Halakha

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Halakha is Jewish religious law, roughly analogous to Sharia in Islam (or, somewhat less so, canon law in Christianity). It is derived primarily from the 613 biblical mitzvot (commandments), supported by various commentaries, interpretations and customs developed over the centuries. Like Sharia, Halakha governs everyday life as well as religious practice, and, like Sharia, there are many schools of halakha developed by various communities of the Jewish diaspora (Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Mizrahim, and others). Halakha also includes rules for gentiles (the so-called Noahide laws) - again, just like Sharia.

Historically, Halakha was in widespread use as an enforceable body of civil law. During the Age of Enlightenment, more Jews began assimilating into secular European society, and halakha became less central to Jewish life. Today, observance of Halakha is defined by denomination; Reform Jews generally do not follow it, Conservative Jews follow only part of it, Orthodox Jews observe the religious law strictly but modify other portions of it to suit modern life, while the most conservative communities like Lubavitchers and Haredim (the so-called "ultra-Orthodox") consider all of their respective flavors of Halakha as binding for all aspects of life. Some Orthodox communities in the United States have even established "modesty patrols" in their neighborhoods, which are creepily reminiscent of mutaween in some Islamic states.

Parts of Israeli family and marriage law are governed by religious communities, which means halakhic family law applies to all Jews (religious or not) wishing to contract or dissolve a marriage in Israel.

Like Sharia, Halakha has some interesting suggestions for dealing with women, homosexuals, and other minorities.

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