Yoreh Deah

June 7, 2006

“It Teaches Understanding” is the second 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,” “Even HaEzer” and “Choshen Mishpat.”

The scope of topics included in this section of the Code of Law is very broad, ranging from Ritual Slaughter, to Kosher Characteristics of Fish and Birds, Prohibition of the Combination of Milk and Meat, Laws Concerning Idol Worship, Laws of Honoring One’s Father and Mother, the Obligation of Honoring a Torah Scholar, Laws involving the Giving of Charity, the Command of Circumcision, the Obligation to Visit the Sick and Laws of Mourning. The contents are included in 403 Chapters and 48 Topics.

The basic Rabbinic Ordination in our time requires mastery of this Section of “Shulchan Aruch,” and includes the language “Yoreh, Yoreh,” “He is qualified to teach.” More advanced Rabbinic Ordination requires mastery of “Choshen Mishpat;” there the formulation is “Yadin, Yadin” – “He is qualified to judge.” Rabbinic Ordination also exists for the other two sections: “Orach Chaim” and “Even HaEzer,” but is less common in our time.

The “Shulchan Aruch” reflects mainly the Laws followed by Sephardic Jews (Jews living in Spain, North Africa and the Middle East). “Yoreh Deah,” 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 is 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.