The Evolution Of Jewish Law
By Adam Cohen
- Also known as the Chumash, Pentateuch and the Jewish Bible
- Revealed by God to the Jews on Mt Sinai
- It is the written law
- Contains the 5 books of Moses
The Former Prophets are the books of Joshua, Samuel, Judges and more. These writings begin immediately after Moses' death and end with the release of the last king of Judah from prison.
The Latter Prophets include books of Isaiah, Jeremiah Ezekiel and the 12 minor prophets.
- The Poetic books are Psalms, proverbs and Job. They are all presented in a two column state which expresses the parallel stitches in the verse.
- The 5 Megillot are Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther. These books are traditionally read in shules today over the course of the year.
- Finally, the 'Other books' are the books of Daniel, Ezra-Nechemia and chronicles.
The Mishnah is the collection of the oral Law passed down through word over hundreds of years. It was compiled by Rabbi Judah Hanasi and his court in Palestine around 160-200 CE. It can be divided into 6 books which all deal with a different area of Halacha.
After the creation of the Mishnah, rabbis throughout Israel reviewed and discussed the writings. The Gemara is basically a compilation of their discussions regarding the Torah and Mishna.
There are in fact two Gemarot. Created in the 4th century was the Jerusalem Gemara and created in the 5th century was the Babylonian Gemara. The Jerusalem Gemara was written by the Amora'im in Palestine whereas the Babylonian one is written by scholars of the Babylonian academies. The Babylonian Gemara is much larger and more significant and together with the Mishnah the Babylonian Talmud is created.
- Rashi (France, 11th century)
- Rambam (Egypt, 12th Century)
- Ramban (Spain, 11th century)
This codification creates a system of Jewish law that is accessible to the 'average' Jews and gives a straight-forward answer. On the other hand it causes Jewish law to loose flexibility and reduces creativity as well as different opinions.