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Type: Code of Law

The Shulhan Arukh

("The Set Table")


Sample Text in TranslationSample Text in Translation

Rabbi Joseph Caro

Rabbi Joseph Caro

 

Image Map of the Shulhan Arukh with commentaries.
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Primary TextsTexts

  • Rabbi Joseph Caro's Shulhan 'Arukh
  • Glosses by Rabbi Moses Isserles
  • CommentariesCommentaries

  • Commentaries on the Inner Column of the Shulhan 'Arukh Page
  • Commentaries on the Outer Column of the Shulhan 'Arukh Page
  • Commentaries on the Outer Margins of the Shulhan 'Arukh Page
  • Be'ur Ha-GR"A
  • Navigational AidsNavigational Aids

  • Page Numbers
  • Volume Names
  • Topic Names
  • Paragraph Numbers
  • Be'er Ha-Golah
  • Pit-hei T'shuvah
  • Ba'er Heitev

  • Author

    Rabbi Joseph Caro

    Dates

    1488 to 1575.

    Place

    Rabbi Joseph Caro was born in Spain, but following the expulsion wandered through Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece, settling finally in Safed in the Land of Israel.

    Description

    The Shulhan Arukh follows the order of Rabbi Jacob ben Asher's Tur. It is divided up into the same four main topics, each of which is divided into numbered paragraphs. The Shulhan Arukh has an additional subdivision into numbered sub-paragraphs.

    The origins of the Shulhan Arukh lie in Rabbi Joseph Caro's earlier work, the Beit Yosef ("House of Joseph") a detailed commentary to the Tur in which Caro carefully examined every law in the earlier code, showing the sources in Talmudic and medieval rabbinic literature, and comparing the interpretations and rulings of the leading medieval authorities. The Shulhan Arukh summarizes the conclusions of the Beit Yosef.

    In general, Caro based his decisions on three leading pillars of Jewish codification:

    1. the 11th-century Spanish authority Rabbi Isaac Alfasi ("Rif")
    2. Maimonides ("Rambam")
    3. and Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel ("Rosh," "Asheri"), the father of the Tur's compiler.

    In cases of disagreement among those three, Caro usually followed the majority position.

    Although some Rabbis initially opposed basing religious law on a summary code, rather than going back to the original legal sources, the Shulhan Arukh rapidly came to be accepted in almost all Jewish communities as the most authoritative statement of normative religious law. In recent generations, acceptance of the Shulhan Arukh has come to be regarded as a defining criterion of religious Orthodoxy and traditionalism.


    Code of Jewish LawType: Code of Law

    The Mappah

    ("Tablecloth")

    Supplementary glosses to the Shulhan Arukh:

    Author

    Rabbi Moses [ben Israel] Isserles (Acronym: ReM"A)

    Dates

    1530 to 1572.

    Place

    Cracow, Poland

    Description

    Simultaneous with Caro's work on the Beit Yosef, Isserles was working on a similar project entitled Darkhei Moshe ("the ways of Moses"), in which he studied and evaluated the rulings of the Tur in comparison with other halakhic authorities.

    Isserles perceived a serious shortcoming in Caro's work, in that it was based almost entirely on Spanish (Sepharadic) authorities. Of the three principal pillars of the Shulhan Arukh, only Asheri had non-Sepharadic roots, having lived most of his life in Germany before moving to Spain. However his legal compendium had been written in the the Spanish spirit.

    Thus it was evident that, in spite of its great virtues, the Shulhan Arukh could not be accepted by Jewish communities in Germany and Poland without some modification. Isserles sought to perform this service with his glosses, in which he supplemented the rulings of Caro's original Shulhan Arukh with material drawn from the laws, interpretations and customs of Franco-German and Polish Jewry.

    All standard printed editions of the Shulhan Arukh include Isserles' notes, embedded in the text (introduced as "Hagahah ["gloss']), but distinguished by its semi-cursive ("Rashi") script. When people refer to the "Shulhan Arukh" they are usually thinking of the combination of Caro's and Isserles' works.


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