Acharonim

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Rishonim Geonim Savoraim Amoraim Tannaim Zugot
Rabbinical Eras

Acharonim (Hebrew: [ʔaħaʁoˈnim]; Hebrew: אחרונים Aḥaronim‎; sing. אחרון, Aḥaron; lit. "last ones") is a term used in Jewish law and history, to signify the leading rabbis and poskim (Jewish legal decisors) living from roughly the 16th century to the present, and more specifically since the writing of the Shulkhan Arukh (Hebrew: שׁוּלחָן עָרוּך, "Set Table", a code of Jewish law) in 1563 CE.

The Acharonim follow the Rishonim, the "first ones"—the rabbinic scholars between the 11th and the 16th century following the Geonim and preceding the Shulkhan Arukh. The publication of the Shulkhan Arukh thus marks the transition from the era of Rishonim to that of Acharonim.

Consequences for Halakhic change[edit]

The distinction between the "Acharonim", Rishonim and Geonim is meaningful historically. According to the widely held view in Orthodox Judaism, the Acharonim generally cannot dispute the rulings of rabbis of previous eras unless they find supports of other rabbis in previous eras. Yet the opposite view exists as well: In the The Principles of Jewish Law Orthodox Rabbi Menachem Elon writes that:

The Principles of Jewish Law

— [such a view] "inherently violates the precept of Hilkheta Ke-Vatra'ei, that is, the law is according to the later scholars. This rule dates from the Geonic period. It laid down that until the time of Rabbis Abbaye and Rava (4th century) the Halakha was to be decided according to the views of the earlier scholars, but from that time onward, the halakhic opinions of post-talmudic scholars would prevail over the contrary opinions of a previous generation. See Piskei Ha'Rosh, Bava Metzia 3:10, 4:21, Shabbat 23:1

But indeed this rule that Menchem Elon cites as originating in the Geonic period does not contradict the precept of Hilkheta Ke-Vatra'ei if understood within the greater context of Torah. While authority may go to the scholars of a later generation within a particular era, the Talmud itself clearly does not allow scholars of a later era to argue with scholars of an earlier era without support from other scholars of an earlier era. This can be seen when the Talmud asks on numerous occasions how a particular Amora can argue against all the Tannaim without support from any Tanna; the Talmud answers Tanna hu ifalig which means "He is [indeed] a Tanna and he may argue" (Talmud: Shabbat 64b, Eruvin 50b, Taanit 14b, Ktubot 8a, Gittin 38b, Bava Batra 42a). The reason the Talmud initially asked the question is because they lived during the transition between the eras of the Amoraim and the Tanaim and are usually considered Amoraim but may also be considered Tannaim.

The question of which prior rulings can and cannot be disputed has led to efforts to define which rulings are within the Acharonim era with precision. According to many rabbis the Shulkhan Arukh is from an Acharon. Some hold that Rabbi Yosef Karo's Beit Yosef has the halakhic status of a work of a Rishon, while his later Shulkhan Arukh has the status of a work of an Acharon.[citation needed]

Notes[edit]

Some Acharonim[edit]

See also[edit]

External links and references[edit]