Shulchan Aruch

Shulchan Aruch

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Encyclopedia
The Shulchan Aruch also known as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most authoritative legal code of Judaism. It was authored in Safed
Safed
Safed , is a city in the Northern District of Israel. Located at an elevation of , Safed is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high elevation, Safed experiences warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters...

, Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, by Yosef Karo
Yosef Karo
Joseph ben Ephraim Karo, also spelled Yosef Caro, or Qaro, was author of the last great codification of Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch, which is still authoritative for all Jews pertaining to their respective communities...

 in 1563 and published in Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 two years later. Together with its commentaries, it is the most widely accepted compilation of Jewish law ever written.

The halachic rulings in the Shulchan Aruch generally follow Sephardic law and customs whereas Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

 will generally follow the halachic rulings of Moses Isserles
Moses Isserles
Moses Isserles, also spelled Moshe Isserlis, , was an eminent Ashkenazic rabbi, talmudist, and posek, renowned for his fundamental work of Halakha , entitled ha-Mapah , an inline commentary on the Shulkhan Aruch...

 whose glosses to the Shulchan Aruch note where the Sephardic and Ashkenazic customs differ. These glosses are widely referred to as the mappah (literally: the "tablecloth") to the Shulchan Aruch's "Set Table". Almost all published editions of the Shulchan Aruch include this gloss, and the term "Shulchan Aruch" has come to denote both Karo's work as well as Isserlis', with Karo usually referred to as "the mechaber" ("author") and Isserles as "the Rema".

Structure


The Shulchan Aruch (and its forerunner, the Beit Yosef
Beit Yosef (book)
Beit Yosef — also transliterated Beth Yosef — is a book by Rabbi Joseph Caro. It is a long, detailed commentary on the Arba'ah Turim. It served as a precursor to the Shulchan Aruch, which Rabbi Caro wrote later in his life....

) follow the same structure as Arba'ah Turim
Arba'ah Turim
Arba'ah Turim , often called simply the Tur, is an important Halakhic code, composed by Yaakov ben Asher...

by Rabbi Jacob ben Asher
Jacob ben Asher
Jacob ben Asher, also known as Ba'al ha-Turimas well as Rabbi Yaakov ben Raash , was likely born in Cologne, Germany c.1269 and likely died in Toledo, Spain c.1343....

. These books were written from the standpoint of Sephardi Minhag
Minhag
Minhag is an accepted tradition or group of traditions in Judaism. A related concept, Nusach , refers to the traditional order and form of the prayers...

, other works entitled Shulchan Aruch or Kitzur Shulcan Aruch cited below are written from the standpoint of Ashkenazi Minhag. There are four sections, each subdivided into many chapters and paragraphs.
  1. Orach Chayim
    Orach Chayim
    Orach Chayim "manner of life" is a section of Rabbi Jacob ben Asher's compilation of Halakha , Arba'ah Turim. This section treats all aspects of Jewish law primarily pertinent to the Hebrew calendar...

     - laws of prayer
    Jewish services
    Jewish prayer are the prayer recitations that form part of the observance of Judaism. These prayers, often with instructions and commentary, are found in the siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer book....

     and synagogue
    Synagogue
    A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

    , Sabbath
    Shabbat
    Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after when one would expect to be able to see three stars in the sky on Saturday night. The exact times, therefore, differ from...

    , holidays
    Jewish holiday
    Jewish holidays are days observed by Jews as holy or secular commemorations of important events in Jewish history. In Hebrew, Jewish holidays and festivals, depending on their nature, may be called yom tov or chag or ta'anit...

    ;
  2. Yoreh De'ah
    Yoreh De'ah
    Yoreh De'ah is a section of Rabbi Jacob ben Asher's compilation of halakha , Arba'ah Turim around 1300. This section treats all aspects of Jewish law not pertinent to the Hebrew calendar, finance, torts, marriage, divorce, or sexual conduct....

     - laws of kashrut
    Kashrut
    Kashrut is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha is termed kosher in English, from the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the Hebrew term kashér , meaning "fit" Kashrut (also kashruth or kashrus) is the set of Jewish dietary laws. Food in accord with halakha (Jewish law) is termed...

    ; religious conversion
    Conversion to Judaism
    Conversion to Judaism is a formal act undertaken by a non-Jewish person who wishes to be recognised as a full member of the Jewish community. A Jewish conversion is both a religious act and an expression of association with the Jewish people...

