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Rabbinic Literature

Talmudic literature

Jerusalem TalmudBabylonian Talmud
Minor tractates

Halakhic Midrash

Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael (Exodus)
Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon (Exodus)
Sifra (Leviticus)
Sifre (Numbers & Deuteronomy)
Sifre Zutta (Numbers)
Mekhilta le-Sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy)
Baraita of Rabbi Ishmael

Aggadic Midrash

—— Tannaitic ——
Seder Olam Rabbah
Alphabet of Akiba ben Joseph
Baraita of the Forty-nine Rules
Baraita on the Thirty-two Rules
Baraita on Tabernacle Construction
—— 400–600 ——
Genesis RabbahEichah Rabbah
Pesikta de-Rav Kahana
Esther RabbahMidrash Iyyov
Leviticus RabbahSeder Olam Zutta
Midrash TanhumaMegillat Antiochus
—— 650–900 ——
Avot of Rabbi Natan
Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer
Tanna Devei Eliyahu
Alphabet of Ben-Sira
Kohelet RabbahCanticles Rabbah
Devarim Rabbah • Devarim Zutta
Pesikta RabbatiMidrash Samuel
Midrash ProverbsRuth Rabbah
Baraita of SamuelTargum sheni
—— 900–1000 ——
Ruth Zuta • Eichah Zuta
Midrash TehillimMidrash Hashkem
Exodus RabbahCanticles Zutta
—— 1000–1200 ——
Midrash TadsheSefer ha-Yashar
—— Later ——
Yalkut ShimoniYalkut Makiri
Midrash JonahEin Yaakov
Midrash ha-GadolNumbers Rabbah
Smaller midrashim

Rabbinic Targum

—— Torah ——
Targum Onkelos
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan
Fragment Targum • Targum Neofiti

—— Nevi'im ——
Targum Jonathan

—— Ketuvim ——
Targum Tehillim • Targum Mishlei
Targum Iyyov
Targum to the Five Megillot
Targum Sheni to Esther
Targum to Chronicles

The Mishnah or Mishna (Hebrew: משנה, "repetition", from the verb shanah שנה, or "to study and review, also "secondary"[1](derived from the adj. שני)) is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah" and the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism.[2] It was redacted c. 200 CE by Judah haNasi when, according to the Talmud, the persecution of the Jews and the passage of time raised the possibility that the details of the oral traditions dating from Pharisaic times (536 BCE – 70 CE) would be forgotten. It is thus named for being both the one written authority (codex) secondary (only) to the Tanakh as a basis for the passing of judgment, a source and a tool for creating laws, and the first of many books to complement the Bible in a certain aspect. The Mishnah is also called Shas (an acronym for Shisha Sedarim - the "six orders"), in reference to its six main divisions.[3] Rabbinic commentaries on the Mishnah over the next three centuries[4] were redacted as the Gemara, which, coupled with the Mishnah, comprise the Talmud.

The Mishnah reflects debates between 70-200 CE by the group of rabbinic sages known as the Tannaim.[5] The Mishnah teaches the oral traditions by example, presenting actual cases being brought to judgment, usually along with the debate on the matter and the judgment that was given by a wise and notable rabbi based on the rules, Mitzvot, and spirit of the teaching ("Torah") that guided his sentencing. In this way, it brings to everyday reality the practice of the mitzvot as presented in the Bible, and aimed to cover all aspects of human living, serve as an example for future judgments, and, most importantly, demonstrate pragmatic exercise of the Biblical laws, which was much needed at the time when the Second Temple was destroyed (70 CE). The Mishnah does not claim to be the development of new laws, but rather the collection of existing traditions.

The Mishnah consists of six orders (sedarim, singular seder סדר), each containing 7-12 tractates (masechtot, singular masechet מסכת; lit. "web"), 63 in total, and further subdivided into chapters and paragraphs or verses. The orders and their subjects are: Zeraim ("Seeds"), dealing with prayer and blessings, tithes and agricultural laws (11 tractates), Moed ("Festival"), pertaining to the laws of the Sabbath and the Festivals (12 tractates), Nashim ("Women"), concerning marriage and divorce, some forms of oaths and the laws of the nazirite (7 tractates), Nezikin ("Damages"), dealing with civil and criminal law, the functioning of the courts and oaths (10 tractates), Kodashim ("Holy things"), regarding sacrificial rites, the Temple, and the dietary laws (11 tractates) and Tohorot ("Purities"), pertaining to the laws of purity and impurity, including the impurity of the dead, the laws of food purity and bodily purity (12 tractates).

The word Mishnah can also indicate a single paragraph or verse of the work itself, ie. the smallest unit of structure in the Mishnah.



The Mishnah consists of six orders (sedarim, singular seder סדר), each containing 7-12 tractates (masechtot, singular masechet מסכת; lit. "web"), 63 in total. Each masechet is divided into chapters (peraqim, singular pereq) and then paragraphs or verses (mishnayot, singular Mishnah). The Mishnah is also called Shas (an acronym for Shisha Sedarim - the "six orders").[3]

The Mishnah orders its content by subject matter, instead of by biblical context, and discusses individual subjects more thoroughly than the Midrash. It includes a much broader selection of halakhic subjects than the Midrash.

The six orders are:

  • Zeraim ("Seeds"), dealing with prayer and blessings, tithes and agricultural laws (11 tractates)
  • Moed ("Festival"), pertaining to the laws of the Sabbath and the Festivals (12 tractates)
  • Nashim ("Women"), concerning marriage and divorce, some forms of oaths and the laws of the nazirite (7 tractates)
  • Nezikin ("Damages"), dealing with civil and criminal law, the functioning of the courts and oaths (10 tractates)
  • Kodashim ("Holy things"), regarding sacrificial rites, the Temple, and the dietary laws (11 tractates) and
  • Tohorot ("Purities"), pertaining to the laws of purity and impurity, including the impurity of the dead, the laws of food purity and bodily purity (12 tractates).

In each order (with the exception of Zeraim), tractates are arranged from biggest (in number of chapters) to smallest.

The word Mishnah can also indicate a single paragraph or verse of the work itself, ie. the smallest unit of structure in the Mishnah.

The Babylonian Talmud (Hagiga 14a) states that there were either six hundred or seven hundred orders of the Mishnah. Hillel the Elder organized them into six orders to make it easier to remember. The historical accuracy of this tradition is disputed. There is also a tradition that Ezra the scribe dictated from memory not only the 24 books of the Tanakh but 60 esoteric books. It is not known whether this is a reference to the Mishnah, but there is a case for saying that the Mishnah does consist of 60 tractates. (The current total is 63, but Makkot was originally part of Sanhedrin, and Bava Kamma, Bava Metzia and Bava Batra may be regarded as subdivisions of a single tractate Nezikin.)

Interestingly, Reuvein Margolies (1889 – 1971) posited that there were originally seven orders of Mishnah, citing a Gaonic tradition on the existence of a seventh order containing the laws of Sta"m (scribal practice) and Berachot (blessings).


The Mishnah does not claim to be the development of new laws, but merely the collection of existing oral laws, traditions and traditional wisdom. The rabbis who contributed to the Mishnah are known as the Tannaim, of whom approximately 120 are known. The period during which the Mishnah was assembled spanned about 130 years, and five generations.

Most of the Mishnah is related without attribution (stam). This usually indicates that many sages taught so, or that Judah haNasi (often called "Rebbi") who redacted the Mishna together with his academy/court ruled so. The halakhic ruling usually follows that view. Sometimes, however, it appears to be the opinion of a single sage, and the view of the sages collectively (Hebrew: חכמים‎, hachamim) is given separately.

The Talmud records a tradition that unattributed statements of the law represent the views of Rabbi Meir (Sanhedrin 86a), which supports the theory (recorded by Rav Sherira Gaon in his famous Iggeret) that he was the author of an earlier collection. For this reason, the few passages that actually say "this is the view of Rabbi Meir" represent cases where the author intended to present Rabbi Meir's view as a "minority opinion" not representing the accepted law.

Rebbi is credited with publishing the Mishnah, though there have been a few edits since his time (for example, those passages that cite him or his grandson, Rabbi Yehuda Nesi'ah; in addition, the Mishnah at the end of Tractate Sotah refers to the period after Rebbi's death, which could not have been written by Rebbi himself). According to the Epistle of Sherira Gaon, after the tremendous upheaval caused by the destruction of the Temple and the Bar Kochba revolt, the Oral Torah was in danger of being forgotten. It was for this reason that Rebbi chose to redact the Mishnah.

One must also note that in addition to redacting the Mishnah, Rebbi and his court also ruled on which opinions should be followed, though the rulings do not always appear in the text.

