- Halacha is the Hebrew word for Jewish Law. It originates from the Hebrew word Holech, meaning to walk.
- It provides us a way of life, and explains in extreme detail how to live it.
- Halacha is considered the Jewish path of life.
The Written Law
The Written Torah is made up of the following:
These can be looked out from two very different types of perspectives.
The Orthodox point of view is that the Torah was written by God, and that all of the laws came from him/her. They believe that as God wrote these laws, all of them MUST be followed, and that these laws can not be altered.
The Reformed point of view is that the Torah may not have been written by God, although written by people who were inspired by God. Therefore as these laws weren't exactly written by god, but rather inspired by him, the laws may be altered to accommodate for the current time.
The Written Torah is made up of the Five Books of Moses, and is to be considered the framework of Jewish Law
Torah is made up of the five books of Moses. These are believed to have been handed to Moses by God himself on Mount Synai.
Nevi'im is the second main section of the Tanach, which contains the Prophets.
Ketuvim is the last section of the Tanach, it contains the megillot that are read on the festivals throughout the year such as, Megillat Ruth and Megillat Esther.
The Oral Law is the Laws that were passed down verbally by the mouths of our elders from generation to generation, before eventually needing to write it down in order to preserve and keep safe, as people may have started to forget portions. The Oral Law helps us understand the Torah as it is a commentary of the written Torah. It explains how are are expected to carry out each law, and if a problem comes up concerning any of these laws, The Oral Law is usually where you'd find the answer for it. This is called Responsa (Questions and answers), the Oral Law also contains Gemara and Mishnah.
Responsa is the part of the Oral Law where you would go if you didn't understand something, or needed to do some further research on a issue in the current age. Responsa is very simply questions and answers carried out by Jews to Rabbis.
The Mishanh Consists of six books. These six books plus the Gemera are put together to create something called the Talmud. The Mishnah alone was written in 160CE.
As I mentioned before, the Gemara and the Mishnah come together to form the Talmud. The Gemara was written in the fourth century and contains all the arguments, analysis and discussion about texts and laws from the Rabbis.
The Laws we were given aren't always as straight forward, and easy to understand as they first seem. As society ages, and new inventions are introduced, some of these laws are questioned, which is where the commentaries play a big part. The commentaries are there to help us pull apart and understand the laws in a deeper sense. The most famous commentaries are those of Rashis from the 11th century, whilst also being well known, he's students, the Tosafot in the 12th and 13th century.