Since I became religious, I have been keeping generic Ashkenazi minhagim, as I learned them in the town I grew up in, in college, and in kollel. However, with my interest over the last few years in Chassidus, I have given some consideration to changing my minhagim to reflect the new understanding and perspective that I have gained and am working to gain.
Minhagim in the practice of mitzvos and in nusach hatefillah are not just stylistic. They reflect the deeper reality of what is being accomplished. And the minhagim of Chassidus and Nusach Sfard (the most common version of the Nusach of the Arizal, the Sha'ar Hakolel) are designed to better reflect those realities. Therefore, my thoughts about changing minhagim are related to wanting to connect more to the reality that I am learning about.
There are several serious dangers that I see inherent in such a change however.
(1) The change can be merely superficial, directing energies that would be much better spent on inner work into the arena of external behavior.
(2) Which minhagim would I change to? It does not seem like a good idea to change to an inconsistent mishmash of minhagim that are not consistent with one another. I could end up keeping a set of minhagim that makes no sense, since any set of minhagim's halachic and kabbalistic basis is one consistent whole.
(3) The change would have to be permenant. I would have to know that I was ready to switch over permenantly. Since this change would be a major decision, it cannot be taken lightly.
(4) If I stopped shaving, I would merely sport a "chin poof!"
Right now, I'm not actively seeking out these new minhagim, though I may do so at some point. I'm not sure now what would be the tipping point that would cause me to start wanting to seriously begin changing over my minhagim. I spoke with my rebbe about this question almost a year ago and I even got a sefer he suggested, that focuses mostly on the difference between Chassidish & Ashkenazi minhagim in davening.
He told me that even if I change my nusach to sfard, my wife does not have to. Children almost always learn nusach ashkenaz in school. So he said the mehalech there is to change them over to sfard when they're old enough not to get confused by it. Let's say around 4th grade maybe, depending on the child. My eight year old is in the 3rd grade, and she's really improving in davening, reading, and writing, but there is still time before it will be easy enough for her to branch out and do something different from the other girls.
Examples of other changes would include starting to daven nusach sfard, using a non-braided challah Friday night, lulav & esrog chassidish style, etc. There are so many that if or when I make that change, it would have to be in a step by step process, as I learned more. I also would not want to start changing big things, especially nusach hatefillah, unless I was SURE that it was a permanent change.
(Picture courtesy of pbase.com)
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