Page 152 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
and, on the other, “an unsightly growth of fungus, the moldy
coating of the Kabbalah,” was the Jewish historian Heinrich
Graetz (1817-1891), whose opinions have crept into most subse­
quent presentations of Jewish history.1.
As the modern branches ofJudaism formulated their own ide­
ological positions toward Jewish law, specific attitudes concern­
ing Caro and the
Shulhan Arukh
became standard for each accord­
ing to its ideology. The following quotations by leaders of each
movement are representative of the dogmatic attitudes which
have affected the image of Caro in Jewish public opinion and in
Jewish historiography.
Representing the traditionalists’ point of view are the words of
Moses Isserles (c. 1525-1572) and Menahem Krochmal (c.
1600-1661):
He who opposes him is as if he would oppose the Shekhinah.2
Since Caro’s
Beit Yosef
and
Shulhan Arukh
and Isserles’ notes on
the latter have appeared and been distributed throughout Israel,
we must follow them alone.3
Typical of the attitude of early Reform rabbis are the state­
ments of Nehemiah Bruell (1843-1891), speaking at a rabbinic
Synod in 1871, and of David Philipson (1862-1949), a historian of
the movement writing at the turn of the century:
We regret that the fluid word of the Talmud codified in the
Shulhan Arukh
has become petrified. . . . I move that we shoud
declare openly that the
Shulhan Arukh
has no significance for us as a
religious code, since the views written down in the
Shulhan Arukh
never were our theological conviction, and never should be such.4
The period from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, the era
o f ghettoism, is coincident with the exclusion o f the Jew from all
sympathetic concern with the culture of the world. His intellectual
outlook was bounded by the Talmud and its dependent disci­
plines. His
Weltanschauung
was restricted by the narrowing influ­
1 Heinrich Graetz,
History o f theJews,
4 (Philadelphia, 1894), pp. 612-614; 5, pp.
51, 142.
2
She’elot u ’Teshuvot ha-Rama
(Cracow, 1640), #48.
3
Zemah Zedek
(Amsterdam, 1675), #9 .
4 Quoted in Boaz Cohen, “The
Shulhan Aruk
as a Guide for Religious Practice
Today,”
Law and Tradition in Judaism
(New York, 1969), pp. 67-68.