The Evolution of Jewish Law

Jewish Studies


Defined as the Jewish Law. Halacha is filled with rules and practices that effect every day life. Halacha is the foundation of Judaism, it guides the Jewish people. The Hebrew translation of Halach means pathway. There are 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments in the Jewish Law.

Written Law


Tanach is an acronym, that stands for T (Torah), N (Nevi’im, Prophets) and K (Ketuvim, Writings)


The Torah was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. In the torah, there are five books of Moses (Bereshit,Shemot, VaYikra,BaMidbar and Devarim).

Nevi’im (prophets)

Nevi’im is a subdivision of the Tanach. Nevi’im means the prophets in English. Nevi’im is a collection of books about the lives and the sayings of some of the prophets.

Ketuvim (writings)

Ketuvim is the third division of the Tanach. Ketuvim include: poetical books, the Megillot, scrolls, prophecy and the history. Ketuvim was composed over a long period of time.

Oral Law

The Oral Law was not originally written down. Then one day, someone made a big decision to write down the Oral Law. The Oral Law was written to ensure the survival of Jews in the Diaspora. The Oral Law involves communication and understanding about ethical choices. It helps guide the Jewish people.

Mishna (160-200CE)

Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi edited and wrote down the Mishna around 200 CE. The Mishna is the discussions and decisions of the scholars and rabbis. The Mishna is divided into 6 books/orders and each section deals with a different point of law.


Discussions of the Torah and Mishna make up the Gemara. These discussions were recored and therefore were formed into the Gemara.

Talmud Balvi (Babylonian Talmud)

The Talmud was complied in the year 500 C.E, by two Babylonian sages, Rav Ashi abd Ravina. Talmud Balvi is considered to be the more superior and the most studied Talmud today. The Talmud Balvi was written near the time of Diaspora. The first edition of the Babylonian Talmud was printed in Venice by Bomberg Talmud in 1520-23. Bomberg’s addition of the Talmud contained the commentaries from Rashi and Rashi’s students, the Tosafot.

Talmud Yerushalim (Jerusalem Talmud)

Complied in 350 C.E. by Rav Muna and Ruv Yossi. Talmud Yerushalim is also called the Palestinian Talmud or the Talmud Eretz Yisrael. Talmud Yerushalim has been considered the less authoritative of the two Talmud’s.


After the Talmud, the evolution of Jewish Laws still developed, as commentators began to interpret text from the torah and the Talmud and continue to help people understand the torah and Talmud. The commentators contributed to the teaching of earlier text.

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki- Rashi

Rashi was a famous commentator who wrote about the Tanach and the Talmud at an early age. Rashi wrote his commentary in simple language, so that every Jewish person could understand, learn and interpret his commentaries. Rashi's commentaries are always on the right of the page.


The Tosafot were Rashi’s students. The word “Tosafot translates as “addition” or “supplements”. The Tosafot were composed by many scholars in different schools throughout the 12th and 13th centuries. The commentaries of the Tosafot are printed on the outer margin of the page.

Codes of Jewish Law

The codes simplify the Jewish Law. The codes are easily interpreted. The codes are not the discussions, just the Halachic decisions. It is the end result and the bottom line of the Halachic decision.

Moses Maimonides- Rambam

Moses Maimonides is known as the greater Jewish philosopher and codifier of Jewish laws. Rambam codified the Mishneh Torah (one of the greatest codification of Jewish law).


The branch of rabbinical literature containing of authoritative letter form written by rabbis or Jewish scholars to questions concerning Jewish law.

Joseph ben Ephraim Karo

Joseph ben Ephraim Karo was the author of the last codification of Jewish law, the Bet Yosef. Its condensation, the Shulhan 'arukh (“The Prepared Table,” or “The Well-Laid Table”).

Jasmine Bassat