"That is why I called it Beit Yosef, because it is my Portion":

R. Joseph Karos Magnum Opus

Tirza Kelman

R. Joseph Karo (1488–1575) was very accomplished in his long and productive life. He was a judge, the head of a major Yeshiva for advanced scholars in Safed and a halakhic authority who was the source of halakhic decisions for Jews around the world. All of his activity pales before the great significance of the two main halakhic books he wrote – namely the Beit Yosef and the Shulchan Aruch. These works have earned him the prestigious title Hamechaber – The author. The Shulchan Aruch (literally meaning “the laid table”) is a code of the Jewish law to which every later work on Jewish law directly refers. It is the most famous of the books that R. Joseph Karo wrote. Nevertheless, according to what he himself wrote in the introduction to the first edition, the Shulchan Aruch is nothing more than a summarized version of highlights from the earlier Beit Yosef. In my lecture, I wish to introduce you to this work, its motives, goals and structure in order to understand what made it so significant in the history of Jewish law.


Tirza Kelman, Ben Gurion University of the Negev (Department of Jewish Thought), has just handed in her dissertation under the title: “’I Shall Create Halakhic Ruling… for that is the objective’: The Halakhic Ruling in Joseph Caro’s Beit Yosef”, supervised by Prof. Rami Reiner.