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''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ), also
transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script Script may refer to: Writing systems * Script, a distinctive writing system, based on a repertoire of specific elements or symbols, or that repertoire * Script (styles of ha ...
as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', and ''halacho'' ( ), is the collective body of
Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO; ) is an international standard are technical standards developed by international organizations (intergovernmental organizations), suc ...
religious law Religious law includes ethical Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'"Et ...
s which is derived from the
written Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entities or Organization, groups through the use of sufficien ...

written
and
Oral Torah According to Rabbinic Judaism Rabbinic Judaism ( he, יהדות רבנית, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century Common era, C ...
. Halakha is based on biblical commandments (''
mitzvot In its primary meaning, the Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Jud ...
''), subsequent
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of and the primary source of Jewish religious law (') and . Until the advent of , in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of and was foundation ...

Talmud
ic and
rabbinic law In its primary meaning, the Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Jud ...
s, and the customs and traditions which were compiled in the many books such as the ''
Shulchan Aruch The ''Shulchan Aruch'' ( he, שֻׁלְחָן עָרוּך , literally: "Set Table"), sometimes dubbed in English as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most widely consulted of the various Codification (law), legal codes in Judaism. It was authored in ...

Shulchan Aruch
''. ''Halakha'' is often translated as "Jewish law", although a more literal translation of it might be "the way to behave" or "the way of walking". The word is derived from the
root In vascular plant Vascular plants (from Latin ''vasculum'': duct), also known as Tracheophyta (the tracheophytes , from Greek τραχεῖα ἀρτηρία ''trācheia artēria'' 'windpipe' + φυτά ''phutá'' 'plants'), form a large group ...
which means "to behave" (also "to go" or "to walk"). ''Halakha'' not only guides religious practices and beliefs, it also guides numerous aspects of day-to-day life. Historically, in the
Jewish diaspora The Jewish diaspora ( he, תְּפוּצָה, təfūṣā) or exile (Hebrew: ; Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a High German languages, High German–derived language historically spoken by As ...
, ''halakha'' served many Jewish communities as an enforceable avenue of law – both
civil Civil may refer to: *Civic virtue, or civility *Civil action, or lawsuit *Civil affairs *Civil and political rights *Civil disobedience *Civil engineering *Civil (journalism), a platform for independent journalism *Civilian, someone not a member ...
and
religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. Different religions may or may not contain v ...
, since no differentiation of them exists in classical Judaism. Since the Jewish Enlightenment (''
Haskalah The ''Haskalah'', often termed Jewish Enlightenment ( he, השכלה; literally, "wisdom", "erudition" or "education"), was an intellectual movement among the Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organ ...
'') and Jewish emancipation, some have come to view the ''halakha'' as less binding in day-to-day life, because it relies on rabbinic interpretation, as opposed to the authoritative, canonical text which is recorded in the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim. These texts are almost exclusively in Biblical Hebrew, with a f ...

Hebrew Bible
. Under contemporary
Israeli law Israeli law is based mostly on a common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or ) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ' is the m ...
, certain areas of Israeli family and personal status law are under the authority of the rabbinic courts, so they are treated according to ''halakha''. Some differences in ''halakha'' are found among
Ashkenazi Jews Ashkenazi Jews ( are a Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in ...
,
Mizrahi Jews Mizrahi Jews ( he, יהודי המִזְרָח) or ''Mizrahim'' (), also sometimes referred to as Mizrachi (), Edot HaMizrach (; ) or Oriental Jews, are the descendants of the local Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO ...
,
Sephardi Jews Sephardi Jews, also known as Sephardic Jews, ''Sephardim'',, Modern Hebrew: ''Sefaraddim'', Tiberian Hebrew, Tiberian: Səp̄āraddîm, also , ''Ye'hude Sepharad'', lit. "The Jews of Spain", es, Judíos sefardíes (or ), pt, Judeus sefarditas ...
, Yemenite,
Ethiopian Ethiopians are the native inhabitants of Ethiopia, as well as the global diaspora of Ethiopia. Ethiopians constitute Ethiopians#Component Ethnicities, several component ethnic groups, many of which are closely related to ethnic groups in neighbo ...
and other Jewish communities which historically lived in isolation.


Etymology and terminology

The word ''halakha'' is derived from the
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
root ''halakh'' – "to walk" or "to go". Taken literally, therefore, ''halakha'' translates as "the way to walk", rather than "law". The word ''halakha'' refers to the corpus of rabbinic legal texts, or to the overall system of religious law. The term may also be related to
AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages' ...

Akkadian
, a property tax, rendered in Aramaic as , designating one or several obligations. It may be descended from hypothetical reconstructed Proto-Semitic root ''*halak-'' meaning "to go", which also has descendants in Akkadian, Arabic, Aramaic, and Ugaritic. ''Halakha'' is often contrasted with ''
aggadah Aggadah ( he, אַגָּדָה or ; Jewish Babylonian Aramaic אַגָּדְתָא; "tales, fairytale, lore") is the non-legalistic pardes (Jewish exegesis), exegesis which appears in the classical rabbinic literature of Judaism, particularly the ...
'' ("the telling"), the diverse corpus of rabbinic
exegetical Exegesis (; from the Ancient Greek, Greek from , "to lead out") is a critical explanation or interpretation (logic), interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for work with the Bible. In mode ...
, narrative, philosophical, mystical, and other "non-legal" texts. At the same time, since writers of ''halakha'' may draw upon the aggadic and even mystical literature, a dynamic interchange occurs between the genres. ''Halakha'' also does not include the parts of the
Torah The Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") includes the first five books of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; : , or ), is the of scriptures, including the , the , and the . These texts are a ...

Torah
not related to commandments. ''Halakha'' constitutes the practical application of the 613 ''mitzvot'' ("commandments") in the Torah, as developed through discussion and debate in the classical
rabbinic literature Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, is the entire spectrum of rabbinic writings throughout Judaism, Jewish history. However, the term often refers specifically to literature from the Talmudic era, as opposed to medieval and modern rabb ...
, especially the
Mishnah The Mishnah or the Mishna (; he, מִשְׁנָה, "study by repetition", from the verb ''shanah'' , or "to study and review", also "secondary") is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral tradition Oral tradition, or oral lore, i ...
and the
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of and the primary source of Jewish religious law (') and . Until the advent of , in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of and was foundation ...

Talmud
(the "
Oral Torah According to Rabbinic Judaism Rabbinic Judaism ( he, יהדות רבנית, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century Common era, C ...
"), and as codified in the ''
Mishneh Torah The ''Mishneh Torah'' ( he, מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרָה, "Repetition of the Torah"), also known as ''Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka'' (ספר יד החזקה "Book of the Strong Hand"), is a Legal code, code of Rabbinic Judaism, Rabbinic Jewish religio ...
'' and ''
Shulchan Aruch The ''Shulchan Aruch'' ( he, שֻׁלְחָן עָרוּך , literally: "Set Table"), sometimes dubbed in English as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most widely consulted of the various Codification (law), legal codes in Judaism. It was authored in ...

