Encyclopaedia of Judaism

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Subject: Jewish Studies

General Editors: Jacob Neusner, Alan J. Avery-Peck and William Scott Green

The Encyclopaedia of Judaism Online offers more than 200 entries comprising more than 1,000,000 words and is a unique reference tool.  The Encyclopaedia of Judaism Online offers an authoritative, comprehensive, and systematic presentation of the current state of scholarship on fundamental issues of Judaism, both past and present. While heavy emphasis is placed on the classical literature of Judaism and its history, the Encyclopaedia of Judaism Online also includes principal entries on circumcision, genetic engineering, homosexuality, intermarriage in American Judaism, and other acutely contemporary issues. Comprehensive and up-to-date, it reflects the highest standards in scholarship. Covering a tradition of nearly four thousand years, some of the most distinguished scholars in the field describe the way of life, history, art, theology, philosophy, and the practices and beliefs of the Jewish people.

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Halakhah, Law in Judaism

(6,823 words)

Author(s): Rackman, Emmanuel | Broyde, Michael | Fishkin, Amy Lynne
Jewish law— Halakhah—denotes the entire subject matter of the Jewish legal system, including public, private, and ritual law. Within the Jewish tradition, law's purview encompasses not only those activities a judicial system normally is understood as able to compel or prohibit (as US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 1841–1935, defined the scope of American law, in his famous “bad man's rule”), but also includes the ethical and moral component of conduct in both the public and priv…

Halakhah, Religious Meaning of

(11,090 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
The normative law, or Halakhah, of the Oral Torah defines the principal medium by which the sages set forth their message. Norms of conduct, more than norms of conviction, convey the sages' statement. And from the closure of the Talmud of Babylonia to our own day, those who mastered the documents of the Oral Torah themselves insisted upon the priority of the Halakhah, which is clearly signaled as normative, over the Aggadah, which commonly is not treated as normative in the same way as the Halakhah. The aggadic statement addresses the exteriorities, the halakhic one, the interior…

Halakhah: The Category-Formations

(10,559 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
The Halakhah of Rabbinic Judaism as set forth in the Mishnah-Tosefta-Yerushalmi-Bavli organizes its data into generative category-formations, most of them shaped around the twin-principles of [1] the analysis of [2] a particular topic, hence, analytical-topical category-formations. Information on a given subject is shaped into the answer to one or more propositional or analytical questions of broad interest, generally transcending the subject-matter altogether. Then we should be able to account,…

Hebrew Language, Judaism and the

(3,319 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
Hebrew, an ancient northwest Semitic language, has served as the principal language of Judaism, even after the Jews ceased to speak it as their everyday language. The Hebrew Scriptures (“Old Testament,” “written Torah”) of ancient Israel were mainly in Hebrew. They were translated into Greek, Aramaic, and other languages, but in the synagogue were and are declaimed in Hebrew. The great commentaries to Scripture written by the Rabbinic sages of the first six centuries C.E. all were written in Heb…

Hellenistic Judaism in Recent Scholarship

(7,669 words)

Author(s): Collins, John J.
Few episodes in ancient history have had more profound and lasting implications than the encounter of Judaism and Hellenism. The spread of Greek culture to the east was the first great encounter of east and west, the first instance of a clash of civilizations that has been repeated in various forms down to the present. Few people in antiquity could have anticipated that the Jews would be the most enduring representatives of ancient Near Eastern culture. Alexander can scarcely have given Judea a …

Heresy, Apostasy in Judaism

(10,342 words)

Author(s): Green, William S.
Heresy refers to holding unauthorized beliefs and performing unaccepted practices within one's religion; apostasy means abandoning that religion for another. The terms are significant in western culture because of their importance in Christianity. When, in the fourth century, Christianity became the West's primary political as well as religious doctrine, heresy and apostasy became definitive markers of cultural difference. One's place in society, indeed, one's social legitimacy was determined by…