Volume 27 Number 54
                      Produced: Sat Jan 10 22:45:30 1998

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Last of the Rishonim
         [Zev Sero]
R. Yosef Karo's Semicha (4)
         [Alan Cooper, Yehoshua Kahan, Mechy Frankel, Yitzhak Grossman]
Shulchan Aruch:  Rishon or Acharon?
         [Ben Waxman]
Was R' Yosef Karo a Rishon?
         [Manny Saltiel]


From: <zsero@...> (Zev Sero)
Date: Tue, 06 Jan 1998 15:43:40 GMT
Subject: Re: Last of the Rishonim

Micha Berger wrote:

>I too was taught that the era of the Rishonim concluded with the
>Shulchan Aruch -- not the mechabeir (the author; ie R Yosef Karo) but
>the book itself.  

I had a teacher who was of the opinion that Rishonim ended circa 1492,
and Acharonim began circa 1648, and that the period in between is
actually a separate era, which he calls Kov'im.  In his view, R Yosef
Karo was the first of the Kov'im, and Shach and Taz were the last.
After Shach and Taz begins the era of Acharonim. Similarly, I've always
heard that Shita Mekubetzet is not considered to have been a Rishon
himself, though since he didn't write his own opinions, but merely
quoted Rishonim, that's a mere technicality.

>With the possible exception of the Vilna Gaon, who has been called a
>throwback to the Rishonim.

The Rav (baal hatanya veshulchan aruch) has also been regarded as an
honorary Rishon for this purpose (cf the Talmud's rule that even though
Rav was an Amora, he had the status of an honorary Tana for the purpose
of arguing against the unanimous opinion of the chronological Tana'im).

Zev Sero                Imminent death of the net delayed, Film at 12.
<zsero@...>                     - Joe Greco


From: Alan Cooper <amcooper@...>
Date: Tue, 06 Jan 1998 09:58:44
Subject: R. Yosef Karo's Semicha

>From: <rhendel@...> (Russell Hendel)
>I believe that Rabbi Karo "received" "Smichah" from a "group of Rabbis"
>so that according to some opinions he had "Mosaic Smicah".
>I have two questions
>* What exactly did he receive and by whom
>* Could his received Smichah contribute to his being considered
>a Rishon (This would supplement Mechy's question)

	Karo was a central figure in the great "Ordination Controversy"
of 1538.  He was one of the individuals designated by Jacob Berab, the
instigator of the controversy, to receive ordination as part of Berab's
plan to reintroduce the institution.  Despite significant opposition,
Berab did ordain Karo and a few other disciples.  You might wish to look
at the famous articles on the controversy by Jacob Katz in Zion 16
(1951) and Meir Benayahu in the Yitshaq Baer Jubilee Volume (1960); see
also the chapter in Zvi Werblowsky's biography of Karo dealing with the
topic.  The principal reason for reinstituting ordination was (at least
from Berab's point of view) to usher in the age of the Messiah.  Karo
seems also to have viewed it as a means of achieving his ambition to
become the leading religious authority of his day.  It is not clear,
however, that the mere fact of ordination in itself had any impact on
the status or authority of those who were ordained.

Alan Cooper

From: <orotzfat@...> (Yehoshua Kahan)
Date: Tue, 6 Jan 1998 23:38:47 +0200
Subject: R. Yosef Karo's Semicha