Shulchan Aruch
''. Because ''halakha'' is developed and applied by various halakhic authorities rather than one sole "official voice", different individuals and communities may well have different answers to halakhic questions. With few exceptions, controversies are not settled through authoritative structures because during the
Jewish diaspora The Jewish diaspora ( he, תְּפוּצָה, təfūṣā) or exile (Hebrew: ; Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a High German languages, High German–derived language historically spoken by As ...
, Jews lacked a single judicial hierarchy or appellate review process for ''halakha''. According to some scholars, the words ''halakha'' and
sharia Sharia (, ar, ), Islamic law, or Sharia law, is a religious law forming part of the Islamic tradition. It is derived from the religious precepts of Islam, derived from the hadith. In Arabic, the term ''sharīʿah'' refers to God in Islam, G ...
both mean literally "the path to follow". The
fiqh ''Fiqh'' (; ar} ) is Islamic jurisprudence. Muhammad-> Sahabah, Companions-> Tabi‘un, Followers-> Fiqh. The commands and prohibitions chosen by God were revealed through the agency of the Prophet in both the Quran and the Sunnah (words, dee ...
literature parallels rabbinical law developed in the
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of and the primary source of Jewish religious law (') and . Until the advent of , in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of and was foundation ...

Talmud
, with fatwas being analogous to rabbinic ''responsa''.


Commandments (mitzvot)

According to the Talmud (''Tractate Makot''), 613 ''mitzvot'' are in the Torah, 248 positive ("thou shalt") ''mitzvot'' and 365 negative ("thou shalt not") ''mitzvot'', supplemented by seven ''mitzvot'' legislated by the rabbis of antiquity. Currently, many of the 613 commandments cannot be performed until the building of the
Temple in Jerusalem Two ancient Israelite The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ''Bnei Yisra'el'') were a confederation of Iron Age ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the ...
and the universal resettlement of the Jewish people in by the Messiah. According to one count, only 369 can be kept, meaning that 40% of mitzvot are not possible to perform.
Rabbinic Judaism Rabbinic Judaism ( he, יהדות רבנית, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century Common era, CE, after the codification of ...
divides laws into categories:Sinclair, Julian
"D'Oraita."
''The JC''. 5 November 2008. 9 April 2019.
* The
Law of Moses The Law of Moses ( he, תֹּורַת מֹשֶׁה ), also called the Mosaic Law, primarily refers to the Torah Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") has a range of meanings. It can most specifically mean the f ...
which are believed to have been revealed by God to the Israelites at
biblical Mount Sinai In the Bible The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία, ''tà biblía'', "the books") is a collection of religious texts or scriptures sacred to Christians, Jews, Samaritans, Rastafari and others. It appears in the form of an antholo ...
. These laws are composed of the following: ** The
Written Torah The Torah (; he, תּוֹרָה, "Instruction", "Teaching" or "Law") includes the first five books of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebre ...
, laws written in the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim. These texts are almost exclusively in Biblical Hebrew, with a f ...

Hebrew Bible
. ** The
Oral Torah According to Rabbinic Judaism Rabbinic Judaism ( he, יהדות רבנית, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century Common era, C ...
, laws believed to have been transmitted orally prior to their later compilation in texts such as the Mishnah, Talmud, and rabbinic codes. * Laws of human origin, including rabbinic decrees, interpretations, customs, etc. This division between revealed and rabbinic commandments may influence the importance of a rule, its enforcement and the nature of its ongoing interpretation. Halakhic authorities may disagree on which laws fall into which categories or the circumstances (if any) under which prior rabbinic rulings can be re-examined by contemporary rabbis, but all Halakhic Jews hold that both categories exist and that the first category is immutable, with exceptions only for life-saving and similar emergency circumstances. A second classical distinction is between the Written Law, laws written in the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim. These texts are almost exclusively in Biblical Hebrew, with a f ...

Hebrew Bible
, and the Oral Law, laws which are believed to have been transmitted orally prior to their later compilation in texts such as the Mishnah, Talmud, and rabbinic codes. Commandments are divided into positive and negative commands, which are treated differently in terms of divine and human punishment. Positive commandments ''require'' an action to be performed and are considered to bring the performer closer to God. Negative commandments (traditionally 365 in number) ''forbid'' a specific action, and violations create a distance from God. A further division is made between ''chukim'' ("decrees" – laws without obvious explanation, such as ''
shatnez ''Shatnez'' (or ''shaatnez'', ; Biblical Hebrew Biblical Hebrew ( ''Ivrit Miqra'it'' or ''Leshon ha-Miqra''), also called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semi ...

shatnez
'', the law prohibiting wearing clothing made of mixtures of linen and wool), ''mishpatim'' ("judgements" – laws with obvious social implications) and ''eduyot'' ("testimonies" or "commemorations", such as the
Shabbat Shabbat (, , or ; he, שַׁבָּת, Šabat, , ) or the Sabbath, also called Shabbos ( yi, שבת) by , is 's day of rest on the seventh day of the —i.e., . On this day, religious remember the biblical stories describing the and the redem ...

Shabbat
and holidays). Through the ages, various rabbinical authorities have classified some of the 613 commandments in many ways. A different approach divides the laws into a different set of categories: * Laws in relation to God (''bein adam laMakom'', "between a person and the Place"), and * Laws about relations with other people (''bein adam le-chavero'', "between a person and his friend").


Sources and process

Eras of Jewish law
*
Chazal Chazal or Ḥazal ( he, חז״ל), an acronym An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, p ...
( "Our Sages, may their memory be blessed"): all Jewish sages of the
Mishna The Mishnah or the Mishna (; he, מִשְׁנָה, "study by repetition", from the verb ''shanah'' , or "to study and review", also "secondary") is the first major written collection of the Jewish s which is known as the . It is also the first ma ...
,
Tosefta The Tosefta (Jewish Babylonian Aramaic Jewish Babylonian Aramaic was the form of Middle Aramaic employed by writers in Lower Mesopotamia between the fourth and eleventh centuries. It is most commonly identified with the language of the Babylo ...
and
Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of and the primary source of Jewish religious law (') and . Until the advent of , in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the centerpiece of and was foundation ...

Talmud
eras ( BCE – c. 625 CE). ** The ''
Zugot The ''Zugot'' ( he, הַזּוּגוֹת ''haz-zûghôth'', "the Pairs"), also called Zugoth or ''Zugos'' in the Ashkenazi pronunciationAshkenazi Hebrew ( he, הגייה אשכנזית, Hagiyya Ashkenazit, yi, אַשכּנזישע הבֿרה, ...
'' ("pairs"), both the 200-year period (c. 170 BCE – 30 CE, "Era of the Pairs") during the
Second Temple period The Second Temple period in Jewish history Jewish history is the history of the Jews, and their nation, Judaism, religion and Jewish culture, culture, as it developed and interacted with other peoples, religions and cultures. Although Judaism as ...
in which the spiritual leadership was in the hands of five successions of "pairs" of religious teachers, and to each of these pairs themselves. ** The ''
Tannaim ''Tannaim'' ( arc, תנאים , singular , ''Tanna'' "repeaters", "teachers") were the rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study ...
'' ("repeaters") were rabbis living primarily in
Eretz Yisrael The Land of Israel () is the traditional Jewish name for an area of indefinite geographical extension in the Southern Levant The Southern Levant is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical ...

Eretz Yisrael
who codified the
Oral Torah According to Rabbinic Judaism Rabbinic Judaism ( he, יהדות רבנית, Yahadut Rabanit), also called Rabbinism, Rabbinicism, or Judaism espoused by the Rabbanites, has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century Common era, C ...
in the form of the Mishnah; 0–200 CE. ** The ''
Amoraim ''Amoraim'' (Aramaic Aramaic (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that originated among the in the ancient , at the end of the , and later became one of the most prominent languages of the . During its three thousand years long h ...

