The Shulhan Arukh: Who wrote the book
In this course with Rabbi David Sedley we will discover who wrote the Shulhan Arukh and its commentaries. We will explore the history of the authors and the contexts in which the texts were composed and compiled.
The Shulhan Arukh: Who wrote the book: Lesson 1
THE SHULHAN ARUKH: BEIT YOSEF AND KESEF MISHNE: This is the first class of a brand new series. In this series we will look at the Shulhan Arukh, its author, its purpose, and its commentaries. We begin tonight with a discussion of the purpose of the Shulhan Arukh and how it was written and organised. We will look at a page of Shulhan Arukh (in several different formats), and compare it with two other earlier works of Rav Yosef Karo, the Beit Yosef and Kesef Mishne. We will discuss why there was a need for a new book of halakha in the middle of the 16th century. Next week we will continue to discuss a more detailed biography of Rav Yosef Karo and discuss his other works.
The Shulhan Arukh: Who wrote the book: Lesson 2
THE SHULHAN ARUKH: MESSIANISM AND MARTYRDOM: In this shiur we will look at the influence of the Expulsion from Spain, and the messianic fervour this aroused, on Rav Yosef Karo, author of the Shulhan Arukh. He was heavily influenced by Shlomo Molcho, a former “New Christian” who converted to Judaism and became a mystic who heralded the coming of the Messiah. Many people living in the wake of the Expulsion were convinced that the Messianic era was just around the corner. With that goal in mind, the Rabbis of Tzfat sought to reestablish the Sanhedrin, beginning by reintroducing authentic semicha. This caused huge controversy, and in the end only three Rabbis, including Rav Yosef Karo, received semicha. Tzfat was also the home of kabbalah. We will look at the influence of the Zohar on the halakhic decisions of Rav Yosef Karo. In addition we will try to understand the meaning of the angel who came to learn with Rav Yosef Karo, and whose teachings were recorded in the book “Magid Meisharim.” In there Rav Karo writes that the angel promises him that he will die a martyrs death by being burned alive, just as his hero, Rav Shlomo Molcho
The Shulhan Arukh: Who wrote the book: Lesson 3
THE SHULHAN ARUKH: RAV MOSHE ISSERLES: “From Moshe to Moshe there was none like Moshe”. This is the inscription on the tombstone of Rav Moshe Isserles, better known as the Rema, who wrote notes on the Shulhan Arukh which have been printed along with the text of Rav Yosef Karo in every edition of the Shulhan Arukh since 1578. In this shiur we will try to understand Rav Moshe Isserles’s approach to halakha and how it differed from that of Rav Yosef Karo. We will learn the Rema’s introduction to Darkhei Moshe in which he explains his purpose in writing it, and what happened when he found that Rav Yosef Karo had already written a similar book. We will look briefly at some of his contemporaries who studied with him in Yeshiva – Solomon Luria (Maharshal) and Chayyim b. Bezalel, an older brother of the Maharal. We will try to understand Rav Isserles’s approach to kabbalah, and how (whether) it differs from that of Rav Yosef Karo. And we will look at his approach to science and his commentary on Peuerbach’s Theoricae Novae Planetarum, and some of his comments about science in his book Torat HaOlah, and put them in the context of 16th-century European science.
The Shulhan Arukh: Who wrote the book: Lesson 4
THE SHULHAN ARUKH: RAV YEHOSHUA FALK KATZ: We now begin to look at the authors of the commentaries on the Shulhan Arukh. The earliest of the major commentators is Rav Yehoshua Falk (Katz). He was a student of both Rav Moshe Isserles and Rav Shlomo Luria (Yam Shel Shlomo). His own students included the authors of the Shelah, Meginei Shlomo, Be’er Sheva as well as the father of the Shach. Rav Yehoshua (not to be confused with Yaakov Yehoshua Falk, who was the author of Pnei Yehoshua) wrote two commentaries on the Tur, entitled Perisha and Derisha. He wrote a commentary on the Sefer Meir Einayim on the Choshen Mishpat section of Shulhan Arukh. In this shiur we will look at some of his writings, as well as a brief overview of the writings of his students.
The Shulhan Arukh: Who wrote the book: Lesson 5
THE SHULHAN ARUKH: RAV DAVID HA-LEVI SEGAL (TAZ): This shiur is about the only one of the major commentators to write on all four sections of Shulhan Arukh. The Taz (David ha-Levi Segal) was the son-in-law of Rav Yoel Sirkis (Bach). He often cites his father-in-law in his commentary. In addition to his commentary on Shulhan Arukh the TaZ wrote a supercommentary on Rashi’s commentary on Chumash. He was forced to flee from his home, and was nearly killed, during the Chmielnicky massacres. He sent a delegation (his son and step-son) to Galipoli to investigate Shabbatai Tzvi and his claims to be the Messiah. The emissaries returned with gifts from the “messiah” to Rabbi David, along with a letter promising imminent redemption. In this shiur we will also look at some of the comments of the Taz to Shulhan Arukh, and some where he cites and disagrees with his father-in-law.
