by Rabbi Ari Avraham Samge, 2016
While the Shulchan Aruch is only divided into four sections, there is an oft-quoted concept that there is an additional (unwritten) fifth section of the Shulchan Aruch. For some, this mythical tome represents a variety of halachic requirements which are not explicitly listed in the previous four volumes but are expected behaviours (halichot) of all Jews, while others claim that this additional volume is symbolic and it describes the approach towards Torah study and the necessary intuition that a posek (halachic decisor) requires to help guide all those who turn to them for guidance.
Earlier this year Rabbi Ari Avraham Samge, Rav of Ramat Shlomo and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat ‘Halichot Shlomo’, published the first volume of a series titled ‘Halichot HaShulchan Aruch HaChamishi’ in which he explores the meaning of this concept while emphasising why it is so important for us to be aware of these additional dimensions of Judaism.
Among the questions addressed by Rabbi Samge include the role of ethics in halachic living, our duties to other Jews and to non-Jews, and our aspiration to live a life of piety. More broadly, Rabbi Samge grapples with the question of when do halachot (Jewish legal requirements) as required by the four sections of Shulchan Aruch take precedence over the halichot (expected behaviours) of the fifth section, and when do halichot take precedence over halachot.
Halichot HaShulchan Aruch HaChamishi is not light reading. It is written as a reference book and it contains thousands of references, meticulously arranged, from an incredibly wide range of Jewish sources. Yet while considerable prior knowledge is needed to fully appreciate this work, this is a veritable treasure-trove of fascinating source material exploring some of the most pressing questions that we face today.
The next volumes are soon to be available, and rather than exploring the concept, we are told that they will contain examples of rulings that reflect of this fifth section of Shulchan Aruch. Certainly, if you are looking for a rich, nuanced and fascinating volume exploring the ethical dimension of halacha, then you are likely to enjoy this. To order a copy, click here.