Even HaEzer

June 7, 2006

“The Precious Stone of Helping” is the third of the four volumes of the “Shulchan Aruch,” “Set Table”, the compendium of Jewish Law applicable today, compiled by Rabbi Yosef Caro in the 1560’s. The other three are “Orach Chaim,” “Yorah Deah” and “Choshen Mishpat.”

The origin of the name “Even HaEzer” is in Parashat Tetzaveh, which describes the garments of the “Kohen Gadol,” the High Priest, which included a breastplate on which there were set columns [“Turim”] of precious stones, and the word for “stone” or “precious stone” in Hebrew is “Even.” The first woman, Chava, is described in Parashat Bereshit as “Eizer K’negdo,” a “Helper appropriate for Him.” The word for “Helper” is “Eizer.” Combining the two gives “Even HaEzer,” “The Precious Stone of Helping,” describing the beneficial role a wife plays for her husband, and indicating clearly that marriage is the most desirable state for a human being.

“Even HaEzer” contains 178 dealing with 7 topics. They include, among others, the Mitzvah of Reproduction, How a Man acquires a Wife, Mutual Obligations between Husband and Wife, and a discussion of the Laws of Divorce, the way to dissolve a Marriage if that becomes necessary.

The “Shulchan Aruch” reflects mainly the Laws followed by Sephardic Jews (Jews living in Spain, North Africa and the Middle East). “Even HaEzer,” like the other three volumes of the “Shulchan Aruch,” also contains rulings followed only by Ashkenazic Jews (Jews living mainly in Northern and Western Europe) interspersed in its text by the Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) in the 1570’s, although the vast majority of Jewish Law was followed alike by both communities. When these notes, known as the “Mapa,” the Table Cover, were added to it, the “Shulchan Aruch” truly became the universally accepted Code of Jewish Law.