HALACHA (rule) is the general term for the Jewish oral law, which runs parallel with the written law contained in the Bible, and is supposed to be like this, of divine origin. Its relation to the ordinances contained in the Pentateuch is that of an amplified code to the fundamental, religious, and civil maxims—such as the changes wrought by time in the inner and outer relations of it rapidly increasing people would of necessity produce. Handed down through a long chain of highest authorities (Sinaitic revela tion, Moses, Joshua, Elders, Great Synagogue [Ezra], etc.), it could only be treated and further developed by the foremost men of each generation—such, in fact, as through their eminence in learning belonged to a kind of aristocracy of mind (Chaehamiin, Wise Men), towering above the multitude (Hediotim, idiots). Their decision on all ordinances involved in contradictory traditions was final, because it was believed to spring from a deeper apprehension of Scripture. Often, indeed, they had recourse, in order to give their opinion a greater weight, to certain special letters, words, and even signs in the Scripture, which, where they stood, were supposed to point to the injunction under discussion. Halacha embraces the whole field of juridico-political, religious, and practical life, down to its most minute and insignificant details. Origi
nally, as we said, the oral law, by way of eminence, it began to be written clown when the sufferings, to which the Jews were almost uninterruptedly subjected from the first exile downwards, had made many portions of it already very uncertain and fluctuating, and threatened finally to obliterate it altogether from memory. The first collection of laws was instituted by Hillel, Akiba, and Simon b. Gamaliel: but the final reduction of the general code, Mishna (q.v.), is due to Jeltudah L.Anassi, 220 A.D. Later additions to this code are formed by the Baraithas and Toseftas. Of an earlier date with respect to their contents, but committed to writing in later times, are the three books (Mid•ashim): Sifra or Thorath Kohanira (an amplification of Leviticus), Sifri (of Numbers and Deuter onomy), and 3.1echiltha (of a portion of Exodus). The masters of the Mislmaie period, after the Soferim, are the Thanaim. These were followed by the Amorahn, who, by discussing and further amplifying.the Mishna, became. the authors of the Gemara (q.v.), a work extant in two l'edaCtions--thated PaleStia0 mill .Babylo4: The Halacha was further developed in subsequent centuries by the Saboraim, Geonim, and the authorities of each generation. See also Minium, MISIINA, TALMUD.