As he went through the tractates, the Mishnah was set forth, but throughout his life some parts were updated as new information came to light. Because of the proliferation of earlier versions, it was deemed too hard to retract anything already released, and therefore a second version of certain laws were released. The Talmud refers to these differing versions as Mishnah Rishonah ("First Mishnah") and Mishnah Acharonah ("Last Mishnah"). David Zvi Hoffman suggests that Mishnah Rishonah actually refers to texts from earlier Sages upon which Rebbi based his Mishnah.

One theory is that the present Mishnah was based on an earlier collection by Rabbi Meir. There are also references to the "Mishnah of Rabbi Akiva", though this may simply mean his teachings in general.[6] It is possible that Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Meir established the divisions and order of subjects in the Mishnah, but this would make them the authors of a school curriculum rather than of a book.

Authorities are divided on whether Rebbi recorded the Mishnah in writing or established it as an oral text for memorisation. The most important early account of its composition, the Epistle of Sherira Gaon, is ambiguous on the point, though the "Spanish" recension leans to the theory that the Mishnah was written. However, the Talmud records that, in every study session, there was a person called the tanna appointed to recite the Mishnah passage under discussion. This may indicate that, even if the Mishnah was reduced to writing, it was not available on general distribution.



Oral law

Before the publication of the Mishnah, Jewish scholarship was predominantly oral. Rabbis expounded on and debated the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, without the benefit of written works (other than the Biblical books themselves), though some may have made private notes (megillot setarim), for example of court decisions. The oral traditions were far from monolithic, and varied among various schools, the most famous of which were the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel.

The end of the Jewish commonwealth in the year 70 CE resulted in an upheaval of Jewish social and legal norms. The Rabbis were faced with the new reality of Judaism without a Temple (to serve as the center of teaching and study) and Judea without autonomy. It is during this period that Rabbinic discourse began to be recorded in writing.[7][8]

The earliest recorded oral law may have been of the midrashic form, in which halakhic discussion is structured as exegetical commentary on the Torah. But an alternative form, organized by subject matter instead of by biblical verse, became dominant by about the year 200 CE, when Rebbi Judah haNasi redacted the Mishnah. In general, all opinions, even the non-normative ones, were recorded in the Mishnah and subsequently the Talmud.

In modern times, "the law" takes on a different meaning than discussed in the Mishnah and Talmud. "The law" in Judaism refers primarily to biblical law, given to the Israelites by God through Moses, as well as interpretations of the meaning and application of those rules. Thus, "the Law" is understood to be the religious teachings and rules given by God. Yet, since religion was infused in every area of life, rules for governing society, resolution of disputes, and enforcing safety and public order were also governed by the religious law, leading to an overlap of religion and modern conceptions of law.

Relationship with the Hebrew Bible

Rabbinic Judaism holds that the oral tradition was received by Moses at Mount Sinai in parallel with the Five Books of Moses, the (written) Torah (Torah she-bi-khtav), and that these together have always been the basis of Jewish law (halakha). The "Written Law" consists of the "Five Books of Moses," the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, and not the Bible as a whole.[9]

According to the Rabbinic view, the Oral Law (Torah she-be'al-peh) was also given to Moses at Sinai, and is the exposition of the Written Law as relayed by the scholarly and other religious leaders of each generation. This Oral Law is authoritative in practical terms, as the traditions of the Oral Law are considered as the necessary basis for the interpretation, and often for the reading, of the Written Law.

Thus, Jewish law and custom is based not only on a literal reading of the Torah, or the rest of the Tanakh, but on the combined oral and written traditions. Notably, the Mishnah does not cite a written scriptural basis for its laws: since it is said that the Oral Law was given simultaneously with the Written Law, the Oral Law codified in the Mishnah does not derive directly from the Written Law of the Torah. This is in contrast with the Midrash halakha, works in which the sources of the traditionally received laws are identified in the Tanakh, often by linking a verse to a halakha. These Midrashim often predate the Mishnah.

By 200 CE, much of the Oral Law was edited together into the Mishnah, and published by Rabbi Judah haNasi. Over the next four centuries this material underwent analysis and debate, known as Gemara ("completion"), in what were at that time the world's two major Jewish communities, in the land of Israel and in the Babylonian Empire. These debates eventually came to be edited together into compilations known as the Talmud: the Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud) for the compilation in Israel, and Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) for the compilation undertaken in Babylon.

Competing oral laws and acceptance

It is unclear, according to J. Sussman (Mehqerei Talmud III), whether there was any writing connected to the Oral Law, or whether it was entirely oral. Over time, different traditions of the Oral Law came into being, raising debates about what the laws or their rulings were. According to the Mevo Hatalmud many rulings were given about specific things that could have been taken out of context or where a ruling was revisited but the second ruling was not as popularly known. To correct this, Rabbi Yehuda haNasi took up the redaction of the Mishnah. If something was already there with no conflict, he used it without changes in language, he reordered and ruled on where there was conflict, and clarified where context was not given. The idea was not do this at his own discretion, but rather to examine the tradition as far back as he could, and only supplement as required.

Some Jews did not accept the written codification of the oral law at all; known as Karaites, they comprised a significant portion of the world Jewish population in the 10th and 11th Centuries CE, and remain extant, though they currently number in the thousands.

Mishnah Study


A number of important laws are not elaborated upon in the Mishnah. These include the laws of tzitzit, tefillin (phylacteries), mezuzah, the holiday of Hanukkah, and the laws of gerim (converts). These were later discussed in the minor tractates.

Rabbi Nissim Gaon in his Hakdamah Le'mafteach Hatalmud writes that many of these laws were so well known that it was unnecessary for Rabbi to discuss them. Reuvein Margolies suggests that as the Mishnah was redacted after the Bar Kochba revolt, Rabbi could not have included discussion of Hanukkah which commemorates the Jewish revolt against the Syrian-Greeks (the Romans would not have tolerated this overt nationalism). Similarly, there were then several decrees in place aimed at suppressing outward signs of national identity, including decrees against wearing tefillin and tzitzit; as Conversion to Judaism was against Roman law, Rabbi would not have discussed this.[10]

David Zvi Hoffman suggests that there existed ancient texts in the form of the present day Shulchan Aruch that discussed the basic laws of day to day living and it was therefore not necessary to focus on these laws in the Mishnah.

Textual variants

The earliest printed edition of the Mishnah was published in Naples ("the Napoli edition"). There have been many subsequent editions, including the late nineteenth century Vilna edition, which is the basis of the editions now used by the religious public.

As well as being printed on its own, the Mishnah is included in all editions of the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. Each paragraph is printed on its own, and followed by the relevant Gemara discussion. However, that discussion itself often cites the Mishnah line by line. While the text printed in paragraph form has generally been standardized to follow the Vilna edition, the text cited line by line often preserves important variants, which sometimes reflect the readings of older manuscripts.

The nearest approach to a critical edition is that of Hanoch Albeck. There is also an edition by Yosef Qafiḥ of the Mishnah together with the commentary of Maimonides, which compares the base text used by Maimonides with the Napoli and Vilna editions and other sources.

Oral traditions and pronunciation

The Mishnah was and still is traditionally studied through recitation (out loud). Many medieval manuscripts of the Mishnah are vowelized, and some of these contain partial Tiberian cantillation. Jewish communities around the world preserved local melodies for chanting the Mishnah, and distinctive ways of pronouncing its words.

Most vowelized editions of the Mishnah today reflect standard Ashkenazic vowelization, and often contain mistakes. The Albeck edition of the Mishnah was vowelized by Hanokh Yellin, who made careful eclectic use of both medieval manuscripts and current oral traditions of pronunciation from Jewish communities all over the world. The Albeck edition includes an introduction by Yellin detailing his eclectic method.

Two institutes at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem have collected major oral archives which hold (among other things) extensive recordings of Jews chanting the Mishnah using a variety of melodies and many different kinds of pronunciation. These institutes are the Jewish Oral Traditions Research Center and the National Voice Archives (the Phonoteca at the Jewish National and University Library). See below for external links.


