Sunday, 9 April 2017

13 Nissan - Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yosef Karo - Author of the Shulchan Aruch


The 13th Nissan (today) is the Yahrtzeit of one of the key pillars of the entire Jewish nation - Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575). Born in Spain - fleeing with his family at the age of 4 due to the Spanish Expulsion - Rabbi Yosef Karo would go on to become one of the outstanding giants in Torah, producing a complete commentary on the Rambam's Halachic work - the Yad Hachazakah - which he called the Kesef Mishnah, thereafter doing a complete commentary on the four sections of Halachah (Jewish law) of the Tur (Rabbi Yaakov ben HaRosh - Rabbi Asher) entitled the Beis Yosef, and thereafter compiling all his encyclopaedic knowledge of every single area of Halachah - into his main work called the Shulchan Aruch (the Laid Table) - because indeed, he lays out the laws much like a table is laid out with everything in its place!
A point that many do not know is that Rabbi Karo was also a kabbalist of the highest order - living at the same time as the great Arizal (who was 46 years his junior!) in Safed. The Golden Age of Safed!
Rabbi Karo had a Maggid (an angel) teach him Torah as he drifted off into Innerspace while reciting various Mishnayot. It was in fact the Mishnah itself that would speak to him - teaching him the secrets of Torah. However, be that as it may - he was not on the level of the Arizal in terms of his knowledge of Kabbalah and had in fact asked the Ari to teach him.
The Ari (being privy to the secrets of souls and other mysterious things of life and Creation, knew well that the soul of Rabbi Yosef Karo was not suitable for those deepest of secrets. He told him so, but Rabbi Yosef refused to listen - imploring the Ari to teach him anyway!
The Ari told him that he should sit under a particular tree at a particular point in time... If he should see the Ari walking by him then, it was a sign he could learn the secrets, and the Ari would be prepared to teach him. The day arrived, and Rabbi Yosef did as the Ari instructed, but moments before the Ari walked by, he fell into a deep sleep - waking up only a few minutes later after the Ari had already passed!
In fact, Rabbi Yosef became an in-law to the Ari with their children marrying each other. (For those wondering about their difference in age, Rabbi Yosef Karo married three times in his life and fathered a child when much older - who married the Ari's son/daughter (I forget whose son married whose daughter!)
Many of the Ari's descendants are known today, but I am not sure who the descendants are of Rabbi Yosef Karo.
You can find out more about this great man and his works by seeing the Wikipedia
Rabbi Yosef Karo's contribution was so invaluable to the Jewish people that it is practically impossible to speak about Jewish law today without mentioning the Shulchan Aruch! It is studied every single day by almost all observant Jews (or those who value the importance of Jewish law - any way!)
In order to obtain Rabbinical Ordination, one must be knowledgeable in a variety of areas in the Shulchan Aruch - as well as one knows the back of one's palms! This excludes the need to know the major commentaries that accompany the essential text of the Shulchan Aruch (and of course all the material that actually precedes the coding of the law as detailed in the SA.) In particular, the rabbinical student must learn the laws of Kashrut - the laws of forbidden mixtures, salting meat in order to Kasher it as well as the laws of the forbidden mixture of meat and milk.
Those furthering their studies will also learn the important areas of the SA including the laws of Shabbat, Mikvaot, Niddah, Shaatnez, immersing vessels in a Mikvah, the laws of interest (charging interest to a Jew is forbidden by another Jew,) laws of daily life, Eiruvin, mourning, laws of Pesach and dozens of other topics afterwards.
One who is a master of the entire Shulchan Aruch can truly call himself a Rabbi in every sense of the word - but sadly, there are not many who reach this goal in its entirety due to the enormous amount of material to learn... and hence why many spend their entire days devoted to learning Torah - day and night - night and day.
This - of course, excludes the time invested in learning the Arizal's works, the Zohar and all the material associated with the hidden Torah.
The Torah of Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimonies of Hashem (G-d) are faithful, making the simple wise. (Psalms 19:7)

Below you can purchase the book - "Maggid Mesharim" (English translation) which includes the teachings that the angel taught Rabbi Yosef Karo:

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