom of God with the nearness of the Messiah, whom we know to be Yeshua. Again, without this inclusion, the plea for the kingdom of God to be established soon and in our lifetime remains. However, in light of Yeshua’s words, “for behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21), the Sephardic inclusion affirms and strengthens this heartfelt plea.

So, with this final note, may his kingdom and his salvation truly sprout forth through Messiah Yeshua.

This article was written by MJTI Registrar Rabbi Michael Hillel. For more written by Rabbi Hillel, read his articles about…

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