From Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present, compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears (work-in-progress). We are grateful to Rabbi Dovid Shapiro for his ongoing contribution to this project.
Breslover Chassidim today try to daven Minchah before dusk (sh’kiah). This seems to reflect the Rebbe's general rule that one should avoid postponing prayer.
(Cf. Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha'ar ha-Kavannos, Nusach ha-Tefilah 51d; Sha'ar ha-Mitzvos, Ki Seitzei 60b. However, if one is delayed, it is permissible to daven Minchah until close to tzes ha-kokhavim, as stated by the RaMA, Orach Chaim 233:1. Magen Avraham, ad loc., mentions that when there was no other choice, the MaHaRiL would daven Minchah as late as a few minutes before tzes ha-kokhavim, and the Pri Megadim takes this to be the halakhah.)
Reb Avraham Sternhartz told Reb Gedaliah Kenig that in Ukraine, the time of sh’kiah was taken more loosely than in Eretz Yisrael. It is possible that the Breslov zehirus today to daven earlier has its origins in Eretz Yisrael, where the twilight is shorter.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro. Also see the earlier posting in this series about “Zmanim,” where Rabbi Zalman Naftalis and Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski both mention that the attitude in the Ukraine re. sh’kiah was less precise.)
Reb Elazar Kenig has told his talmidim not to daven Minchah Gedolah (i.e., during the early afternoon) except under extenuating circumstances; for example, if one is a rebbi or a bochur in yeshivah where everyone davens Minchah before the afternoon seder, or if one is traveling. It is preferable to daven during the late afternoon after the onset of Minchah Ketanah (2.5 hours [sha’os zmaniyos] before sh’kiah).
(Cf. Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha'ar ha-Kavannos, Drushei Tefilas Minchah, Drush 2. The Arizal was particular to daven Minchah at the end of the afternoon, before sh’kiah. That Minchah Gedolah is bidieved is indicated by the Shulchan Arukh itself; see Orach Chaim 233:1 and the Sha'arei Teshuvah, ad loc.)
Reb Gedaliah Kenig was particular to daven toward the end of Minchah Ketanah.
(Heard from Rabbi Noach Cheifetz)
Nusach ha-Tefillah: The Shemoneh Esreh of both Minchah and Ma'ariv concludes with "Sim shalom," as at the end of Shacharis, not with "Shalom rav," as in nusach Ashkenaz.
(Be’er Heitiv, Orach Chaim 127, in the name of the Arizal; also cf. Shulchan ha-Tahor [Komarno], 127:4)
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Bender once had a discussion about nusach ha-tefillah with Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski when the latter was a yeshivah bochur learning in Yerushalayim. Although Reb Avraham Moshe’s father, Reb Herschel Wasilski, davenned according to nusach Ashkenaz, Reb Levi Yitzchok told him to say “Sim Shalom” at the end of the Ma’ariv Shemoneh Esreh. He added, “Zeit nisht ken chokhom –unzerer leit hobn getohn azoy . . . Don’t be a ‘wise guy’ – this is what our fellow Breslovers [of past generations] used to do.”
(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Moshe Wasilski)
Breslover Chassidim, like most Russian and Ukrainian Chassidim, do not omit Tachanun from Minchah except on days of simchah.
(It would seem that the reason why some Chassidic groups do so is because they are accustomed to daven Minchah at the end of bein ha-shemashos, when nefilas apayim is questionable; see Magen Avraham on Orach Chaim 131:3. However, Magen Dovid and Ba’er Heitiv [ad loc.] rule that nefilas apayim is permissible during bein ha-shemashos. Also see Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Teshuvos Yechaveh Daas, Vol. VI, no. 7. In one of his teshuvos, Rav Yitzchak Leibes remarks that the minhag throughout Poland, Galicia and Hungary was to daven Minchah le-chatchila after the sh’kiah; see Teshuvos Beis Avi on Orach Chaim, no. 18)
Reb Gedaliah told his talmidim to recite Tachanun even in a shul where Tachanun is omitted at Minchah be-shittah (as in some Chassidic shuls). However, this should be done discreetly, and only prior to sh’kiah.
(Heard from Rabbi Aharon Waxler and Rabbi Chaim Man. Reb Gedaliah was emphatic about refraining from unusual hanhagos that draw attention to oneself.)
Like his father, Reb Elazar davens Minchah in his talis and Shemusha Rabah Tefillin. However, no one else in the Tzefas chaburah wears talis and Tefillin for Minchah. Even Reb Elazar did so only privately for many years. In other Breslov communities, this is similarly uncommon.
