Finally, it is here — the famous Mishnah Berurah with English translation on CD-ROM. For those of you who are not familiar with the Mishnah Berurah, it is one of the most popular and famous Halachic works written within the last 200 years.
The Mishnah Berurah was written by Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan, better known as the Chafetz Chaim. The Chafetz Chaim was one of the greatest sages to have lived during the mid 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Chafetz Chaim wrote quite a few works. One of them was the Mishnah Breruah, which is based on the Shulchan Aruch’s (Code of Jewish Law) Orach Chayyim (daily living) section. The first volume was printed in 1884. With all said and done, it took approximately 28 years to complete all six volumes.
The CD contains the full Hebrew text and English translation of the Shulchan Aruch-Orach Chayyim and Mishna Berurah. Included also are the Hebrew texts of Bi’ur Halacha, Sha’ar Hatziyun, Ba’er Heitev, Be’er HaGolah, and Sha’arei Teshuva. The program is relatively simple to install and use. Once the program is installed, simply click on the book icons to begin your journey through this great work.
One excellent feature this program offers is allowing the user to adjust the default font size, background, and foreground colors. This comes in very handy for people who have a hard time looking at computer screens or for those who simply like to personalize their programs.
(Colors of letters mentioned in the next few paragraphs refer to the default colors.)
When viewing the Hebrew Shulchan Aruch, you will notice little letters of the Hebrew alphabet in brackets and in parentheses and in different colors. Just click on those letters and within no time a new window will open up with text related to that halacha.
Clicking on the red Hebrew letters in parentheses will lead the user to the Ba’er Heitev commentary, written by Rabbi Yehuda Ashkenazi in 1752. This commentary is a summarization of topics discussed in the Shulchan Aruch.
The Blue Hebrew letters in brackets will link you to the Shaa’rei Teshuva, written by Rabbi Chayim Mordechai Margolies in 1820. However, like the Ba’er Heitev, these works have become classic and are included with the Shulchan Aruch. Nevertheless, the Ba’er Heitev is only a summarization, and Sha’arei Teshuva is only a collection of related responsa, so some important aspects of the authorities were left out. That is what makes the Mishnah Berurah so special — it fills in where these commentaries were too vague for the simple reader.
When clicking on the purple Hebrew letters in parentheses, a box will open up with the Mishnah Berurah. When inside the Mishnah Berurah you will also notice purple letters in parentheses. Clicking on these letters will enable you to view the Sha’ar Hatziun. The Sha?ar Hatziun is a collection of footnotes, written by the Chafetz Chaim.
You are probably wondering: Does the English work the same way? Well, almost; it is only slightly different. For instance, when glancing at the English Shulchan Aruch, you will notice numbers with parentheses and numbers with asterisks. Clicking on the number with parentheses will take you to a new box with the English text of the Mishnah Berurah instead of Hebrew.
However, the difference is with those numbers that have asterisks next to them. Instead of clicking on them, all you have to do is place your mouse over the number and a box will open in the same window — as opposed to it opening in the new window.
On to some of the features of the program. The search feature is wonderful. You can conduct simple searches in either English or Hebrew. You can narrow down your search by choosing which databases to conduct the search in (i.e. just in the Shulchan Aruch alone, etc.). However, for those who need to conduct more advanced searches, the program is pretty well equipped for it.
Some features for the advanced search option include different search methods such as matching exactly, prefix/suffix, soundex, add layers, and synonyms. At the same time, you can set your own search conditions such as the distance and word order.
While conducting these searches, you can keep a word count and look up (saved) previous queries. After conducting many searches, things may become a bit disorganized. A quick solution is to use the merge function.
Many people like to take their own notes when learning. The program includes an option that enables the user to take notes. The notes list lets you keep an organized list by classifying your notes by their subject and description. If you have Davka Writer and would rather take notes with that, you can cut the text from the Mishna Berurah program and paste it into DavkaWriter. (You can also copy to Word Pad but I found that the Hebrew is best displayed in Davka Writer.)
Not always next to the computer, but you would like to learn a siman (chapter) from the Mishnah Berurah? The program allows you to print the texts and gives you a variety of options on how you can print them such as multiple prints (what you want printed on that particular page) and with or without nikkud (vowels).
This program can run on any PC that is running windows 95/98/NT/2000/ME/XP, but the computer must have at least 32MB of RAM and a CD-ROM drive.
This product can be purchased online at www.davka.com or at your better local Jewish bookstore.Shimon Lewin