A local Orthodox rabbi told me that while most of the decisions in the Shulchan Aruch were based on taking the majority of the Rambam, Rosh and Rif (all of whom he claimed supported laying tefilin on Chol HaMoed), the Shulchan Aruch ruled against laying tefilin on Chol HaMoed based on the ruling of the Zohar.

Where does the Shulchan Aruch say this? Why did he apparently deviate from his normal rule of psak?

  • I have tried to edit the question to make it more useful. Feel free to revert or expand on the changes. (As currently posed, +1)
    – Double AA
    Sep 25, 2013 at 8:49
  • @DoubleAA Why do you object to stating what the common practice was prior to the Sh"A's ruling? Should that be a separate question in and of itself? Sep 25, 2013 at 8:52
  • @RobertS.Barnes It is unsubstantiated and seemingly irrelevant to the question of "why did the Shulchan Aruch break his rule?". (Furthermore, it is only somewhat accurate. The Ashkenazim who don't wear Tefillin on Chol haMoed certainly don't not do so because of the Sh"A, and the Beit Yosef already notes a shift in common Sefardi practice on the matter before he wrote his works. I cannot comment intelligently about prior or current Yemenite practice in this regard.)
    – Double AA
    Sep 25, 2013 at 8:53
  • @DoubleAA So I will make it a separate question. Sep 25, 2013 at 8:59

2 Answers 2


The source is a zohar in Shir Hashirim Chapter 8. When I looked it up it seemed to me that he wasn't recording normative practice but innovating based on his contemporary the Arizal. That would also explain why so many ashkenazim don't wear tefillin on chol hamoed but litvaks and yekkes who were less influenced by chassidus and hence by the Arizal still do.

  • 1
    Could you add a quote and or links? Feb 13, 2014 at 10:11
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    – Yitzchak
    Feb 13, 2014 at 17:00
  • 2
    @Yitzchak Are you home yet?
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 27, 2016 at 5:44

He deviates from the normal rule because it was the established practice before his time, with a basis in Rishonim and in Kabbalah. Established practice is not over-ruled by the harmonizing of the three main opinions in Halacha.

But regardless the Kesef Mishna (by the same author as the S"A) understands the Rambam to mean that wearing Tefilin on Chol Hamoed is not to be done (see here footnote 146).

  • When was it the established practice? Are you saying no one ever layed teffilin on chol hamoed, or just that at the time the Beit Yosef ruled it had become the normative practice? Oct 14, 2013 at 17:57
  • I am saying that "at the time ... it had become the normative practice."
    – Yishai
    Oct 14, 2013 at 18:27
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    This answer would be greatly improved if you could show that the R Karo felt that "establish [sic] practice is not over-ruled by the harmonizing of the three main opinions in Halacha."
    – Double AA
    Oct 14, 2013 at 21:30
  • @DoubleAA, putting together the various Psakim that do the same thing throughout S"A is a bit beyond my available time, sorry.
    – Yishai
    Oct 14, 2013 at 21:36
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    You could cite the general rule being stated. You don't need to make the argument yourself.
    – Double AA
    Oct 14, 2013 at 21:58

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