Where Do Jewish Laws Come From? Intro to Torah, Talmud, Halacha

Where Do Jewish Laws Come From? Intro to Torah, Talmud, Halacha


Judaism’s pretty focused on what you do
from day to day not just when and how to pray but how to eat raise kids farm cut
your fingernails if you want to learn how to live in a Jewish way you can
watch all our videos but eventually you’re gonna want to dive into Jewish
law or halacha which means the path, or the way here’s an overview – it starts with the
Torah. The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible
includes the Torah, the prophets, and the writings. For short you can call the
Hebrew Bible Tanakh – which stands for Torah Nevi’im and Ketuvim if you’re
Jewish saying Tanakh beats the pants off saying Old Testament, which is a
Christian term used in contrast to the New Testament. When the Hebrew Bible was
being codified there was debate over which books to include in the Canon and
there’s a whole list of books called the Apocrypha that didn’t quite make the cut
some of these books are actually in the Christian Bible – the book of Maccabees
for instance and there’s other books called the pseudepigrapha that didn’t
make it into anyone’s Bible. Inside the Hebrew Bible there are lots of laws and
stories that later generations weren’t sure how to interpret – for example the
Torah says not to work on the Sabbath but what does that mean? what’s work? does it apply to office jobs or just manual labor?
Does it include working out? So along comes six relatively short books called
the Mishnah which try to explain it in a style that’s pretty straightforward and
sparse. The Mishnah gives a list of 39 things not to do on Shabbat, like baking,
sowing, building,etc. It doesn’t really explain why those 39 activities are
forbidden it just gives the list. And then just as the Mishnah tries to
explain the Torah, there’s another set of books that attempt to explain the
Mishnah – this is called the Gemara and it’s massive. 63 tractates or sections – the Gemara elaborates on the Mishnah by going into a long conversation… so the
Mishna says simply you can’t thresh on Shabbat, ok no problem you say, but
the rabbis in the Gemara took on what does that mean for us today?
and they extrapolated well you can’t just avoid threshing grain…the act of
removing a seed kernel from its tough outer layer is a lot like shucking corn
so let’s not do that either You also can’t wring out a washcloth or
squeeze lemon into your tea Extrapolation! Together the Mishnah and
Gemara are called the Talmud there two Talmuds… the babylonian or the Bavli
and the Jerusalem edition or the Yerushalmi Same basic idea but they were
put together in two different locations so they have some really interesting
variations. the Talmud is so large that yet another set of texts came along to
simplify and codify IT – the Mishnah Torah and the Shulchan Aruch. And yet if you spent
years making your way through all those texts you still wouldn’t know everything
Jewish, like say whether escalators are allowed on Shabbat. So along comes modern
Jewish case law. People send questions about specific situations to an expert
and receive written answers called responsa – you can look up response online and they cover everything from immunizations to gambling to escalators. The
written Torah is considered sacred obviously and Jews view all the texts
that came after a sacred also they are known as Oral Torah.
Jewish law is not frozen in time it’s continuing to unfold today. Local
communities are empowered to study and interpret halacha – this varies a lot in
different branches of Judaism. Today in some communities all the texts that
we’ve discussed are considered binding and if there’s a question about them you
go to your local rabbi whose decisions are binding. In other communities people
are individually free to study and make their own decisions about halachah. These
really different approaches to understanding and observing Jewish law
are one of the main differences behind different Jewish movements. Subscribe to this channel (BimBam) to get more Judaism 101 videos as they come out

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