Shulchan Aruch HaRav

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1895 edition of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav

The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hebrew שולחן ערוך הרב: "Code of Jewish Law by the Rabbi"; also Shulkhan Arukh HaRav) is a codification of halakha by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, known during his lifetime as HaRav ("The Rabbi") and as the first Rebbe of Chabad. Following his death, he has been alternately referred to as the Alter Rebbe (Yiddish: Old Rebbe) in Chabad Hasidic circles, the Gra"z, or the Gaon Ha'amiti (the true genius). He is also often referenced as both the "Tanya" as well as the "Baal HaTanya" (Author of the Tanya) more broadly, for his other main work. Within the Chabad community the work is known as the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch.

New version of the Shulchan Aruch[edit]

At a young age, Shneur Zalman was asked by his teacher, Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch to recodify the Shulchan Aruch of Yosef Karo - incorporating commentaries on that work, as well as subsequent responsa - so that laymen would be able to study Jewish law. Shneur Zalman was qualified for this challenging task and completed composition of his Shulchan Aruch at the age of twenty.[1] His phenomenal familiarity with Rabbinic literature was complemented by a gift for lucid exposition. His logical and highly trained mind could not tolerate ambiguity or obscurity.[2] The work thus states the decided halakha, as well as the underlying reasoning.

The Maggid of Mezeritch, the second leader of Hasidism, recognised the abilities of the young Schneur Zalman in mastery of both the legal Talmudic aspects of Torah study, and the mystical. Among the "Chevra Kadisha" (Holy Society) of elite disciples in Mezeritch, Schneur Zalman was affectionately known as "the Litvak" for his analytical mind. After the death of DovBer, Schneur Zalman was appointed to spread Hasidism in White Russia, adjacent to the Lithuanian stronghold of Mitnagdic opposition. In the academy of Mezeritch, it is related that he would study Torah in chavrusa (parnership) with Rabbi Avrohom HaMalach ("The Angel"), son of DovBer. He would guide Rabbi Avraham in Talmudic scholarship, and the Malach would teach him Hasidic philosophy.


The Shulchan Aruch HaRav is today used by most Hasidim as their basis for daily practice. The work is broadly considered an authoritative halachic text, and its rulings are frequently cited by later authorities such as Yisrael Meir Kagan in his Mishnah Berurah and the Ben Ish Chai of Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, as well as in many contemporary responsa by leading halachic authorities of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Shulchan Aruch HaRav is also one of the three works on which Shlomo Ganzfried based his rulings in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, the well-known precis of Jewish law.

Although widely accepted, the work was originally limited in printings. Much of the original text was destroyed in a fire in Lubavitch, and only parts of copies of the draft survived. Kehot Publication Society (2002) has recently begun publication of a Bilingual Edition; in this work notations appear whenever Shneur Zalman's rulings are at variance with those in Yosef Karo's Shulchan Aruch.


  1. ^ Introduction to Piskei Hasiddur page 3, by Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh, Jerusalem, 1927.
  2. ^ The World of Hasidism, H. Rabinowicz, Hartmore House 1970 p.69,

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