The "semichah" referred to was the renewed "Mosaic Semichah" of his rav,
R.  Ya'acov Beirav, who in the 1530's galvanized the prestigious and
then-dominant Tzfat community to renew the tradition, direct,
fully-empowering Semichah on the basis of two statements of the Rambam,
one in his Perush Hamishnah and the other in the Mishnah Torah.  The
group confered semichah on R. Ya'acov Berav as the first true musmach
since semichah died out at the hands of the Romans over 1000 year prior,
and R.  Ya'acov Berav then gave semichah to four talmidim, one of whome
was R.  Yosef Caro.  The entire enterprise was called into question by
R. Levi ben Chaviv (son of R. Ya'acov ben Chaviv, author of the Ein
Ya'acov) for reasons that, on a strictly halachic basis, seem fairly
unassailable.  R.  Ya'acov Beirav responded, and a whole correspondence
ensued.  For various reasons, the renewed institution of semichah, now
laboring under a cloud of doubt, languished.  The halachic
correspondence between R. Ya'acov Beirav and R. Levi ben Chaviv was
published as an appendix, entitled Kuntrus Hasemichah, to the latter's
Teshuvot HaRalbach.  It is also excerpted extensively by R. Maimon in
his work, Hiddush Hasanhedrin, where he gives the contraversy his own
        What is clear is that Maran took the semichah very seriously,
and the Maggid (in the published portion of Maggid Meisharim) makes
positive reference several times to the fact that R. Yosef Caro was a
true "musmach".  There have been those who have speculated that it was
this fact, plus perhaps the languishing of the living institution of the
renewed semichah, which "emboldened" Maran to undertake what, when
looked at with the perspective which history affords us, was an
incredibly bold, innovative, even visionary project: the Shulchan Aruch.

        There's much more that has and, I sure, will be said about this
question, by people much more knowledgeable than I, but I thought that
one of the first responses should come from Tzfat!!

From: Mechy Frankel <FRANKEL@...>
Date: Thu, 08 Jan 1998 04:22:41 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: R. Yosef Karo's Semicha

He received "simikhoh" from his rebbe R. Y. Beirab who in turn received
it from his own bais din in safed.  The story of R.Yaacov Beirab's
attempt to revive the original simikhoh by relying on the rambam's
suggestions re the concurrence of all the rest of the chakhimei eretz
yisroel and its subsequent torpedoing by R.L.ibn Chabib and the
chakhimei jerusalem is an oft documented tale, and is not even the most
quixotic of a number of different attempts to "revive" the authentic
simikhoh. (my vote there goes to the efforts of R. Boruch of Shklov at
the beginning of the previous century).  Though the refusal of R. ibn
Chabib to go along was the proximate cause of this failure, one wonders
whether it would have died anyway through lack of acceptance by the rest
of the olam (e.g. the Ridvaz in Egypt, importuned by both sides in the
dispute, eventually rejected it.)

In any event, since R. Y. Karo's simikhoh was basically not recognized
outside his own local circle, and mention of the entire episode tended
to fade away even during his lifetime, it in no way could have
contributed to his being considered a rishon. (though reports of these
musmokhim passing on a simikhoh persist for at least three more
generations - e.g. the Alshikh in turn passed on the simikhoh to
R. Chayim Vital) Indeed, as I have argued, the responsa literature is
consistent over the last four hundred years in asserting that he was not
a rishon at all. (I am thus at a loss to explain how so many people,
judging from the mj responses to my original post to date, seem to have
"heard" to the contrary.  Where in the shailos and tishuvos miqoros have
they, or those they heard it from, seen such a claim?)  Anyway, back to
Russel's question, it is interesting that the Alshikh, a student of
R. Y.Karo's who also in turn received this same simikhoh from him
specifically disputed the right of rabbonim already well prior to
R.Y. Karo to apply halokhoh kibasroi against chakhomim of the
"previous", i.e. rishonic era.  - a graphic demonstration of the lack of
additional period status conferred by the revived and soon to disappear
again "simikhoh".

sign me, 
still surprised in silver spring
Mechy Frankel			H: (301) 593-3949
<frankel@...>		W: (703) 325-12772	   

From: Yitzhak Grossman <itzhakg@...>
Date: Wed, 07 Jan 1998 23:28:14 +0200
Subject: R. Yosef Karo's Semicha

   It is said that R. Y. Karo received the Smichah that had been
reinstituted by R. Yaakov bei Rav (Mahari bei Rav) and his Safedian
colleagues during the 16th century, when the possibility of such
reinstitution (based on comments of the Rambam in the Yad and the
commentary on th Mishnah) was the subject of a vitriolic debate between
the aforementioned Safedian scholars and R. Levi ibn Haviv (Maharalbach)
of Jerusalem. Its protagonists considered it to be a full Talmudic
Smichah, investing its holder with judicial priveledges. The Kuntres
Hasmichah (printed as an appendix to Maharalbach's responsa) is an
interchange of letters by the protagonists.
   It's unclear how this would impact on R. Y. Karo's status as a
Rishon, since noone else until then had received Smichah since the
institution's discontinuation in Talmudic times.