  • In 1168, Maimonides published a comprehensive commentary on the Mishnah. It was written in transliterated Arabic (using Hebrew letters) and was one of the first commentaries of its kind. In it, "Rambam" condenses the associated Talmudical debates, and offers his conclusions in a number of undecided issues. Of particular significance are the various introductory sections - as well as the introduction to the work itself [1] - these are widely quoted in other works on the Mishnah, and on the Oral law in general. Perhaps the most famous is his introduction to the tenth chapter of tractate Sanhedrin [2] where he enumerates the thirteen fundamental beliefs of Judaism. The work has been translated a number of times. Rabbi Yosef Qafiḥ's translation was popular in the twentieth century, but the recent translation by Machon MaOhr offers much more comprehensive footnotes.
  • Rabbi Samson of Sens (France) was, apart from Maimonides, one of the few rabbis of the early medieval era to compose a Mishnah commentary. It is printed in many editions of the Mishnah. It is interwoven with his commentary on major parts of the Tosefta.
  • The Rosh's commentary on some tractates
  • The Meiri's commentary on most of the Mishnah
  • Rabbi Obadiah ben Abraham of Bertinoro (15th century) wrote one of the most popular Mishnah commentaries. He draws on Maimonides' work but also offers Talmudical material (in effect a summary of the Talmudic discussion) largely following the commentary of Rashi. In addition to its role as a commentary on the Mishnah, this work is often referenced by students of Talmud as a review-text, and is often referred to as "the Bartanura" or "the Ra'V".
  • After the Maharal of Prague had initiated organised Mishnah study (Chevrat ha-Mishnayoth), Yomtov Lipman Heller (who is often believed to be his pupil but came to Prague already as a mature scholar) wrote a commentary called Tosafot Yom Tov. In the introduction Heller says that his aim is to make additions (tosafoth) to Bertinoro’s commentary. The glosses are sometimes quite detailed and analytic. That is why it is sometimes compared to the Tosafot - discussions of Babylonian gemara by French and German scholars of 12-13th C. In many compact Mishnah printings, a condensed version of his commentary, titled Ikar Tosafot Yom Tov, is featured.
  • Other Acharonim who have written Mishnah commentaries:
    • The Melechet Shlomo (Rav Shelomo Adeni)
    • The Vilna Gaon (Shenot Eliyahu on parts of the Mishnah, and glosses Eliyaho Rabba, Chidushei HaGra, Meoros HaGra)
    • Rabbi Akiva Eiger (glosses, rather than a commentary)
    • The Mishnah Rishonah on Zeraim and the Mishnah Acharonah on Taharot (Rav Efrayim Yitzchok from Premishla)
    • The Sidrei Taharot on Kelim and Ohalot (the commentary on the rest of Taharot and on Eduyot is lost) by the Grand Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner, the Radziner Rebbe
    • The Gulot Iliyot (Rav Dov Ber Lifshitz) on Mikvaot
    • The Ahavat Eitan by Rav Avrohom Abba Krenitz (the great grandfather of Rav Malkiel Kotler)
    • The Chazon Ish on Zeraim and Taharot
  • A prominent commentary from the 19th century is Tiferet Yisrael by Rabbi Yisrael Lipschutz. It is subdivided into two parts, one more general and the other more analytical, titled Yachin and Boaz respectively (after two large pillars in the Temple in Jerusalem). Although Rabbi Lipschutz has faced some controversy in certain Hasidic circles, he was greatly respected by such sages as Rabbi Akiva Eiger, whom he frequently cites, and is widely accepted in the Yeshiva world. The Tiferet Yaakov is an important gloss on the Tiferet Yisrael.
  • The commentary by Rabbi Pinhas Kehati, which is written in Modern Israeli Hebrew and based on classical and contemporary works, has become popular in the late Twentieth Century. The commentary is designed to make the Mishnah widely accessible to a wide spectrum of learners of all ages and all levels of experience in Torah study. It is popularly referred to as "Kehati". Each tractate is introduced with an overview of its contents, including historical and legal background material, and each Mishnah is prefaced by a thematic introduction. The current version of this edition is printed with the Bartenura commentary as well as Kehati's.
  • The encyclopedic editions put out by Mishnat Rav Aharon (Beis Medrosho Govoah, Lakewood) on Sheviit, Challah, and Yadayim
  • The above-mentioned edition edited by Hanokh Albeck and vocalized by Hanokh Yellin (1952-59) includes the former's extensive commentary on each Mishnah, as well as introductions to each tractate (Masekhet) and order (Seder). This commentary tends to focus on the meaning of the mishnayot themselves, without as much reliance on the Gemara's interpretation and is, therefore, considered valuable as a tool for the study of Mishnah as an independent work. It is currently out of print.

As an historical source

Both the Mishnah and Talmud contain little serious biographical studies of the people discussed therein, and the same tractate will conflate the points of view of many different people. Yet, sketchy biographies of the Mishnaic sages can often be constructed with historical detail from Talmudic and Midrashic sources.

Many modern historical scholars have focused on the timing and the formation of the Mishnah. A vital question is whether it is composed of sources which date from its editor's lifetime, and to what extent is it composed of earlier, or later sources. Are Mishnaic disputes distinguishable along theological or communal lines, and in what ways do different sections derive from different schools of thought within early Judaism? Can these early sources be identified, and if so, how? In response to these questions, modern scholars have adopted a number of different approaches.

  • Some scholars hold that there has been extensive editorial reshaping of the stories and statements within the Mishnah (and later, in the Talmud.) Lacking outside confirming texts, they hold that we cannot confirm the origin or date of most statements and laws, and that we can say little for certain about their authorship. In this view, the questions above are impossible to answer. See, for example, the works of Louis Jacobs, Baruch M. Bokser, Shaye J. D. Cohen, Steven D. Fraade.
  • Some scholars hold that the Mishnah and Talmud have been extensively shaped by later editorial redaction, but that it contains sources which we can identify and describe with some level of reliability. In this view, sources can be identified to some extent because each era of history and each distinct geographical region has its own unique feature, which one can trace and analyze. Thus, the questions above may be analyzed. See, for example, the works of Goodblatt, Lee Levine, David C. Kraemer and Robert Goldenberg.
  • Some scholars hold that many or most of the statements and events described in the Mishnah and Talmud usually occurred more or less as described, and that they can be used as serious sources of historical study. In this view, historians do their best to tease out later editorial additions (itself a very difficult task) and skeptically view accounts of miracles, leaving behind a reliable historical text. See, for example, the works of Saul Lieberman, David Weiss Halivni, Avraham Goldberg and Dov Zlotnick.
  • Professor Lawrence Shiffman proves that many of the specific, detailed arguments of the Pharisees already existed in 150 BCE (or earlier) - as documented in the Dead Sea Scroll MMT.


  1. ^ In the Greek language, the name Deuterosis means "repetition."
  2. ^ The list of joyful days known as Megillat Taanit is older, but according to the Talmud it is no longer in force.
  3. ^ a b The term Shas is also used to refer to a complete Talmud, which follows the structure of the Mishnah.
  4. ^ Recorded mostly in Aramaic.
  5. ^ The plural term (singular tanna) for the Rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah; the period of the Tannaim is also referred to as the Mishnaic period and followed the Zugot ("pairs"), preceding the period of the Amoraim The root tanna (תנא) is the Aramaic equivalent for the Hebrew root shanah (שנה), which also is the root-word of Mishnah. The verb shanah (שנה) literally means "to repeat [what one was taught]" and is used to mean "to learn".
  6. ^ This theory was held by David Zvi Hoffman, and is repeated in the introduction to Herbert Danby's Mishnah translation.
  7. ^ See, Strack, Hermann, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, Jewish Publication Society, 1945. pp.11-12. "[The Oral Law] was handed down by word of mouth during a long period...The first attempts to write down the traditional matter, there is reason to believe, date from the first half of the second post-Christian century." Strack theorizes that the growth of a Christian canon (the New Testament) was a factor that influenced the Rabbis to record the oral law in writing.
  8. ^ The theory that the destruction of the Temple and subsequent upheaval led to the committing of Oral Law into writing was first explained in the Epistle of Sherira Gaon and often repeated. See, for example, Grayzel, A History of the Jews, Penguin Books, 1984, p. 193.
  9. ^ When Nevi'im [נביאים] ("Prophets") and Ketuvim [כתובים] ("Writings"), are added to the Torah, the expanded volume is called the Tanakh. It is this collection of books that Christianity knows as The Old Testament.
  10. ^ Yesod Hamishna Va'arichatah pp. 25-28 (Hebrew textPDF)

See also


English Translations

  • Philip Blackman. Mishnayoth. The Judaica Press, Ltd., 2000 (ISBN 0-910818-00-X). Available online for free download in PDF format at HebrewBooks.org: Zeraim, Moed, Nashim, Nezikin, Kodashim, Taharoth.
  • Herbert Danby. The Mishnah. Oxford, 1933 (ISBN 0-19-815402-X).
  • Jacob Neusner. The Mishnah: A New Translation. New Haven, reprint 1991 (ISBN 0-300-05022-4).
  • Various editors. The Mishnah, a new translation with commentary Yad Avraham. New York: Mesorah publishers, since 1980s.

