The Evolution of Halacha

By Emily Klooger

Halacha

Halacha translates directly to 'pathway' or 'to walk', Halacha provides guidelines as to how the Jewish people should conduct their everyday lives in relation to Judaism.


Jewish Law

Jewish Law as we know it consists of the Written Law and the Oral law. Which we as the Jewish people received at Har Sinai through Moshe. Which he passed on to the rest of his people.


The written law - החוק הכתוב

5 books of Moses



Genesis/ Bereisheet

Exodus/ Shemot

Leviticus/ Vayikra

Numbers/ Ba Mdbar

Deuteronomy/ D'varim

The written torah

Nevi'im:

(books of the Prophets, communication between G-d and man)

Ketuvim:

(writings )

Tanach:

(instructions, Nevi'im + Ketuvim = Tanach)

Revelation

Orthodox

Believe the Torah was written by G-d himself, thus the mitzvot are authoritative, immutable and binding. if 1 does not obey the laws then it is interpreted that one is not obeying G-d.

Reform

Believe that the torah was inspired by G-d rather than being written by him. Thus since the laws are not directly from G-d, one can choose whether they obey them or not. The mitzvoth are not regarded as authoritative and binding.

תורה שבעל פה - The oral law

The oral law is made up of:


-Mishna

-Gemara

-^M+G= Talmud

(Talmust Yerushalmi) or (Talmud Bavli)

-Midrash

-Responsa


Relevant people:

-Rashi

-Tosafot

-Rambam

-Yosef Karo

Why do we need it?

Why do we need an oral law if today it is written down anyway? What is the point of an oral law?


-Helps us understand the written law

-Tells us how we can apply Judaism in our modern daily lives

-Explains the commandments to us and how they are supposed to be carried out


Without the oral law we would have commandments and expectations of us from the written law but no explanation as well as guidance for how we should apply the commandments in our lives.

Advantages of the oral law

-Changeable

-Interpretable

-Easily passed on

-Evolves over time

-Perspectives

-Accessible to all

-Dependant on people to pass on




Mishna

The mishna is divided into 6 books


Each section of the mishna deals with a different area of law.

These books cover the discussions of the rabbinic scholars dating back to 200 BCE


Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi edited these discussions and formally wrote them down (as the mishna) between the years of 160 CE - 200 CE


He took on this mission because many thought that as the diaspora was enlarged that the oral law would not be able to access all of the different communities living so separated. As well as the fact that because the oral law was passed on through word of mouth, the laws could be manipulated or accidentally changed throughout generations.



Gemara

These are the formal discussions involving the mishna and the torah


Mishna + Gemara = Talmud

There are two versions of the Talmud


Talmud Yerusalmi: (Jerusalem Talmud)

Rav Muna and Rav Yossi compiled this version of the Talmud in 350 CE


Talmud Bavli: (Babylonian Talmud)

Rav Ashi and Ravina compiled this version of the Talmud in 500 CE

- The Talmud Bavli is the more studied one out of the two, and is seen to be superior to the other.

- There are two Talmuds because the Jews were exiled in 586 BCE to Babylonia, leaving two separate communities.

How has Jewish law developed since the Talmud

Commentaries:

developed to contribute to the study, teachings and learning's of previous texts, helping us to understand the Written torah as well as the Talmud.

Codes of Jewish Law

To separate the different types of laws as well as arguments and discussions from the end results.


The end results are usually the only ones that are recorded to make it simple and easy for Jews to access answers to their modern questions.


Two most popular codes of Jewish law are :

- Mishneh Torah written by Rambam

- Shulchan Aruch written by Joseph Karo

Pros and cons of Codification

Pros:

-accessible

-easily know what to do

-definite answers

-simply read

-little confusion associated


Cons:

-less flexible

-less creativity

-less room for interpretation and opinions

-less discussions

Responsa

Questions and Answers dealing with modern Jewish law issues, answered by Rabbinic Scholars, asked by any curious Jewish member of a community.