Shulchan Arukh

(ca. 1570)

The Shulchan Arukh, literally translated as “The Set Table,” is a compilation of Jewish legal codes. Written in the sixteenth century, it represents the first codification of Jewish law that is universally accepted by religiously observant Jews. It encompasses laws observed by both Ashkenazic Jews, those with German and eastern European roots, and Sephardic Jews, those with Spanish and Middle Eastern roots. Rabbi Yosef Karo composed the work in an effort to provide an authoritative legal text that would help to guide Jews in properly observing religious obligations. Although he composed the text before subdivisions of Judaism existed, the Shulchan Arukh persists as the most important document for Orthodox Jews. Its text expounds upon the legal code, and its importance indicates the significance of religious laws in the lives of observant Jews.

The Shulchan Arukh is divided into four volumes. The first, Orakh Hayyim, contains laws pertaining to the Sabbath, the synagogue,...

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Jewish man preparing for prayer (Library of Congress)

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