The Evolution of Jewish Law

Josh Garkawe - 2013

What is Jewish Law?

In short, Jewish Law is known as Halacha. In the Hebrew language, the word 'Holech' means walk, and 'Halacha' comes from this word. The Jewish Law, the Halacha, gives us a path to 'walk' on, and it shows us the way of how to live and what is right and what is wrong.

Written Law

Torah - The Torah is the first third of the Jewish Bible. In the Torah there are the 5 books of Moses. The Torah was given to Moses on Mount Sanai.
Neviim - Neviim is the second third of the Jewish Bible. It has texts from the famous Prophets of Judaism. There are texts from Former Prophets (like Joshua and Samuel) and there are also texts from the Latter Prophets (like Isaiah and Ezekiel).
Ketuvim - Ketuvim is the final third of the Tanach. Ketuvim translates into 'Writings', and that is exactly what this is - a book of famous writings and stories. This includes the Megillot.

Oral Law

Mishnah - The Mishnah is the first compilation of Oral Jewish Laws and traditions written down into one book. It was compiled in 220CE by Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi. This was a time of great Jewish persecution. The Mishnah is divided into 6 different books. It was a great step in Jewish History as it gave the Oral Law something tangible, and something that was written down and that could be considered as 'one' authority, as it was a redaction of so many things.
Gemara - The Gemara is the commentary and analysis of the Mishnah. Compiled by many Rabbis after the Mishnah was created in Babylonia and The Land of Israel.
Commentators - Commentators comment on the work of the previous Sages. Their comments help us understand the texts from the past, for example the Mishnah and the Talmud.
Codes - Of course, Jews debated, argued, commented and spoke about the published work and texts, and as all stubborn Jews do, they all though they were right. So Codes created and put into effect so that they would announce the 'true' opinions and views of these texts.
Responsa - Responsa is a composition of different responses to rulings by several legal scholars. They are questions and answers which relate to lots of issues, as well as modern day issues.