Halakhah

Halakhic /heuh lah"khik, -lak"ik/, adj.
/hah law"kheuh/; Seph. Heb. /hah lah khah"/; Ashk. Heb. /hah'law khaw"/, n., pl. Halakhahs, Heb. Halakhoth, Halakhot, Halakhos Seph. /-lah khawt"/; Ashk. /-law khohs"/ for 2.
1. (often l.c.) the entire body of Jewish law and tradition comprising the laws of the Bible, the oral law as transcribed in the legal portion of the Talmud, and subsequent legal codes amending or modifying traditional precepts to conform to contemporary conditions.
2. a law or tradition established by the Halakhah.
[1855-60; < Heb halakhah, lit., way]

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In Judaism, all laws and ordinances evolved since biblical times to regulate worship and the daily lives of the Jewish people.

In contrast to the laws written in the Torah, the Halakhah represents an oral tradition. These laws were passed from generation to generation before being written down in the 1st–3rd century AD in the compilation called the Mishna, which became the foundation of the Talmud.

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▪ Jewish law
also spelled  Halakha, Halakah, or Halachah (Hebrew: “the Way”),  plural  Halakhahs, Halakhot, Halakhoth, or Halachot,  

      in Judaism, the totality of laws and ordinances that have evolved since biblical times to regulate religious observances and the daily life and conduct of the Jewish people. Quite distinct from the Law of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), Halakhah purports to preserve and represent oral traditions stemming from the revelation on Mount Sinai or evolved on the basis of it. The legalistic nature of Halakhah also sets it apart from those parts of rabbinic, or Talmudic, literature that include history, fables, and ethical teachings (Haggadah). That Halakhah existed from ancient times is confirmed from nonpentateuchal passages of the Bible, where, for example, servitude is mentioned as a legitimate penalty for unpaid debts (2 Kings 4:1).

      Oral traditions concerning Jewish law passed from generation to generation, and eventually it became apparent that they required organization. The work of gathering opinions and interpretations was begun by Rabbi Akiba (Akiba ben Joseph) in the 1st–2nd century AD and carried on by his disciples, such as Rabbi Meïr. Early in the 3rd century, this new compilation, the Mishnah (Mishna), was complete, arranged in its final form by Judah ha-Nasi. Though the Mishnah contained the most comprehensive collection of Jewish laws up to that time, it was not meant to settle issues involving contradictory interpretations. Almost immediately, however, Jewish scholars in Palestine and Babylonia began to elaborate extensive interpretations of the Mishnah that were called Gemara. When the work was completed several centuries later, the Mishnah and the Gemara, taken together, were called the Talmud (Talmud and Midrash).

      Centuries later, social and economic changes presented new problems of interpretation and required new applications of the law. This gave rise to new compilations of Halakhah by such outstanding scholars as Moses Maimonides in the 12th century, Jacob ben Asher in the 12th and 13th centuries, and Joseph Karo in the 16th century.

      Though Judaism acknowledges a continuous development of Halakhah, the law is always viewed as an explication or extension of the original Law given on Mount Sinai. Conservative rabbis tend to adapt certain Halakhahs to fit conditions in the modern world, as, for instance, the Halakhah regarding observance of the sabbath. Reform Jews tend to disregard Halakhah, though some of them adhere to certain of its precepts.

      Interpretations and discussions of law directly related to Old Testament texts are referred to as Midrash Halakhah.

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Universalium. 2010.

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