Sunday, July 15, 2007

Yarzhreit - R' Shlomo Ganzfried

Yesterday (Shabbat, 27th Tamuz) was the Yarzheit of the author of the kitzur shulchan Aruch - Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried.

He was born in Uzhhorod (Ungvar) in the Carpathian region of the Habsburg Empire (now Ukraine). His father Joseph died when he was eight. Rabbi Ganzfried was considered to be a child prodigy and Ungvar's chief rabbi and Rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Heller assumed legal guardianship; Heller was known as "Hershele the Sharp-witted" for his piercing insights into the Talmud. Heller later moved to the city of Bonyh√°d, and Ganzfried, then fifteen, followed him. He remained in Heller's yeshiva for almost a decade until his ordination and marriage. After his marriage he worked briefly as a wine-merchant.

In 1843 he abandoned commerce and accepted the position of rabbi of Brezevitz. In 1849, he returned to Ungvar as a dayan, a judge in the religious court.

Rabbi Ganzfried realised that in order to remain committed to Orthodoxy, "the average Jew required an underpinning of a knowledge of practical halakha (Jewish law)". It was to this end that Ganzfried composed the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.

There is a cute article here:
Rabbi Ganzfried's two million Kitzurs

This is what wikipedia writes about his most famous sefer@

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in effect summarises the Shulchan Aruch of Joseph Karo with reference to all subsequent commentaries and incorporating Jewish Hungarian customs up to the 19th century. The title page of the first edition is instructive, "[the book] is written for God-fearing Jews who are not in a position to study and comprehend the (original full) Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries, and is composed in a Hebrew that can be easily understood." The Kitzur states what is permitted and what forbidden without ambiguity.

To determine a ruling, Ganzfried based his decisions on three halakhic authorities: Rabbi Jacob of Lissa; Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch, author of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav; and Rabbi Abraham Danzig, author of Chayei Adam and Chochmat Adam. In cases of disagreement he adopted the majority view. This closely mirrors the method Karo used in composing his Shulchan Aruch; his three main decisors were Rabbi Isaac Alfasi, Maimonides and Rabbi Asher ben Jehiel.

This work was explicitly written as a popular text and as such does not include all the details of the Shulchan Aruch itself, while generally following its structure. It became immensely popular after its publication due to its simplicity. It is still popular within Orthodox Judaism, as a framework for study, if not always for practice. Today, thousands participate in the Kitzur Yomi ("daily Kitzur") study program.

Because of this popularity it is often printed with cross-references to other works of halakha, especially the Shulchan Aruch HaRav and the Mishnah Berurah; one popular edition also contains notes by former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu cross-referring to leading Sephardi authorities. Many editions include as an appendix the laws pertaining to the Land of Israel by the Chazon Ish (Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz). A recent commentary is Shearim Metzuyanim be-Halakhah, by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Braun, which examines contemporary problems in the light of the work. Ganzfried himself, however, stated that there should be no commentaries on his work, since its point, as indicated by its title, was that it should remain short - and that such commentaries should be appended to the Shulchan Arukh itself, rather than to the Kitzur.

He aslo wrote several other books, including:

* Kesses HaSofer, a halachic primer for scribes published in 1835. Ganzfried composed this while he was still engaged in business.
* Pnei Shlomo, an elucidation of portions of the Talmud.
* Toras Zevach, a halakhic handbook for practitioners of shechita, ritual slaughter.

May His Soul Be Bound in the Bonds of Eternal Life

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