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Rabbi Yosef Karo Publishes The Shulchan Aruch, 1556

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

On This Day in Jewish History: August 19th, 1556

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#onthisday, August 19th, 1556 - the Shulchan Aruch—the Code of Jewish Law— was published in Venice, Italy by R' Yosef Karo.

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One of the central works of Judaism, the text is a distillation of the complex laws and interpretations of the Talmud and general Jewish Law (Halacha) found in the Torah.

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The Shulchan Aruch or “Set Table,” was authored by the medieval sage Yosef Karo (pictured here). The name is meant to represent that the "table of laws is set" for the readers to "easily consume."

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Rav Yosef Karo, a Sephardic Jew, was four years old when the Jews were expelled from Spain and then, five years later, from Portugal.

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How were Sephardic Jews to live in exile?

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Karo’s text was produced as a guide and served as a vehicle by which to make his more rigorous Beit Yosef accessible to a greater number of people.

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This compendium of Jewish Law became authoritative when combined with the work of Moshe Isserles of Cracow in the 1570s. Isserels added the Mappah or “Tablecloth,” essentially notes or a gloss on Karo’s work, establishing the same Halachic rules as they applied to Ashkenazic Jews.

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The Shulchan Aruch is divided into four parts and cover such subjects as prayer, holidays, the rules of kashrut, conversion and mourning, laws of marriage and divorce and finally, laws addressing finance and rules for the beit din or rabbinical court.

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After expulsion, Karo travelled with his family through the Ottoman Empire, arriving around 1535 in the Holy Land and settling near Tzfat where he is buried today.

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The village would become associated with several of the monumental events in Jewish history. There, Moses Cordovero authored what is considered the definitive commentary on the Zohar, the foundational text of Kabbala. It was also home to Rabbi Isaac Luria, the most influential force behind the emergence of medieval Jewish mysticism.

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In our own time, the Shulchan Aruch remains a living text, at the center of study, legal interpretation and personal conduct.

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Text Source: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-shulkhan-arukh

Image Source: Public Domain

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