On the first posuk of Mishpatim, Rashi brings from Mechilta that Torah should not be conveyed as dry information, but it should be taught with its full rationale, like a שלחן ערוך, a "table set for eating":

אשר תשים לפניהם. אמר לו הקב"ה למשה: לא תעלה על דעתך לומר, אשנה להם הפרק וההלכה ב' או ג' פעמים, עד שתהא סדורה בפיהם כמשנתה, ואיני מטריח עצמי להבינם טעמי הדבר ופרושו, לכך נאמר אשר תשים לפניהם – כשלחן הערוך ומוכן לאכל לפני האדם

Given this turn of phrase, it seems odd that what we call the Shulchan Aruch is a compilation of dry, practical laws, exactly what Rashi seems to be negating with his use of the term. How did it come to have the opposite meaning?


2 Answers 2


R Yosef Karo, the author of the work, gave it that name for the following reason (from the intro):

וְקָרָאתִי שֵׁם סֵפֶר זֶה שֻׁלְחָן עָרוּךְ, כִּי בוֹ יִמְצָא הַהוֹגֶה כָּל מִינֵי מַטְעַמִּים עֲרוּכִים בַּכֹּל וּשְׁמוּרִים סְדוּרִים וּבְרוּרִים.

I have called this work Shulchan Aruch, for one who delves into it will find all kinds of delicacies, all arranged and preserved, and clearly ordered.

  • 5
    A translation would significantly improve the value of your answer for the many users of the site who don't understand Hebrew
    – mbloch
    Feb 5 at 8:58

The original Shulchan Aruch was meant to be a summary of the conclusions of Beis Yosef, which does explain everything at length. It was later commentators who made it into its own area of study.

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