Saturday, 21 June 2008

Halachic Texts: More Background

Originally published 6/21/08, 11:35 PM.
Earlier I posted:
Just as the Talmud has been elucidated and somewhat modified by various commentators same for Shulchan Aruch. Generally the Halachic world has accepted the Shulchan Aruch [with Rema] as a Hatima in the same way as Hatimat Hatalmud. This is "Hatimat haRishonim:. E.G.; . in biographies of Rav J. Breuer he constantly refers to Talmud-Shulchan Aruch as being companion volumes of authoritative Halachah. This is a widely held model.

Since the Advent of the Shulchan Aruch, the VAST majority of Halachic works are indexed by ITS indexing as opposed to the Talmud or Rambam. Even Teshuvot are usually divided and indexed by the 4 Turim . There are an estimated 350 published commentaries written on the Shulchan Aruch. Plus at least a dozen review books on issur v'heter follow this model se'if by se'if.

Note: Hermann Strack in his work on Talmud and Midrash specifically states [19th century]
Now the task of the poseiq is to consult the codes and to work BACK to the Talmud.

IOW, Halchic methodology has evolved since the 12th Century [Though I am acquainted with several rabbis who like "Chone hame'agel were probably born just before 1204 and just woke up!] Maybe the Rif and Rambam did not have enough Codes to consult so they still went to the Talmud. Nevertheless, it is evident in MANY cases that Rambam went back to the Rif and NOT to the Talmud itself. [see Kessef Mishna in Rambam's intro]. It is absolutely true that both Rosh and Mordechai used the Rif as their basic text and the Bet Yosef used the Tur as HIS basic text

Now the Shulchan Aruch has been canonized as THE TEXT. That does not mean we always FOLLOW it, We don't always follow the Mishna either even though it is the cornerstone of BOTH Talmuddim

A story I have mentioned before...
I was learning Kitzur Shulchan Aruch [KSA] one day before mincha and I had a conversation with a fellow:
He: Hassidim learn Kitzur!
I: Do you mean they pasken like the Kitzur?
He: No they just learn it.

IOW this is the text book of Halachah for many Hassidim - and for yeshiva Boys THE textbook is Mishna Brura. But MOST intelligent Yeshiva students do not follow EVERY Mishna Brurah lehalachah. [one Yeshiva boy at Breuer's couldn't believe that the Hazzan says BAtzitzis [hataf] instead of B'tzitzis [sheva] because this is against the Mishna Brura. Apparently, he did understand that the Minhag of KAJ/Breuer goes back to the ear of PRE-Shulchan Aruch!]

So WHY learn Talmud NOW?
Good Question! There are many answers. I would say that this is in order to understand Tosafos! --smile-- All kidding aside, after say the 1500's the MAIN reason is to read the commentaries ON The Gmara. The Halachic action is there, between Rif/Rosh/Ran etc.

Artscroll has done a masterful job in BOTH its Mishna and Talmud to connect the texts with the CODES such as Rambam/Tur and especially Shulchan Aruch . One of the earlier works to do this was the Tiferes Yisrael on the Mishnah. A VERY new book called "Hazarat haShas" [pun intended] by the Sephardic Hacham Rabbi Avrahm Portal collects references from Ein Mishpat and puts them in book form - plus some key Me'eerees. I call this a modern day Rif. NB: Steinsaltz actually paraphrases Rambam and SA in his Halachic commentary - but this sefer QUOTES them.

Rav Kook began a project of showing Halachah from the Talmud. Actually, I agree with the Rambam on this. Halachah is to far removed from Talmud nowadays, Talmud is more for the THEORY, and the CODES are more for practice. At times, you need both of course. But Bet Yosef changed everything  by giving the sources you need. If you add Darchei Moshe et. al. you have 98% of all bases covered.

More on this series about the future, etc.

Kol Tuv / Best Regards,

1 comment:

Dr Mike said...

There are lots of reasons for learning Talmud.

First of all, it gets one a shidduch. Imagine the poor bochur who tells the Shadchan: Nu, of course I don't learn Talmud. Who needs it with the Shulchan Aruch around?

Secondly, you get to hang around with other guys doing the Daf Yomi when the alternative is staying at home and watching the kids.

Thirdly, it trains your mind to accept that you can have an argument that goes on forever and then just ends without a resolution. Sort of like marriage if you think about it.

BTW, you should mention the Steinsaltz edition of the Talmud in which he brings the relevant halachos on each daf so that the reader can see which way the argument wound up.

The Maharal, in Netivot Olam, castigates the Shulchan Aruch as well because, in his humble opinion, to learn a law you had to start with the Talmud and then work your way forwards through the Rishonim, not vice versa.