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Nusachs are the style of prayer, the chosen hymns, the way the tunes sound, and why other communities are wrong.
How Nusachs started. People were mad at other people in their community, so they threw in extra prayers to get back at them. And thus we have what is known as the Siddur.
What makes different Nusachs unique is the question we shall deal with. Other than a psalm, it is hard to differentiate many Nusachs. After much research on Wikipedia, this is what I gathered.
This is the general European Nusach. Hence, most Europeans don’t use it.
Tunes vary from ancient religious melodies to Simon and Garfunkel and Metallica. You might also find some Shlomo Carlebach tunes and Mordechai Ben David melodies mixed in with Debbie Friedman and Sting.
At the heart of this Nusach is messed up harmony. Stuff that sounds off. Congregants join in with the Jewish Sting and Police melodies for the cantor's repetition of the Amidah (known as Chazaras HaShas), and they end up singing another song. A totally different song. This is then called harmony. And it sounds wrong. Even so, the Ashkenaz congregant takes pride in this. Sometimes even in operatic form.
Melodies that don't fit the words of the text during the cantor's repetition is another strong identifying characteristic of the Ashkenaz Nusach. In a proper Ashkenaz service, the words do not match the tune. Fitting many words into one note of a Mordechai Ben David melody is what the skilled Ashkenazi Chazin does.
English readings have made their way into the Ashkenaz Nusach, as they felt it important that the congregants understand a paragraph or two over the course of the three hour Shabbat morning service.
This Nusach is focused on saying the letter 'Eyin' correctly. That is the signifying characteristic of the Yemenite Nusach.
More passionate than Ashkenaz Nusach, it looks like they actually know what they are saying. Do they? I don't know. But it does look like they care.
Based mainly on the Rambam, this is the only Nusach not based on hatred of other groups of Jews. Then other Yemenite Jews started with the Shami version Siddur, which is based on Sefardic Siddurs. This basically means saying Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) more often.
Why the Shami version began? Somebody didn't get an Aliyah one day. As they felt they should've been called up to the Torah, they said, 'That's it. Enough of this. I'm starting my own Nusach.' And they started their own Nusach. They tried pronouncing the 'Eyin' like an 'Aleph' but they couldn't. So, it sounds like the other Nusach Taiman.
Similar to Nusach Ashkenaz, they add in a few words here and there to throw you off. The goal of this Nusach is to make it harder to say Kaddish and Kedusha.
They had to be different. So, they took the AriZal's Kabbalah and Ashkenaz and mixed it with Sefardic Nusach. Why it's called Nusach Sefarad, I can't tell you. I believe those who started Nusach Sefarad were the first ones bullied in Israel, being called 'Ashkenazim KaZeh.' Meaning 'Ashkenazi like this,' somehow that hurts.
Chasidim use Nusach Sefarad to spite the Mitnagdim. They adopted much of the Sefardic prayer style, but never adopted saying Selichot all of the month of Elul. They left that part out. Why they kept that part of the Ashkenaz Nusach, people are still trying to figure out.
The Siddur is very similar to the Eidut Mizrach Siddur, but the tunes more closely resemble the Ashkenazi HipHop melodies of Cypress Hill. If you're lucky, a song might even break into a Carlebach jump dance, or an uncomfortable impromptu Jewish circle.
I think that's the same as Nusach Sefarad. It just sounds more spiritual to say that.
Chabad calls it Nusach Ari. It's Nusach Sefard. They must have not been happy with the other Chasidim, hence Nusach HaAri.
Real Sefardic Nusach. Also known as Sefardi, these are the real Sefardim. But they're not from Sefarad. We can thank the Ottoman Empire for this Nusach.
Livorno printed many of the Siddurim in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They had a good print shop there, and thus the Nusach. If they had a Kinkos in Tunisia, it would've been the Kinkos Tunis Nusach. But they did not have a decent print shop in Tunisia. As much as the Tunisians should take pride in their couscous and barakas, Livorno had the print shop.
The greatest indications of Nusach Eidut Mizrach: a) The whole Minyin is saying everything out loud. They were never able to decide on a Chazin. So, each member sitting at the Minyin thinks they're running the thing. b) The Torah is impossible to do Hagba with, as it's housed in a beautiful round casing that is much bulkier than the Ashkenaz Torah. Hence, the person lifting the Torah will be hugging it and doing whatever he can to make sure it doesn't fall. This is unlike the Ashkenaz Hagba, where the guy is lifting the Torah, tossing it and twirling it on his finger, trying to show how many columns he can open with one hand. c) You will also be told Chazak uBaruch, as opposed to Yashkoyach, as they believe in you the same way Moshe and H' believed in Yehoshua. They will say it very loud, just in case you were about to doze a bit after your Aliyah. d) They also like to say Shir HaShirim a lot.
Then, each community has their own custom. We will just call it Eidut HaMizrach, because it's all the same, and we accept the fact that we're racist.
This is used mainly in Israel. The Vilna Gaon, the Gra, took out the prayer of Baruch H' from Maariv. And to this day he is considered the greatest of the Gaons. He saved us a minute and fifteen seconds, and thus we celebrate him in Ashkenazik Jewry.
Though he was not in favor of the Chasidic movement, The Gra did adopt the custom of skipping the prayer. Again, making him the wisest of his time, and one of the greatest rabbis of all time. The great Gaon he is, he knew, sometimes you have to compromise.
There are other Nusachs. Nusach Eretz Yisrael, based on the Jerusalem Talmud, turned into the Ashkenazi schools, which each country did differently. Nusach Sefardi and Eidut Mizrach follows the format taught in the Talmud Bavli. And all the Nusachs agree you should Daven.
From what I learned, the other people’s Nusach is wrong. If they’re not Davening your Nusach, it is generally accepted Nusach to yell at them.
Lesson Learned: If you're ever mad at somebody in your community, start your own Nusach.
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They wanted to clean the silver on the Torah. Instead, they Polished it.
You get it? People from Poland are Polish. They should‘ve polished the silver. Nobody knows what it means. Maybe put a Polish person on it. If you're Polish, we do not mean to offend you. At the Kibbitzer, we are sure that many Polish know how to polish very well.
The Jerusalem Shofar carrying bag and water bottle. Perfect for when you need to blow the Shofar on a Tiyul. (saying something about a Shofar on a hike was where our creativity on this joke came to a halt)