Amoraim
'' ("sayers") lived in both Eretz Yisrael and
Babylonia Babylonia () was an and based in central-southern which was part of Ancient Persia (present-day and ). A small -ruled state emerged in 1894 BCE, which contained the minor administrative town of . It was merely a small provincial town dur ...
. Their teachings and discussions were compiled into the two versions of the
Gemara The Gemara (also transliterated Gemarah, or in Ashkenazi pronunciation Gemore; from Aramaic , from the Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic langua ...
; 200–500. ** The ''
Savoraim A ''Savora'' (; Aramaic Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Imperial Aramaic: ; square script ) is a language that originated among the Arameans The Arameans (Old Aramaic language, Old Aramaic: 𐤀𐤓𐤌𐤉 ...
'' (" reasoners") lived primarily in
Sassanid The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, '), and also called the Neo-Persian Empire by historians, was the last before the in the mid-7th century AD. Named after the , it endured for over four centuri ...
Babylonia due to the suppression of Judaism in the
Eastern Roman Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn ...

Eastern Roman Empire
under
Theodosius II Theodosius II ( grc-gre, Θεοδόσιος ; 10 April 401 – 28 July 450), commonly called Theodosius the Younger, was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The ...
; 500–650. * The ''
Geonim ''Geonim'' ( he, גאונים; ; also transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping letters (thus '' trans-'' + '' liter-'') in predictable ways, such as Greek → , Cyri ...
'' ("greats" or "geniuses") presided over the two major Babylonian Academies of
Sura A ''surah'' (; ar, سورة, sūrah) is the equivalent of "chapter" in the Quran, Qur'an. There are 114 ''surahs'' in the Quran, each divided into ''ayah, ayats'' (verses). The chapters or ''surahs'' are of unequal length; the shortest surah (' ...
and
Pumbedita Pumbedita (sometimes Pumbeditha, Pumpedita, or Pumbedisa; arc, פוּמְבְּדִיתָא ''Pūmbəḏīṯāʾ'' ), literally meaning in Aramaic: "The Mouth of the River," was the name of a city from the area called by ancient Jewish sources Bab ...
; 650–1038. * The ''
Rishonim Rishonim (; he, ; sing. he, , ''Rishon'', "the first ones") were the leading rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study of Jewis ...
'' ("firsts") are the rabbis of the
late medieval The Late Middle Ages or Late Medieval Period was the period of European history lasting from AD 1250 to 1500. The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the periodization, period of ...
period (c. 1038–1563), preceding the ''
Shulchan Aruch The ''Shulchan Aruch'' ( he, שֻׁלְחָן עָרוּך , literally: "Set Table"), sometimes dubbed in English as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most widely consulted of the various Codification (law), legal codes in Judaism. It was authored in ...

Shulchan Aruch
''. * The ''
Acharonim ''Acharonim'' (; he, אחרונים ''Aḥaronim''; sing. , ''Aḥaron''; lit. "last ones") in Halakha, Jewish law and history, are the leading rabbis and Posek, poskim (Jewish legal decisors) living from roughly the 16th century to the present, a ...
'' ("lasts") are the rabbis from c. 1500 to the present.
The development of ''halakha'' in the period before the
Maccabees The Maccabees (), also spelled Machabees ( he, מַכַּבִּים ''Makabīm'' or he, מַקַבִּים, ''Maqabīm''; or ''Maccabaei''; el, Μακκαβαῖοι, ''Makkabaioi''), were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of J ...
, which has been described as the formative period in the history of its development, is shrouded in obscurity. Historian
Yitzhak Baer Yitzhak Baer ( he, יצחק בער; 20 December 1888 – 22 January 1980) was a German-Israeli historian and an expert on medieval Spanish Jewish history. Early life Baer was born in Halberstadt Halberstadt is a town A town is a hu ...
argued that there was little pure academic legal activity at this period and that many of the laws originating at this time were produced by a means of neighbourly good conduct rules in a similar way as carried out by Greeks in the age of
Solon Solon ( grc-gre, Σόλων Solon ( grc-gre, wikt:Σόλων, Σόλων ''Sólōn'' ;  BC) was an Archaic Greece#Athens, Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, e ...

Solon
. For example, the first chapter of ''
Bava Kamma Bava Kamma ( Jewish Babylonian Aramaic: ''Bāḇā Qammā'' "The First Gate") is the first of a series of three Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Je ...
'', contains a formulation of the law of
tort A tort, in jurisdiction, is a (other than ) that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm, resulting in for the person who commits the tortious act. It can include intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, financial losses, ...

tort
s worded in the first person. The boundaries of Jewish law are determined through the Halakhic process, a religious-ethical system of legal reasoning. Rabbis generally base their opinions on the primary sources of ''halakha'' as well as on precedent set by previous rabbinic opinions. The major sources and genre of ''halakha'' consulted include: * The foundational Talmudic literature (especially the
Mishna The Mishnah or the Mishna (; he, מִשְׁנָה, "study by repetition", from the verb ''shanah'' , or "to study and review", also "secondary") is the first major written collection of the Jewish s which is known as the . It is also the first ma ...
and the
Babylonian Talmud The Talmud (; he, תַּלְמוּד ''Tálmūḏ'') is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law (''halakha ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ; also Romanization of Hebrew, transliterated as ''ha ...

Babylonian Talmud
) with commentaries; **
Talmudic hermeneutics Talmudical hermeneutics (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judean ...
: the science which defines the rules and methods for the investigation and exact determination of the meaning of the Scriptures; includes also the rules by which the Halakhot are derived from and established by the written law. These may be seen as the rules by which early Jewish law was derived. ** ''
Gemara The Gemara (also transliterated Gemarah, or in Ashkenazi pronunciation Gemore; from Aramaic , from the Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic langua ...
'' – the Talmudic process of elucidating the ''halakha'' * The post-Talmudic codificatory literature, such as Maimonides's
Mishneh Torah The ''Mishneh Torah'' ( he, מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרָה, "Repetition of the Torah"), also known as ''Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka'' (ספר יד החזקה "Book of the Strong Hand"), is a Legal code, code of Rabbinic Judaism, Rabbinic Jewish religio ...
and the ''
Shulchan Aruch The ''Shulchan Aruch'' ( he, שֻׁלְחָן עָרוּך , literally: "Set Table"), sometimes dubbed in English as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most widely consulted of the various Codification (law), legal codes in Judaism. It was authored in ...

Shulchan Aruch
'' with its commentaries (see #Codes of Jewish law below); * Regulations and other "legislative" enactments promulgated by rabbis and communal bodies: ** '' Gezeirah'' ("declaration"): "preventative legislation" of the rabbis, intended to prevent violations of the commandments ** ''
Takkanah A ''takkanah'' (plural ''takkanot'') is a major legislative enactment within ''halakha ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ; also Romanization of Hebrew, transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', ''halachah'', or ''halocho''; ) is the collect ...
'' ("repair" or "regulation"): "positive legislation", practices instituted by the rabbis not based (directly) on the commandments * ''
Minhag ''Minhag'' ( he, מנהג "custom", pl. , ''minhagim'') is an accepted tradition or group of traditions in Judaism Judaism is an Abrahamic The Abrahamic religions, also referred to collectively as the world of Abrahamism and Semitic re ...
'': Customs, community practices, and customary law, as well as the exemplary deeds of prominent (or local) rabbis; * The ''she'eloth u-teshuvoth'' (
responsa ''Responsa'' (plural of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...
, "questions and answers") literature. * '' Dina d'malchuta dina'' ("the law of the king is law"): an additional aspect of ''halakha'', being the principle recognizing non-Jewish laws and non-Jewish legal jurisdiction as binding on Jewish citizens, provided that they are not contrary to a law in Judaism. This principle applies primarily in areas of commercial, civil and criminal law. In antiquity, the ''
Sanhedrin The Sanhedrin (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and th ...

