The period of the Tannaim , also referred to as the Mishnaic period, lasted about years. It came after the period of the Zugot "pairs" , and was immediately followed by the period of the Amoraim "interpreters". The Mishnaic period is commonly divided up into five periods according to generations. There are approximately known Tannaim.

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Halakha is based on biblical commandments mitzvot , subsequent Talmudic and rabbinic law , and the customs and traditions compiled in the many books such as the Shulchan Aruch. Halakha is often translated as "Jewish Law", although a more literal translation might be "the way to behave" or "the way of walking". The word derives from the root that means "to behave" also "to go" or "to walk".

Halakha guides not only religious practices and beliefs, but also numerous aspects of day-to-day life. Historically, in the Jewish diaspora , halakha served many Jewish communities as an enforceable avenue of law — both civil and religious , since no differentiation exists in classical Judaism. Since the Jewish Enlightenment Haskalah and Jewish emancipation , some have come to view the halakha as less binding in day-to-day life, as it relies on rabbinic interpretation, as opposed to the authoritative, canonical text recorded in the Hebrew Bible.

Under contemporary Israeli law , certain areas of Israeli family and personal status law are under the authority of the rabbinic courts, so are treated according to halakha. Some differences in halakha are found among Ashkenazi , Mizrahi , Sephardi , Yemenite , Ethiopian and other Jewish communities who historically lived in isolation.

The word halakha is derived from the Hebrew root halakh — "to walk" or "to go". 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 Akkadian ilku , a property tax, rendered in Aramaic as halakh , designating one or several obligations. Halakha is often contrasted with aggadah "the telling" , the diverse corpus of rabbinic exegetical , narrative, philosophical, mystical, and other "non-legal" texts. Halakha also does not include the parts of the Torah not related to commandments. Halakha constitutes the practical application of the mitzvot "commandments" in the Torah, as developed through discussion and debate in the classical rabbinic literature , especially the Mishnah and the Talmud the " Oral Torah " , and as codified in the Mishneh Torah and Shulchan Aruch.

With few exceptions, controversies are not settled through authoritative structures because during the Jewish diaspora , Jews lacked a single judicial hierarchy or appellate review process for halakha.

According to the Talmud Tractate Makot , mitzvot are in the Torah, positive "thou shalt" mitzvot and negative "thou shalt not" mitzvot , supplemented by seven mitzvot legislated by the rabbis of antiquity. Rabbinic Judaism divides laws into categories: [8] [9]. This division between revealed and rabbinic commandments may influence the importance of a rule, its enforcement and the nature of its ongoing interpretation.

A second classical distinction is between the Written Law, laws written in the 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 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 , 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 and holidays.

Through the ages, various rabbinical authorities have classified some of the commandments in many ways. A different approach divides the laws into a different set of categories: [ citation needed ]. The development of halakha in the period before the Maccabees, which has been described as the formative period in the history of its development, is shrouded in obscurity.

Baer in Zion, 17 —52 , 1—55 has 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. For example, the first chapter of Bava Kamma, contains a formulation of the law of torts 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:. In antiquity, the 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. 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 literally, "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 , [10] 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 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 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 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. Within certain Jewish communities, formal organized bodies do exist. Within Modern Orthodox Judaism , 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 America.

Note that Takkanot, the plural form of Takkanah above, in general do not affect or restrict observance of Torah mitzvot. In common parlance sometimes people use the general term takkanah to refer 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 , literally, thou shall stay seated and not do.

Rabbis may rule that a specific mitzvah from the Torah should not be performed, e. 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 's relationship with Ahasuerus Xeres. For general usage of takkanaot in Jewish history see the article Takkanah. For examples of this being used in Conservative Judaism, see Conservative halakha. 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 tanna from Aramaic, literally, "repeater" to whom they are first ascribed.

It is certain, however, that the seven middot literally, "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: [12]. They did nothing new and certainly made no changes in the Torah; they merely made use of hermeneutic principles that had not been need while the tradition of study was still at its zenith.

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. 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. 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 , see Deuteronomy See Orthodox Judaism, Beliefs about Jewish law and tradition.

Conservative Judaism 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. 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. 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 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. 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". 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.


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Halakha is based on biblical commandments mitzvot , subsequent Talmudic and rabbinic law , and the customs and traditions compiled in the many books such as the Shulchan Aruch. Halakha is often translated as "Jewish Law", although a more literal translation might be "the way to behave" or "the way of walking". The word derives from the root that means "to behave" also "to go" or "to walk". Halakha guides not only religious practices and beliefs, but also numerous aspects of day-to-day life. Historically, in the Jewish diaspora , halakha served many Jewish communities as an enforceable avenue of law — both civil and religious , since no differentiation exists in classical Judaism.


Religion: Babylonian Talmud [Full Text]




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