Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried and the Abridged Code of Law
When rabbinic authorities make halachic (Jewish legal) rulings, they generally consult the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), a compendium of halacha written in 1563 by Rabbi Joseph Caro. When Jews who are not scholars wish to learn practicalhalacha, they often go to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Abridged Code of Jewish Law), written by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried.
Born in 1804 and raised in Ungvar (formerly part of Hungary, now in the Ukraine), Rabbi Ganzfried was a child prodigy raised by Ungvar’s chief rabbi, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Heller. (Rabbi Ganzfried lost his father when he was eight.) After trying his hand as a wine-merchant, Rabbi Ganzfried entered the rabbinate when he accepted the position of rabbi in Brezevitz. In 1849, after serving in Brezevitz for 19 years, Rabbi Ganzfried returned to his native city as a dayan (a judge in the religious court). He continued in this position until his death on 26 Tammuz (July 30), 1886.
As a dayan in the mid 19th century, Rabbi Ganzfried became aware that the lack of knowledge of practical halacha within the Jewish community was undermining the Jewish community. He therefore prepared the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, which he described as being “written for God-fearing Jews who are not in a position to study and comprehend the [original, full] Shulchan Aruch and all its commentaries… composed in a Hebrew that can be easily understood.”
Just as Rabbi Caro had based his halachic conclusions on the opinions of Rabbi Isaac Alfasi (the Rif), Maimonides (Rambam), and Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel (the Rosh), Rabbi Ganzfried based his decisions on the work of Rabbi Jacob Lorberbaum; Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi; and Rabbi Abraham Danzig. In cases of disagreement he adopted the majority view.
Today, 26 Tammuz, is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried.
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