This text was prepared by William Gross:
R. Mordechai b. Avraham Yoffe's commentary on the Tur, Orah Hayyim.
R. Yoffe is best known for his “Levushim,” a ten-volume codification of Jewish law that particularly stressed the customs of the Jews of Eastern Europe. From this work he is known as "the Levush". The first five “Levushim” (including the present volume) comprise halakhic codes in the order of the Turim of R. Jacob b. Asher; the other five contain commentaries and sermons.
Mordecai ben Avraham Yoffe (or Jaffe or Joffe) (c. 1530, Prague – March 7, 1612, Posen; Hebrew: מרדכי בן אברהם יפה) was a Rabbi, Rosh Yeshiva and posek. Known as the “Levush”, he studied under Moses Isserles and Solomon Luria; Mattithiah b. Solomon Delacrut was his teacher in Kabbalah. He also studied philosophy, astronomy, and mathematics (apparently at the instance of Isserles). He was Rosh Yeshiva in Prague until 1561, when, by order of the emperor Ferdinand, the Jews were expelled from Bohemia. Yoffe then went to Venice and studied astronomy (1561-71). In 1572 he was elected rabbi of Grodno; in 1588, rabbi of Lublin, where he became one of the leaders of the Council of Four Lands. Later Yoffe accepted the rabbinate of Kremenetz. In 1592 he was called as rabbi to Prague; from 1599 until his death he occupied the position of chief rabbi of Posen.
In addition to his Torah study, writing and teaching the Levush was involved with communal needs, and attended the fairs at Yaroslav and Lublin, where community leaders and rabbis from large communities met to discuss matters of general interest. These meetings were the forerunners of the Council of the Four Lands and the Council of Lithuania.
While still in his youth, R. Yoffe had the idea to compile a book on Jewish law, which would be used for making halachic decisions. The appearance of Caro's Shulchan Arukh, a digest of his Beit Yosef, led Yoffe to consider whether he should continue writing his own work. On reflection, he concluded that there was room for it since it would contain "those laws observed by the Ashkenazi Jews of Bohemia." When Moshe Isserles' Gloss to the Shulḥan Arukh (called Mappah) appeared in Cracow in 1578, Yoffe felt that Isserles had been too brief as had Caro in the Shulḥan Arukh, and decided to resume his original work, "that will be midway between the two extremes: the lengthy Beit Yosef of Caro on the one hand, and on the other Caro's Shulḥan Arukh together with the Mappah of Isserles, which is too brief." In all, Yoffe worked on this book almost 50 years. However, after completing it he was confronted by another Rabbi who had also written a similar work, although not as extensive as Yoffe's. They reached an agreement to publish Yoffe's book and to present the other Rabbi's additional comments in glosses (hagahos) throughout the book [see introduction to his Levush].
Yisrael ben Avraham Bak was born in in1797 in Berdichev, Ukraine. In 1815, he founded a printing press in Berdichev where he published 30 books until the press closed. Finally in 1831 he made Aliyah to the Holy Land and settled in Safed where the following year began Hebrew printing for the first time after 245 years. His press was damaged in both the peasant revolt of 1834 and the earthquake of 1837. The final destruction came with the Druze revolt of 1838, after which Bak left Safed and went to Jerusalem. In 1841 he once again established for the third time a Hebrew press in a different city. This was the first Hebrew press ever in the Holy city of Jerusalem. For 33 year Bak continued to print in Jerusalem, some 130 volumes in all and many single sheet publications, until his death in 1874. In addition to the importance of his printing activity, Bak was also a leader of the Chasidic community and with his son Nisan established the Tiferet Israel synagogue in Jerusalem for Chasidim.
Title page with ornate design resembling an Aron Kodesh, topped by the words "Keter Malkhut".