Halakhot Pesukot, Halakhot Gedolot

Major books of halakhot from the geonic period.

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Halakhot Gedolot

Two generations later, in the ninth century C.E., a book of halakhot was written that was the largest, in size and scope, of the geonic era, namely, Halakhot Gedolot. According to most halakhic authorities, its author was Simeon Kayyara, whose surname means "wax vendor" (from keira = wax). He lived in Basra, Babylonia.

Halakhot Gedolot, before stating the governing law, briefly presents the sources. Its organization follows the order of the tractates of the Talmud. Its arrangement is in general similar to that of Halakhot Pesukot, except that it subsumes more of the material culled from a variety of sources under specific subject headings, sometimes even establishing nomenclature for new legal topics.

It also includes some laws relating to commandments that no longer had practical relevance when the book was written, such as various laws relating to sacrificial offerings. Important sources for Halakhot Gedolot include, in addition to the Talmud, Halakhot Pesukot, Sefer ha-She'iltot, and geonic responsa.

Preface to Halakhot Gedolot

Halakhot Gedolot is also noteworthy in that it is the first Hebrew book with a preface. Moreover, the preface itself is unusual in that it says nothing about the nature and purpose of the book. The preface has two parts: (a) praise of the Torah and its students, based on various scriptural verses and aggadic sayings; and (b) a list of the 613 commandments divided into 365 negative and 248 affirmative commandments.

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Menachem Elon

Justice Menachem Elon has had a long and distinguished career as a legal scholar. He is a retired professor of Jewish Law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and a prolific author on Jewish Law. In 1977 Justice Elon was appointed to the Supreme Court of Israel and served as its Deputy President from 1988 until 1993. He lives in Jerusalem.