Type: Commentary

  • Commentaries on the Shulhan 'Arukh's "Outer" Side
  • The "outer" side (i.e., the side nearest to the edge of the paper, farthest from the binding) of the printed Shulhan Arukh editions will contain one of the following:
    1. To "'Orah Hayyim": Magen Avraham
    2. To "Yoreh De'ah": Siftei Kohen
    3. To "Hoshen Mishpat": Siftei Kohen
    4. To "Even Ha-'Ezer": Beit Sh'muel

    Magen Avraham

    This detailed explanatory and critical commentary to 'Orah Hayyim was composed by Rabbi Abraham "Abeleh" Gombiner of Kalisz, Poland (c. 1637-1683). The title means "Shield of Abraham," a phrase taken from the Jewish liturgy.

    Gombiner utilized his extensive erudition in order to attempt a harmonization between the rulings of Caro and Isserles, though generally preferring the latter when no compromise was possible. His approach was remarkable for its insistance upon the preservation of religious custom, and for its reliance upon Kabbalistic traditions (a policy not normally followed in works on Jewish law).

    Siftei Kohen

    The author of this commentary to Yoreh De'ah and Hoshen Mishpat was Rabbi Shabbetai Kohen (1621-62) who was originally from Vilna, but was forced to flee to Moravia in the wake of the terrible Chmielnicki massacres of 1648-56.

    The title is taken from Malachi 2:7: "for the priest's lips should keep knowledge and they should seek the law at his mouth" and alludes to the author's status as a "Kohen," i.e., his descent from the Hebrew priesthood.

    The "ShaKh" (the acronym by which he is generally known) provides extensive discussions and interpretations of the Shulhan 'Arukh and its sources, paying particular attention to the responsa literature and to works that were not utilized by Caro. He made use of the "Me'irat 'Einayim" commentary by Rabbi Joshua Falk, which he often supplements with his own explanations. He also maintained an intense exchange with Rabbi David Hallevi on their many disputed rulings.

    Beit Sh'muel

    This commentary to 'Even Ha-"Ezer was written by Rabbi Samuel ben Uri Shraga Faibesh, a seventeenth-century Polish scholar who served in several communities in Poland and Germany, especially in Fürth.

    His commentary is distinguished by its clear style and its independance of opinion; he frequently finds himself in disagreement with the decisions of Caro, Isserles and Rabbi Moses Lima's "Helkat Mehokek", making allowances for the fact that the latter had not lived to complete or polish his commentary.

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