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Home > Secteur-English > General > DIFFERENT CUSTOMS IN JUDAISM.


Jews who lived in different part of the world developed different customs over time. WHAT IS CUSTOM ? The Hebrew word "MINHAG HAMAKOM" is simply translated as custom ; an established practice or usual way of doing things things followed by a particular society or group of people, which differentiate them from other people.
There are several subgroups of Jews with different customs and traditions. We are all Jew, and share the same basic belies, but there are some variations in custom and practice.
Jew who lived in GERMANY, Central and Eastern EUROPE, FRANCE and their descendant are known as ASHKENAZIM (the Hebrew word ASHKENAZIM means "Germany").
Jews who lived in SPAIN, PORTUGAL and their descendants are known as SEPHARDIM (the Hebrew word Sephard means "Spain").
Jews who lived in the MIDDLE EAST and NORTH AFRICA and their descendants are know as MIZRACHI, though they are sometimes grouped with the SEPHARDIM. Other subgroups are YEMENITE, ETHIOPIAN, and ORIENTAL.
ASHKENAZIC and SEPHARDIC Jews represents two distinct subcultures of Judaism. It is not clear when the split began began, but is has existed for more than a thousand years, because around the year 100 C.E, Rabbi Gershom Meor Hagolah issued an edict against polygamy that was accepted by ASHKENAZIM but not by SEPHARDIM. 
The custom of a society or group of People is basically shaped by there CULTURAL FOOD, LANGUAGE, CLOTHES, and many more. For both ASHKENAZIM and SEPHARDIM, Hebrew is the liturgical language. However their pronunciation of Hebrew varies somewhat. For instance, the Hebrew word SHABBAT is SHABBOS in ASHKENAZIC pronunciation and SHABBAT in SEPHAEDIC pronunciation ; though some ASHKENAZIC Jews have adopted the SEPHARDIC pronunciation since Israel has officially adopted the SEPHARDIC pronunciation, however it is common to hear both pronunciations spoken by different worshipers in the same synagogue.
In addition to differences in Hebrew pronunciation, each group developed a folk language. For the ASHKENAZIM, it was YIDDISH (related to Germany) while the SEPHARDIM developed LADINO (related to Spanish). Sacred objects within the synagogue are sometimes called by different names. For example, ASHKENAZIM call the Holy Ark the ARON HAKODESH while SEPHARDIM call it the HEICHAL ; the raised platform from which the Torah Scroll is read is known as the BIMAH in ASHKENAZIC synagogues and as the TEVAH in SEPHARDIC synagogues.
The cuisine of each group developed along the line of the countries in which the Jews lived. While Jews traditionally eat diary foods on SHAVUOT, ASHKENAZIM eat BLINTZES and SEPHARDIM eat CHEESE-FILLED PASTRIES. The belies of the SEPHARDIM are basically in accord with those of the ORTHODOX Judaism, though SEPHARDIC interpretations of the HALACHA (Jewish law) are somewhat different from ASHKENAZIC. The best-known of theses differences relates to the Holiday of PESACH (passover) : SEPHARDI Jews may eat RICE, CORN, PEANUTS and BEANS during the Holiday, while ASHKENAZI Jews avoid them. Although some individual SEPHARDIC Jews are less observant than others in this very custom. Though the specific foods differ, the both groups do follow the Jewish dietary laws.
Probably the most divergent custom between ASHKENAZIM and SEPHARDIM concerns the naming of children. Among ASHKENAZIC Jews, babies are named in memory of a deceased relative and not in honor of a living. SEPHARDIM customarily name children in honor of a living relative, particularly a grandparent. There are other differences like PRAYER SERVICE and sometimes the way they DRESS. Thus the different customs between ASHKENAZIC and SEPHARDIC Jews can be seen in personal life as well as in the synagogue.

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