Historical study

  • Shalom Carmy (Ed.) Modern Scholarship in the Study of Torah: Contributions and Limitations Jason Aronson, Inc.
  • Shaye J.D. Cohen, "Patriarchs and Scholarchs", Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 48 (1981), pp. 57-87
  • Steven D. Fraade, "The Early Rabbinic Sage," in The Sage in Israel and the Ancient Near East, ed. John G. Gammie and Leo G. Perdue (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1990), pp. 417-23
  • Robert Goldenberg The Sabbath-Law of Rabbi Meir (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1978)
  • John W McGinley 'The Written' as the Vocation of Conceiving Jewishly ISBN 0-595-40488-X
  • Jacob Neusner Making the Classics in Judaism (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989), pp. 1-13 and 19-44
  • Jacob Neusner Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 14-22.
  • Gary Porton, The Traditions of Rabbi Ishmael (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1982), vol. 4, pp. 212-25
  • Dov Zlotnick, The Iron Pillar Mishnah (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1988), pp. 8-9
  • Reuvain Margolies, Yesod Ha-Mishnah V'Arichatah (Heb.)
  • David Tzvi Hoffman, Mishnah Rishonah U'flugta D'tanna'e (Heb)


  • Frank Alvarez-Pereyre, La Transmission Orale de la Mishna. Une methode d'analyse appliquee a la tradition d'Alep: Jerusalem 1990

External links

Wikimedia projects

Wikisource's Open Mishna Project is developing Mishnah texts, commentaries, and translations. The project is currently available in four languages: Hebrew (the largest collection), English, French and Portuguese.

Other electronic texts

Mishnah study & the Daily Mishnah

  • Aaron Ahrend, "Mishna Study and Study Groups in Modern Times" in JSIJ 3: 2004 (Hebrew). Available online here (Word & PDF).
  • The Daily Mishna - uses the Kehati commentary (in English translation).
  • Mishna Yomit - One Mishna per day. (Note: this study-cycle follows a different schedule than the regular one; contains extensive archives in English).
  • Mishna of the Daf - a new Mishna study cycle that parallels the progress of the Daf Yomi.
  • Kehati Mishna a program of two Mishnayos per day. Currently inactive, but archives contain the complete text of Kehati in English for Moed, Nashim, Nezikin, and about half of Kodashim.
  • Dafyomireview - custom learning and review programs for mishnayos

Audio lectures

Oral traditions and pronunciation

Source material

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See also Introduction to the Mishnah.
The Six Orders of the Mishnah
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Berakhot 50%.svg Shabbat 25%.svg Yevamot 25%.svg Bava Kamma 25%.svg Zevachim 25%.svg Kelim 25%.svg
Peah 50%.svg Eruvin 25%.svg Ketubot 25%.svg Bava Metzia 25%.svg Menachot 25%.svg Oholot 25%.svg
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Model texts: Tractate Berakhot | Berakhot 1:4 | Peah 1:1 || Hebrew Mishnah - משנה בעברית

Project information: The Open Mishnah Project | עברית


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Proper noun




  1. Alternative spelling of Mishna.


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

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A noun formed from the verb "shanah," which has the same meaning as the Aramaic "matnita," derived from "teni" or "tena." The verb "shanah," which originally meant "to repeat," acquired in post-Biblical Hebrew the special force of "to teach" and "to learn" that which was not transmitted in writing but only orally; the development of connotation being due to the fact that the retention of teachings handed down by word of mouth was possible only by frequent recitation.

"Mishnah," the derivative of the verb "shanah," means therefore: (1) "instruction," the teaching and learning of the tradition, the word being used in this sense in Ab. iii. 7, 8; and (2) in a concrete sense, the content of that instruction, the traditional doctrine as it was developed down to the beginning of the third century of the common era. "Mishnah" is frequently used, therefore, to designate the law which was transmitted orally, in contrast to "Miḳra," the law which is written and read (e.g., B. M. 33a; Ber. 5a; Ḥag. 14a; 'Er. 54b; Ḳid. 30a; Yer. Hor. iii. 48c; Pes. iv. 130d; Num. R. xiii.; and many other passages); and the term includes also the halakic midrashim, as well as the Tosefta or explanatory additions to the Mishnah (Ḳid. 49b; see Baraita). In this wider sense the word was known to the Church Fathers, who, however, regarded it asthe feminine form of "mishneh," analogous to "miḳneh" and "miḳnah," and supposed that it signified "second teaching" (comp. "'Aruk," s.v. (image) (image) ), translating it by δευτέρωσις (see the passages in Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., i. 113).


The Name.

The term "mishnah" connotes also (3) the sum and substance of the teachings of a single tanna (e.g., Giṭ. 67a; Yeb. 49b, 50a: "mishnat R. Eliezer b. Ya'aḳob" = "the teachings of R. Eliezer b. Jacob"; comp. Rashi ad loc.); or it may mean (4) the view of a tanna in regard to some one matter (e.g., Men. 18a: "mishnat R. Eliezer" = "the view of R. Eliezer," and the expressions "mishnah rishonah" = "the earlier view," and "mishnah aḥaronah" = "the later view," Ḥag. 2a; Ket. v. 29d; M. Ḳ. iii. 83b). It may furthermore denote (5) a single tenet (e.g., B. M. 33b; Hor. 13b; B. Ḳ. 94b; Shab. 123b), being in this sense parallel to the expression Halakah (on the difference between the two see Frankel, "Hodegetica in Mischnam," p. 8). It is used also for (6) any collection of such tenets, being thus applied to the great Mishnaic collections ("Mishnayot Gedolot") of R. Akiba, R. Ḥiyya, R. Hoshaiah, and Bar Ḳappara, in Lam. R., Introduction, and in Cant. R. viii. 2 (comp. Yer. Hor. iii. 48c; Eccl. R. ii.).

Finally the name "Mishnah" is applied particularly to (7) the collection of halakot made by R. Judah ha-Nasi I. (generally called "Rabbi"), which constitutes the basis of the Talmud, and which, with many additions and changes, has been transmitted to the present time. In Palestine this collection was called also "Halakot," as in Yer. Hor. iii. 48c; Ber. i. 53c; Lev. R. iii. (comp. Frankel, l.c. p. 8). The designation "Talmud" is likewise applied to R. Judah ha-Nasi's Mishnah (Yer. Shab. v. 1, 7b; Beẓah ii. 1, 61b; Yeb. viii. 9a; comp. also Frankel, l.c. p. 285; O. H. Schorr in "He-Ḥaluẓ," 1866, p. 42; A. Krochmal in the introduction to "Yerushalayim ha-Benuyah," p. 6; Oppenheim, "Zur Gesch. der Mischna," p. 244).

The "Mishnah of R. Judah," however, is not to be regarded as a literary product of the third century, nor R. Judah as its author. It is, on the contrary, a collection which includes almost the entire material of the oral doctrine as developed from the period of the earliest halakic exegesis down to that of the fixed and crystallized halakot of the early third century. Judah ha-Nasi, who was the redactor of this work, included in his compilation the largest and most important portion of the earlier collections that he had at hand, and fortunately preserved, for the most part without change, the traditional teachings which he took from older sources and collections; so that it is still possible to distinguish the earlier from the later portions by their form and mode of expression.

Development of the Mishnah.

In order to obtain a correct conception of the Mishnah, as well as of its value and importance, it is necessary to consider its relation to preceding collections of similar content as well as the general development of the oral doctrine from the earliest midrash of the Soferim down to the time when the Halakah received its final form.

According to a reliable tradition, contained in the Letter of Sherira Gaon (Neubauer, "M. J. C." p. 15) and confirmed by other sources (Hoffmann, "Die Erste Mischna," pp. 6-12), the earliest form of discussion of halakic regulations was the Midrash (see Midrash Halakah); and vestiges of such halakot may still be found in the Mishnah.

In addition to this form of the Midrash, which connects the halakic interpretation with the Scriptural passage on which it is based, the independent, definitive Halakah, apart from Scripture, was used in very early times in certain cases, and collections of such halakot were compiled (comp. Hoffmann, l.c. p. 11, note 2). As early as the time of the Second Temple the definitive Halakah was used more frequently than the midrashic form, the change having begun, according to geonic accounts, as early as the time of Hillel and Shammai (comp. Hoffmann, l.c. pp. 12-14). Although it can not be assumed that a collection of halakot, arranged in six orders, was undertaken when this change was made, or that Hillel himself edited a Mishnah, as Lerner has attempted to show (Berliner's "Magazin," 1886, pp. 1-20), it is probable that the material of the Mishnah first began to be collected at the time of the "Ziḳne Bet Shammai" and "Ziḳne Bet Hillel," the elder pupils of Shammai and Hillel. The beginnings of the present Mishnah may be found in this first mishnah collection, which in the completed text is termed "Mishnah Rishonah" (Sanh. iii. 4; 'Eduy. vii. 2; Giṭ. v. 6; Nazir vi. 1). A large portion of this first Mishnah is still preserved in its original form, notwithstanding the many changes to which it was subjected by the Tannaim; for many portions can be proved to have been redacted, in the form which they now bear, at the time of the schools of Shammai and Hillel, while the Temple was still standing (comp. Hoffmann, l.c. pp. 15-20; idem, "Bemerkungen zur Kritik der Mischna," in Berliner's "Magazin," 1881, pp. 170 et seq.).