    ; Mourning; Laws pertaining to Israel; Laws of family purity
  3. Even Ha'ezer
    Even Ha'ezer
    Even Ha'ezer is a section of Rabbi Jacob ben Asher's compilation of halakha , Arba'ah Turim. This section treats aspects of Jewish law related to marriage, divorce, and sexual conduct. Later, Rabbi Yosef Karo modeled the framework of his own compilation of practical Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch,...

     - laws of marriage
    Jewish view of marriage
    In Judaism, marriage is viewed as a contractual bond commanded by God in which a man and a woman come together to create a relationship in which God is directly involved. Though procreation is not the sole purpose, a Jewish marriage is also expected to fulfill the commandment to have children. The...

    , divorce
    Divorce
    Divorce is the final termination of a marital union, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between the parties...

     and related issues;
  4. Choshen Mishpat
    Choshen Mishpat
    Choshen Mishpat is the Hebrew for "Breastplate of Judgement". The term is associated with one of the four sections of Rabbi Jacob ben Asher's compilation of halakha , Arba'ah Turim. This section treats aspects of Jewish law pertinent to finance, torts, legal procedure and loans and interest in...

     - laws of finance, financial responsibility, damages
    Damages (Jewish law)
    In Jewish law, damages covers a range of jurisprudential topics that roughly correspond in secular law to torts. Jewish law on damages is grounded partly on the Written Torah, the Hebrew Bible, and partly on the Oral Torah, centered primarily in the Mishnaic Order of Nezikin...

     (personal and financial), and the rules of the Bet Din, as well as the laws of witnesses

Its premise and style


The Shulchan Aruch is largely based on an earlier work by Karo, titled Beth Yosef (Hebrew: "House of Joseph"). The latter is a vast and comprehensive commentary on Jacob ben Asher
Jacob ben Asher
Jacob ben Asher, also known as Ba'al ha-Turimas well as Rabbi Yaakov ben Raash , was likely born in Cologne, Germany c.1269 and likely died in Toledo, Spain c.1343....

's (1269–1343) Arba'ah Turim
Arba'ah Turim
Arba'ah Turim , often called simply the Tur, is an important Halakhic code, composed by Yaakov ben Asher...

("Tur"), often citing and analyzing the Talmudic, Geonic, and major subsequent halachic authorities. This work analyzes the theories and conclusions of those authorities cited by the Tur, and also examines the opinions of authorities not mentioned by the latter. Karo began the Beth Yosef in 1522 at Adrianople, finished it in 1542 at Safed
Safed
Safed , is a city in the Northern District of Israel. Located at an elevation of , Safed is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high elevation, Safed experiences warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters...

 in the Land of Israel
Land of Israel
The Land of Israel is the Biblical name for the territory roughly corresponding to the area encompassed by the Southern Levant, also known as Canaan and Palestine, Promised Land and Holy Land. The belief that the area is a God-given homeland of the Jewish people is based on the narrative of the...

; he published it in 1550-59.

Thirty-two authorities, beginning with the Talmud and ending with the works of Rabbi Israel Isserlein
Israel Isserlein
Rabbi Israel Isserlein ben Petachia, also Israel Isserlin, Israel of Neustadt, Israel of Marpurk was a Talmudist, and Halakhist, best known for his Terumat HaDeshen, which served as one source for HaMapah, the component of the Shulkhan Arukh by Moses Isserles.- Biography :Even though...

 (1390–1460 and known as the Terumath ha-Deshen), are summarized and critically discussed in Beth Yosef. No other rabbinical work compares with it in wealth of material. Karo evidences not only an astonishing range of reading, covering almost the entire rabbinic literature
Rabbinic literature
Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of rabbinic writings throughout Jewish history. However, the term often refers specifically to literature from the Talmudic era, as opposed to medieval and modern rabbinic writing, and thus corresponds with the Hebrew term...

 up to his time, but also remarkable powers of critical investigation. He evidences no inclination to simply accept the opinions of ancient authorities, notwithstanding his great respect for them.

