Saturday, 2 February 2008

Rabbiner Hirsch and the Mishna Brura

Originally published 2/2/08, 10:12 PM, Eastern Daylight Time
Dear Readers,

I have just completed reading the Biography of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Apparently Rabbiner Hirsch bemoaned the fact that the Shulchan Aruch[1] was in 4 parts and thereby people were not being holistic in that they neglected vast tracts of Hoshen Mishpat etc, in their behavior.

While the Mishna Brura pointedly commented on ONLY Orach Haim because he felt that this was the primary legal text for Jewish People [see hakdamah to the Mishna Brura.] [2]

There you have it in a nutshell. If you ever meet Jews who are meticulously observant in their observance of Davening, Shabbos and Pesach, - whilst also being boorish, dishonest, and downright sleazy in business - they are probably following the Mishna Brura.OTOH, if you meet well-rounded people who observe only the basics of Halachah, but are essentially honest, straightforward [glatt yosher] - then they probably pasken like Rabbiner Hirsch!

[1] Although it is popular to attribute this arrangement to the Shulchan Aruch - It was actually the Tur who subdivided his work in 4 [actually 4 majors with Orach Haim sub-divided into 3] and into the the simanin later used by R. Y. Karo et. al.
[2] Ironically, the MB himself was a Ba'al Musar and would probably "rue the day" that Jews went off in this mis-direction!


Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Historically, it took the Chofetz Chayyim 30 years to write the Mishnah Berurah. There are two reasons I've come across as to why he didn't complete the other 3 sections:

1) Orach Chayyim is a constant factor in our daily lives. It is very necessary for people to know it simply because of daily routine and activities. However, it is not every day that legal issues come up.

2) Many of the laws in the rest of the Shulchan Aruch are far more complex than those found in Orach Chayyim (with the exception of Eiruvin). He felt that rabbonim who have learned the original commentaries on the remainder of the Shulchan Aruch should retain the power of interpretation over them instead of people turning to a digest commentary.

In addition, your point is not entirely accurate. The Mishna Berurah goes on at length at how terrible it is to talk in shul and to bring children who run around and scream. But go into most Orthodox shuls nowadays and what do you see?

Anonymous said...

I beileve that at least some of the organizational schema of the Tur, is based on the the work of the Rashba, in i believe, Toras Habayis, i dont have the sources before me at the moment, but it could be relating to the actual internal topical order as well. someone who has access to this could perhaps enlighten us all a bit more.....

Anonymous said...

Poor Chafetz Chaim; the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

If your thesis is true, then it means that Jews are more likely to observe those laws that are made more accessible by way of simplified digests. But there is a price to pay for going in this direction too, as kiruv has shown us: we become a nation of self-righteous idiots who don't even know how our own religious decision-making methodology works.