The Jewish religious system indicating the "path" that Jews are to follow.
Biblically derived and elaborated upon by oral tradition (especially in the Mishna, from 50 c.e. and Talmud, from 220 c.e.), Halakhah regulates a wide range of personal and communal behavior, from dress codes, dietary rules, and daily religious prayers and rituals to requirements concerning life cycle events, such as marriage and divorce, and the determination of Jewish identity and procedures for conversion. An orderly, topical presentation of the rabbinic tradition appears in Mishne Torah (Repetition of the law) by Maimonides (also known as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, or Rambam, 1135–1204). The essential guide for the commandments to be followed in daily life is the Shulkhan Arukh (Prepared table) by Joseph Karo (1488–1575).
The attitude toward Halakhah is a major determinant affecting Jewish denominationalism. Orthodox Judaism basically accepts Halakhah as an unchanging corpus of law. Minor differences of interpretation are tolerated in accordance with the historical customs that have evolved in local communities. Noteworthy are Ashkenazic and Sephardic customs that inadvertently perpetuate Jewish ethnicity. Conservative Judaism is more flexible in introducing religious change, while the Reform and Reconstructionist movements reject Halakhah as a mandatory system dictating contemporary behavior.
Only a minority of world Jews adheres strictly to Halakhah, with Israel having the highest percentage—between 20 and 25 percent. But the institutionalization of some aspects of Halakhah in Israel's state rabbinate and in the political sphere (inter alia, defining who is Jewish according to Halakhic standards) affects the entire Israeli population. This has resulted, in Israel, in tension between religiously observant Jews, nonobservant Jews, and persons who are not considered Jews by Halakhah (for example, patrilineal descendants of Jews who are accepted as such by the North American Reform movement, or persons converted to Judaism by non-Orthodox rabbis).
The conflict over the acceptance of Halakhic Judaism as the sole legitimate manifestation of contemporary Judaism and the consequent implications for the acceptance of other denominations' rabbis and religious rulings carries over to world Jewry, in part because of the central role of Israel in world Jewish life.
Heger, Paul. The Pluralistic Halakhah: Legal Innovations in the Late Second Commonwealth and Rabbinic Periods. Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 2003.
Lewittes, Mendell. The Nature and History of Jewish Law. New York: Yeshiva University, 1966.
Schimmel, Harry C. The Oral Law: A Study of the Rabbinic Contribution to the Torah She-be-al-peh. New York; Jerusalem: Feldheim, 1971.
Urbach, Efraim E. Halakhah: Its Sources and Development, translated by Raphael Posner. Ramat Gan, Israel: Massada, 1986.
samuel c. heilman
updated by ephraim tabory
"Halakhah." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halakhah
"Halakhah." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/halakhah
"Halakhah." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/halakhah
"Halakhah." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved October 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/halakhah