In the introduction to his monumental compilation, Karo clearly states the necessity of, and his reasons for undertaking such a work. The expulsion of the Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 from the Iberian peninsula and the invention of printing had endangered the stability of religious observances on their legal and ritual sides. By the 15th century, the Jews in Spain
History of the Jews in Spain
Spanish Jews once constituted one of the largest and most prosperous Jewish communities under Muslim and Christian rule in Spain, before the majority, together with resident Muslims, were forced to convert to Catholicism, be expelled or be killed when Spain became united under the Catholic Monarchs...

 and the Jews of Portugal
History of the Jews in Portugal
The history of the Jews in Portugal reaches back over two thousand years and is directly related to Sephardi history, a Jewish ethnic division that represents communities who have originated in the Iberian Peninsula .-Before Portugal:...

 followed two main traditions: the older tradition of Maimonides, whose school of thought is heir to the Talmudic academies of Babylonia via the scholars of North Africa; and the Ashkenazi school of the Tosafists
Tosafot
The Tosafot or Tosafos are medieval commentaries on the Talmud. They take the form of critical and explanatory glosses, printed, in almost all Talmud editions, on the outer margin and opposite Rashi's notes...

 whose tradition is based on analytical thinking (related to pilpul
Pilpul
Pilpul refers to a method of studying the Talmud through intense textual analysis in attempts to either explain conceptual differences between various halakhic rulings or to reconcile any apparent contradictions presented from various readings of different texts.Pilpul has entered English as a...

), a methodology that was developed in the yeshivot of France and Germany that taught the importance of the minhag
Minhag
Minhag is an accepted tradition or group of traditions in Judaism. A related concept, Nusach , refers to the traditional order and form of the prayers...

im or "customs" of the country. Jews then living in the different kingdoms of Spain had their standard authorities to which they appealed. The most prominent of these were Maimonides
Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

 (Rambam), whose opinions were accepted in Andalusia, Valencia, Israel and the Near East; Nahmanides
Nahmanides
Nahmanides, also known as Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman Girondi, Bonastruc ça Porta and by his acronym Ramban, , was a leading medieval Jewish scholar, Catalan rabbi, philosopher, physician, kabbalist, and biblical commentator.-Name:"Nahmanides" is a Greek-influenced formation meaning "son of Naḥman"...

 and Solomon ben Adret, whose opinions were accepted in Catalonia; and Asher ben Jehiel
Asher ben Jehiel
Asher ben Jehiel- Ashkenazi was an eminent rabbi and Talmudist best known for his abstract of Talmudic law. He is often referred to as Rabbenu Asher, “our Rabbi Asher” or by the Hebrew acronym for this title, the ROSH...

 and his family, of German origin, whose opinions were accepted in Castile. When the Spanish-Portuguese exiles who were followers of Rambam came to the various communities in the East and West, where usages entirely different from those to which they had been accustomed prevailed, the question naturally arose whether the newcomers, some of whom were men of greater learning than the members of the host communities in Europe, should be ruled by the latter, or vice versa. The proliferation of printed books, moreover, dramatically increased the availability of halakhic literature; so that many half-educated persons, finding themselves in possession of legal treatises, felt justified in following any ancient authority at will. Karo undertook his Beth Yosef to remedy this problem, quoting and critically examining in his book the opinions of all the authorities then known.

Although the Shulchan Aruch is largely a codification of the rulings of the Beth Yosef, it includes various rulings that are not mentioned at all in the Beth Yosef, because after completing the Beth Yosef Karo read opinions in books he hadn't seen before, which he then included in the Shulchan Aruch.

The standard authorities


Karo initially intended to rely on his own judgment relating to differences of opinion between the various authorities, especially where he could support his own view based on the Talmud. But he abandoned this idea because, as he wrote:. "Who has the courage to rear his head aloft among mountains, the heights of God
Names of God in Judaism
In Judaism, the name of God is more than a distinguishing title; it represents the Jewish conception of the divine nature, and of the relationship of God to the Jewish people and to the world. To demonstrate the sacredness of the names of God, and as a means of showing respect and reverence for...

?" and also because he may have thought, though he does not mention his conclusion, that he could gain no following if he set up his authority against that of the ancient scholars. Hence Karo adopted the Halakhot of Rabbi Isaac Alfasi
Isaac Alfasi
for other Al-Fasi's see Al-Fasi disambiguationIsaac ben Jacob Alfasi ha-Cohen - also known as the Alfasi or by his Hebrew acronym Rif , was a Talmudist and posek...

 (the Rif), Maimonides
Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

, and Asher ben Jehiel
Asher ben Jehiel
Asher ben Jehiel- Ashkenazi was an eminent rabbi and Talmudist best known for his abstract of Talmudic law. He is often referred to as Rabbenu Asher, “our Rabbi Asher” or by the Hebrew acronym for this title, the ROSH...