From: Ben Waxman <bwaxman@...>
Date: Wed, 07 Jan 1998 18:18:39 +0200
Subject: Shulchan Aruch:  Rishon or Acharon?

>If I recall correctly Mechy Frenkel mentioned that the difference
>between the Shulchan Aruch being a Rishon or an Acharon is important
>(one reason) is to establish whether other Acharonim can take issue with
>him.  I don't think this would really make a difference with regard to
>the Shulchan Aruch, being that the Shulchan Aruch attained special
>status as the sefer pesika of almost all of Am Yisrael.  (The exception
>being some Yemenites who stuck with the Rambam as their sefer pesika-).

Ma-pitoom!!!!  The Magen Avraham, Taz, Shach, and others (including
later Acharonim such as the Aruch ha Shulchan) do not hesitate to
challenge the authority of the Shulchan Aruch.

Ben Waxman
Technical Writer, Foxcom Ltd.
Telephone:  972 2 652 8280
Fax: 972 2 652 0684


From: <saltiel@...> (Manny Saltiel)
Date: Tue, 6 Jan 1998 23:00:09 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Was R' Yosef Karo a Rishon?

Mechy Frankel (<FRANKEL@...>) asked on December 31 (Mail.Jewish
Volume 27 Number 48) whether Rav Yosef Karo, the author of the Beis
Yosef and the Shulchan Aruch, was a rishon or an acharon.  As was
pointed out, the question is more than mearly semantic.

Rav Yitzchok Berkowitz, mashgiach ruchani at Aish Hatorah in
Yerushalyim, comments that the greatest contribution the rishonim made
was not just their inherent greatness as people, but that they wrote
down their mesorahs.  Earlier generation (i.e. the gaonim), for the most
part, did not.  Following the rishonim, the acharonim have all been busy
trying to best understand what the rishonim were saying, why they
argued, and how they would hold on newer cases.  Thus, the rishonim were
the last carriers of the mesorah.  That is to say, that the Rambam
learned his mesorah from the Rimagash, who learned it from the Rif, who
learned it from Rabeinu Chananel, who learned it from his father Rabeinu
Chushiel, one of the gaonim.  And the gaonim carried the mesorah from
the amoraim.  This is the chief reason that an acharon cannot argue with
a rishon.  A posek today may state that he does not understand a point
made by a rishon, but not that he does not agree with him.  Opinion has
no place when you're dealing with mesorah.

Rav Berkowitz does state that there were some "borderline cases," Jews
for whom status as rishon or acharon is unclear.  The Trumas Hadeshen,
the Maharik, and the Rivash (R' Yitzchak bar Sheishish) are three he
names.  However, he categorically and unambiguously calls R' Karo an
acharon.  The Bays Yosef that he wrote was, as has been mentioned, a
compilation of rishonim's commentaries on the Tur.  The Shulchan Aruch
is his abridged version of the Bays Yosef.

In his book entitled "Masters of the Mesorah: Later Rishonim," Rabbi
Zechariah Fendel also notes that many consider the close of the period
of the rishonim to occur with the Ran (d. 1380), the Rivash (d. 1407),
the Maharil (d. 1427), and the Trumas Hadeshen (d. 1460).  In his
preface, he mentions that the book "extended this study well
beyond the rishonim, until the Bais Yosef"

In the Artscroll publication, "The Early Acharonim," R. Karo is listed
(as Caro) on page 84.  He is not listed in their "The Rishonim" book.
It seems as if R' Fendel and the editors of Artscroll agree that he was
not a rishon.

L'mai nafka meena? (What difference does it make).  It makes a big
difference.  Competent acharonim may argue on other acharonim.  If one
knew enough, in theory, one could disagree with the Shulchan Aruch.  Not
so with Tosefos or the Rambam.

Now all we need to do is learn enough.  Let's go.

Manny Saltiel
Los Angeles


End of Volume 27 Issue 54