Why do we (almost all Jews) consider the Shulchan Arukh, not written until the 16th century, to be the final word on halakha?

Our halakha is derived from Torah Shebikhtav and She'be'al Peh. SA attempts to summarize those, and others summarize SA, interacting with it in the same way that it interacts with Torah, assuming that halakha from SA is correct interpretation. What is special about the SA compared to other compilations of Law?

Will we always follow the SA, or will some other volume eventually replace it?

  • Very similar. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/25729/…
    – Double AA
    Jun 12, 2013 at 19:23
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    The Shulchan Arukh is not and never has been "the final word on halakha". If there are people today who think that it is, they are likely the same individuals who treat the Rambam as being the final word on matters of faith, and they should expand their library.
    – Shimon bM
    Jun 13, 2013 at 14:30
  • Relevant recent shiur by R' Rakeffet: yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/791521/… (Caution: auto-plays when you load the page). Unfortunately, I don't recall enough of what he said to write an answer.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jun 13, 2013 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


The Shulchan Aruch came about, because its author, Rav Yosef Karo, declared that the era of the Rishonim has ended, and one can no longer make halachic decisions based on one's interpretations of the Gemara, but rather on the basis of the interpretations and rulings of the Rishonim (the Halachic authorities of the several hundred years before his time). Thus, Rav Yosef Karo developed a system of compiling the different opinions of the Rishonim, and of how to rule in cases of disputes between them. While his specific guidelines of how to rule in cases of disagreements amongst the Rishonim, as well as many of his rulings, were highly disputed by the Remma and later commentaries of the Shulchan Aruch, the basic idea that we should analyze the different opinions in the Rishonim and strive to reach an halachic ruling on that basis, was accepted. Thus when we say the Shulchan Aruch was accepted, we mean the Shulchan Aruch with all of its commentaries was accepted. This is because it is the basic premise of the Shulchan Aruch that was accepted and the many Halachic works surrounding it, and not necessarily all the specific rulings in the Shulchan Aruch. Thus, even though Halachic works continue to be published, even as separate books and not as commentaries to the Shulchan Aruch, they are all based on the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries, which in turn are based on the Rishonim, which in turn are based on Chazal.

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    Where did he declare this?
    – Double AA
    Jun 18, 2013 at 23:40
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    He writes this in his introduction to his book the "Beit Yosef" which forms the basis for his rulings in the Shulchan Aruch. Interestingly, his contemporary, the Maharshal (Rabbi Shlomo Luria) disagreed and claimed that we should continue to make Halachic descisions based on proofs from the Gemara. However, in time, Rav Yosef Karo's opinion was accepted. Jun 28, 2013 at 11:30
  • Can you quote me the line? I don't remember his making such a claim
    – Double AA
    Jun 28, 2013 at 11:52
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    בית יוסף הקדמה "ועלה בדעתי שאחר כל הדברים אפסוק הלכה ואכריע בין הסברות כי זהו התכלית להיות לנו תורה אחת ומשפט אחד. וראיתי שאם באנו לומר שנכריע דין בין הפוסקים בטענות וראיות תלמודיות הנה התוספות וחידושי הרמב"ן והרשב"א והר"ן ז"ל מלאים טענות וראיות לכל אחת מהדיעות. ומי זה אשר יערב לבו לגשת להוסיף טענות וראיות. ואיזהו אשר ימלאהו לבו להכניס ראשו בין ההרים הררי אל להכריע ביניהם על פי טענות וראיות לסתור מה שביררו הם או להכריע במה שלא הכריעו הם. כי בעונותינו הרבים קצר מצע שכלינו להבין דבריהם כל שכן להתחכם עליהם." Jun 30, 2013 at 13:35
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    Clearly innovation based on the gemara has not ended, as can be evidenced by the many books written after the Beit Yosef. However, for someone to discuss an issue which is disputed by the Rishonim and to boldly say that he rules like this opinion because of such and such proof from the Gemara, or to completely reject the opinions of the Rishonim and introduce a new explanation to the Gemara, is rare (although it does exist). Jun 30, 2013 at 14:22

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