Last week we explored the three opinions as to when to say Aneinu on a fast day. Ashkenazim, led by Rashi and the Rama, say it exclusively at Mincha, while Maran Rav Yosef Karo rules that it should be said at Arvit even when it is permitted to eat that night. The Ba’al HaMa’or adopts a compromise view of reciting at Shacharit and Mincha but not at Arvit on a fast day when we may eat at night.
This week we outline how Sephardic communities conduct themselves in practice regarding this issue.
The Current Practice in Sephardic Communities
Surprisingly, most Sephardi communities do not recite Aneinu at Arvit on a ta’anit tzibur when it is permitted to eat the night before the fast, in accordance with the opinion of the Ba’al Ha-Ma’or. This is a rare departure from the ruling of Maran Rav Yosef Karo. However, even these communities do insert Aneinu during Shacharit. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 1: Yoreh Dei’ah 21 and Teshuvot Yechave Da’at 3:41) endorses this view, citing as precedent the following great Sephardic authorities: Shulchan Gavo’ah 565:2, Ma’amar Mordechai 557:3 and 4 and Kaf HaChaim 557:5. This is the opinion followed at Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck.
Why would the Sephardic community abandon the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch, which is supported by the clear majority of Rishonim, in favor of the Ba’al HaMa’or, which is a decidedly minority view amongst the Rishonim and is not even cited in the Shulchan Aruch?! Indeed, even Rav Ovadia Yosef characterizes the practice of the Sephardic communities (such as Yemenite Jews and Moroccan Jews as noted by Rav Mordechai Lebhar, Magen Avot Orach Chaim 565:3 and Darke Aboteinu 2:67) that do recite Aneinu even at night as “certainly a correct custom.”
Chacham Yitzchak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef Mo’adim 5:536) writes that the appeal of the Ba’al HaMa’or’s view is that it is a “middle-of-the-road position” between Rashi, who believes Aneinu should be said only at Mincha, and the many Rishonim who say it should be recited even at night. I would add that the appeal of the Ba’al HaMa’or’s approach is that reciting Aneinu at a time when we are still eating appears highly counterintuitive. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 5b) and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 242:9) teach that a rav should not issue rulings that appear highly unusual (milta d’tmeha) to the community.
Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (Shiurim L’Zecher Abba Mari z”l 1:84-85) delighted in discussing the conceptual elegance of reciting Aneinu at Arvit before a fast, since the night before a fast such as Shiva Asar B’Tamuz is defined as part of the “yom ta’anit” even though the halacha permits eating and drinking at that time. However, for most Jews, the idea of reciting Aneinu at a time when it is permitted to eat is counterintuitive to the point of appearing unreasonable. Thus, I submit, most Sephardic communities do not recite Aneinu at Arvit. However, on Tisha B’Av, Rav Ovadia Yosef writes that all Sephardim recite Aneinu even at Arvit.
Postscript: The Moroccan Practice
Even though Rav Lebhar records that the Moroccan custom is to recite Aneinu at Arvit even when it is permitted to eat, four knowledgeable Shaarei Orah members, Alain Amar, Asaf Amos, Naftali Mellul and Shalom Shushan, all insist that they never heard of such a practice. Interestingly, these four men lived in a variety of Moroccan Jewish bastions—Morocco, Israel, Paris and Montreal—yet they never heard of this opinion. I posed this quandary to Dr. Adam Ohayon, a co-author of Darke Abotenou (the excellent compendium of Moroccan customs), who responded that he also never heard of this practice until he began the research for his sefer.
Thus, even though the official works on Moroccan minhagim such as Ribi Yitzchak Chazan’s Teshuvot Yechave Da’at (1: Orach Chaim 21), Ribi Yosef Messas’ Otzar haMichtavim (2:38) and Ribi David Ovadia’s Nahagu Ha’Am (Ta’anit number one) report that the Moroccan custom is to recite Aneinu at Arvit, this practice seems not to have percolated down to much of the Moroccan Jewish community. The reason seems to be the exceedingly counterintuitive nature of reciting Aneinu at a time that it is permitted to eat.
By Rabbi Haim Jachter
Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.