The differences are a natural result of the dispersion of the Jewish
community. Sefarad is actually Hebrew for Spain -- after the Spanish expulsion
in the late 15th century, many of those Jews moved to North Africa and the
Middle East, and today Jews of those communities are called "Sephardi."
Ashkenaz is Hebrew for Germany, and Ashkenazic Jews are those from Europe
(including Asian Russia).|
Differences in custom arose naturally, because each community followed the
rulings of its authoritative rabbis. Sometimes the circumstances were clearly
different: on Passover, Ashkenazic communities do not eat beans or rice because
it was considered too likely that wheat or another forbidden grain would become
mixed with them during transportation or sale, or because a person could simply
become confused. In more temperate climates neither of these was likely, and
therefore Sephardic Jews do eat rice and beans on Passover.
Neither custom is wrong, but they are different, and one should generally
follow the customs and practices of one's father. For this reason, it really
isn't appropriate to "switch!"
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