 (the Rosh) as his standards, accepting as authoritative the opinion of two of the three, except in cases where most of the ancient authorities were against them or in cases where there was already an accepted custom contrary to his ruling. The net result of these last exceptions is that in a number of cases Karo rules in favour of the Catalonian school of Nahmanides and ben Adret, thus indirectly reflecting Ashkenazi opinions, even against the consensus of Alfasi and Maimonides. Karo very often decides disputed cases without necessarily considering the age and importance of the authority in question, expressing simply his own views. He follows Maimonides' example, as seen in Mishneh Torah
Mishneh Torah
The Mishneh Torah subtitled Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka is a code of Jewish religious law authored by Maimonides , one of history's foremost rabbis...

 (the Yad Hachazakah), rather than that of Jacob ben Asher, who seldom decides between ancient authorities.

Several reasons induced Karo to connect his work with the "Tur", instead of Maimonides' code. In the first place, the "Tur", although not considered as great an authority as Maimonides' code, was much more widely known; the latter being recognized only among the Spanish Jews, while the former enjoyed a high reputation among the Ashkenazim and Sephardim, as well as the Italian Jews. Secondly, it was not Karo's intention to write a code similar in form to Maimonides' work; he intended to give not merely the results of his investigations, but also the investigations themselves. He wished not only to aid the officiating rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

 in the performance of his duties, but also to trace for the student the development of particular laws from the Talmud through later rabbinical literature. Unlike the Tur, Maimonides' code includes all fields of Jewish law, of both present-day relevance and those dealing with prior and future times (such as laws of sacrifices, Messiah, Kings, etc.). For Karo, whose interest lay in ruling on the practical issues, the Tur seemed a better choice.

Parallel Halachic developments


The "Rema" (Moses Isserles
Moses Isserles
Moses Isserles, also spelled Moshe Isserlis, , was an eminent Ashkenazic rabbi, talmudist, and posek, renowned for his fundamental work of Halakha , entitled ha-Mapah , an inline commentary on the Shulkhan Aruch...

) started writing his commentary on the Arba'ah Turim
Arba'ah Turim
Arba'ah Turim , often called simply the Tur, is an important Halakhic code, composed by Yaakov ben Asher...

, Darkhei Moshe, at about the same time as Yosef Karo. Karo finished his work "Bet Yosef" first, and it was first presented to the Rema as a gift from one of his students. Upon receiving the gift, the Rema could not understand how he had spent so many years unaware of Karo's efforts. After looking through the Bet Yosef, the Rema realized that Karo had mainly relied upon Sephardic poskim
Posek
Posek is the term in Jewish law for "decider"—a legal scholar who decides the Halakha in cases of law where previous authorities are inconclusive or in those situations where no halakhic precedent exists....

.

In place of Karo's three standard authorities, Isserles cites "the later authorities" (chiefly based on the works of Yaakov Moelin, Israel Isserlein
Israel Isserlein
Rabbi Israel Isserlein ben Petachia, also Israel Isserlin, Israel of Neustadt, Israel of Marpurk was a Talmudist, and Halakhist, best known for his Terumat HaDeshen, which served as one source for HaMapah, the component of the Shulkhan Arukh by Moses Isserles.- Biography :Even though...

 and Israel Bruna
Israel Bruna
Israel Bruna was a German rabbi and Posek . He is also known as Mahari Bruna, the Hebrew acronym for "Our Teacher, the Rabbi, Israel Bruna". Rabbi Bruna is best known as one of the primary Ashkenazi authorities quoted by Moses Isserles in the Shulkhan Arukh.-Biography:Rabbi Bruna was born in Brno...

, together with the Franco-German Tosafists
Tosafists
Tosafists were medieval rabbis from France and Germany who are among those known in Talmudical scholarship as Rishonim who created critical and explanatory glosses on the Talmud. These were collectively called Tosafot , because they were additions on the commentary of Rashi...

) as criteria of opinion (Darkhei Mosheh to Yoreh De'ah, 35). While the Rosh on many occasions based his decision on these sources, Isserles gave them more prominence in developing practical legal rulings. By incorporating these other opinions, Isserles actually addressed some major criticisms regarding what many viewed as the arbitrary selection of the three authorities upon whose opinions Karo based his work.

After realizing this, the Rema shortened his work, Darkhei Moshe, on Tur focusing only on rulings which differ from Bet Yosef.