Sanhedrin
'' functioned essentially as the Supreme Court and legislature (in the US judicial system) for Judaism, and had the power to administer binding law, including both received law and its own rabbinic decrees, on all Jews—rulings of the Sanhedrin became ''halakha''; see
Oral law An oral law is a code of conduct A code of conduct is a set of rules outlining the norms Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic disciplines * Norm (geology), an estimate of the idealised mineral content of a rock * Norm (philosophy ...
. That court ceased to function in its full mode in 40 CE. Today, the authoritative application of Jewish law is left to the local rabbi, and the local rabbinical courts, with only local applicability. In branches of Judaism that follow ''halakha'', lay individuals make numerous ad-hoc decisions but are regarded as not having authority to decide certain issues definitively. Since the days of the Sanhedrin, however, no body or authority has been generally regarded as having the authority to create universally recognized precedents. As a result, ''halakha'' has developed in a somewhat different fashion from Anglo-American legal systems with a Supreme Court able to provide universally accepted precedents. Generally, Halakhic arguments are effectively, yet unofficially, peer-reviewed. When a rabbinic ''
posek ''Posek'' ( he, פוסק , pl. ''poskim'', ) is the term in Jewish law ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ; also transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', ''halachah'', or ''halocho''; ) is the collective body of Jewish Jews ( ...
'' ("he who makes a statement", "decisor") proposes an additional interpretation of a law, that interpretation may be considered binding for the posek's questioner or immediate community. Depending on the stature of the posek and the quality of the decision, an interpretation may also be gradually accepted by other rabbis and members of other Jewish communities. Under this system there is a tension between the relevance of earlier and later authorities in constraining Halakhic interpretation and innovation. On the one hand, there is a principle in ''halakha'' not to overrule a specific law from an earlier era, after it is accepted by the community as a law or
vow A vow ( Lat. ''votum'', vow, promise; see vote) is a promise or oath Traditionally an oath (from Anglo-Saxon The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group who inhabited England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that ...

vow
, unless supported by another, relevant earlier precedent; see list below. On the other hand, another principle recognizes the responsibility and authority of later authorities, and especially the ''posek'' handling a then-current question. In addition, the ''halakha'' embodies a wide range of principles that permit judicial discretion and deviation (Ben-Menahem). Notwithstanding the potential for innovation, rabbis and Jewish communities differ greatly on how they make changes in ''halakha''. Notably, ''
poskim ''Posek'' ( he, פוסק , pl. ''poskim'', ) is the term in Jewish law ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ), also transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping let ...
'' frequently extend the application of a law to new situations, but do not consider such applications as constituting a "change" in ''halakha''. For example, many
Orthodox Orthodox, Orthodoxy, or Orthodoxism may refer to: Religion * Orthodoxy, adherence to accepted norms, more specifically adherence to creeds, especially within Christianity and Judaism, but also less commonly in non-Abrahamic religions like Neo-paga ...
rulings concerning electricity are derived from rulings concerning fire, as closing an electrical circuit may cause a spark. In contrast, Conservative ''poskim'' consider that switching on electrical equipment is physically and chemically more like turning on a water tap (which is permissible by ''halakha'') than lighting a fire (which is not permissible), and therefore permitted on Shabbat. The reformative
Judaism Judaism is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, monotheism, monotheistic, and ethnic religion comprising the collective religious, cultural, and legal tradition and civilization of the Jewish people. It has its roots as an organized religion ...
in some cases explicitly interprets ''halakha'' to take into account its view of contemporary society. For instance, most Conservative rabbis extend the application of certain Jewish obligations and permissible activities to women (see
below Below may refer to: *Earth *Ground (disambiguation) *Soil *Floor *Bottom (disambiguation) *Less than *Temperatures below freezing *Hell or underworld People with the surname *Fred Below (1926–1988), American blues drummer *Fritz von Below (1853 ...
). Within certain Jewish communities, formal organized bodies do exist. Within
Modern Orthodox Judaism Modern Orthodox Judaism (also Modern Orthodox or Modern Orthodoxy) is a movement within Orthodox Judaism Orthodox Judaism is the collective term for the traditionalist branches of contemporary . , it is chiefly defined by regarding the , both ...
, there is no one committee or leader, but Modern US-based Orthodox rabbis generally agree with the views set by consensus by the leaders of the
Rabbinical Council of AmericaThe Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) is one of the world's largest organizations of Orthodox Judaism, Orthodox rabbis; it is affiliated with The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, more commonly known as the Orthodox Union (OU). It ...
. Within
Conservative Judaism Conservative Judaism (known as Masorti Judaism outside North America) is a Jewish religious movements, Jewish religious movement that regards the authority of Jewish law and tradition as emanating primarily from the assent of the people and th ...
, the
Rabbinical AssemblyThe Rabbinical Assembly (RA) is the international association of Conservative Judaism, Conservative rabbis. The RA was founded in 1901 to shape the ideology, programs, and practices of the Conservative movement. It publishes prayerbooks and books of ...
has an official
Committee on Jewish Law and Standards The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards is the central authority on halakha (Jewish law and tradition) within Conservative Judaism; it is one of the most active and widely known committees on the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly. Within ...
. Note that ''takkanot'' (plural of ''
takkanah A ''takkanah'' (plural ''takkanot'') is a major legislative enactment within ''halakha ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ; also Romanization of Hebrew, transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', ''halachah'', or ''halocho''; ) is the collect ...
'') in general do not affect or restrict observance of Torah ''mitzvot''. (Sometimes ''takkanah'' refers to either ''gezeirot'' or ''takkanot''.) However, the Talmud states that in exceptional cases, the Sages had the authority to "uproot matters from the Torah". In Talmudic and classical Halakhic literature, this authority refers to the authority to prohibit some things that would otherwise be Biblically sanctioned (''shev v'al ta'aseh'', "thou shall stay seated and not do"). Rabbis may rule that a specific mitzvah from the Torah should not be performed, e. g., blowing the ''
shofar A shofar ( ; from he, שׁוֹפָר, ) is an ancient musical Horn (instrument), horn typically made of a Ram (sheep), ram's horn (anatomy), horn, used for Judaism, Jewish religious purposes. Like the modern bugle, the shofar lacks pitch (mus ...

shofar
'' on Shabbat, or taking the '' lulav and etrog'' on Shabbat. These examples of takkanot which may be executed out of caution lest some might otherwise carry the mentioned items between home and the synagogue, thus inadvertently violating a Sabbath '' melakha''. Another rare and limited form of takkanah involved overriding Torah prohibitions. In some cases, the Sages allowed the temporary violation of a prohibition in order to maintain the Jewish system as a whole. This was part of the basis for
Esther Esther is described in all versions of the Book of Esther The Book of Esther (Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historica ...