This first collection of the Mishnah and its separation from the Midrash were intended, on the one hand, to reduce the traditional Halakah to a shorter form, and, on the other, to fix the disputed halakot as such; of these disputed halakot there were then but few. The isolation of the Halakah from the Midrash not only resulted in a shorter and more definite form, but also removed many differences then existing. Indeed in many cases the divergency had been merely one of form, the proof and the derivation from Scripture being differently stated for the same halakah by different teachers. This earliest Mishnah was intended to afford the teachers both a norm for their decisions and a text-book for their classes and discourses, and thus to preserve the uniformity of teaching. It did not accomplish this purpose entirely, however; for when the political disorders and the fall of the Jewish state diverted attention from careful doctrinal studies, many halakot of the Mishnah were forgotten, and their wording became a subject of controversy. Since, moreover, in addition to these differences each tanna taught the first Mishnah according to his own conception of it, the one Mishnah and the one doctrine developed into many mishnayot and many doctrines (Sanh. 88b; Soṭah 47b). This multiplication occurred during the period of the later "Bet Hillel" and "Bet Shammai" (comp. Letterof Sherira Gaon, l.c. pp. 4, 9; Hoffmann, l.c. p. 49).

The Synod of Jabneh.

To avert the danger which threatened the uniformity of doctrine, the synod of Jabneh was convened (Tosef., 'Eduy. i. 1; comp. Letter of Sherira Gaon, l.c. p. 5; Dünner, "Einiges über Ursprung und Bedeutung des Traktates Eduyot," in "Monatsschrift," 1871, pp. 37 et seq.), and under the presidency of Gamaliel II. and Eleazar b. Azariah it undertook to collect the ancient halakot, to examine and determine their wording, and to discuss and decide their differences; thus there arose the collection 'Eduyot (Ber. 28a). This compilation, that in its original form was much larger than the treatise that now bears its name, included all the halakot which were then known, whether controverted or not, and was in a certain sense a revision of the first Mishnah. Even in the present form of the treatise there are many "'eduyot" which are expressly said to have modified the earlier Mishnah; and there are many others, not so characterized, which must likewise be regarded as modifications of the Mishnah as redacted for the first time. But neither the first Mishnah nor its revision, the 'Eduyot collection, was arranged topically or systematically. It is true, a geonic responsum, which was printed in "Sha'are Teshubah," No. 187 (Leipsic, 1858) and erroneously ascribed to Sherira (comp. Harkavy, "Einleitung zu den Teschubot Hageonim," pp. x. et seq.), refers to six orders of the Mishnah said to date from the time of Hillel and Shammai, as does also the "Seder Tanna'im we-Amora'im" (ed. Luzzatto, p. 7), but this statement, which is probably based on Ḥag. 14a, is untrustworthy.

Divisions of Earliest Mishnah.

The earliest Mishnah, however, must have been divided in some way, possibly into treatises, although such a division, if it existed, was certainly arranged formally and not topically like the present tractates and orders. The several halakot were grouped together by a common introductory phrase, which served as the connecting-link, as may be inferred from various traces of this old method of grouping still to be seen in the Mishnah, especially in the last treatises of the order Mo'ed. These phrases (comp. Oppenheim, l.c. p. 270) referred for the most part to the similarity or the contrast between two or more halakot. Moreover, the name of the author or of the transmitter was often used as the connecting-link for the various halakot, as is evident from the treatise 'Eduyot in its present form (Dünner, l.c. pp. 62-63; A. Krochmal, in "He-Ḥaluẓ," ii. 81-82).

The 'Eduyot collection, which now became the basis for the discourses delivered in the schools, was the means of preserving the uniformity of teaching; but, as the mass incorporated in it was difficult to handle, there was a growing need for a methodical arrangement. R. Akiba, therefore, undertook a sifting of this traditional material, and made a mishnaic collection which he edited systematically by arranging the different subjects in different treatises, and perhaps also by combining the various treatises into orders. In the present Mishnah this collection is often mentioned in contradistinction to the first Mishnah (Sanh. iii. 4, and elsewhere; comp. Frankel, l.c. p. 210; Hoffmann, l.c. p. 38).

The passage Ab. R. N. xviii. 1 indicates that Akiba arranged his Mishnah according to topics (comp. Oppenheim, l.c. pp. 237 et seq.); and a like inference is to be drawn from the expression "tiḳḳen" (Yer. Sheḳ. v. 1), which does not mean "to correct," as A. Krochmal supposed ("Yerushalayim ha-Benuyah," pp. 34b-35a), but "to arrange," "to redact," the same word being applied to the work of Judah ha-Nasi in the redaction of his Mishnah (Yeb. 64b). Similarly the term "sidder," meaning "to arrange," is applied both to Akiba's work (Tosef., Zab. i. 5) and to that of R. Judah ha-Nasi (Yer. Pes. iv. 30d), thus justifying the conclusion that Akiba's method of division and arrangement of the Mishnah was the same as that followed by Judah ha-Nasi. Two treatises are definitely known to have been included in their present form in Akiba's Mishnah, in which they even bore their present names. R. Meïr mentions the treatise 'Uḳẓin by name in Hor. 13b; and R. Jose in like manner names the treatise Kelim (Kelim, end): both of these tannaim, who antedated Judah ha-Nasi, undoubtedly designated by these names the treatises Kelim and 'Uḳẓin as included in the Mishnah of their teacher Akiba.

Mishnah of R. Akiba.

R. Akiba's treatment of the old Mishnah in editing his own Mishnah collection was entirely arbitrary. He excluded many of the halakot contained in the original text; and those which he accepted he endeavored to found upon some text, explaining their phraseology, and tracing their origin, but striving most of all to present the Halakah in short, clear, and explicit form (comp. Tosef., Zab. i. 5). Many halakic sentences which he included called for more detailed explanation. For the sake of brevity, however, and to aid his pupils in memorizing the Mishnah, he omitted the required explanations and made an additional collection containing the comments to the Mishnah, thus laying the foundation for the Tosefta (comp. Letter of Sherira Gaon, l.c. p. 16; Frankel, l.c. p. 306; Oppenheim, l.c. p. 270).

Akiba's method, which reduced the halakic collections to an orderly system, soon found imitators; and nearly every tannaitic head of a school, who, in virtue of his position, had a mishnaic collection, sooner or later adopted Akiba's method of dividing and arranging the material. R. Meïr especially followed this system, availing himself of it when the increasing number of new halakot, discovered and established by Akiba's pupils, rendered a new mishnaic collection necessary. In this compilation he included the larger portion of Akiba's Mishnah, but also drew upon other existing collections, such as that of Abba Saul (comp. Lewy, "Ueber Einige Fragmente aus der Mischna des Abba Saul," Berlin, 1876). He likewise incorporated many old halakot known in the schools but excluded by Akiba. He frequently cited the opinions of Akiba, without naming him, as "setam" and therefore authoritative for halakic decisions; but sometimes, when the opinion of the majority was opposed to Akiba's view, he designated the former as "setam" and binding for the Halakah (comp. Oppenheim, l.c. p. 315).

R. Meïr's collection had a wide circulation, although it was not able to displace the other compilations. As every tanna at the head of a school, however, had, as stated above, his own mishnaic collection in which the halakot of preceding teachers as well as their controversies were differently expounded, the uniformity in teaching which the redactors of the Mishnah had desired and which had almost been attained was again lost; for there were as many different teachings as there were Mishnah collections. There was good ground, therefore, for the complaint that the religious world was thrown into disorder by the teachers who gave halakic decisions according to their own mishnaic collections (Soṭah 22a), since a clear and reliable Halakah could not be found in any individual compilation (Shab. 138b, 139a).

