Page 65 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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5 9
— J
ew ish
I am the Mishnah speaking in thy mouth, kissing thee with
kisses of love and embracing thee, for it is in the shadow
of my wings that thou restest thy head. My glory is on thee
and thy glory is on me, my splendor is on thee and thy
splendor is on me. I shall not forget thee and thou wilt not
forget me, neither in this world nor in the world to come.
The first Jewish compilatory code, the Mishnah, which was
written in the third century, in Tiberias, capital of the Lower
Galilee, was continued and brought up to-date in the 16th cen-
tury at Safed, capital of Upper Galilee, by including all post
mishnaic decisions and rulings and by excluding all matters not
applicable at the time of the
Shulhan Arukh.
The reasons given
for the need to write the
are the same as those given
by the author of the
Shulhan Arukh
for writing his code. In his
words: “The Torah is now not like two Torahs [a reference to
the phrase used by the scholars of Jabneh for the necessity to
organize the Mishnah] but rather like many Torahs because
of the numerous books explaining the rules and ordinances—
everyone writes a book for himself, repeating what someone
has written before or ruling the opposite of what his colleagues
have written.”
Graetz sees in the
Shulhan Arukh
a Judaism far removed from
Sinai. As he put it:
Alle Fragen moegliche und unmoegliche, die irgendwo auf-
gerorffen wurden, sind in Karos Kodex beruecksightigt,
auseinandergesetzt und ausgesponnen. Kurz, es erscheint
darin ein ganz anderes Judentum als das welches an Sinai
offenbart, von den Propheten verkuendet und selbst von
Maimuni gelehrt wurde.
He failed to realize that between the Sinaitic code and the
Shulhan Arukh
came the mishnaic code which is after all nothing
but the oral law, also Sinaitic in origin. The
Shulhan Arukh
could not but codify what the Mishnah did, and add all the deci-
sions, ordinances and rules taken and enacted up to that time.
And as for the casuistic style of the
Shulhan Arukh,
it is certainly
no deviation from the style of the earliest codes in the Torah
as well as in the Mishnah.
Many factors contributed to the acceptance of the
Jewish code. One of them is undoubtedly a table-
cloth spread over it by R. Moshe Isserles. Paradoxical as it
may sound, he who differed with the author of the
in many of his decisions and who thereby seemed to
undermine his authority, came to be considered a supplement
and strengthening force to it. It is true that from a literary point