Continuing The Conversation On Nusach Sefard Siddurim
Rabbi Tal Zwecker commenting on Brackets & Nusach Sefard Siddurim:
I read your blog again recently I enjoyed the discussion on siddurim and nuschaos. If you can pick up the Tefillah Yeshara Siddur printed by Ateret (originally printed in Berditshev) it has an interesting commentary called Keser Nehora you might enjoy. The nusach there is very similar to Ashkenaz many Chassidim used to use that siddur, as well as the Siddur of the Shel"a* and that of Rav Yaakov Emden the Kol Yaakov. All those nuschaos have brackets due to the confusion regarding the kavanos of the Arizal. I once asked the Clevelander Rebbe if it was preferrable to use the Chabad nusach or the general nusach from standard Siddurim and he told me to use the standard was better since it reflects the majority and the Baal HaTanya's Siddur had many changes that other Tzadikim rejected like removing Tzur Yisroel from Shacharis before Shemoneh Esrei. There is a famous story that the Baal HaTanya showed his "new" siddur to another Tzadik (I believe it was the Premishlaner) and the latter asked the Baal HaTanya, "How could you take out the Tzur Yisroel?"- a play on words referring to Hashem himself who is called the Rock of Israel as well as those words from text. I agreed with the analysis of Rav Rimmer's Siddur a valuable work for research etc. but not the derech of the Baal Shem Tov's students. My Rebbe Shlit"a quoted to me from the Shulchan HaTohar of R' Eizikl of Komarna that our Kabbala was that because the Baal Shem Tov was Ashkenazi his approach to the Arizal 's customs was based in Asheknaz custom and nusach.
* The Sulitzer Rebbe Shlit"a told me whosoever davens from the Shel"a Siddur is said that his prayers are not left unanswered as said in haskama / approbation of Rav Yoel Sirkis (author of the BACH on Tur) to the Shela Siddur.
Rabbi Dovid Sears comments:
I have read most of Rabbi Daniel Rimmer's analysis of Nusach ARI as the "shaar ha-kollel," and find his reasoning to be very compelling. His Tefillas Chaim Siddur is a brilliant work that brings this discussion to its zenith. However, I am sympathetic to Rabbi Zwecker's position, too. As Chassidim, we identify with our great Rebbes, beginning with the Baal Shem Tov, and most of them believed that it is appropriate for us as Ashkenazim to adapt Nusach Ashkenaz according to the ARI zal's modifications (found in various works such as Pri Etz Chaim, Shaar Ha-Kavannos, et al.).
The Siddur Baal ha-Tanya is one of the classical attempts to synthesize nuschos to conform to both the ARI and various poskim and other mekkubalim. To say that it is simply "Nusach ARI" would be incorrect -- and it would be an injustice to the Baal ha-Tanya, who no doubt had many kavannos and cheshbonos in redacting his siddur. It remains an extemely chashuv and time-honored nusach that many Chassidim and Rebbes used in addition to those of Chabad.
The Tefillah Yesharah or "Berditchever Siddur" (so named because it includes the haskamah of Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev on Rav Aharon of Zhelkhov's perush, Kesser Nehorah) reflects the nusach of the Zholkover Siddur ARI, if I am not mistaken, and is close to Nusach Ashkenaz. Ditto Rav Asher's Siddur ARI, which was popular with many early Chassidic leaders including Reb Pinchos of Koretz. I once read that the nusach in Rav Shabbsai Rashkover's Siddur ARI was closer to the Sefardic siddur of 1524, which Rabbi Rimmer uses as the basis for his ground-breaking work. However, I'm told that when the Shoprener Rov prepared Rav Shabbsai's Siddur ARI for reprinting, he substituted the nusach of the Minchas Elazar of Munkatch, also published along with the Siddur Chemdas Yisrael of Rav Shmuel Vital. Assigned this task by his father, the Darkei Teshuvah, the Munkatcher Rov was the last Gadol who attempted to make this birur of Nusach ARI for Ashkenazim, using kesavim that the Baal HaTanya did not possess (see his "Maamar ha-Tefillah.").
Personally, I have used most of these siddurim at one time or another. Since my father's family were real Litvaks (from Shat, a small town a little south of Ponevez), I grew up davenning Ashkenaz. Then in the late 1970s, in my enthusiasm for Chassidism, I switched to Nusach Sefard. Then to Nusach Chabad from 1980-1987. Then to the Berditchever Siddur for a year or two. Then to the Munkatcher Siddur, which I still use, with a couple of "Breslover" changes here and there. I briefly davenned with the Slonimer Siddur, as well. At this point in my life, however, I am too emotionally attached to the Ashkenzic roots of the Chassidisheh nuschos to change.
It is interesting that Reb Nachman is conspicuously silent about the issue of nusach ha-tefillah and the "shaar ha-kollel," as the Maggid of Mezeritch termed Nusach ARI. Although he grew up in "the Baal Shem Tov's cheder" and seems to have davenned with either Reb Asher's Siddur ARI or that of Reb Shabsai Rashkover, these being the two most popular kabbalistic siddurim of his day and region, the Rebbe never makes an issue of the details of nusach. In fact, oral tradition has it that he once remarked, "If I had been born into a family that davenned Nusach Ashkenaz, I would daven Nusach Ashkenaz!" Reb Gedaliah Kenig questioned this sichah; yet it is indicative of something. In Breslev, there was never any preoccupation with such things. Significantly, the only place where Reb Nachman discusses the "shaar ha-kollel" is in Likkutei Moharan 9 ("Tehomos Yechasyumu") -- where it refers to davenning be-hiskashrus le-tzaddik ha-dor (attachment to the tzaddik of the generation). It seems that in Breslover Chassidus, this is the "thirteenth gate" -- no matter which siddur you use.