Esther
's relationship with
Ahasuerus Ahasuerus ( ; , commonly ''Achashverosh'';; fa, اخشورش, Axšoreš; fa, label=New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the final stage of the Persian language Persian (), also ...

Ahasuerus
(Xeres). For general usage of takkanaot in Jewish history see the article
Takkanah A ''takkanah'' (plural ''takkanot'') is a major legislative enactment within ''halakha ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ; also Romanization of Hebrew, transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', ''halachah'', or ''halocho''; ) is the collect ...
. For examples of this being used in Conservative Judaism, see
Conservative halakha Conservative Judaism Conservative Judaism (known as Masorti Judaism outside North America) is a Jewish religious movements, Jewish religious movement that regards the authority of Jewish law and tradition as emanating primarily from the assen ...
.


Historical analysis

The antiquity of the rules can be determined only by the dates of the authorities who quote them; in general, they cannot safely be declared older than the tannaim, tanna ("repeater") to whom they are first ascribed. It is certain, however, that the seven middot ("measurements", and referring to [good] behavior) of Hillel and the thirteen of Ishmael are earlier than the time of Hillel himself, who was the first to transmit them. The Talmud gives no information concerning the origin of the middot, although the Geonim ("Sages") regarded them as Sinaitic (Law given to Moses at Sinai). The Artscroll Series writes in its Overview to the book of Ezra: "During the Mishnaitic and Talmudic periods, the Sages of Israel... took the eternal tools of exegesis and used them to reveal the secrets that had always been locked within the words of the Torah, secrets that Moses had taught Israel and that, in turn, had been transmitted orally for over a thousand years until the oral tradition began to crumble due to persecution and a lack of diligence. They did nothing new and certainly made no changes in the Torah; they merely made use of hermeneutic principles that had not been needed while the tradition of study was still at its zenith." (pg. xii-xiii) The middot seem to have been first laid down as abstract rules by the teachers of Hillel, though they were not immediately recognized by all as valid and binding. Different schools interpreted and modified them, restricted or expanded them, in various ways. Rabbi Akiva and rabbi Ishmael and their scholars especially contributed to the development or establishment of these rules. "It must be borne in mind, however, that neither Hillel, Ishmael, nor [a contemporary of theirs named] Eliezer ben Jose sought to give a complete enumeration of the rules of interpretation current in his day, but that they omitted from their collections many rules which were then followed." Akiva devoted his attention particularly to the grammatical and exegetical rules, while Ishmael developed the logical. The rules laid down by one school were frequently rejected by another because the principles that guided them in their respective formulations were essentially different. According to Akiva, the divine language of the Torah is distinguished from the speech of men by the fact that in the former no word or sound is superfluous. Some scholars have observed a similarity between these rabbinic rules of interpretation and the hermeneutics of ancient Hellenistic culture. For example, Saul Lieberman argues that the names of rabbi Ishmael's ''middot'' (e. g., ''kal vahomer'', a combination of the archaic form of the word for "straw" and the word for "clay" – "straw and clay", referring to the obvious [means of making a mud brick]) are Hebrew translations of Greek terms, although the methods of those ''middot'' are not Greek in origin.


Views today

Orthodox Judaism holds that ''halakha'' is the divine law as laid out in the Torah (five books of Moses), rabbinical laws, rabbinical decrees, and customs combined. The rabbis, who made many additions and interpretations of Jewish Law, did so only in accordance with regulations they believe were given for this purpose to Moses on Mount Sinai, Egypt, Mount Sinai, see . See Orthodox Judaism#Beliefs, Orthodox Judaism, Beliefs about Jewish law and tradition.
Conservative Judaism Conservative Judaism (known as Masorti Judaism outside North America) is a Jewish religious movements, Jewish religious movement that regards the authority of Jewish law and tradition as emanating primarily from the assent of the people and th ...
holds that ''halakha'' is normative and binding, and is developed as a partnership between people and God based on Sinaitic Torah. While there are a wide variety of Conservative views, a common belief is that ''halakha'' is, and has always been, an evolving process subject to interpretation by rabbis in every time period. See Conservative Judaism#Beliefs, Conservative Judaism, Beliefs. Reconstructionist Judaism holds that halakha is normative and binding, while also believing that it is an evolving concept and that the traditional halakhic system is incapable of producing a code of conduct that is meaningful for, and acceptable to, the vast majority of contemporary Jews. Reconstructionist founder Mordecai Kaplan believed that "Jewish life [is] meaningless without Jewish law.", and one of the planks of the Society for the Jewish Renascence, of which Kaplan was one of the founders, stated: "We accept the halakha, which is rooted in the Talmud, as the norm of Jewish life, availing ourselves, at the same time, of the method implicit therein to interpret and develop the body of Jewish Law in accordance with the actual conditions and spiritual needs of modern life." Reform Judaism holds that modern views of how the Torah and rabbinic law developed imply that the body of rabbinic Jewish law is no longer normative (seen as binding) on Jews today. Those in the "traditionalist" wing believe that the ''halakha'' represents a personal starting-point, holding that each Jew is obligated to interpret the Torah, Talmud and other Jewish works for themselves, and this interpretation will create separate commandments for each person. Those in the liberal and classical wings of Reform believe that in this day and era, most Jewish religious rituals are no longer necessary, and many hold that following most Jewish laws is actually counter-productive. They propose that Judaism has entered a phase of ethical monotheism, and that the laws of Judaism are only remnants of an earlier stage of religious evolution, and need not be followed. This is considered wrong, and even heresy, heretical, by Orthodox and Conservative Judaism. Humanistic Jews value the Torah as a historical, political, and sociological text written by their ancestors. They do not believe "that every word of the Torah is true, or even morally correct, just because the Torah is old". The Torah is both disagreed with and questioned. Humanistic Jews believe that the entire Jewish experience, and not only the Torah, should be studied as a source for Jewish behavior and ethical values. Jews believe that gentiles are bound by a subset of ''halakha'' called the Seven Laws of Noah, also referred to as the Noahide Laws. They are a set of imperatives which, according to the Talmud, were given by God to the "children of Noah" – that is, all of humanity.


Flexibility

Despite its internal rigidity, ''halakha'' has a degree of flexibility in finding solutions to modern problems that are not explicitly mentioned in the Torah. From the very beginnings of Rabbinic Judaism, halakhic inquiry allowed for a "sense of continuity between past and present, a self-evident trust that their pattern of life and belief now conformed to the sacred patterns and beliefs presented by scripture and tradition". According to an analysis by Jewish scholar Jeffrey Rubenstein of Michael Berger's book ''Rabbinic Authority'', the authority that rabbis hold "derives not from the institutional or personal authority of the sages but from a ''communal'' decision to recognize that authority, much as a community recognizes a certain judicial system to resolve its disputes and interpret its laws." Given this covenental relationship, rabbis are charged with connecting their contemporary community with the traditions and precedents of the past. When presented with contemporary issues, rabbis go through a halakhic process to find an answer. The classical approach has permitted new rulings regarding modern technology. For example, some of these rulings guide Jewish observers about the proper use of electricity on the Sabbath and holidays. Often, as to the applicability of the law in any given situation, the proviso is to "consult your local rabbi or
posek ''Posek'' ( he, פוסק , pl. ''poskim'', ) is the term in Jewish law ''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ; also transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', ''halachah'', or ''halocho''; ) is the collective body of Jewish Jews ( ...
". This notion lends rabbis a certain degree of local authority; however, for more complex questions the issue is passed on to higher rabbis who will then issue a ''teshuvot'', which is a ''responsa'' that is binding. Indeed, rabbis will continuously issue different opinions and will constantly review each other's work so as to maintain the truest sense of ''halakha''. Overall, this process allows rabbis to maintain connection of traditional Jewish law to modern life. Of course, the degree of flexibility depends on the sect of Judaism, with Reform being the most flexible, Conservative somewhat in the middle, and Orthodox being much more stringent and rigid. Modern critics, however, have charged that with the rise of movements that challenge the "divine" authority of ''halakha'', traditional Jews have greater reluctance to change, not only the laws themselves but also other customs and habits, than traditional Rabbinical Judaism did prior to the advent of Reform in the 19th century.


