Customs

I asked member Jeffrey Alhadeff to do some research on the known customs - "minhagim" of the Rhodesli Jewish Community.   I encourage members and friends to be in touch with Jeff with their recollections.  Enjoy!

Jeffrey Alhadeff    

Tefila (Prayers)    
any time    
At Kehila- Synagogue     
Rhodesli    
Our Torah scrolls lay down, not upright.

Jeffrey Alhadeff    
Other    
any time    
From parents, From grandparents    
Rhodesli    
Mezuzuot are placed on an angle

Jeffrey Alhadeff    
Berahot (Blessings)    
any time    
From grandparents    
Rhodesli    
We say Mizmor Ledavid Hashem Ro'i between washing and saying Amots'i.  We also say the Lemvsa in before Amots’i.

Jeffrey Alhadeff    
Tefila (Prayers)   
any time    
At Kehila- Synagogue     
Rhodesli    
We say 'Ado--nai Emachem' and respond with G-d's name.  Hashem Emachem began during the 2000's


Jeffrey Alhadeff    
Tefila (Prayers)    
any time    
At Kehila- Synagogue     
Rhodesli    
We sit during Barehu.

Jeffrey Alhadeff    
Berahot (Blessings)    
any time    
From grandparents, At Kehila- Synagogue     
Rhodesli    
Our women say berachot on time bound positive mitzvot, such as Lulav, Sukkah...

Jeffrey Alhadeff    
Tefila (Prayers)    
any time    
At Kehila- Synagogue     
Rhodesli    
The Hazan says the Modem D'rabbanan quietly.  

Jeffrey Alhadeff    
Tefila (Prayers)    
any time    
At Kehila- Synagogue     
Rhodesli    
The U shape is the classic shape for our Kehila.

Joseph Hasson
Tefila (Prayers)    
any time    
At Kehila- Synagogue     
Rhodesli    
I (Jeff Alhadeff) heard from Joey Alhadeff who asked Joe Hasson if it is our Minhag to have father’s cover their boys heads with a talet durning birkat kohanim.  He said it was in Rhodes, and he remember as a child that is what people did.


Jeffrey Alhadeff    
Tefila (Prayers)    
any time    
At Kehila- Synagogue     
Rhodesli    
I heard from Joe Alhadeff who remembered as a kid that the entire kehila would stand during the haskava for someone who was deceased within the last week.


Jeffrey Alhadeff    
Funeral    
any time    
Other    
Rhodesli    
Our tradition is to mention the immediate family members that pre-deceased the person that is being buried prior to saying that person's Haskava.  I believe we do this for the first week, and maybe for the first month.

Jeffrey Alhadeff    
Berahot (Blessings)    
Sukkot    
From grandparents, At Kehila- Synagogue     
Rhodesli    
"It is our Minhag to say 'Leshev Ba'Sukah' even when eating Mezonot foods.  I've seen that when we say Kiddush in the Sukkah the person saying kiddush says 'Leshev' even when we are going to eat panazikos."

Michael Behar    
Tefila (Prayers)    
Shabbat    
From parents, From grandparents, From great-grandparents, At Kehila- Synagogue     
Both    
During the Lecha Dodi communally sung during the Friday eve Kabbalat Shabbat service we bow towards the Aron when we reach the words "Boi BeShalom". Other communities, primarily in the Ashkenazic world bow westward at this point with their rear ends pointed towards the Aron HaKodesh.

Yossi Azose    
Tefila (Prayers)    
Shabbat    
At Kehila- Synagogue     
Rhodesli    
"Growing up in EB, I remember people who would make noise by banging the pews or the floor with their feet when the name Amalek was read during the Torah reading, a practice that is not typically found in any other Sephardic kehilla, to my knowledge. This peculiar practice - in one of the last remaining Rhodesli kehillot in the world - is the lasting legacy of an issue addressed in responsum written in 1886 by the Chief Rabbi of Rhodes, Rahmim Yeuda Israel, published in Shu""t Ben Yamin (No. 1).  Rabbi Israel received approbations to his vehement opposition to this practice by leading rabbis throughout the Levant and Palestine at the time including the Chief Rabbi of Izmir Avram Palachi, the Haham Bashi Rabbi Moshe Halevi, and the Rishon Letzion Rabbi Meir Panigel.

This issue, which today might seem trivial, was evidently a very serious problem that they had to deal with back then, to the extent that Rav Avram Palachi wrote back that he had to order ushers to be stationed at the entrances of all the synagogues of Izmir to make sure no one would bring hammers or sticks to bang (apparently in an era before movies and TV, this was how people got their kicks).