The halachic rulings in the Shulchan Aruch generally follow the Sephardic custom. The Rema added his glosses and published them as a comments on the Shulchan Aruch, specifying whenever the Sephardic and Ashkenazic customs differ. These glosses are referred to as the mappah, literally, the 'tablecloth,' to the Shulchan Aruch's 'Set Table.' Almost all published editions of the Shulchan Aruch include this gloss.

The importance of the minhag
Minhag
Minhag is an accepted tradition or group of traditions in Judaism. A related concept, Nusach , refers to the traditional order and form of the prayers...

("prevailing local custom") is also a point of dispute between Karo and Isserles: while Karo held fast to original authorities and material reasons, Isserles considered the minhag as an object of great importance, and not to be omitted in a codex. This point, especially, induced Isserles to write his glosses to the Shulchan Aruch, that the customs (minhagim) of the Ashkenazim might be recognized, and not be set aside through Karo's reputation.

Shulchan Aruch


Karo wrote the Shulchan Aruch in his old age, for the benefit of those who did not possess the education necessary to understand the Beth Yosef. The format of this work parallels that adopted by Jacob ben Asher in his Arba'ah Turim, but more concisely; without citing sources. This book, which for centuries was, and essentially still is, "the code" of Rabbinical Judaism
Rabbinic Judaism
Rabbinic Judaism or Rabbinism has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century CE, after the codification of the Talmud...

 for all ritual and legal questions that arose after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

, has a remarkable history. The author himself had no very high opinion of the work, remarking that he had written it chiefly for "young students" (Shulchan Aruch, Introduction). He never refers to it in his responsa
Responsa
Responsa comprise a body of written decisions and rulings given by legal scholars in response to questions addressed to them.-In the Roman Empire:Roman law recognised responsa prudentium, i.e...

, but always to the Beth Yosef. The Shulchan Aruch achieved its reputation and popularity not only against the wishes of the author, but, perhaps, through the very scholars who criticized it.

The history of the Shulchan Aruch is, in a way, identical with the history of rabbinical literature of the Jews in Poland
History of the Jews in Poland
The history of the Jews in Poland dates back over a millennium. For centuries, Poland was home to the largest and most significant Jewish community in the world. Poland was the centre of Jewish culture thanks to a long period of statutory religious tolerance and social autonomy. This ended with the...

 for a period of two centuries. Recognition or denial of Karo's authority lay entirely with the Polish Talmudists. German Jewish
History of the Jews in Germany
The presence of Jews in Germany has been established since the early 4th century. The community prospered under Charlemagne, but suffered during the Crusades...

 authorities had been forced to give way to Polish ones as early as the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Karo had already been opposed by several Sephardic contemporaries, Yom-Tob Zahalon, who designated the Shulchan Aruch as a book for "children and ignoramuses" (in his responsa, no. 67, beginning), and Jacob Castro, whose work Erekh ha-Shulchan consists of critical glosses to the Shulchan Aruch. Moses Isserles
Moses Isserles
Moses Isserles, also spelled Moshe Isserlis, , was an eminent Ashkenazic rabbi, talmudist, and posek, renowned for his fundamental work of Halakha , entitled ha-Mapah , an inline commentary on the Shulkhan Aruch...

 and Solomon Luria - the Maharshal, were Karo's first important adversaries in Eastern Europe.

Further in response to those who wished to force the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch upon those communities following Rambam, Karo wrote:
"Who is he whose heart conspires to approach forcing congregations who practice according to the RaMBaM [Maimonides] of blessed memory, to go by any one of the early or latter-day Torah authorities?! ... Is it not a case of a fortiori, that regarding the School of Shammai
House of Shammai
The House of Shammai was the school of thought of Judaism founded by Shammai, a Jewish scholar of the 1st century...

 — that the halakhah does not go according to them—they [the Talmudic Sages] said 'if [one practices] like the School of Shammai [he may do so, but] according to their leniencies and their stringencies': The RaMBaM, is the greatest of all the Torah authorities, and all the communities of the Land of Israel and the Arab-controlled lands and the West [North Africa] practice according to his word, and accepted him upon themselves as their Chief Rabbi. Whoever practices according to him with his leniencies and his stringencies, why coerce them to budge from him? And all the more so if also their fathers and forefathers practiced accordingly: for their children are not to turn right or left from the RaMBaM of blessed memory. And even if communities that practice according to the Rosh
Asher ben Jehiel
Asher ben Jehiel- Ashkenazi was an eminent rabbi and Talmudist best known for his abstract of Talmudic law. He is often referred to as Rabbenu Asher, “our Rabbi Asher” or by the Hebrew acronym for this title, the ROSH...

 or other authorities like him became the majority, they cannot coerce the minority of congregations practicing according to the RaMBaM of blessed memory, to practice like they do. And there is no issue here concerning the prohibition against having two courts in the same city ['lo tithgodedu'’], since every congregation should practice according to its original custom…” Similarly, many later halachic authorities predicated the acceptance of the authority of the Shulchan Aruch on the lack of an existing and widely accepted custom to the contrary.

