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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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Achrei Mos-Kedoshim: Why the Reform Movement Did Not Begin in Northern Africa


It is much more possible to talk in a fire and brimstone way to Sefardim and be effective than it is to talk in such a manner to Ashkenazim. In fact, Rav Shlomo Wolbe said that beginning already in the mid 1800’s, most Torah educators in the Ashkenazi world had decided that our generation needs more of a loving and positive approach, rather than a strong and critical one. This was not the case for the Sefardim.

Interestingly, many Sefardim who are not Torah observant will still belong to Orthodox synagogues. It is not so common for Reform and Conservative synagogues to have Sefardi members. In fact, if you look back at history, the Reform and Conservative movements originated and were maintained by Ashkenazim only. Even if many Sefardim, for whatever reasons, stopped being Torah observant in action, they never completely abandoned the proper Torah beliefs. Their heart and emotion always kept them connected to the truth even if their actions were not consistent with their affiliation.

Ashkenazim, on the other hand, are defined more with intellect and find it difficult to affiliate one way but have contradictory actions and practices. Therefore, they came up with philosophies, beliefs, and movements, such as Reform and Conservative, allowing them to rationalize their practices which deviated from Torah and tradition. Sefardim can take hardcore mussar much more easily than Ashkenazim.

Could all this be part of the reason why the divergent customs for the Haftorah for Achrei Mos/Kedoshim evolved? Even if not the conscious rationale mentioned by poskim, is there any truth to what we discussed vis-à-vis the differences in the Sefardi and Ashkenazi personalities? I’ll let you decide.

But, at least it made for an interesting discussion regarding some of the happenings of this week’s Haftorah.

Rabbi Boruch Leff

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