The Shulhan Arukh: Who wrote the book: Lesson 6
THE SHULHAN ARUKH: BEER HAGOLAH: The topic of this shiur is Rav Moshe Rivkash ( though there are many different ways of spelling his name, both in English and in Hebrew – his last name is because his mother was named Rivkah). Rav Moshe is best known as the author of the Be’er HaGolah commentary on Shulhan Arukh. This commentary brings the sources for the halakhot in Shulhan Arukh and Rema, and in this way saves the book from the criticisms which were levelled against Rambam, that he did not connect his book to the sources in the Talmud. Be’er HaGolah is in a sense the most “successful” of all the commentaries, because even those books (e.g. Mishneh Berura) which do not include the other major commentaries nevertheless include the Be’er HaGolah. His commentary (Explanation of the Exiled) is perhaps due to the fact that he wrote it while in Amsterdam, having fled from Poland due to the Chmielnicki Massacres. We will try to learn a bit about his life, and look at some of his halakhic rulings.
The Shulhan Arukh: Who wrote the book: Lesson 7
THE SHULHAN ARUKH: R’ SHABBATAI KATZ (SHACH): In this shiur we will look at the short, tragic, yet brilliant life and works of the Shach. His father was a student of R’ Yehoshua Falk, and R’ Shabbatai’s first teacher, the Shach (as he is better known, after the initials of his most famous book) went on to write Siftei Cohen commentary on Shulhan Arukh. This was published in 1646, the same year that R’ David Segal wrote his commentary, the Turei Zahav (TaZ). Subsequently the Shach wrote a critique of the TaZ, entitled Nekudat HaKesef. The Shach was forced to flee from his home during the Chmielnicki massacres, and declared 20 Sivan as a fast day to commemorate the tragedies. He wrote kinot (lamentations) in commemoration of these tragedies. He died at a very young age, yet was a prolific and influential author and posek.
The Shulhan Arukh: Who wrote the book: Lesson 8
THE SHULHAN ARUKH: MOSHE LIMA, CHELKAT MECHOKEK: Rabbi Moshe Lima was a contemporary of the Shach (who we spoke about in last week’s shiur). He was the author of a commentary on the Even HaEzer section of Shulhan Arukh (though he passed away before he as able to complete his commentary on the entire volume). Very little information is known about this Rabbi, so in this shiur we will focus more on some of the interesting (and relevant) rulings of his, with regard to marriage, divorce, hair-covering and IVF.
The Shulhan Arukh: Who wrote the book: Lesson 9
THE SHULHAN ARUKH: SAMUEL BEN URI SHRAGA PHOEBUS: (BEIT SHMUEL): Samuel ben Uri Shraga Phoebus wrote a commentary on Even HaEzer entitled Beit Shmuel. That is just about all I have been able to find out about him. His father’s name (Phoebus) is interesting, because it doesn’t sound Jewish. Let’s find out where that name may have come from. The first edition of the Shulhan Arukh with Beit Shmuel commentary was printed by Shabbatai Bass, author of Siftei Chachamim super-commentary on Rashi. We will have a brief look at him and his life. And then we will look at some halakhot and rulings of the Beit Shmuel.
The Shulhan Arukh: Who wrote the book: Lesson 10
THE SHULHAN ARUKH: AVRAHAM GOMBINER (MAGEN AVRAHAM): Tonight’s shiur is about Rabbi Avraham Abele Gombiner, author of the commentary Magen Avraham on Shulhan Arukh Orach Chayim. Rabbi Gombiner lived much later than the others we have spoken about in this series (though he still did not live long enough to see his work published). Yet he merited to have his commentary published with virtually every edition of the Shulhan Arukh. In addition, the Magen Avraham is a major source for later halakhic works such as Shulhan Arukh HaRav (from the Baal HaTanya) and also for the Mishna Brura. Interestingly, Magen Avraham is the first major commentary to introduce many kabbalistic practices to Ashkenazi Judaism. He writes that where there is no dispute between the Talmud and the Zohar (or where the Talmud is silent on the topic) one should follow the Zohar. In addition to his commentary on Shulhan Arukh, Rabbi Gombiner also wrote: Zayit Ra’anan (a commentary on Midrash Yalkut Shimoni) Lehem HaPanim (a commentary on Tosefta) and Shemen Sasson (a commentary on Chumash, of which most has been lost) We will look at some of Magen Avraham’s interesting rulings such as ascending the Temple Mount, using an Eruv on Shabbat, and using grape juice for Kiddush. This is the final shiur in this series.We have now covered all of the commentaries printed on either side of the Shulhan Arukh (in addition to the Be’er HaGolah who is printed in the top corner).
Rabbi David Sedley lives in Jerusalem with his wife and six children. He was born and raised in New Zealand before making Aliya in 1992. He left Israel temporarily (for eight years) to serve as a communal Rabbi in Scotland and England and returned to Israel in 2004. He has translated Rabbeinu Yonah's commentary on Pirkei Avos and is the co-author of Sefiros: Spiritual Refinement Through Counting the Omer (both Judaica Press). Over the years Rabbi Sedley has worked as a journalist, a translator, a video director and in online reputation management. He also writes a weekly Torah blog on the Times of Israel.