Eventually though, the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch became the accepted standard not only in Europe and the diaspora, but even in the land of Israel where they had previously followed other authorities.

Page layout


Since the 17th century, the Shulchan Aruch has been printed with Isserles' annotations in small print interspersed with Karo's text. As commentaries on the work proliferated, more sophisticated printing styles became required, similar to those of the Talmud.

References are given in two ways; those to the Shulchan Aruch are found in the later work Be'er ha-Golah, and those to Isserles' work are in brackets after the latter's comments. There is disagreement on the authorship of the references to Isserles' remarks, as they are occasionally incorrect.

Criticism by Karo's contemporaries


Following its initial appearance, many rabbis criticised the appearance of this latest code of Jewish law, echoing similar criticisms of previous codes of law.

Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel


Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel
Judah Loew ben Bezalel
Judah Loew ben Bezalel, alt. Loewe, Löwe, or Levai, widely known to scholars of Judaism as the Maharal of Prague, or simply The MaHaRaL, the Hebrew acronym of "Moreinu ha-Rav Loew," was an important Talmudic scholar, Jewish mystic, and philosopher who served as a leading rabbi in the city of...

 (1520–1609), known as the "Maharal", (1520–1609) writes in Netivoth Olam:

Rabbi Shmuel Eidels


Rabbi Shmuel Eidels
Samuel Eidels
Samuel Eidels , was a renowned rabbi and Talmudist famous for his commentary on the Talmud, Chiddushei Halachot. Eidels is also known as Maharsha .-Biography:The Maharsha was born in Kraków, Poland...

 (1555–1631), known as the "Maharsha", criticizes those who rule directly from the Shulchan Aruch without being fully conversant with the Talmudic source(s) of the ruling. He writes that "In these generations, those who rule from the Shulchan Aruch without knowing the reasoning and Talmudic basis..... are among the 'destroyers of the world' and should be protested"

Rabbi Yoel Sirkis


Another prominent critic of the Shulchan Aruch was Rabbi Yoel Sirkis
Yoel Sirkis
Joel ben Samuel Sirkis also known as the Bach - an abbreviation of his magnum opus, Bayit Chadash - was a prominent Jewish posek and halakhist. He lived in central Europe and held rabbinical positions in Belz, Brest-Litovsk and Kraków from 1561-1640.-Biography:Sirkis was born in Lublin in 1561...

 (1561–1640), author of a commentary to the Arba'ah Turim titled Bayith Chadash, commonly abbreviated as Bach, and Rabbi Meir ben Gedaliah. He wrote that "It is impossible to rule (in most cases) based on the Shulchan Aruch, as almost all his words lack accompanying explanations, particularly (when writing about) monetary law. Besides this, we see that many legal doubts arise daily, and are mostly the subject of scholarly debate, necessitating vast wisdom and proficiency to arrive at a sufficiently sourced ruling....".

Other criticisms


The strongest criticism against all such codes of Jewish law is the contention that they inherently violate the principle that halakha must be decided according to the later sages; this principle is commonly known as hilkheta ke-vatra'ei ("the halakha follows the later ones").

A modern commentator, Rabbi Menachem Elon
Menachem Elon
Menachem Elon , an Israeli jurist, who served as a justice on the Israeli Supreme Court and its Deputy President ....

 explains:

The controversy itself may explain why the Shulchan Aruch became an authoritative code, despite significant opposition, and even against the will of its author, while Maimonides
Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

' (1135–1204) Mishneh Torah
Mishneh Torah
The Mishneh Torah subtitled Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka is a code of Jewish religious law authored by Maimonides , one of history's foremost rabbis...

 rulings were not necessarily accepted as binding among the Franco-German Jews, perhaps owing to Abraham ben David's
Abraham ibn Daud
Abraham ibn Daud was a Spanish-Jewish astronomer, historian, and philosopher; born at Toledo, Spain about 1110; died, according to common report, a martyr about 1180. He is sometimes known by the abbreviation Rabad I or Ravad I. His mother belonged to a family famed for its learning...