Denominational approaches


Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Jews believe that ''halakha'' is a religious system whose core represents the Revelation, revealed will of God. Although Orthodox Judaism acknowledges that rabbis have made many decisions and decrees regarding Jewish Law where the written Torah itself is nonspecific, they did so only in accordance with regulations received by Moses on Mount Sinai, Egypt, Mount Sinai (see ). These regulations were transmitted orally until shortly after the destruction of the Second Temple. They were then recorded in the Mishnah, and explained in the Talmud and commentaries throughout history up until the present day. Orthodox Judaism believes that subsequent interpretations have been derived with the utmost accuracy and care. The most widely accepted codes of Jewish law are known as
Mishneh Torah The ''Mishneh Torah'' ( he, מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרָה, "Repetition of the Torah"), also known as ''Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka'' (ספר יד החזקה "Book of the Strong Hand"), is a Legal code, code of Rabbinic Judaism, Rabbinic Jewish religio ...
and the ''
Shulchan Aruch The ''Shulchan Aruch'' ( he, שֻׁלְחָן עָרוּך , literally: "Set Table"), sometimes dubbed in English as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most widely consulted of the various Codification (law), legal codes in Judaism. It was authored in ...

Shulchan Aruch
''.Jacobs, Jill.
The Shulchan Aruch
" ''My Jewish Learning''. 8 April 2019.
Orthodox Judaism has a range of opinions on the circumstances and extent to which change is permissible. Haredi Judaism, Haredi Jews generally hold that even ''minhagim'' (customs) must be retained, and existing precedents cannot be reconsidered. Modern Orthodox authorities are more inclined to permit limited changes in customs and some reconsideration of precedent.


Conservative Judaism

The view held by
Conservative Judaism Conservative Judaism (known as Masorti Judaism outside North America) is a Jewish religious movements, Jewish religious movement that regards the authority of Jewish law and tradition as emanating primarily from the assent of the people and th ...
is that the Torah is not the word of God in a literal sense. However, the Torah is still held as mankind's record of its understanding of God's revelation, and thus still has divine authority. Therefore, ''halakha'' is still seen as binding. Conservative Jews use modern methods of historical study to learn how Jewish law has changed over time, and are, in some cases, willing to change Jewish law in the present. A key practical difference between Conservative and Orthodox approaches is that Conservative Judaism holds that its rabbinical body's powers are not limited to reconsidering later precedents based on earlier sources, but the
Committee on Jewish Law and Standards The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards is the central authority on halakha (Jewish law and tradition) within Conservative Judaism; it is one of the most active and widely known committees on the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly. Within ...
(CJLS) is empowered to override Biblical and Taanitic prohibitions by ''takkanah'' (decree) when perceived to be inconsistent with modern requirements or views of ethics. The CJLS has used this power on a number of occasions, most famously in the "driving teshuva", which says that if someone is unable to walk to any synagogue on the Sabbath, and their commitment to observance is so loose that not attending synagogue may lead them to drop it altogether, their rabbi may give them a dispensation to drive there and back; and more recently in its decision prohibiting the taking of evidence on ''mamzer'' status on the grounds that implementing such a status is immoral. The CJLS has also held that the Talmudic concept of ''Kavod HaBriyot'' permits lifting rabbinic decrees (as distinct from carving narrow exceptions) on grounds of human dignity, and used this principle in a December 2006 opinion lifting all rabbinic prohibitions on Homosexuality, homosexual conduct (the opinion held that only male-male anal sex was forbidden by the the Bible and homosexuality, Bible and that this remained prohibited). Conservative Judaism also made a number of changes to the role of women in Judaism including counting women in a minyan, permitting women to chant from the Torah, and ordaining women as rabbis. The Conservative approach to halachic interpretation can be seen in the CJLS's acceptance of Rabbi Elie Kaplan Spitz's responsum decreeing the biblical category of ''mamzer'' as "inoperative."Kaplan Spitz, Elie
"Mamzerut."
''Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly''. EH 4.2000a. p. 586.
The CJLS adopted the responsum's view that the "morality which we learn through the larger, unfolding narrative of our tradition" informs the application of Mosaic law. The responsum cited several examples of how the rabbinic sages declined to enforce punishments explicitly mandated by Torah law. The examples include the trial of the accused adulteress (''sotah''), the "law of breaking the neck of the heifer," and the application of the death penalty for the "rebellious child." Kaplan Spitz argues that the punishment of the ''mamzer'' has been effectively inoperative for nearly two thousand years due to deliberate rabbinic inaction. Further he suggested that the rabbis have long regarded the punishment declared by the Torah as immoral, and came to the conclusion that no court should agree to hear testimony on ''mamzerut''.


