Shulchan Aruch

שלחן ערוך (“The Set Table”)A code of Jewish law, written in 1563 by R. Yosef Karo, a Sefardi rabbi, which became accepted as authoritative and normative with the addition of glosses incorporating Ashkenazi practice by Rema. Shulchan Aruch is actually a summary of Karo’s important, and much larger, halachic work, the Beit Yosef. While in Shulchan Aruch Karo provides the ultimate ruling without citing sources, the sources are brought in Beit Yosef, as are dissenting opinions. Shulchan Aruch was first printed in Venice in 1565; the first edition of Shulchan Aruch in which Rema’s glosses appear, formally titled ha-Mappah (“The Tablecloth,” i.e., for “The Set Table”), is the Krakow edition of 1569-1571.


The Beit Yosef, and in turn the Shulchan Aruבh, was formally structured as a commentary on the Arbaah Turim of R. Yaakov b. Asher (the Tur). As such it is organized according to the Tur, addressing laws in practical use according to four basic divisions:

  • Orach Chayyimאורח חיים (“The Way of Life”), encompassing daily laws and laws of Shabbat and holidays;
  • Yoreh De’ahיורה דעה (“Teaching Wisdom”), a more eclectic section including dietary laws, mourning, finances, Torah scrolls and study, conversion, sexual conduct, and more;
  • Even ha-Ezerאבן העזר (“Cornerstone of Assistance”—or, contextually “of the helpmate,” i.e., wife), laws of marriage and divorce;
  • Choshen Misphatחושן משפט (Breastplate of Justice, choshen being the breastplate worn by kohanim), matters of civil and criminal law.

How it’s cited

The Shulchan Aruch is cited by section name, siman (chapter): seif (paragraph). For example, Orach Chayyim 1:1 (א”ח א:א) means the first paragraph of the first chapter of the first section of Shulchan Aruch.


The standard commentaries printed with Shulchan ‘Arukh are:

  • Turei Zahav טורי צהב ט”ז (“Towers of Gold”), which encompasses all four sections (although the commentary to Choshen Mishpat is not printed in standard editions), was written in the 17th century by R. David b. Shmuel ha-Levi, and is known by the acronym Taz (both the work and its author).
  • Siftei Kohenשפתי כהןש”ך (“The Lips of a Priest”), which covers Yoreh De’ah and Choshen Mishpat, was written also in the 17th century by R. Shabbetai b. Meir ha-Kohen, and is known by the acronym Shakh (again, both the work and its author).
  • Magen Avraham מגן אברהם (“The Shield of Avraham”), which covers Orah Chayyim, was written also in the 17th century by R. Avraham Abele Gombiner.
  • Meirat Einayimמאירת עיניים (“Illumination of the Eyes”), which covers Choshen Mishpat (actually, it’s part of a larger, interesting commentary on the Tur called Beit Yisrael), was written by R. Yehoshua Falk (late 16th to early 17th century).


I recommend the online edition at Al Hatorah and, for print, the Friedman edition by Machon Yerushalayim (you can buy individual volumes at most Judaica stores that sell sefarim).

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