R. Judah ha-Nasi.

To remedy this evil and to restore uniformity of teaching, Judah ha-Nasi undertook his collection, arrangement, and redaction of the Mishnah, which work has survived to the present time. He followed his own method so far as the selection and presentation of the material were concerned, but adopted the systems of Akiba and Meïr in regard to the division and arrangement. This Mishnah was intended to serve practical purposes and to be an authority in deciding religious and legal questions. Judah often gives, therefore, the opinion of a single teacher, where he regards it as the correct one, in the name of "the sages" ("ḥakamim") (Ḥul. 85a); and in order that the opinion of a single scholar may prevail as final, he ignores the fact that this view was controverted by many others. At times he, without mentioning his name, quotes his own opinion as "setam," to record it as authoritative (comp. Oppenheim, l.c. p. 347, No. 16). Frequently, too, he explains or limits the earlier Halakah (see Yer. Hor. i. 46a), and endeavors to find a compromise in the case of disputed halakot, or he himself decides the cases in which the halakah is to follow one opinion and in which the other (comp. Frankel, l.c. pp. 195 et seq.).

In addition to the practical purpose of restoring and preserving uniformity of halakic doctrine and of providing for teachers an authority for their decisions, Judah ha-Nasi had another purely theoretical object in view; namely, the preservation of the teachings of the ancients, except those which he regarded as relatively unimportant or which he considered to have been preserved in some other place in his collection. This fact explains many peculiarities of the Mishnah, which were regarded as shortcomings by those who considered it a legal code. The following are some of these peculiarities: Judah ha-Nasi quotes the opinion of a single authority even when invalidated, and he quotes the original view of a scholar even after such scholar had himself retracted it (Ḥul. 32b; comp. Oppenheim, l.c. p. 344). He quotes also a given halakah in one passage as being controverted ("maḥloket") and in another passage as authoritative ("setam"), or vice versa; and he cites contradictory teachings in different places. All these peculiarities are due to the fact that Judah wished to preserve the ancient teachings; and to attain this object more completely he included in his Mishnah, in addition to the collections of Akiba and Meïr, which formed his chief sources, the major portion of all the other mishnayot (Yer. Shab. xvi. 15c); according to a later account, he used in all thirteen collections (Ned. 41a). He dealt independently with his material; for while he frequently made no changes in the wording or form of the old Mishnah, and even included old halakot which had long since been refuted, he altered various others (comp. Hoffmann, "Bemerkungen zur Kritik der Mischna," in Berliner's "Magazin," 1881, pp. 127 et seq.). He expounded many of the old halakot ('Ar. iv. 2; Sanh. ix. 3; Yer. Sanh. 27a; comp. Oppenheim, l.c. p. 347), following certain rules (Yer. Ter. i. 2, 40c), and endeavoring to determine the text of the old Mishnah (Yer. Ma'as. Sh. v. 1, 55d; comp. Letter of Sherira Gaon, l.c. pp. 9-10; Frankel, l.c. p. 214). The lessknown halakot, as well as those which the pupils of Akiba had propounded, were interpreted by Judah ha-Nasi according to his conception of them. In this way he impressed upon his Mishnah the stamp of uniformity, and gave it the appearance of a work thoroughly revised, if not new; and his compilation displaced its predecessors by its inclusion of the major portion of their contents with the exception of those halakot which appeared to him untenable, or to which he had alluded in some other passage of his Mishnah.

The Authoritative Mishnah.

Because of his personal prominence and his dignity as patriarch (comp. J. S. Bloch, "Einblicke," etc., pp. 59 et seq.), his Mishnah soon became the only one used in the schools, and was known to teachers and students alike, Judah thereby attaining his object of restoring uniform teachings. Whereas the exposition of the various halakot given by the Tannaim and called "[Tannaitic] Talmud," had been used hitherto in preference to the dry mishnaic collections (comp. Letter of Sherira Gaon, l.c. pp. 18-19), most of the teachers now resorted to R. Judah's Mishnah, which included both the halakot themselves and the expository tannaitic Talmud (this fact explains the application of the name "Talmud" to his Mishnah; B. M. 33a; Yer. Shab. xvi. 15c). Interest in this work was so highly esteemed that a haggadist said: "The study of the Mishnah is equal to sacrifice" (Lev. R. vii.). Every pupil was supposed, as a matter of course, to be familiar with the Mishnah of R. Judah ha-Nasi; and when any one propounded a sentence which was to be found in it, his hearers exclaimed, "What! do we not learn that ourselves from the Mishnah?" According to R. Joshua b. Levi, "The Mishnah is a firm iron pillar"; and none may stray from it (ib. xxi.). "The passage, Num. xv. 31, 'He hath despised the word of the Lord,' denotes him who does not consider the Mishnah" (baraita quoted by Isaac Alfasi in his compendium to Sanh. x.). It was considered the only authority for legal decisions. R. Johanan said, "The correct halakic decision is always the one which is declared in the Mishnah to be incontrovertible" ("Halakah ki-setam Mishna"; Yeb. 42b, and parallel passages); and the most conclusive refutation of a sentence was to prove that it was contradicted by the Mishnah. If a decision was accidentally made contrary to theMishnah, the decision at once became invalid (Sanh. 6a, 33a; Ket. 84a, 100a). The Amoraim regarded the Mishnah as the Tannaim did the Scripture; and many of them interpreted and expounded it (comp. Bacher "Ag. Bab. Amor." p. 33, note 207 on Rab). Even subsequently, when the collections which were made by the pupils of Judah ha-Nasi were widely used, his Mishnah remained the sole authority. In cases where the Mishnah conflicted with the Baraita, the former was considered decisive (Suk. 19b; B. Ḳ. 96b), while there is but a single example to show that the Gemara preferred the Baraita in such a disputed case (see Jew. Encyc. ii. 516a, s.v. Baraita). Some amoraim, such as Ilfa and Simeon b. Laḳish, even regarded the later collections as unnecessary and useless, since their entire contents were included by implication in the Mishnah, and all questions could be explained from it without the aid of the subsequent compilations (Yer. Kil. i. 6, 27a; Yer. B. Ḳ. v. 5a; Yer. Ḳid. iii. 64b; Ta'an. 22a; comp. Oppenheim, l.c. pp. 344-345). Another sentence, likewise derogatory to these later collections, says: "If Rabbi has not taught it, how does R. Ḥiyya [the collector of the baraitot] know it?"

Modifications of the Text.

This Mishnah, however, has not been preserved in the form in which Rabbi redacted it; for, as stated above, it was subjected to many changes, and received numerous additions before it reached its definitive form. Notwithstanding the superiority of Rabbi's Mishnah to its predecessors, it had many defects, some of which may still be seen in the present Mishnah. Though Rabbi himself subsequently renounced many of his Mishnaic opinions, as his views changed in the course of time, he retained such discarded opinions in his Mishnah as he had held them in his younger days (B. M. 44a; 'Ab. Zarah 52b; Yer. 'Ab. Zarah iv. 44a). Occasionally he recorded one decision as authoritative in one passage of his Mishnah, considering it the correct view, and, deciding later in favor of an opposite opinion, he in another place gave this also as authoritative without retracting or suppressing his former view (Sheb. 4a). These shortcomings would not have been serious, since Rabbi did not intend to furnish a mere halakic code, if he had not failed to include in his collection many halakot which were taught in his school and which were, therefore, highly important, not only for halakic decision, but also for a knowledge of tradition in general. He furthermore excluded his own halakot and the points of divergence between him and his contemporaries. These omissions were the most serious defects in his Mishnah for his pupils, since, being a compendium of the entire traditional instruction, it must have seemed incomplete inasmuch as it did not include the teachings of the last tannaim, whose legal decisions should certainly have been incorporated in it if it was to serve as an authoritative code. Rabbi's pupils R. Ḥiyya, R. Hoshaiah, Levi, and Bar Ḳappara began, therefore, even during Rabbi's lifetime and with his knowledge, to make additions and emendations to his Mishnah. Rabbi, who was aware of the deficiencies of his work, probably approved many of these corrections (comp. Oppenheim, l.c. pp. 344 et seq.), and added some himself (Yer. Ket. iv. 29a, b). Most of the changes, however, were such as were contrary to his views, and were consequently concealed from him by his pupils (see Megillat Setarim; comp. Weiss, "Dor," ii. 191).