 (1110–1180) (known as the "Ravad") criticism and influence. The answer may lie in the fact that the criticism by Ravad undermined confidence in Maimonides' work, while Isserles (who actually corresponded with Karo) does not simply criticize, but supplements Karo's work extensively, with the result that the Ashkenazim then accepted the Shulchan Aruch, assuming that together with Isserles' glosses it was a reliable authority. This then became broadly accepted among Jewish communities around the world as the binding Jewish legal code.

Major Commentaries


A large body of commentaries have appeared on the Shulchan Aruch, beginning soon after its publication . The first major gloss, 'Hagahot' by "Rema" (Moses Isserles
Moses Isserles
Moses Isserles, also spelled Moshe Isserlis, , was an eminent Ashkenazic rabbi, talmudist, and posek, renowned for his fundamental work of Halakha , entitled ha-Mapah , an inline commentary on the Shulkhan Aruch...

) was published shortly after the Shulchan Aruch appeared. Isserles' student, Rabbi Yehoshua Falk HaKohen published Sefer Me'irath Enayim (on Choshen Mishpat, abbreviated as Sema) several decades after the main work. Important works by the later authorities (acharonim
Acharonim
Acharonim is a term used in Jewish law and history, to signify the leading rabbis and poskim living from roughly the 16th century to the present....

) include:
  • Magen Avraham ("Abraham's shield") by Rabbi Avraham Gombiner
    Avraham Gombiner
    Abraham Abele Gombiner , known as the Magen Avraham, born in Gąbin , Poland, was a rabbi, Talmudist and a leading religious authority in the Jewish community of Kalish, Poland during the seventeenth century. His full name is Avraham Avli ben Chaim HaLevi from the town of Gombin...

     (on Orach Chayim)
  • Turei Zahav ("Rows of Gold", abbreviated as Taz) by Rabbi David HaLevi Segal
    David HaLevi Segal
    David ha-Levi Segal , also known as the Turei Zahav after the title of his significant halakhic commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, was one of the greatest Polish rabbinical authorities....

     (on Orach Chayim, Yorei Deah and Even ha-Ezer)
  • Sifthei Kohen ("The Lips of the Kohen", abbreviated as Shach) by Rabbi Shabbatai ha-Kohen
    Shabbatai ha-Kohen
    Shabbatai ben Meir ha-Kohen was a noted 17th Century talmudist and halakhist. He became known as the Shakh, which is an abbreviation of his most important work, Siftei Kohen , and his rulings were considered authoritative by later halakhists.- Biography :Shabbatai ha-Kohen was born either in ...

     (on Yorei Deah and Choshen Mishpat)
  • Beth Shmuel and Chelkath Mechokek (on Even ha-Ezer)
  • Machatzit HaShekel ("The collection of a yearly coin for the purpose of a census in ancient Israel") by Rabbi Samuel Neta HaLevi.


While these major commentaries enjoy widespread acceptance, some early editions of the Shulchan Aruch were self-published (primarily in the late 17th and early 18th centuries) with commentaries by various rabbis, although these commentaries never achieved significant recognition.
A wealth of later works include commentary and exposition by such halachic authorities as the Ketzoth ha-Choshen and Avnei Millu'im, Netivoth ha-Mishpat, the Vilna Gaon
Vilna Gaon
Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman Kramer, known as the Vilna Gaon or Elijah of Vilna and simply by his Hebrew acronym Gra or Elijah Ben Solomon, , was a Talmudist, halachist, kabbalist, and the foremost leader of non-hasidic Jewry of the past few centuries...

, Rabbi Yechezkel Landau
Yechezkel Landau
Yechezkel ben Yehuda Landau was an influential authority in halakha . He is best known for the work Noda Biyhudah , by which title he is also known.-Biography:...

 (Dagul Mervavah), Rabbis Akiva Eger
Akiva Eger
Rabbi Akiva Eger, or Akiva Güns, , was an outstanding Talmudic scholar, influential halakhic decisor and foremost leader of European Jewry during the early 19th century....

, Moses Sofer
Moses Sofer
Moses Schreiber, known to his own community and Jewish posterity as Moshe Sofer, also known by his main work Chasam Sofer, , , was one of the leading Orthodox rabbis of European Jewry in the first half of the nineteenth century...