(This was the custom of the Arizal; see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha’ar ha-Kavannos, Drushei Tefillas Minchah, Drush 2. Reb Elazar’s Shemusha Rabah Tefillin, which he received from his father, are large and written according to ksav ARI. From the viewpoint of the person facing the wearer, the parshiyos are arranged (right to left): 1. vi-hoyo im shamo’a; 2. shema; 3. vi-hoyo ki-viyacho; 4. kadesh li kol bekhor. This follows the shittah of the RaMA of Pano. According to Rashi, the parshiyos should be arranged in the opposite seder. A variant minhag re. Shemusha Rabah Tefillin is that the parshiyos are arranged according to the view of Rashi, but the batim are larger than those worn in the morning—ideally four by four finger-widths.)
Reb Elazar Kenig usually wears Shemusha Rabah Tefillin for at least an hour during the afternoon before Minchah, and often for even longer.
Reb Gedaliah Kenig followed the Sefardic nusach for the beginning of the first berakhah of Ma'ariv: "ha-ma'ariv aravim be-chokhmah, u-meshaneh ittim bi-tevunah…"
(Heard from Rabbi Chaim Man. Although most Ashkenazim do not follow this nusach, it was redacted by the Minchas Elazar in his nusach ha-tefillah; see Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom 328; Nimukei Orach Chaim 236. This is cited by Rabbi Chaim Vital in the name of the Arizal in Sha’ar ha-Kavannos; also cf. Rabbi Yisrael Ya’akov Algazi, Shalmey Tzibbur, Seder Tefillas Arvis, 3.)
When Rabbi Dovid Shapiro asked him about the nusach he should follow, this was among the things Reb Gedaliah instructed him to do. Rabbi Shapiro stated that this does not reflect an adoption of the Sefardic nusach ha-tefilah as such, but a rule of thumb that Reb Gedaliah followed in such matters: When we have a mesorah from Reb Avraham Sternhartz, that’s what we should follow; otherwise, we follow what Rav Chaim Vital states in Shaar HaKavanos (re. the nusach of the Arizal).
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)
Reb Gedaliah also followed the Sefardic nusach prior to "mi kamokhah": "Malkhusekha HaShem Elokeinu ra'u vanekha al ha-yam, yachad kulam hodu vi-himlikhu ve-amru…"
(Heard from Rabbi Chaim Man)
However, the nus'chos of the Tzefas community for these parts of Ma'ariv are those of the standard Chassidic Nusach Sefard siddur. (This is common practice in all Ashkenazic Breslover kehillos.) Since Reb Gedaliah did not tell his family members or talmidim to follow his personal nusach, it is has never been followed by the Tzefas kehillah (except for a few nus’chos passed on in the name of Reb Avraham Sternhartz).
Outside of Eretz Yisrael, it is customary on weekdays to recite the passage "Borukh HaShem le-olam amen vi-amen." This reflects Nusach Ashkenaz, and also was the minhag of the Baal Shem Tov. However, in Eretz Yisrael this passage is omitted.
(RaMA, Orach Chaim 236:2. Re. the Baal Shem Tov’s minhag, see Imrei Pinchas 432; Shulchan ha-Tahor, Arvis 236:1; Mishmeres Shalom [Kaidinov] 23:2. Reb Noson darshans on this passage in Likutey Halakhos, Birkhas ha-Shachar 5:32.)
According to the nusach of the Baal Shem Tov and most Chassidim in chutz la’aretz, on Motza’ei Shabbos and Motza’ei Yom Tov, "Borukh HaShem le-olam amen vi-amen” is not recited. This is the common practice in Breslov kehillos, as well.
(For example, see Likutey MaHaRICH, Vol. I, p. 285, s.v. vi-hinei yesh she-ein omrim pesukim eilu)
At the end of the day Reb Yosef Yonah, a younger son of Reb Noson—who was said to have inherited his father’s temimus—would exclaim: “Togg, togg, mit vos bist du aribber? Togg, togg, mit vos geist du avek fun mir? . . . Day, day, how have you passed? Day, day, with what are you departing from me?” This was a paraphrase of Sippurey Ma’asiyos (“Seven Beggars,” The Third Day). Reb Yosef Yonah’s grandchildren often used to go to hear him bid farewell to the day.
(Heard from Rabbi Moshe Bienenstock. He added that Breslover Chassidim of previous generations were fluent in Sippurey Ma’asiyos, and often used to intersperse such sayings into their conversations and everyday life. Reb Yosef Yonah was the father-in-law of Reb Avraham Sternhartz, as well as his great-uncle.)