Below are excerpts of a free translation of Rabbi Israel's Teshuva:

I take notice of and turn my attention to a custom that has gained notoriety in our city, [namely] that on Shabbat Zakhor during the reading of maftir, and at the end of Ki Tetze during the reading of the section of Zakhor in mashlim and maftir, also at the end of Beshalah during the reading of the section of ‘Vayavo Amaleq’ in mashlim and maftir and even on Purim during the Torah reading, all those assembled at the synagogue whether young or old, honored or ignorant, bang the pews of the synagogue with their hands and feet in a terrific frenzy.  The sound is heard outside the synagogue to the extent that even the passersby in the street are confounded by the sound of banging.  Because of this, they muddle the Torah reading as to make impossible the attentive hearing of that day’s reading, the blessings on the Torah and the qaddish.  [This is problematic] particularly on Shabbat Zakhor, about which many authorities wrote that this reading is a Biblical requirement such that they render that which is important trivial and vice versa.  This goes without saying on Purim during the reading of the Megilla at night and in the day, when they bang incessantly, as this was the custom in our city for many years to bring slabs and sticks of wood to the synagogue while the children come, each one with his hammer. They practically split the ground with the sound they make during the Megilla reading so that just about a majority of the congregants cannot hear the Megilla reading, as is necessary.  Even the adults’ 'feet run to commit evil’ when they bang with all their might.

An incident occurred last year when a prominent officer of the government came to the synagogue on Purim night.  When he witnessed this detestable custom, he was mortified and ‘spoke perversively’  to some prominent Jews of our city, saying to them, “What is this act that you do?  You should be embarrassed and ashamed for doing this before your God in a temple in which you call out in His name.  Is this how you show your fear [of Heaven] during prayer to appear before God like a bunch of wood-choppers?”  He spoke to them in this harsh manner till they [the Jews] ‘concealed their shame’ , for they could not come up with an answer.

Another incident occurred on Shabbat Zakhor when a prominent gentile passed through the market next to the synagogue during the reading of maftir.  When he heard the sound of banging, he became very confused from the sound because he didn’t know what it was, and so he hid in anxiety and fright until people told him the truth [about where the sound originated].  Upon this, he opened his mouth ‘in anger against the armies of the living God’ , may ears be covered from hearing [what he said].

Because of this and other like incidents, ‘my heart was moved’  to completely do away with this custom that there should be no banging at any time.  And so I delved and searched into the written sources to see if there is a basis and origin for this custom...

...because there are ‘five principle detriments’ that are caused as a result of this.  

Firstly, it degrades the honor of the Divine Presence that graces the congregation of God in the ‘Temple in Miniature’ [i.e. the synagogue]. For since the essential component that the early rabbis outlined for the custom is absent, then all that we do is nonsense without any source or foundation, and all that is left is levity and frivolity before our God, for it is nothing but an errant custom.  And this is a bad malady, since [even] the adults and elderly continue to bang when the original custom was intended only for the children, for they do not possess mature intellects.  

Secondly, we should be concerned about enmity with the Christians.  For just two years ago, we got through an episode where we appealed to the ‘Despot Effendi’ [the bishop]  to repeal their custom wherein they would fashion a figure of a Jew on their holiday and take [mock] revenge upon it for having harmed their prophet.  Also in those days they would preach in their churches in order to stoke feelings of hatred and enmity towards the Jews, so that they would chase them and beat and curse them. Because of this, the Jews could not traverse the streets and markets in those days out of fear of the gentiles who would pelt them with stones.  As a result of all this, we beseeched him [the bishop to intervene]. And so he bravely ‘girded his loins’  to do away with these practices from among his people by telling them, “If their fathers sinned and are no longer with us, what claim do we have against their descendants?” From that day on ‘no dog wagged its tongue’  at any Jew.   But even he became angered at us in those days concerning this custom on Purim, and he said this to us, “You are even worse than we. For at least we have some justification to take vengeance upon you since after all your fathers killed our prophet, so ‘let the sin of the fathers be exacted upon the children’.  But you already did to Haman and his sons what you wanted, yet he did not actually sin against you but in thought alone, for he merely conspired to commit [evil] but didn’t carry out [his plan].  Therefore, ‘on what shall you be stricken, that you continue to lead astray’ ? ‘What is this terrible tremor of yours’ ?”  And he spoke similar such words that sadden the hearts of those who hear them and we could find no sufficient answer to him, and ‘great was our embarrassment’ .  

Thirdly, because of this, we have become the focus of mockery, scorn and foolishness in the eyes of the gentiles and we are embarrassed and shamed when we hear what they say about us every day to our leaders.  And they wonder, “What kind of vengeance is this [banging], and what does it matter to Haman and his sons if they bang with sticks and stones day and night?”  And not only that, but we do this foolish thing in the house of our God during prayer, exactly the opposite of their practice, for they attend their temples in fear and awe and respect.  And they don’t make a sound as if they were standing before a king.  Is there no greater degradation of a nation than this?  

Fourthly, that they violate the prohibition of ‘do not waste’  with the destruction [they cause] when the people, young and old, break the pews, especially on God’s Shabbat, which is a further prohibition.  

Fifthly, that they sin and cause others to sin in preventing the listening to the Megilla reading and the like..."