Page 161 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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pendent, external component. According to this interpretation,
if the
Shulhan Arukh
is a set table, every person must have the
opportunity to spice his food differently.11 The work was first
published in Venice in 1567 by Giovanni Grifio. Appearing dur­
ing a period of rapid expansion of the publication of Hebrew
books, this code was able to achieve wide dissemination.12
Caro died in Safed on the thirteenth of Nisan, 1575, at the age
of eighty-seven and was buried in an old cemetery there. To this
day there stands a synagogue named after him in Safed.
Caro’s life and writing have been assessed according to two dif­
ferent approaches. One emphasizes Caro’s life and work as a
reaction to the events of the sixteenth century, and the other
highlights his role as part of the continuing dialectic of halakhic
Those who stress Caro’s rootedness in the sixteenth century
focus on the rise in enthusiasm for messianism and Kabbalah fol­
lowing the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, an event
which was considered a third and sudden Jewish tragedy after
the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem.
However, after a hundred years of decimation beginning in
1391, the expulsion of Spanish Jewry cannot be considered a sud­
den trauma. Nor can mysticism be assumed to be only a response
to large scale destruction, exile, and apostasy. More specific
causes for the rise of messianism and mysticism must be sought in
the events of the sixteenth century. At that time, the recently “dis­
covered” Zohar and ancillary works were being disseminated by
the Iberian exiles, who were greatly aided in this by the new art of
printing. The revival of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel,
especially in Safed and Jerusalem, after such a major exile, was
particularly fraught with messianic overtones. And there were
other factors which led to messianic speculation among the Jews,
11 Isadore Twersky, “The
Shulhan Aruk:
Enduring Code ofJewish Law,”
16 (1967): 141-158; reprinted in
TheJewish Expression,
Judah Goldin, ed. (New
York, 1970), pp. 322-343;
Studies in Jewish Law and Philosophy,
Twersky, ed. (New York, 1982), pp. 130-147.
12 Translations o f it are available in C. N. Denburg,
Code of Hebrew Law
(Montreal, 1954-55) and Israel Meir ha-Cohen,
Mishnah Berurah
1980). On the
Shulhan Arukh,
96 (1965).