Kitzur Shulhan Arukh

The writings of Solomon Ganzfried.

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In the course of twelve years, the author published his work thirteen times. In the last edition during his lifetime he gathered all the revisions he had made over the years and produced a fully completed and revised edition. He wrote that he based his corrections not only upon his research but also from the comments he received from other scholars. The book was accepted and acclaimed by many leading authorities of its time. The focus was practical halakhah and omitted laws and customs, which were widely known and needed no further description. He depended upon the writings of Ya'acov of Lissa, Shneur Zalman Schneerson of Liady (author of an abridged code himself, Shulhan Arukh Harav), and Abraham Danzig author of the Hayei Adam.

Although Ganzfried's work is abridged, he frequently commences its sections with brief non-halakhic introductions. These are adapted from writings such as Maimonides, Sefer Hayashar, Hayei Adam, and other works on ethical behavior (musar). For example, in the ''Laws of Hanukkah" (section 139), the text of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah provides historical background. In the "Laws of the Scroll of Esther" (section 141), the text of the Hayei Adam (Klal 154, paragraph 3) is slightly reworded and employed.

The greater part of the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh is concerned with almost all the themes found in Caro's Orah Hayim. Yet we also find many topics from the other three sections of the Shulhan Arukh. For example, from Yoreh De'ah he included such laws as charity, baking, salting, gentile cooking, relationships with gentiles, witchcraft, circumcision, education, forbidden foods, vows, parental honor, menstruation, the ritual bath, mourning, and agricultural issues (hadash, orlah, and kilayim). From Hoshen Mishpat he presented the laws of borrowing and lending, sabbatical loans (shmitat kesafim), thievery, damages--financial and bodily--borrowing and renting, lost and found items, cruelty to animals, and many other topics. From Even HaEzer he included the laws pertaining to marriage. But he selected only what was relevant to the lay Jew and omitted what was relevant only to Rabbinic judges.

Commentaries and Addenda

The popularity of the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh encouraged scholars to write commentaries on it. Rabbi Hayim Yeshayah HaCohen published his comments in the monographs Misgeret HaShulhan (Lublin, 1889) and Lehem HaPanim (Lublin, 1888). After Rabbi Ganzfried's death, these were published together with the text of the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh.

More recently, the rulings of Mishnah Berurah were published as an addendum to discuss the aspects of laws found in Ganzfried's code. Sha'arim Metzuyanim BeHalakhah, published by Solomon Braun (New York, 1951), is still very popular as it records rulings from after Ganzfried's time. Shemuel Bornstein published two works based upon the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh, Minhat Shabbat (Warsaw, 1905) and Madanei Shemuel (Petrikov, 1904). Newer works have appeared using the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh as their model, but the original still thrives on its own merits.

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Simcha Fishbane is an Associate Professor of Judaic Studies at Touro College.

Herbert Basser

Herbert Basser is a Professor of Religious Studies at Queens University.