The Set Table of Jewish Law: How the Shulhan Arukh Got Its Name

By Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert

Josh Rolnick, The Sh'ma Institute, March 2012

Of all the metaphorical tables in Jewish tradition, the Shulhan Arukh of Joseph Karo (1488-1575) is perhaps still the best known, even among secular Jews, because of its place in the history of Jewish literature. It was the last monumental codification of the long tradition of rabbinic law, still widely accepted in observant communities. The Shulhan Arukh has been the subject of many commentaries and digests, and its most authoritative commentator was Rabbi Moses Isserles (1520-1572), who was known in traditional rabbinic learning as "the Rema." He self-consciously expanded the metaphor of the "Set Table" by introducing his commentary as intending "to spread a tablecloth upon the set table." The halakhic table, set by a Sephardic rabbinic sage, thus came to be embellished with a tablecloth woven of the wisdom of Ashkenazic tradition.

Topic: Halakha, Jewish Law, Tradition, Jewish Text

Name of Publication: Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Ideas

Editor: Berrin, Susan

Volume/Issue: Vol.42/no.688

Page Number(s): 5--6

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Genre: Article

Coverage: United States

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Publisher

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Fonrobert, Charlotte Elisheva. The Set Table of Jewish Law: How the Shulhan Arukh Got Its Name. Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Ideas. Josh Rolnick, The Sh'ma Institute. March 2012: 5--6.


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