Shulchan Arukh

(ca. 1570)


The original audience for the Shulchan Arukh was learned Jews. In the age when it was written, literacy rates were low—perhaps between 20 and 30 percent among Jews in their own dialects, while the Hebrew literacy rate was perhaps between 5 and 10 percent. Thus, few other than rabbis and Jewish scholars, who would have also been experts in Jewish law, and who were responsible for disseminating and interpreting information for fellow Jews in their area, would have been able to read Karo’s text.

Jews have long considered themselves a diasporic people. A diaspora is formed when a group of people who share a common culture or identity are scattered and form new pockets of their ethnic or cultural group within other nations. The Jewish diaspora began in 586 BCE with the Babylonian sacking of Jersualem and destruction of the First Temple, which brought the Kingdom of Judah to an end. As related in the Hebrew Bible, the First Temple was built in 957 BCE by King Solomon and...

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Jewish man preparing for prayer (Library of Congress)

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