, and Chaim Joseph David Azulai
Chaim Joseph David Azulai
Chaim Joseph David Azulai ben Isaac Zerachia , commonly known as the Chida , was a Jerusalem born rabbinical scholar, a noted bibliophile, and a pioneer in the publication of Jewish religious writings.- Biography :Azulai was born in Jerusalem, where he received his education...

 (Birkei Yosef) whose works are widely recognized and cited extensively in later halachic literature.

Later collations


In the late 18th century, there were several attempts to recompile the major halakhic opinions into a simpler, more accessible form.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi
Shneur Zalman of Liadi
Shneur Zalman of Liadi , also known as the Baal HaTanya, , was an Orthodox Rabbi, and the founder and first Rebbe of Chabad, a branch of Hasidic Judaism, then based in Liadi, Imperial Russia...

 wrote a Shulchan Aruch
Shulchan Aruch HaRav
The Shulchan Aruch HaRav is a codification of halakha by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, known during his lifetime as HaRav...

at the behest of the Hasidic leader, Rabbi Dovber of Mezeritch
Dovber of Mezeritch
Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch was a disciple of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism, and was chosen as his successor to lead the early movement...

. To distinguish this work from Karo's, it is generally referred to as Shulchan Arukh Harav. Rabbi Abraham Danzig  was the first in the Lithuanian Jewish community to attempt a summary of the opinions in the abovementioned works in his Chayei Adam
Chayei Adam
Chayei Adam is a work of Jewish law by Rabbi Avraham Danzig , dealing with the laws discussed in the Orach Chayim section of the Shulchan Aruch...

and Chochmath Adam. Similar works are Ba'er Heitev and Sha'arei Teshuvah/Pitchei Teshuvah (usually published as commentaries in most editions of the Shulchan Aruch as well as Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
Kitzur Shulchan Aruch may refer to:#The famous work of that name by Shlomo Ganzfried#A similar Sephardi work entitled "Kitzur Shulchan Aruch" by Rabbi Raphael Baruch Toledano....

(by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried
Shlomo Ganzfried
Shlomo Ganzfried was an Orthodox rabbi and posek best known as author of the work of Halakha , the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch , by which title he is also known.- Biography :Ganzfried was born in the year 1804 in Uzhhorod in the Carpathian region of the...

 of Hungary). Danzig's and Ganzfried's works do not follow the structure of the Shulchan Aruch, but given their single-voiced approach, are considered easier to follow for those with less background in halacha.

The Mishna Berura, the main work of halakha by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan
Yisrael Meir Kagan
Yisrael Meir Poupko , known popularly as The Chofetz Chaim, was an influential Eastern European rabbi, Halakhist, posek, and ethicist whose works continue to be widely influential in Jewish life...

 (the "Chafetz Chaim") is a collation of the opinions of later authorities
Acharonim
Acharonim is a term used in Jewish law and history, to signify the leading rabbis and poskim living from roughly the 16th century to the present....

 on the Orach Chayim section of the Shulchan Aruch. Aruch HaShulchan
Aruch HaShulchan
Aruch HaShulchan is a chapter-by-chapter restatement of the Shulchan Arukh...

, by Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein
Yechiel Michel Epstein
Yechiel Michel Epstein , often called "the Aruch ha-Shulchan" , was a Rabbi and posek in Lithuania...

, is a more analytical work attempting the same task from a different angle, and covering all sections of the Shulchan Aruch. The former, though narrower in scope, enjoys much wider popularity and is considered authoritative by many adherents of Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

, especially among those typically associated with Ashkenazic yeshiva
Yeshiva
Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

s
. The Ben Ish Chai
Ben Ish Chai
Yosef Chaim or in Iraqi Hebrew Yoseph Ḥayyim was a leading hakham , authority on Jewish law and Master Kabbalist...

, Kaf Ha'Chaim, and much more recently, the Yalkut Yosef
Yalkut Yosef
Yalkut Yosef is an authoritative, contemporary work of Halakha, providing a detailed explanation of the Shulchan Aruch as based on the halachic rulings of the former Rishon LeTzion Rav Ovadia Yosef...

 are similar works by Sephardic Rabbis for their communities.

Halacha Yomit


Sections of the Shulchan Aruch are studied in many Jewish schools throughout the world on a daily basis. There is also a daily study program known as the Halacha Yomit .

Articles


Study resources