Page 165 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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Thus, clearly Caro must be viewed both in the context of gen­
eral sixteenth century Jewish life and in the framework of the tra­
dition of halakhic codification. It is especially important that
these two views must be taken together to understand Caro since
in his legal works he never offers clear evidence that there is a
nexus between his legal efforts, his kabbalistic thinking, and the
messianic hopes of his time.
Caro was a member of a circle of rabbinic-kabbalistic ascetics
and visionaries in the Balkans and in Safed.19Its common feature
was the systematization of both Halakhah and Kabbalah. When
compared with Cordovero’s kabbalistic
Pardes Rimmonim,
rabbinic writings show similarities of rational, logical, and
methodical review of the specific literature with which it is con­
cerned, in order to reach a unified view.
Shulhan Arukh
was subsequently subjected by the leading
rabbis of later generations to extensive commentary and criticism
which reflect the continuing vitality of rabbinic Judaism. This
process continued at the same time that the Jewish community
was losing itsjudicial autonomy, and Jewish lawwas coming to be
accepted as binding by fewer and fewer Jews. With the loss of its
place at the center of all Jewish life, Jewish law may have become
narrower in scope and less reflective of the entire Jewish commu­
nity. However, it was not the
Shulhan Arukh
which caused the nar­
rowing of the horizons of Jewish law. For the historian, the
halakhist, and those interested in the basic practices ofJewish life,
Shulhan Arukh
continues to serve as the center of an ongoing
dynamic process of the development of Jewish law and life.20
19 Schechter. “Safed,” pp. 202-306.
20 For the history o f this process, see Tchernowitz,
Toledot ha-Posekim,