Codes of Jewish law

The most important codifications of Jewish law include: * The Mishnah, composed by Judah haNasi, rabbi Judah the Prince, in 200 CE, as a basic outline of the state of the Oral Law in his time. This was the framework upon which the Talmud was based; the Talmud's dialectic analysis of the content of the Mishna (''gemara''; completed c. 500) became the basis for all later posek, halakhic decisions and subsequent codification (law), codes. * Codification (law), Codifications by the
Geonim ''Geonim'' ( he, גאונים; ; also transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping letters (thus '' trans-'' + '' liter-'') in predictable ways, such as Greek → , Cyri ...
of the halakhic material in the Talmud. ** An early work, ''She'iltot'' ("Questions") by Achai of Shabcha (c. 752) discusses over 190 ''mitzvot'' – exploring and addressing various questions on these. ** The first legal codex proper, ''Halakhot Pesukot'' ("Decided Laws"), by Yehudai Gaon (c. 760), rearranges the Talmud passages in a structure manageable to the layman. (It was written in Aramaic language#Jewish Middle Babylonian Aramaic, vernacular Aramaic, and subsequently translated into
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
as ''Hilkhot Riu''.) ** ''Halakhot Gedolot'' ("Great Law Book"), by R. Simeon Kayyara, published two generations later (but possibly written c. 743), contains extensive additional material, mainly from Responsa and Monographs of the Geonim, and is presented in a form that is closer to the original Talmud language and structure. (Probably since it was distributed, also, amongst the newly established Ashkenazi communities.) The ''She'iltot'' was influential on both subsequent works. * The Hilchot HaRif was written by the Rabbi Isaac Alfasi (1013–1103); it has summations of the legal material found in the Talmud. Alfasi transcribed the Talmud's halakhic conclusions verbatim, without the surrounding deliberation; he also excluded all aggadic (non-legal, and homiletic) matter. The ''Hilchot'' soon superseded the geonic codes, as it contained all the decisions and the laws then relevant, and additionally, served as an accessible Talmudic commentary; it has been printed with almost every subsequent edition of the Talmud. * The
Mishneh Torah The ''Mishneh Torah'' ( he, מִשְׁנֵה תּוֹרָה, "Repetition of the Torah"), also known as ''Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka'' (ספר יד החזקה "Book of the Strong Hand"), is a Legal code, code of Rabbinic Judaism, Rabbinic Jewish religio ...
by Maimonides (1135–1204). This work encompasses the full range of Talmudic law; it is organized and reformulated in a logical system – in 14 books, 83 sections and 1000 chapters – with each ''halakha'' stated clearly. The Mishneh Torah is very influential to this day, and several later works reproduce passages verbatim. It also includes a section on Metaphysics and Jewish principles of faith, fundamental beliefs. (Some claim this section draws heavily on Aristotle, Aristotelian science and metaphysics; others suggest that it is within the tradition of Saadia Gaon.) It is the main source of practical ''halakha'' for many Yemenite Jews – mainly Baladi and Dor Daim – as well as for a growing community referred to as ''Dor Daim#Talmide ha-Rambam, talmidei haRambam''. * The work of ''the Rosh'', rabbi Asher ben Jehiel (1250?/1259?–1328), an abstract of the Talmud, concisely stating the final halakhic decision and quoting later authorities, notably Alfasi, Maimonides, and the Tosafists. This work superseded rabbi Alfasi's and has been printed with almost every subsequent edition of the Talmud. * The ''Sefer Mitzvot Gadol'' (The "SeMaG") of rabbi Moses ben Jacob of Coucy (first half of the 13th century, Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique, Coucy, northern France). "SeMaG" is organised around the 365 negative and the 248 positive commandments, separately discussing each of them according to the Talmud (in light of the commentaries of Rashi and the Tosafot) and the other codes existent at the time. ''Sefer Mitzvot Katan'' ("SeMaK") by Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil is an abridgement of the ''SeMaG'', including additional practical ''halakha'', as well as agaddic and Musar literature, ethical material. * "The Mordechai" – by Mordecai ben Hillel (d. Nuremberg 1298) – serves both as a source of analysis, as well as of decided law. Mordechai considered about 350 halakhic authorities, and was widely influential, particularly amongst the Ashkenazi and Italian Jews#Italian rite Jews, Italian communities. Although organised around the ''Hilchot'' of ''the Rif'', it is, in fact, an independent work. It has been printed with every edition of the Talmud since 1482. * The Arba'ah Turim (lit. "The Four Columns"; the ''Tur'') by rabbi Jacob ben Asher (1270–1343, Toledo, Spain). This work traces the ''halakha'' from the Torah text and the Talmud through the
Rishonim Rishonim (; he, ; sing. he, , ''Rishon'', "the first ones") were the leading rabbi A rabbi is a spiritual leader or religious teacher in Judaism. One becomes a rabbi by being ordained by another rabbi, following a course of study of Jewis ...
, with the ''Hilchot'' of Alfasi as its starting point. Ben Asher followed Maimonides's precedent in arranging his work in a topical order, however, the ''Tur'' covers only those areas of Jewish law that were in force in the author's time. The code is divided into four main sections; almost all codes since this time have followed the ''Turs arrangement of material. ** Orach Chayim ("The Way of Life"): worship and ritual observance in the home and synagogue, through the course of the day, the weekly sabbath and the festival cycle. ** Yoreh De'ah ("Teach Knowledge"): assorted ritual prohibitions, dietary laws and regulations concerning menstruation, menstrual impurity. ** Even Ha'ezer ("The Rock of the Helpmate"): marriage, divorce and other issues in family law. ** Choshen Mishpat ("The Breastplate of Judgement"): The administration and adjudication of civil law. * The ''Beit Yosef (book), Beit Yosef'' and the ''
Shulchan Aruch The ''Shulchan Aruch'' ( he, שֻׁלְחָן עָרוּך , literally: "Set Table"), sometimes dubbed in English as the Code of Jewish Law, is the most widely consulted of the various Codification (law), legal codes in Judaism. It was authored in ...

