Shalom Rav

Two variants of Shalom Rav were found in the Cairo Geniza. Given the similarities between Cairo and Israeli nusachos, it is assumed to have been the Nusach Eretz Yisrael in the days of the tannaim and Israeli amora’im. Another indication is that Nusach Provence, the berakhah was always “Shalom Rav“. The Provencial community, which was a true center of Jewish Life and Torah in the days of the rishonim, had a strong tradition of being refugees from the Roman conquest of Israel. In fact, the Jews of Luneil had a tradition that they were descendants of the city of Yericho. The name “Luneil” is from “luna” (French: moon) in the same way “Yericho” would be from “yareiach” (Hebrew: moon). Whether or not this tradition is historically true, it does reflect the community’s roots in Israel. So it would seem Shalom Rav was the Nusach Eretz Yisrael.

This is one of a number of cases where Sepharadim follow Nusach Bavel and Ashkenazim find a compromise between Nusach Bavel and Nusach Eretz Yisrael. Among many historians, these cases are caused by the number of captives from Eretz Yisrael taken back to Italy by the Roman army, whose descendants then go up to Ashkenaz in Charlemagne’s day.

The Provencal community ended up joining Ashkenaz. The bulk of Ashkenazic Jewry, though, were invited up from Italy by Charlemagne, who needed an economic backbone for the heart of the Holy Roman Empire. But many of these Italian Jews were also descendents of Israel; many taken back to Rome with the departing armies.

Another example is the preservation of the Israeli nusach by saying it in only some situations is “LeDor vaDor“, using it instead of “Atah Qadosh” when saying Qedushah. In Israel (and the Cairo Geniza), LeDor VaDor was simply the text of the third berakhah in every Shemoneh Esrei.

So it looks like splitting our time between Sim Shalom when this is a tefillah in which duchaning is allowed and Shalom Rav when it is not is a legacy of how Minhag Ashkenaz was formed. Descendants of Israel and Bavel relocated to the same area, and had to make a common minhag for this community, and so the result was a bit of compromise.

This idea about the origins of Minhag and Nusach Ashkenaz (including these two cases, piyut, and much more) are discussed at length in the writings of Prof.s Agus and Ta-Shma, and others.

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