Evolution of Jewish Law

Jewish Studies - Julian Keller 10


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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