Thus arose new collections by R. Ḥiyya, R. Hoshaiah, and Bar Ḳappara, which were called "Mishnayot Gedolot," since they were more voluminous than Rabbi's collection. As these new compilations imperiled the uniformity of teaching, which was possible only through the existence of a Mishnah familiar to all teachers, the "Debe Rabbi" (the scholars of Rabbi's school) undertook a revision of his Mishnah, probably long after his death. They made various changes and a large number of additions in agreement with current demands; and in this form the Mishnah has been transmitted to the present time. The majority of the additions made by the Debe Rabbi betray their later origin, although some of them are known to be supplementary only by statements in the Gemara. For instance, the discussion between R. Hezekiah and R. Johanan, in Men. 104b, indicates that the passage in the present Mishnah (Men. xiii. 2), beginning "Rabbi omer," is a later addition of which Hezekiah and Johanan did not know. The same is true of Mishnah Sanh. ix. 2, since the R. Simeon there mentioned is Rabbi's son, as is shown by Yerushalmi (ad loc. 27a, b). Mishnah 'Ab. Zarah ii. 6, where a decision of Judah ha-Nasi is quoted, also comes in this category, since it refers to Judah II., grandson of Judah ha-Nasi I., the original redactor of the Mishnah (comp. Tos. 'Ab. Zarah 36a, s.v. "Asher"). In general, all the passages in which something concerning Rabbi is related, or something which he did either alone (Sheb. vi. 4) or together with his colleague (Oh. xviii. 19), must be regarded as later accretions (comp. Frankel, l.c. pp. 215 et seq.); and the same statement holds good of all the passages in which Rabbi's opinion is quoted after that of other tannaim. On the other hand, there are passages concluding with "dibre Rabbi" (the words of Rabbi), which are not necessarily additions; for Rabbi may in such instances have quoted his own opinion anonymously as setam, as he frequently did, and the words "dibre Rabbi" may have been added by later editors. Various sentences of the Tosefta also found their way into the Mishnah (comp. Hoffmann, l.c. pp. 156 et seq.). Many of these are haggadic in nature, such as those at the end of the treatises Makkot, 'Uḳẓin, Ḳinnim, Ḳiddushin, and Soṭah, as well as many sentences in the treatise Abot, which must be regarded as accretions. The later origin of many of these sentences is at once indicated by the name of the author, as in the cases of R. Joshua b. Levi, who belonged to the first generation of Amoraim ('Uḳẓin, end); Simon, son of Judah ha-Nasi (Ab. ii. 2); and Hillel, grandson of Judah ha-Nasi (ib. ii. 4 et seq.; comp. Lipmann Heller in Tos. Yom-Ṭob, ad loc.). Aside from these additions, the Debe Rabbi emended the phraseology and single words of the Mishnah (comp. Yer. Ḳid. iii. 64c), even as Rabbi himself had done (comp. B. M. iv. 1; 'Ab. Zarah iv. 4, and the Babylonian and Palestinian Gemaras, ad loc.).

Babylonian and Palestinian Mishnah.

Many of Rabbi's own emendations have been preserved in the different readings of Yerushalmi and Babli, although the differences between these two versions are not all due to his changes, as Rapoport assumes ("Kerem Ḥemed," vii. 157-167); for most of the differences not due to philological causes must be ascribed to the different mishnaic schools. In addition to the Debe Rabbi, later amoraim also emended the Mishnah if the received reading seemed untenable. These emendations were then incorporated into the Mishnah; those made by the Babylonian amoraim into the Mishnah which was taught in the Babylonian schools; and those made by the Palestinian amoraim into the Mishnah as taught in the Palestinian schools. Thus, in 'Ab. Zarah i., the Mishnah in the Palestinian Talmud was corrected according to the Gemara (Yer. 'Ab. Zarah i. 39d), while the Mishnah in the Babylonian Talmud retained its original reading. Sometimes—curiously enough—the Mishnah of the Palestinian Talmud was corrected to harmonize with the results of the discussion in the Babylonian Talmud, and vice versa (comp. O. H. Schorr in "HeḤaluẓ," vi. 32-47; Frankel, "Mebo," pp. 19a-22a), although only a few of these emendations, of which there are many in the Talmud—introduced by the phrases "sami mi-kan" = "omit from here," or "ḥasuri miḥasra" = "something missing," or "teni kak" = "teach thus"—found their way into the Mishnah itself. Many of the amoraim objected to corrections in the Mishnah, holding that the phraseology chosen by the ancients in their mishnaic collections should be retained unchanged (Yer. Nazir i. 51a).

The Mishnah is written in a peculiar kind of Hebrew, which is far more different from the Hebrew of the earlier books of the Old Testament than from that of some of the later ones and which is, therefore, correctly designated as "Neo-Hebraic." This language was spoken by the people of Palestine as late as the second century of the common era, but was cultivated especially by the scholars; so that it was called "leshon ḥakamim" = "the speech of the wise." It contains many old Hebraic terms which were preserved in popular speech, although they are not found in the Bible, as well as numerous foreign elements, especially from Aramaic, Greek, and Latin; the scholars being forced to adopt these loanwords as terms for objects and concepts which were formerly unknown and for which there were no designations in the Hebrew vocabulary. Foreign words were especially used to designate implements borrowed from foreign peoples (comp. Weiss, "Mishpaṭ Leshon ha-Mishnah," pp. 1-7; A. Geiger, "Lehrbuch zur Sprache der Mischna," pp. 1-3); and these borrowed terms were so Hebraized as to be taken by many for native words.

The Written Text.

From the first there were various opposing opinions regarding the problems when and by whom the Mishnah was reduced to writing. According to the Letter of Sherira Gaon (l.c. pp. 2, 9, 12), Judah ha-Nasi himself performed this task; and this view is supported by Rabbenu Nissim b. Jacob (in the preface to his "Sefer ha-Mafteaḥ," ed. J. Goldenthal, p. 3a, Vienna, 1847), Samuel Nagid (in his "Mebo ha-Talmud"), Maimonides (in the introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah and in the preface to the Yad ha-Ḥazaḳah), Meïri (in his "Bet ha-Beḥirah"), and a commentary on Pirḳe Abot (pp. 6a, 8b, 9a, Vienna, 1854); and many other medieval authors, as well as some modern scholars (comp. Strack, "Einleitung in den Talmud," p. 54), hold the same opinion. Rashi, on the other hand (see his commentary on Shab. 13b; 'Er. 62b; B. M. 33a; Suk. 28b; Ket. 19b), with some tosafists and other medieval and modern authors (comp. Strack, l.c. p. 55), held not only that the Mishnah was not reduced to writing by Rabbi himself, but that even the later amoraim did not have it in written form. He maintained that it, together with the Gemara, was written by the Saboraim. This view is based principally on the passage Giṭ. 60b, which declares that it was forbidden to record halakot, as well as on certain other statements of the Amoraim (comp. e.g., Tan., Ki Tissa, ed. Buber, pp. 59b et seq.), which draw a distinction between the Bible as being a written doctrine and the Mishnah as a system of teaching which is not and may not be reduced to writing. It is, however, extremely unlikely that such a systematized collection, dealing with problems so numerous and so diverse, could have been transmitted orally from generation to generation; and this improbability is increased by the fact that in the Talmud remarks concerning "resha" and "sefa" (the "first" and the "last" cases provided for in a single paragraph) are frequently added to Mishnah quotations, a fact explicable only on the assumption that the text of the Mishnah was definitely fixed in writing.

It must be assumed, therefore, that Rabbi himself reduced the Mishnah to writing in his old age, transgressing in a way the interdiction against recording halakot, since he deemed this prohibition liable to endanger the preservation of the doctrine. He did not abrogate this interdiction entirely, however; for the oral method of instruction continued, the teacher using the written Mishnah merely as a guide, while the pupils repeated the lesson orally. Thus the distinction between "miḳra" (the law to be read) and "mishnah" (the oral teaching) was retained (comp. "Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ," s.v. "Mishnah," pp. 219 et seq.; Frankel, "Hodegetica in Mischnam," pp. 217-218; Brüll, "Einleitung," ii. 10-13; Weiss, "Dor," p. 216).

The Mishnah has been transmitted in four recensions: (1) the manuscripts and editions of the mishnayot; (2) the Babylonian Talmud, in which the several mishnayot are separated by the Gemara in those treatises which have it, while in the treatises which have no Gemara they follow in sequence; (3) the Palestinian Talmud, in which the Gemara follows each entire chapter of the Mishnah, the initial words of the mishnaic sentences to be expounded being repeated (of this version only the first four orders and chapters i.-iv. of the treatise Niddah of the sixth order are extant); (4) "the Mishnah on which the Palestinian Talmud rests," published by W. H. Lowe in 1883 after the Mishnah manuscript (Add. 470, 1) in the library of the Universityof Cambridge. On the relation of the first three editions to one another see above (comp. A. Krochmal, "Yerushalayim ha-Benuyah," Introduction, pp. 10-14; Frankel, l.c. pp. 219-223; Weiss, l.c. ii. 313). The relation of the fourth version to the preceding three has not yet been thoroughly investigated.

Division into Orders.

