The Lost Halachic Work Discovered in the Rebbe’s Library

The story of an important Halachic work, its second edition which was never printed, and how 20 pages of this work, in manuscript form, were discovered in the Rebbe’s library.

By reporter

Thousands of priceless treasures lie on the shelves and safes of the Central Chabad Library, right next door to 770. The average chossid, however, won’t have the chance to see the most precious of them. Until now, that is.

A new series, launched by in partnership with the Rebbe’s library, will showcase some of the most unique and historic books and items in the Rebbe’s library.

In this week’s episode, Chief Librarian Rabbi Berel Levin explores the history of a work by the Rema which did not enjoy the same popularity as his famous work on Shulchan Aruch.


The sefer ‘Orchos Chayim’ by Rav Aaron Hakohen of Luniel is an important halachic work which compiles halachic discussions on many topics. It is quoted hundreds of times by Rav Yosef Karo in his ‘Beis Yosef.’

When Orchos Chayim on Orach Chayim was printed in 1752, the printer only had an early edition of the work, not the later edition, updated by the author with quotes from Rav Shem Tov. Only for the second volume on Yoreh Deah, Even Haezer and Choshen Mishpat, printed in 1902, was the updated edition used.

While the ‘mahadura basra’  on Orach Chayim was never printed, it was the edition that was used by Rav Yosef Karo when authoring his work, and as such, its loss left a hole in the study of halacha from its sources.

In the 1980s, a manuscript of the updated edition of the first volume was discovered in the Rebbe’s library. As it was never printed, the manuscript of the ‘mahadura basra’ is a unique treasure, perhaps the only such one in the world

Rabbi Levine published an essay in Kovetz Yagdil Torah describing the manuscript, and noting the main differences between it and the printed version of the mahadura kama. But until today, the manuscript is still waiting to be fully published.  

Listen to the lecture in podcast format by clicking here.

YouTube player

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