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Halakhah

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The Study of halakhah in the rabbinic period and beyond it became the supreme religious duty. Because of it’s difficult subject matter and it’s importance for practical Judaism this study took precedence over that of any other aspect of Jewish teaching. Typical is the rabbinic saying that after the destruction of the temple, God has nothing else in His world than the four cubits noun — an ancient measure of length, approximately equal to the length of a forearm. It was typically about 18 inches or 44 cm, though there was a long cubit of about 21 inches or 52 cm. — ORIGIN Middle English : from Latin cubitum ‘elbow, forearm, cubit’. of the halakhic study over aggadic was expressed in the parable of the two merchants, one selling precious stones, the other small ware. Only the connoisseur comes to buy from the former (Sot. 40A).


The general assumption in the classical Jewish sources is that the halakhah in it’s entirety goes back to Moses, except for various later elaborations, extensions, applications, and innovations in accordance with new circumstances.

This Maimonide (yad, intro) counts 40 generations backward from R. AShi, the traditional editor of the Babylonian Talmud, to Moses and he concludes: “In and the Tosefta, the Sifra and the Sifrei, in all these are explained the forbidden, the clean and the unclean, the liabilities and lack of liability, the unfit and fit, as handed down from person to person from the mouth of Moses our teacher at Sinai.” But the verdict of modern scholarship is that the halakhah has had a history and that it is possible to trace the stages in it’s development with a considerable degree of success.

The word “halakhah” (from the root halakh “to go”), the legal side of Judaism (as distinct from aggadah, the name given to the non-legal material, particularly of the rabbinic literature) embraces personal, social, national, and observances of Judaism.


In the Bible the good life is frequently spoken of as a way in which men are “to go” e.g. “and will show them the way wherein they are to go and the work they must do.” (Ex 18:20).
Originally the term halakhah (pl. halakhot) had the meaning of law or decision in a given instance, as in the frequent expression “this is a law given to Moses on Sinai” (Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai). This usage persisted, but side by side with it there developed the use of halakhah as a generic term for the whole legal system of Judaism, embracing all the detailed laws and observances. For instance, the Talmud (Shab. 138b) comments on “the word of the Lord” (Amos 8:12) that this means halakhah.

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