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Rabbi’s Blog: B’Kitzur…

12/10/2023 04:50:42 PM


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Dear OZ family,


Right after Sukkot, we started a morning study program that traverses the entire Kitzur Shulchan Aruch over one year. It mostly follows the order of the Shulchan Aruch, which itself was originally meant to be a “Kitzur”, a compendium of the opinions of the medieval Poskim. The first page of the original Shulchan Aruch, which was a small pamphlet, indicates that the work was originally meant to offer the reader a quick review of Jewish law, that should be completed every 30 days. The full Shulchan Aruch today is  usually housed in a series of 9-30 books, depending on the volume, from the standard Shulchan Aruch to the new Machon Yerushalayim version. These books can be 18’x12” and the original Shulchan Aruch  text is usually a small box near the top of the page. Every aspect of Jewish life is covered in these volumes, as is the nature of the Mishna and Talmud, upon which our law is based.


These last few weeks, we have been studying chapter, 30-32 in the Kitzur and the topics of Halacha of these three chapters, are amazing. These laws include the codification of the Mitzvot of Parashat Kedoshim, the Mussar of Sefer Mishle, Pirkei Avot, and the Rambam’s Hilchot De’ot. These laws have high expectations of us. They assume that we can be in control of the way we talk, and the way we think, that we can control what and whom we love and to put off hate, that we can choose not to take vengeance or bear a grudge. These laws teach that we can avoid disparaging others, even the ones against whom we compete. That such ideas enter a law code makes them more than just guides for self-help and happy living.


The Kitzur continues with laws of recognizing the Godliness in every one of us, and that this should drive us to “Menschliness”. We are told that what we eat, what we drink, the way we comport ourselves in our speech and business, with our family and friends, should all be directed to enhancing good will. Even in moments of intimacy, the Halacha informs us to be aware that first and foremost, our highest desire is to give to someone else.


Then the Kitzur has, what is up to then, one of the longest chapters, on personal health and what he calls, “Shmirat Haguf”, carefully guarding our bodies. We wake up in the morning and perform tasks that are similar to the Temple Service because our bodies are indeed Temples. This may be why in the description of the construction of the Mishkan, there are over 20 body parts that describe its various elements. The Mishkan has faces, lips, hands, shoulders, mouths, legs, thighs, heads, sides, sisters, and twins, and more.


The Halacha is not only concerned with helping create an orderly society, but in helping us perfect our personal character and comportment. The Halacha knows that actions shape character, and the Kitzur shows up at our minyan every morning and extends a hand towards these goals. These classes are recorded and available at the end of each week for quick review. Each day is about 5 minutes, and is a great way to start the day. Good character was sorely lacking in the inability of college presidents to identify hate speech when it comes to Jews. Using the wrong pronoun can get you fired, but ”Gas the Jews” is protected. I’m sure these administrators studied many texts to get where they are. Perhaps a little Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, chapters 30-32 would help.


I wish everyone a Chag Urim Sameach.Stay well and healthy.

Rabbi Allen Schwartz     




Rabbi Allen Schwartz

Congregation Ohab Zedek

118 West 95th Street | New York, NY  10025-6604

Phone 212.749-5150, ext 200







Mon, March 4 2024 24 Adar I 5784