Though little known outside of the Jewish community and even to many secular Jews, Yosef Karo is probably the most important Jewish religious writer of the last 500 years. His Shulchan Aruch became the authoritative compendium of Jewish law and tradition, still used by the majority of observant Jews today.
With no sanhedrin or supreme court to clarify matters, only a lifetime of scholarship could enable Jews to come to a clear understanding of the Talmud's vast collection of laws and commentary, let alone the writings of later commentators and the legal rulings of rabbinical judges in various cities. Karo's work thus became not only a crucial reference tool for rabbis and laypersons alike, but also a unifying document that provided a core body of legal and religious tradition upon which virtually all Orthodox Jewish religious sects could agree.
Unificationists can easily appreciate the role and significance of a person like Yosef Karo, since Unificationism places a large stress on the establishment of tradition in its religious culture. An important step in this regard was the publication of The Tradition, Book I by the Reverend Chung Hwan Kwak (New York: H.S.A.U.W.C., 1985, ISBN 9780910621434). This book, however, is already dated, as many new Unificationist customs have developed in the last two decades. Unification tradition is still evolving, and it is already apparent that at some point we will need to distill the hundreds of volumes of speeches by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon into a topical tool for practical guidance in everyday life.
What is amazing about Karo's work is that its authority emerged on its own merit rather than being published by a central authority, which, after all, did not exist in Judaism
. Perhaps a new Yosef Karo will emerge to provide the Unificationist "Prepared Table" (Shulchan Aruch)
sometime in the future.