Shulchan Aruch

Shulchan Aruch
Brockhaus and Efron Jewish Encyclopedia e9 327-0.jpg
AuthorJoseph Karo
CountryOttoman Palestine
SubjectJudaic Law
Publication date
1565, Venice
Preceded byBeit Yosef 

The Shulchan Aruch (Hebrew: שֻׁלְחָן עָרוּך [ʃulˈħan ʕaˈʁuχ], literally: "Set Table"),[1] sometimes dubbed in English as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most widely consulted of the various legal codes in Judaism. It was authored in Safed (today in Israel) by Joseph Karo in 1563 and published in Venice two years later.[2] Together with its commentaries, it is the most widely accepted compilation of Jewish law ever written.

The halachic rulings in the Shulchan Aruch generally follow Sephardic law and customs, whereas Ashkenazi Jews will generally follow the halachic rulings of Moses Isserles, whose glosses to the Shulchan Aruch note where the Sephardic and Ashkenazi customs differ. These glosses are widely referred to as the mappah (literally: the "tablecloth") to the Shulchan Aruch's "Set Table". Almost all published editions of the Shulchan Aruch include this gloss, and the term "Shulchan Aruch" has come to denote both Karo's work as well as Isserles', with Karo usually referred to as "the mechaber" ("author") and Isserles as "the Rema" (an acronym of Rabbi Moshe Isserles).


The Shulchan Aruch (and its forerunner, the Beit Yosef) follow the same structure as Arba'ah Turim by Rabbi Jacob ben Asher. There are four volumes, each subdivided into many chapters and paragraphs:

  1. Orach Chayim – laws of prayer and synagogue, Sabbath, holidays;
  2. Yoreh De'ah – laws of kashrut; religious conversion; mourning; laws pertaining to Israel; laws of family purity
  3. Even Ha'ezer – laws of marriage, divorce and related issues;
  4. Choshen Mishpat – laws of finance, financial responsibility, damages (personal and financial), and the rules of the Bet Din, as well as the laws of witnesses