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Among Sephardic Jews, those who hail from North Africa maintain various customs and approaches to Halacha that differ from those of the Edot HaMizrach. Moroccans in particular have a rich heritage of Torah scholarship, traditions, and rabbinic leadership that consists of a genre in and of itself.
Toshavim and Megorashim
The Jewish community of Morocco traces back to the early Rishonim to the time of the Rif, when Torah flourished, and potentially well before then, as well. However, the community was decimated by the Almohad Caliphate, along with the rest of the North African community. Centuries later, many of those expelled from Spain in 1492, known as "Megorashim," mainly from the Kingdom of Castile, arrived in the North African Crescent and settled primarily in Fez and started a new chapter in the history of Moroccan Jewry.
The Megorashim attempted to reestablish themselves along the same lines of Minhagim practiced in Castile, but conflict arose between the Megorashim and the natives, known as the "Toshavim," who were not interested in following the customs of the Megorashim. The main initial issue was regarding the lenient view of the Megorashim on how to check the lungs of an animal after Shechitah, to which the Toshavim were opposed based on their own preexisting custom. Nevertheless, eventually, the Megorashim outnumbered the natives and the customs of the Megorashim were adopted in all but one synagogue, Siddurim of the Megorashim were printed, and rabbinic families of Megorashim made a deep impact on the people as they took the leadership. Thus, the Castillian customs spread throughout Morocco, and many of their enactments and rulings are still in practice today, such as the text of the Ketubah and reciting a Beracha on Hallel on Rosh Chodesh.
The customs of the Megorashim spread throughout the environs of Fez, including Meknes, Tangier, Tetouan, Sale, and Rabat, but the communities that were more to the south and in the Atlas Mountains did not fully take on those customs. Therefore, there are differences until today between the customs of those communities. The influence of Chachmei Catsile spread throughout North Africa, Israel, Turkey, and Greece and other countries, as well, which accounts for commonalities in Minhagim between those places and Morocco.
Along with their customs, the Megorashim brought their fidelity to the Rosh with them to Morocco, which, thereby, greatly influenced Moroccan traditions. Although the Rambam's views were also noticeably present, they were not accepted to the same extent as the Rosh's.
Moroccan Chachamim immediately accepted Shulchan Aruch as the primary authority when it reached their communities. Some even claimed that they already followed the method of following the majority of the Rif, Rambam, and Rosh. Nevertheless, since the Castillian traditions were already sewn deeply in Moroccan tradition, the rulings of Shulchan Aruch were not accepted when they contradicted the Castillian traditions in places that were following those traditions. This is in accordance with the explicit intention of Rav Yosef Karo himself in the introduction to Beit Yosef.
The Jews of Morocco primarily prayed using siddurim from Livorno that were greatly influenced by the Chida.
- When Shulchan Aruch does not reveal his opinion, Moroccans follow the Rama even against many other Poskim.
- Chachmei Morocco agree that only what's written in Shulchan Aruch proper and Beit Yosef is accepted, not the Teshuvot, and Kim Li is not relevant here. Rav Yosef Karo's rulings are accepted as a function of his books' acceptance, not acceptance of him as a Posek. Some add that even the Bedek HaBayit was not accepted.
- If there's a contradiction between Shulchan Aruch and Beit Yosef, the Shulchan Aruch is followed.
- The accepted opinion in a "Yesh veYesh" is like the final one in both Shulchan Aruch and Rama. Some say that if the Rama paskens like the first Yesh of Shulchan Aruch, the Halacha follows the Rama.
- "Yesh Omrim... veYesh Cholkim": some say follow the first opinion, while others follow the second.
- "Stam vaYesh": Halacha is like the Stam even if Shulchan Aruch or the Rama writes to follow the Yesh.
- If all three Amudei Horaah disagree with Shulchan Aruch, they are followed instead of Shulchan Aruch.
- The custom is to employ Sfek Sefeikah against Shulchan Aruch.
- One cannot be more lenient than Shulchn Aruch in matters of Ervah. Some argue one cannot even be lenient like Shulchan Aruch in these matters.
- One cannot claim "Kim Li" against Shulchan Aruch.
- The view of Shulchan Aruch has not been accepted where it is unclear.
- Common practice for the masses was not drawn after Kabbalistic practices, especially if there's a concern of Beracha Levatalah.
- Magen Avot website, MoroccanHalacha.com
- Three Secrets of Moroccan Psak Halacha and Navigating the Wide World of Moroccan Jewish Minhagim and Halacha by Rabbi Haim Jachter
- Darké Abotenou on YouTube
- This entire section is based on Magen Avot (Orach Chaim, Mevo LeMinhagei HaMa'arav, pp. 41-48) by Rav Mordechai Lebhar
- For example, reciting a Beracha on Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, on Hadlakat Nerot Shabbat after lighting, and Baruch Hu uVaruch Shemo in middle of a beracha that one wants to fulfill an obligation with.
- As is already evident from Rav Yosef Karo's own presentation of his decision to rely on those three in his introduction "that the entire Jewish Nation relies on their rulings." Plus the Rosh was exceedingly popular in Morocco, while the Rambam was in Spain. See Nahagu Ha'Am pg 11, "Klalei Trei Migo Telat" for further dicussion.
- Nahagu HaAm, Klalei HaPesikah 10
- Nahagu Ha'Am, Klalei HaPesikah 15
- Nahagu HaAm, Klalei HaPesikah 7
- Nahagu Ha'Am, Klalei HaPesikah 9
- Nahagu Ha'Am, Klalei HaPesikah 14
- Nahagu Ha'Am, Klalei HaPesikah 4
- Magen Avot (Orach Chaim 47:12)