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Holman Bible Dictionary

Haggadah, Halakah

In Judaism, rabbinic teaching is divided into two categories: halakah and haggadah (also spelled aggadah ). Both of these terms refer to the oral teaching of the rabbis. Halakah refers to the legal teachings that are considered authoritative for religious life. Haggadah refers to the remaining non-legal teachings.

Halakah according to the early rabbis goes back to oral law given to Moses at Sinai along with the written law (Torah ) embodied in the Bible primarily found in the Pentateuch. Therefore, the halakah is considered as binding as the written Torah. Modern scholars recognize that the halakah is the means by which the written Torah is interpreted to each new generation. Halakah extends the Torah of Moses into every aspect of Jewish life including personal, social, national, and international relations. It is essential for the preservation of Jewish life in new historical circumstances because it allows for a range of interpretative flexibility and development in the norms that govern the Jewish community.

Haggadah consists of a variety of amplifications of biblical texts primarily in the form of illustrative stories, parables or allegories, or, frequently, poetry. Many portions of the haggadah may go back to early Jewish synagogue preaching.

Much of early rabbinic halakah was eventually written down in the Mishnah (about 220 A.D.) and Talmud (about 360 A.D.) although it continues to be referred to as oral law even after these codifications. Likewise, haggadah was written down in various biblical commentaries as well as the Talmud.

These two types of rabbinic teaching are especially important as an aid in understanding Judaism at the time of Jesus and during the formation of the early church since some of these materials have their origin during the first century. Jesus probably referred to Pharisaic halakah (in part a precursor to rabbinic halakah) in Mark 7:1-23 and its parallel ( Matthew 15:1-20 ). See Mishnah; Talmud; Pharisees; Torah .

Stephenson Humphries-Brooks


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Haggadah, Halakah'. Holman Bible Dictionary. http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/view.cgi?n=2449. 1991.

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