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Is a community custom halachically binding?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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Normally, one can not be forced to abide by a Minhag. However if a certain minhag is practiced by everyone in the city (a "minhag hamakom"), then one is Halachically obligated to follow this custom.


Similarly, those customs which have been universally accepted by all Jews (such as Hakafot on Simchat Torah) are practically no different than any other Halachah.


In modern times there is basically no such thing as a minhag hamakom because almost every Jewish community is comprised of various streams, each practicing their own customs (Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Chassidim, etc.).


Obviously, Minhag Hamakom can never supercede the universally accepted laws of the Torah and the Talmud.
Sources: Talmud Pesachim 50a.

TAGS: custom

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Halachah
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
Minhag
(pl. Minhagim). Jewish custom.
Halachically
According to Jewish law.
Hakafot
Literally means "circling." On the holiday of Simchat Torah we take the Torah scrolls and encircle the synagogue's reading table seven times. This ceremony is done by night and repeated next day, and is customarily accompanied by dancing, singing and great joy.
Ashkenazim
(pl.) Jews of Northern or Eastern European ancestry. (singular: Ashkenazi)
Sephardim
(Pl.: Sephardim) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Chassidim
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) Following the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).