Shulchan Aruch
'' of rabbi Yosef Karo (1488–1575). The ''Beit Yosef'' is a huge commentary on the ''Tur'' in which rabbi Karo traces the development of each law from the Talmud through later rabbinical literature (examining 32 posek, authorities, beginning with the Talmud and ending with the works of rabbi Israel Isserlein). The ''Shulchan Aruch'' (literally "set table") is, in turn, a condensation of the ''Beit Yosef'' – stating each ruling simply; this work follows the chapter divisions of the ''Tur''. The ''Shulchan Aruch'', together with its related commentaries, is considered by many to be the most authoritative compilation of ''halakha'' since the Talmud. In writing the ''Shulchan Aruch'', rabbi Karo based his posek, rulings on three authorities – Maimonides, Asher ben Jehiel (Rosh), and Isaac Alfasi (Rif); he considered ''the Mordechai'' in inconclusive cases. Sephardi, Sephardic Jews, generally, refer to the ''Shulchan Aruch'' as the basis for their daily practice. * The works of Rabbi Moshe Isserles ("Rema"; Kraków, Poland, 1525 to 1572). Isserles noted that the ''Shulchan Aruch'' was based on the Sephardic laws and customs, Sephardic tradition, and he created a series of gloss (annotation), glosses to be appended to the text of the Shulkhan Aruch for cases where Sephardi and Ashkenazi minhag, customs differed (based on the works of Yaakov Moelin, Israel Isserlein, and Israel Bruna). The glosses are called ''ha-Mapah'' ("the Tablecloth"). His comments are now incorporated into the body of all printed editions of the ''Shulchan Aruch'', typeset in a different script; today, "Shulchan Aruch" refers to the combined work of Karo and Isserles. Isserles' ''Darkhei Moshe'' is similarly a commentary on the ''Tur'' and the ''Beit Yosef''. * The ''Levush Malkhut'' ("Levush") of Rabbi Mordecai Yoffe (c. 1530–1612). A ten-volume work, five discussing ''halakha'' at a level "midway between the two extremes: the lengthy ''Beit Yosef'' of Karo on the one hand, and on the other Karo's ''Shulchan Aruch'' together with the ''Mappah'' of Isserles, which is too brief", that particularly stresses the minhag, customs and practices of the Jews of Eastern Europe. The Levush was exceptional among the codes, in that it treated certain ''Halakhot'' from a Kabbalistic standpoint. * The ''Shulchan Aruch HaRav'' of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (c. 1800) was an attempt to re-codify the law as it stood at that time – incorporating Shulchan Aruch#Major commentaries, commentaries on the ''Shulchan Aruch'', and History of Responsa#Acharonim, subsequent responsa – and thus stating the posek, decided ''halakha'', as well as the underlying reasoning. The work was written partly so that laymen would be able to study Jewish law. Unfortunately, most of the work was lost in a fire prior to publication. It is the basis of practice for Chabad-Lubavitch and other Hasidic Judaism, Hasidic groups and is quoted as authoritative by many subsequent works, Hasidic and non-Hasidic alike. * Works structured directly on the ''Shulchan Aruch'', providing analysis in light of Acharonim, Acharonic material and codes: ** The Mishnah Berurah of rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, Yisroel Meir ha-Kohen, (the "Chofetz Chaim", Poland, 1838–1933) is a commentary on the "Orach Chayim" section of the ''Shulchan Aruch'', discussing the application of each ''halakha'' in light of all subsequent Acharonim, Acharonic decisions. It has become the authoritative halakhic guide for much of
Orthodox Orthodox, Orthodoxy, or Orthodoxism may refer to: Religion * Orthodoxy, adherence to accepted norms, more specifically adherence to creeds, especially within Christianity and Judaism, but also less commonly in non-Abrahamic religions like Neo-paga ...
Ashkenazic Jewry in the postwar period. ** Aruch HaShulchan by rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein (1829–1888) is a scholarly analysis of ''halakha'' through the perspective of the major Rishonim. The work follows the structure of the ''Tur'' and the ''Shulchan Aruch''; rules dealing with vows, agriculture, and ritual purity, are discussed in a second work known as ''Aruch HaShulchan he'Atid''. ** Yaakov Chaim Sofer, Kaf HaChaim on Orach Chayim and parts of Yoreh De'ah, by the Sephardi sage Yaakov Chaim Sofer (Baghdad and Jerusalem, 1870–1939) is similar in scope, authority and approach to the Mishnah Berurah. This work also surveys the views of many kabbalistic sages (particularly Isaac Luria), when these impact the Halakha. ** Yalkut Yosef, by rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, is a voluminous, widely cited and contemporary work of ''halakha'', based on the rulings of rabbi Ovadia Yosef (1920 - 2013). * Layman-oriented works of ''halakha'': ** Thesouro dos Dinim ("Treasury of religious rules") by Menasseh Ben Israel (1604-1657) is a reconstituted version of the Shulkhan Arukh, written in Portuguese with the explicit purpose of helping ''conversos'' from Iberia reintergrate into halakhic Judaism. **The ''Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (book), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch'' of Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (Hungary 1804–1886), a "digest", covering applicable Halakha from all four sections of ''Shulchan Aruch'', and reflecting the very strict Hungarian customs of the 19th century. It became immensely popular after its publication due to its simplicity, and is still popular in Orthodox Judaism as a framework for study, if not always for practice. This work is not considered binding in the same way as the Mishneh Torah or ''Shulchan Aruch''. ** Chayei Adam and Chochmat Adam by Avraham Danzig (Poland, 1748–1820) are similar Ashkenazi works; the first covers ''Orach Chaim'', the second in large ''Yoreh De'ah'', as well as laws from ''Even Ha'ezer'' and ''Choshen Mishpat'' pertinent to everyday life. ** The Ben Ish Chai by Ben Ish Hai, Yosef Chaim (Baghdad, 1832–1909) is a collection of the laws on everyday life – parallel in scope to the ''Kitzur Shulchan Aruch'' – interspersed with mystical insights and customs, addressed to the masses and arranged by the weekly Torah portion. Its wide circulation and coverage has seen it become a standard reference work in Sephardi Halakha. ** Eliezer Melamed#Published works, ''Peninei Halachah'' by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed (contemporary) 15 volumes thus far, covering a wide range of subjects, from Shabbat to organ donations, and in addition to clearly posing the practical law – reflecting the customs of various communities – also discusses the spiritual foundations of the Halakhot. It is widely studied in the Religious Zionist community. **:he:מכון צורבא מרבנן, ''Tzurba M’Rabanan'' by Rabbi :he: בן ציון אלגאזי, Benzion Algazi (contemporary), six Hebrew volumes covering 300 topicsTzurba Learning-Schedule
mizrachi.org
from all areas of the ''Shulchan Aruch'', "from the Talmudic source through modern-day halachic application", similarly studied in the Religious Zionist community (and outside Israel, through Mizrachi (religious Zionism), Mizrachi in numerous Modern Orthodox communities). * ''Temimei Haderech'' ("A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice") by rabbi Isaac Klein with contributions from the
Committee on Jewish Law and Standards The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards is the central authority on halakha (Jewish law and tradition) within Conservative Judaism; it is one of the most active and widely known committees on the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly. Within ...
of the
Rabbinical AssemblyThe Rabbinical Assembly (RA) is the international association of Conservative Judaism, Conservative rabbis. The RA was founded in 1901 to shape the ideology, programs, and practices of the Conservative movement. It publishes prayerbooks and books of ...
. This scholarly work is based on the previous traditional law codes, but written from a Conservative Judaism, Conservative Jewish point of view, and not accepted among Orthodox Jews.


See also

* Antinomianism * Baraita of Rabbi Ishmael * Jewish ethics * Jewish medical ethics * Mishpat Ivri * Sharia


References


Notes


Citations


Bibliography

* J. David Bleich, ''Contemporary Halakhic Problems'' (5 vols), Ktav ; Feldheim * Menachem Elon, ''Ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri'' (trans. ''Jewish Law: History, Sources, Principles'' ); Jewish Publication Society * Jacob Katz, ''Divine Law in Human Hands – Case Studies in Halakhic Flexibility'', Magnes Press. * Moshe Koppel, "Meta-Halakhah: Logic, Intuition, and the Unfolding of Jewish Law", * Mendell Lewittes, ''Jewish Law: An Introduction'', Jason Aronson. * Daniel Pollack ed., ''Contrasts in American and Jewish Law'', Ktav. * Emanuel Quint, ''A Restatement of Rabbinic Civil Law'' (11 vols), Gefen Publishing. , * Emanuel Quint, ''Jewish Jurisprudence: Its Sources & Modern Applications '', Taylor and Francis. * Steven H. Resnicoff, ''Understanding Jewish Law'', LexisNexis, 2012. * Joel Roth, ''Halakhic Process: A Systemic Analysis'', Jewish Theological Seminary. * Joseph Soloveitchik, ''Halakhic Man'', Jewish Publication Society trans. Lawrence Kaplan. * *


External links


Full-text resources of major halakhic works

* ''Mishneh Torah'' *: Hebrew
mechon-mamre.orgwikisource
*: Translation

*''Arba'ah Turim'' *: Hebrew
wikisource
*''Shulchan Aruch'' *: Hebrew:
wikisource
*: Translation: s:Shulchan Aruch, wikisource (incomplete)
shulchanarach.com
(incomplete) *''Shulchan Aruch HaRav'' *: Hebrew
wikisourcechabadlibrary.org

Shulchanaruchharav.com
* ''Aruch HaShulchan'' *: Hebrew
wikisource
* ''Kitzur Shulchan Aruch'' *: Hebrew
www.kitzur.net

wikisource
*: Translation

(100% complete)
torah.org
(incomplete) * ''Ben Ish Chai'' *: Hebrew
wikisource
* ''Kaf HaChaim'' *: Hebrew
hebrewbooks.org
(volume 1; others available vi
search on site
* ''Mishnah Berurah'' *: Hebrew
wikisourcemishnaberura.com
(With .mp3 and .wma files)
hebrewbooks.org
*: Translation

* ''Chayei Adam'' *: Hebrew
daat.ac.il
* ''Chochmat Adam'': *: Hebrew
daat.ac.il
* ''Peninei Halachah'': *: Hebrew
ph.yhb.org.il
*: Translation
ph.yhb.org.il/en
* ''Yalkut Yosef'' *: Hebrew
yalkut.info
* ''A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice'': *: * ''A Halacha Wiki'' *
Halachipedia.com
*
Shulchanaruchharav.com
{{Italic title Jewish law and rituals, Legal codes Orthodox Judaism Religious law Rabbinic Judaism