Rabin Mojżesz Isserles a.k.a Remu

Jews praying at the Remuh tomb (1931), photo thanks to

Rabin Mojżesz Isserles a.k.a Remu

Shulhan Aruch


[The beverage for Birchas Hamazon {grace after meals} must be wine and not any other beverage, even if one normally uses these beverages for meals. If wine can not be found in that place then use liquor, beer or any other beverages considered important in your province; excluding water.] Since it is customary in our provinces to say the blessing on liquor or beer one need not protest over using such a beverage. This is due to the fact that there are authorities that say no beverage is required at all. Additionally, the main beverage of distinction in our province is beer and we even drink it with our meals. Even though wine is found in our cities, none-the-less, we do not consider it as such, since it is expensive. Therefore, it is unrealistic to buy wine for each meal to say the blessing. However, it is a greater Mitzvah to accompany the blessing with wine. There are those authorities maintain that when an individual makes Birchas Hamazon with a drink, he should not hold it in his hand. Rather, the cup should be left on the table before them. This is a good custom based on the Kabbalah. (…)


[They also decreed that when one sets a table to prepare a meal for guests, one should diminish from the meal a little. Furthermore, one should leave over an empty space that would normally hold another tasty dish that is being served at the meal. When a woman does cosmetic painting of gold and silver, she should leave over one of the cosmetics that she would normally use in order that it should not be a complete job. And when a man marries a woman, he should take ash from the fireplace and put it on his head in the place of his Tefillin.] There are places where we have the custom to break a cup at the time of the Chupah or to put out a black table cloth or to do other signs of mourning on the head of the groom. [All these things are done in order to remember Jerusalem, as it says "If I will forget you, Oh, Jerusalem ... if I will not ascend to Jerusalem on the peak of my gladness”.]

(Excerpts from Shulhan Aruch, transl. Jay Dinovitser)


Rabin Mojżesz Isserles a.k.a Remu

Rabbi Moses Isserles, a.k.a. The Ramah (1520 Kraków – 11 May 1572), chief rabbi of Kraków, head of the Kraków yeshiva, the most famous Jewish scholar of Poland, prolific halakhic (Jewish law) commentator, extremely talented, called by his contemporaries “Maimonides of Polish Jewry.” He studied with Salomon Schachna in Lublin, married Golda, Schachna’s daughter, and upon his return to Kraków, was elected the chief rabbi of the city – allegedly, at the age of 20. His father, Israel Isserl, affiliated with the court of King Sigismund August, was a banker and a wealthy merchant, which allowed the Ramah to establish a yeshiva that made Kraków famous in the entire Jewish world. The Ramah gained world renown with his commentaries to Joseph Karo’s Shulchan Aruch, collected in Ha-Mappa (1571), which defined the identity of the Ashkenazi Jews. Both works, printed together ever since, constitute the definitive code of Jewish life. His grave at the Remu Cementary bears the inscription “From Moses to Moses there came no one like Moses.”

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