Page 64 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
58
permitted and prohibited food and other laws relating to subjects
pertaining to the home, like the laws of circumcision, honoring
parents, charity, mourning for the dead, etc. (Yoreh Deah). But
even this book fell short of being a code because of its style.
It quotes sources in their own language and offers a variety of
opinions on controversial matters and at times even includes
aggadic material (see R. Joel Sirkes in his commentary to the
Tur
who points out such aggadic instances in the opening
paragraph to the laws of
Sukkah
and to the beginning ot Eben
haEzer). Thus, from the point of view of both form and content,
it falls more into the category of textbooks of law than of a code.
The Jewish code
kat’ exochen
is the
Shulhan Arukh.
Although
the introduction to its first edition, which appeared during the
lifetime of its author in 1565, states that the book is intended
for students who should study it in monthly installments, and
as a matter of fact it was for this reason divided into thirty parts
corresponding to the thirty days of the month, it is in reality
intended—at least in the parts dealing with civil and family
laws—to be used in a courtroom. One must bear in mind, how-
ever, that from a Jewish point of view all laws are meant to be
read, chewed and digested by all, so that they can direct their
behavior accordingly. The very name Shulhan Arukh (a set
table) is taken from the Tannaitic comment on the Biblical
phrase: “These are the laws which you shall set before them
(Exod.21:l)—as a table set and ready to eat” (Mekhilta ad. loc.).
The historian Josephus in his book
Contra Apionem
(11,16)
already compared the attitude of the Jew to his written codes
with that of the non-Jews of his time and wrote that while the
average non-Jew is not expected to understand the law, though
he is presumed to know it, the ordinary Jew is expected to be
more acquainted with the law than he is with his own name.
The Magnum Opus of Joseph Karo
Joseph Karo, who wrote his magnum opus
Bet Joseph
(the
House of Joseph) as a commentary to the code of R. Jacob b.
Asher, author of the Turim, followed in his
Shulhan Arukh
the
order established by R. Jacob. In style, however, wherever pos-
sible he followed Maimonides rather than the author of Turim .
Since the Mishnah was his celestial mentor and guide which he
continued to study until he knew it by heart, it is quite obvious
why he preferred the mishnaic Hebrew of Maimonides to the
rabbinic jargon of the Tur. In an entry to the
Magid Mishneh,
p. 65a (On the attribution of this book to R. Joseph Karo, see
R. J. Zwi Werblowsky,
Joseph Karo: Lawyer and Mystic,
Oxford
University Press, 1962), we read: