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The Halakhah embodies the complete Jewish Law, and contains commandments and guidelines for day-to-day living. The original commandments given by God to the Jewish people were enhanced by rabbis to offer a detailed framework to guide the lives of all Jews.
In this complete, all-encompassing encyclopaedia of the Halakhah, the various laws are classified in such a way that a systematic and coherent structure is obtained. Each entry of the Halakhah is presented in a logical fashion. Where applicable, the original biblical wording is given, extended with literal abstracts from the Torah. Next, problems and questions that may arise from that law are stated and any additional information given. Finally, each entry gives comprehensive explanations and recommendations as to how these laws are to be observed in daily life – where to be and where not to be, what to do and what not to do, what to say and what not to say.
The Halakhah, or standard Jewish Law, combines the Mishnah (about 200 CE), the Tosefta (about 300 CE), and the two Talmuds (about 400, 600 CE for the Land of Israel and Babylon, respectively). Volumes I and II contain entries pertaining to the Jewish people in relationship to God. Volume III explains how the Jewish people can restore and maintain their society in accordance with the Torah as it is explained by the rabbis. In Volumes IV and V of this study, we take up the life of the Jewish household in their encounter with God. The Encyclopaedic account therefore moves from regulating relationships between Israel and God to establishing stable and equitable relationships among Israelites and finally to actually living the Halakhah.
Jacob Neusner, Ph.D., Columbia University, is Distinguished Research Professor of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida in Tampa, and Professor of Religion at Bard College, Annandale-Hudson, N.Y. He has published more than 725 books and is Editor of
South Florida Studies in the History of Judaism, USF Texts and Studies, and other monograph series at Scholars Press.