In every Shulchan Aruch I have seen, there are headings identifying the topic of each upcoming series of sections. For example, between sections 88 and 89, there is a heading which labels the next series as הלכות תפילה. Before section 429, there is a heading labeling the upcoming sections as being הלכות פסח. These headings also appear in printings of the Tur. They are at least as old as this printing of the Tur from 1540 - almost 500 years ago - example. (The author of the Tur passed away in around 1340, so it was published sometime before then.)

Who wrote these headings?

Short of identifying the author, I am also interested in finding out when they first started appearing (so an older copy of the Tur, whether or not it has the headings, would be of interest to me).

I am not asking about the section headings that sum up what each section (siman) is about (as in, for example, the words זמן בדיקת חמץ at the beginning of siman 431). I am aware that some Acharonim felt that inferences could be drawn from those headings and others disagreed.

  • I'm pretty sure the Tur authored them himself (not the ShA ones, of course)
    – Double AA
    May 14, 2015 at 21:02
  • @DoubleAA I found evidence which impies otherwise, but it's possible. May 14, 2015 at 21:07
  • Can someone explain the downvote? This is a fairly well-researched and supported question. May 14, 2015 at 21:30
  • The Tur regularly references things he wrote "earlier/later in Hilchot XYZ"
    – Double AA
    May 15, 2015 at 1:02
  • 3
    The Tur writes in his Hakdama that וראיתי עוד לעשות סימנים לכלול כל ענין וענין במלות קצרות ולכתבם בתחלת הספר במספר במנין למען היות נקל לבקש כל ענין וענין. Sure sounds like they are his headings.
    – Double AA
    May 15, 2015 at 4:31

2 Answers 2


Here is an image (from a late 14th century - early 15th century manuscript of the Tur) of the beginning of Siman 89 (although this manuscript seems to be from before the simanim were labeled, but you can compare it to siman 89 here), where the heading for הלכות תפילה should appear. Here is the beginning of Siman 61, where the heading for הלכות קריאת שמע should appear (compare). So seemingly the headings appeared sometime after then.

(Although hypothetically they could still have been from before then, and this particular manuscript did not bother to copy them over.)

  • 1
    I don't know that the scenario in your last paragraph is particularly unlikely.
    – msh210
    May 14, 2015 at 22:51

If you are willing to assume as I am that when describing סימנים and מפתחות of the שולחן ערוך that מפתחות refers to what you are calling division headings, then I have a source for you.

The sefer (ארץ חיים (להר׳ח סטהון on Shulchan Aruch siman תר׳ה brings from his rebbi ר׳ש אבוהב a tradition he had concerning the words in the כותרת describing the minhag of kapparos as a מנהג שטות(!)*. His rebbi's tradition was that these words are not from ר׳י קארו, but rather these are the words of the מסדרי הסימנים והמפתחות.

*In the modern Shulchan Aruch that koseres on the page does not describe whether it is a good minhag or not, but on luach hasimanim in the beginning, the koseres ends off מנהג ישר הוא.

  • I have no way of knowing, but the מפתחות could be the brief descriptions of what's in the siman that follow the siman headings. Jun 1, 2015 at 17:38
  • I'm assuming there is no room to differentiate between the siman number and the description of that siman's content as they are never separate. So we have a group heading and individual heading. Call whichever one you want to the siman and the other is the mafteach.
    – user6591
    Jun 1, 2015 at 18:16
  • some old Shulchan Aruchs have siman heading titles without the siman summaries. Jun 1, 2015 at 18:20

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