Evolution of Jewish Law

Jewish Studies - Julian Keller 10

Halacha


  • Halacha is a compilation of the Written and Oral Law.
  • Halacha means "Jewish Law", however the literal translation is "pathway".
  • It is a Jewish person's duty to follow Halacha
  • One may gain deeper connection to Judaism through Halacha
  • Halacha guides and helps Jews to make ethical choices
  • Provides guidelines as to how to live as a Jewish person


Written Law

Torah


  • Written Law
  • Comprised of "The 5 books of Moses", "Chumash" and "Pentateuch"
  • Given to Moses on Mt Sinai
  • This was passed on through generations
  • The holiest book in Judaism
  • Consists of 5 books: Bereshit, Shemot, Vayicra, Bamidbar, Devarim
  • Further elaboration of the Torah is found in Oral Law

Neviim

  • Translated to "Prophets"
  • We are introduced to the first individual prophets here
  • Seperated into 2 different groups: The Former Prophets (Neviim Reshonim) and The Latter Prophets (Neviim Aharonim)
  • Compiled during the 2nd century


Ketuvim

  • Translated as "Writings"
  • Seperated into 4 different sections: Poetical Books, Megillot, Prophecy and History
  • The last section of the Tanach
  • Takes place from the Babylonian Exile to when the Jewish people return to Israel
  • Collection of historical songs, poems, essays and stories


Oral Law

Importance of Oral Law

  • Helps us understand how to tackle modern issues
  • Explains how to observe things in the Torah
  • Fills in the gaps of the Torah
  • Many commandments of the Torah would be incomprehensible without the Oral Law
  • Elaboration of the Torah and Commandments
  • Crucial for it to be written as it avoids others to forget the teachings of the Torah
  • Covers the decisions and discussions of the scholars/rabbis


Mishnah

  • Extensive analysis of Jewish Law
  • It is divided into 6 books, each book dealing with a different section of Law
  • Codification of the Torah
  • Compiled by Rabbi Judah and the rabbinical leaders around the time of 160-200CE
  • It's discussions combined with the discussions of the Gemara make up the Talmud


Gemara

  • Discussions of the Torah and the Mishnah
  • Written in the first 300 years after the publishment of the Mishnah
  • Discussions of the Rabbis of Eretz Yisrael and Babylonia
  • Created around approximately the 4th century
  • It's discussions combined with the discussions of the Mishnah make up the Talmud


Commentaries

  • Pieces of writing written by commentators
  • Aimed at helping others to understand the Torah and Talmud
  • The creation of commentaries was one of the most important and signifcant events for the continuation of the studying and teaching of the Torah and Talmud
  • Commentators are individuals that analyse information in which they are confronted with and help gather answers to modern questions
  • Commentators are usually rabbis and rabbinical scholars


Codes of Jewish Law

  • Summarized versions of the law
  • These books are written about Jewish law and specifically underline the decisions instead of the discussions
  • Simplification of Jewish Law
  • The demand for codification of Jewish Law grew as more commentaries were being made on Jewish Law
  • Jews were in need of a simplified version of Jewish Law in order to gain spiritual assurance
  • Minimal discussions
  • The most notable volumes of the codification of Jewish Law is the Misneh Torah, which was compiled by Maimonides, and the Shulchan Aruch, compiled by 16th century rabbi, Joseph Caro


Responsa

  • Questions and Answers between Jewish people and Rabbinical Scholars
  • This was created in order to deal with modern issues
  • Responsa helps answer the questions that don't have clear answers in religious texts to the average Jew