By COLlive reporter
A beautiful new bilingual Shulchan Aruch hits shelves this week, bringing record access to the Alter Rebbe’s foundational work to English-speaking audiences.
The project, a joint effort of Kehot Publication Society and Sichos in English, was encouraged and sponsored by the legendary patrons of Torah, Rabbi Yonah Mordechai and Hadassah Weiss of Los Angeles, and Rabbi Moshe and Ruti Weiss of Sherman Oaks, California in honor of their parents, Rabbi Berl and Miriam Weiss.
Inside and out, the new work delivers a refreshing study experience to committed scholar and casual learner alike. An innovative side-by-side translation, refined English phrasing, larger vowelized Hebrew and original illustrations are some of its featured enhancements.
This Shulchan Aruch was composed by the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, at the request of the Maggid of Mezeritch around the year 1770. It was to be an updated version of the Shulchan Aruch written two centuries earlier by Rabbi Yosef Caro.
While Rabbi Caro wrote succinct “bottom-line” rulings for a Sephardic heritage, the Alter Rebbe wrote his Shulchan Aruch as a follow-along guide, including all relevant opinions and the rationale for his conclusions.
As a result, the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch has been the definitive point of reference for all subsequent Halachic authorities, Sephardic and Ashkenazic, including such landmark works as Sdei Chemed, Ben Ish Chai and Mishnah Berurah.
In 2012, marking 200 years since the Alter Rebbe’s passing, a group of visionaries committed to bring the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch to its widest audience ever.
Rabbis Eli Touger, Sholem Ber Wineberg, and Uri Kaploun led a team of translators and Rabbinic experts in fine-tuning the English phrasing to present the text in a free-flowing, user-friendly translation that remains true to the Alter Rebbe’s intent.
A wealth of footnotes was added and readability improved to enrich the reader’s study experience. These footnotes supply background information; provide explicit sources in the Written and Oral Torah and selected other sources; summarize explanations by the Rebbeim; and state the actual Halachah and Minhag as practiced in the Chabad-Lubavitch community.
The creative team at Spotlight Design in Crown Heights was tasked with creating an impressive and intuitive look, feel and flow for the seforim, with credit to Rabbi Mayer Prager for coordinating the many parts of this project.
“Every generation has its learning style and needs,” explains Spotlight art director Moishe Muchnik. “Our generation appreciates the balance of function and beauty.” The new design, he says, makes it easy to read the original text, check the translation, glance at a footnote, and jump back into the Hebrew smoothly and enjoyably.
The first two volumes are already on sale in Jewish bookstores and on Sie.org. Two more volumes are scheduled for release in time for Rosh Hashanah and a fifth to coincide with Chanukah.