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Sephardic law and customs

Practice of Judaism by the Sephardim / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Sephardic law and customs are the practice of Judaism by the Sephardim, the descendants of the historic Jewish community of the Iberian Peninsula. Some definitions of "Sephardic" inaccurately include Mizrahi Jews, many of whom follow the same traditions of worship but have different ethno-cultural traditions. Sephardi Rite is not a denomination or movement like Orthodox, Reform, and other Ashkenazi Rite worship traditions. Sephardim thus comprise a community with distinct cultural, juridical and philosophical traditions.[1]

Mishneh Torah, a code of Jewish law by Maimonides, a Sephardic Jew

Sephardim are, primarily, the descendants of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. They may be divided into the families that left in the Expulsion of 1492 and those that remained in Spain as crypto-Jews, fleeing in the following few centuries. In religious parlance, and by many in modern Israel, the term is used in a broader sense to include all Jews of Ottoman or other Asian or North African backgrounds, whether or not they have any historic link to Spain, though some prefer to distinguish between Sephardim proper and Mizraḥi Jews.[2]

For the purposes of this article there is no need to distinguish Iberian Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, as their religious practices are basically similar: whether or not they are "Spanish Jews" they are all "Jews of the Spanish rite". There are three reasons for this convergence, which are explored in more detail below:

  • Both groups follow general Jewish law without those customs specific to the Ashkenazic tradition.
  • The Spanish rite was an offshoot of the Babylonian-Arabic family of Jewish rites and retained a family resemblance to the other rites of that family.
  • Following the expulsion the Spanish exiles took a leading role in the Jewish communities of Asia and Africa, who modified their rites to bring them still nearer to the Spanish rite, which by then was regarded as the standard.
The Shulchan Aruch. One of the codes of Jewish law reflecting Sephardic laws and customs.