Question & Answer With Mottel Of Letters Of Thought - Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
A Simple Jew asks:
Unlike Mishna Berura, I have noticed that many people tend to disregard or hold Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in low esteem. Perhaps the more bizyonos that it gets, the greater its inherent kedusha. What do you think?
Mottel of Letters of Thought answers:
Before we delve deeper into the question, perhaps it is appropriate to give the background of the sefer . . .
The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch was written at a time of great spiritual upheaval in Hungary - communities were divided between the Orthodox standard and the Neolog, a reformist movement that pushed a change in the 'status-quo'. Seeing the peril that faced his brethren, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried decided to create a work that would present the day to day requirements of G-d's Torah in a fashion that was accessible to all. An act that in truth is no different then the original writing of Shulchan Aruch, or for that matter the Rambam before that.
Based upon the works of the Alter Rebbe, the Chayei Adam and Rabbi Ya'akov of Lissa, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch renders psak based upon the majority agreement, much as the Shulchan Aruch did using the works of the Rif, Rambam, and Rosh.
In the need to bring out the final 'psak' Rabbi Ganzfried put brevity before all, even if it meant sacrificing explanation. The sefer had been estimated to have had "over two million copies come of the press since its initial printing."
Despite the wide publicity and popular demand of the sefer, there is an apparent disregard for it amongst the elitist, 'yeshivish' circles which choose the works of Mishna Berura and the like over it. The reason simply being, to paraphrase a ma'amar Chazal, that the very act for which the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch strives - brevity, is in truth his undoing . . . for in the yeshivah world there is a need to dive deeper into the inner workings and meanings of the law - something impossible when faced with the simple words of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. Even more so, to properly render a psak halacha from a sefer is, in the words of the Rosh, impossible from an abridged work.
In reality, however, all those who wish to compare the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch to other halachic works and thereby degrade it, are in fact mistaken. For the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, in truth, performs an entirely different purpose then that of the Mishna Berura - the former being a work of psak halacha, of the basic precepts of Jewish life, while the later serves to dive into the realm of pilpul; one is a Rav, the other a Rosh Yeshivah.
True the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch can not be used to pasken, it's abridged nature prevents that, but that was never it's intent. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch was meant to bring out the bottom line, which it so elegantly does.
On a deeper level, the very brevity of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch brings out a greater unification of the Jewish people. For while halacha in general is a common denominator that unites us all - the obligations of Shabbos, kashrus, and the like apply to all indiscriminately- how the law is learned can vary from person to person. The greater ones understanding and level of education, the deeper he can delve. In the realm of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, the halacha has been distilled to its essence, on this level every Jew can open the book and easily understand the halacha. Even more so since Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is probably the most translated book next to the Chumash and siddur. Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried's sefer represent the advantage of klal over prat, of the general principal over what is derived from it. It is the yechida of the soul where we all stand the same with Hashem. (Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe -12 Sivan, 5744)