The Mishnah is divided into six main parts, called orders (Aramaic, "sedarim," plural of "seder"; Hebr. "'arakin," plural of "'erek"), the (image) (as in B. M. 85b) or the (image) (Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, 7a; Cant. R. vi. 4) being therefore frequently mentioned. The abbreviated name (image) ("shas") was formed from the initial letters of (image) (image) (Ḥag. 3a, 10a; M. Ḳ. 10b). Each order contains a number of treatises, "massektot" (Mishnah, ed. Lowe, fol. 32a; Midr. Teh. to Ps. civ.) or "massekot" (Mishnah, ed. Lowe, fol. 69a), plural of "masseket," or "massektiyyot" (Cant. R. vi. 9), the singular of which is "massekta." Each treatise is divided into chapters, "peraḳim" (singular, "pereḳ") (Ned. 8a; Ḥag. 9a; Men. 99b), and each chapter into paragraphs or sentences, "mishnayot," or "halakot" in the Palestinian Talmud (see above).

The six orders are first mentioned by R. Ḥiyya (B. M. 85b), and represent the original division. A division into five orders is nowhere mentioned, although Geiger ("Einiges über Plan," etc., p. 487), misinterpreting the Midrash passage Num. R. xiii., considers only five orders to be enumerated there. Ulla (Meg. 28b), when he alludes to those who teach and learn only four orders, does not imply that the Mishnah was divided into four orders, but refers merely to those who study only four. This conclusion is confirmed by a conversation in which Simeon b. Laḳish communicates to a man who has studied only the first four orders a sentence belonging to the sixth order (Meg.28b). The geonic tradition ("Sha'are Teshubah," No. 143) which refers to seven orders of the Mishnah seems to include the "Small Treatises" ("Massektot Ḳeṭannot"; Hoffmann, l.c. pp.98-99). The names of the orders are old, and are mentioned by Simeon b. Laḳish (Shab. 31a), who enumerates them, according to his interpretation of Isa. xxxiii. 6, in the following sequence: Zera'im, Mo'ed, Nashim, Neziḳin, Ḳodashim, Ṭohorot. This is the original order, which is found also in Num. R. xiii. There are other enumerations with different sequences. R. Tanḥuma has the following in Yalḳ., Ps. xix.: Nashim, Zera'im, Ṭohorot, Mo'ed, Ḳodashim, Neziḳin. He gives another series in Num. R. xiii.: Nashim, Zera'im, Mo'ed, Ḳodashim, Ṭohorot, Neziḳin. As R. Tanḥuma evidently does not intend to give the actual sequence but only to explain the verses as referring to the orders of the Mishnah, he adapts his enumeration of the orders to the sequence of the verses. That Simeon b. Laḳish's sequence is the correct one may be proved also from other sources. For example, Ta'an. 24b has: "In the days of Rab Judas they went in their studies only as far as the order Neziḳin; but we study all six orders." The parallel passage reads: "We have proceeded in our studies as far as 'Uḳẓin" (the end of the sixth order Ṭohorot). It is clear from Meg. 28b that formerly only four orders were studied, of which Neziḳin formed the conclusion (according to Ta'an. 24a, where the shorter course of study in former times is mentioned in another form of expression). That the treatise 'Uḳẓin of the order Ṭohorot was the end of the sixth order is shown by Ber. 20a. It is seen, therefore, that the order Neziḳin is always mentioned as the fourth, and the order Ṭohorot as the sixth and last, thus conforming to the sequence of Simeon b. Laḳish (comp. Brüll, l.c. ii. 15; Weiss, l.c. iii. 186). Isaac ibn Gabbai, author of the mishnaic commentary "Kaf Naḥat," has, consequently, no grounds for his reversal of the arrangement of the orders (comp. Lipmann Heller, l.c. Preface); nor is there any foundation for the attempt of Tobias Cohn to reverse the sequence ("Aufeinanderfolge der Mischna Ordnungen," in Geiger's "Jüd. Zeit." iv. 126 et seq.). For a justification of the accepted sequence see the introduction of Maimonides to his commentary on the Mishnah; Frankel, l.c. p. 254; Brüll, l.c. ii. 15-16. It can not be ascertained whether Rabbi himself originated this sequence, or whether the orders were thus discussed in the academies. Isaac Alfasi and Asher b. Jehiel apply the Talmudic passage "En seder le-Mishnah" (= "Rabbi observed no definite sequence in the Mishnah") to the orders as well, and infer that this arrangement did not originate with Rabbi himself. Other authorities, however, assert that the passage "En seder le-Mishnah" refers only to the treatises, and not to the orders; for here Rabbi himself observed a definite series (comp. Lipmann Heller, l.c.; idem, commentary on Soṭah ix. 1). This view seems to be the correct one, since Simeon b. Laḳish, who was in his youth a pupil of Rabbi (Yer. Beẓah v. 2, 63a), refers to this sequence of the orders as being well known. The names of the several orders, which are frequently mentioned in the Talmud (Suk. 4b; Shab. 54b; Meg. 7a; Nid. 8a; Bek. 30b), were selected according to the subject of most of the treatises belonging to them.

Earlier Divisions.

The division of the Mishnah into treatises is a very old device, the collections upon which Rabbi drew being also arranged in this same way. II Esd. xiv. 44-46 mentions, in addition to the twenty-four written books of the Old Testament, seventy other books which may not be written down, having been given by God to Moses for oral communication to the elders of the people. According to an assumption of Ginsberg's, which is supported by a comparison of the passage in Esdras with its parallel in the Tan., Ki Tissa (ed. Buber, pp. 58b-59a), these seventy books are the seventy treatises of the oral teachings, and hence of the Mishnah. The number seventy may be obtained by counting either the seven small treatises (comp. R. Kirchheim, Preface to his edition of them, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1851), or, as Ginsberg obtains it, the halakic midrashim Sifra and Sifre, the first of which was divided into nine parts. In any case, it is evident that the division into treatises is a very old one, and that Rabbi arranged his Mishnah in conformity with it, although, as has been said, the present division is not the original one which he adopted, but has been subjected to many changes.

Sixty-three treatises are now extant, although the traditional number is only sixty, as Cant. R. vi. 9says, "Sixty queens, these are the sixty treatises of the halakot." The three "babot," or gates, at the beginning of the order Neziḳin formed originally only a single treatise, which also was called "Neziḳin" (B. Ḳ. 102a; B. M. 10a, b; Lev. R. xix.), and which was divided into three treatises on account of its size. Makkot was originally a dependent treatise combined with Sanhedrin, of which it formed the end (comp. Maimonides' introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah). The names of the treatises, which were derived mostly from the contents, but occasionally from the initial letter, are old, being known to the Amoraim, and in part even to the Tannaim.

The following treatises are mentioned by name in the Talmud: Baba Ḳamma and Baba Meẓi'a (B. Ḳ. 102a); Bekorot (Beẓah 20a); Berakot (B. Ḳ. 30a); 'Eduyot under the name "Beḥirta" (Ber. 27a) as well as under its own name (Ber. 28a); Kelim (Mishnah Kelim, end); Keritot (Sanh. 65a); Ketubot (Soṭah 2a); Ḳiddushin (Ḳid. 76b); Ḳodashim (B. M. 109b); Makkot (Sheb. 2b); Menaḥot (Men. 7a); Middot (Yoma 16a); Nazir and Nedarim (Soṭah 2a); Oholot under the name "Ahilot" ('Er. 79a); Rosh ha-Shanah (Ta'an. 2a); Shebu'ot (Sheb. 2b); Tamid (Yoma 14b); Terumot (Pes. 34a); 'Uḳẓin (Hor. 13b); Yoma (Yoma 14b); and Zebaḥim under the name "Sheḥitat Ḳodashim" (B. M. 109b). The names of the treatises have, however, been subjected to various changes, and have, in some cases, been replaced by later terms. Thus the earlier name "Mashḳin" gave way to the later "Mo'ed Ḳaṭan"; "Zebaḥim" was substituted for "Sheḥiṭat Ḳodashim"; and "Sheḥiṭat Ḥullin" was abbreviated to "Ḥullin" (on the names comp. A. Berliner in "Ha-Misderonah," i. 20 et seq., 40 et seq.; see also Frankel, l.c. p. 255; Brüll, l.c. ii. 18-20). The treatises belonging to each order deal with similar subjects, or have some other bond of relationship which causes them to be placed in a given order. Although there are some tractates, such as Nazir (comp. Naz. 2a) and Berakot, which apparently do not belong to the order in which they are included, a closer examination reveals the reason for their inclusion (comp. Maimonides' introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah; Brüll, l.c. ii. 17-18; Weiss, l.c. ii. 207; Geiger, l.c. p. 486).

The Treatises.

It is a harder task to define the principle on which the treatises are arranged within the various orders; and this difficulty is increased by the existence of many different sequences, especially since it is uncertain which of these is the oldest. According to the Letter of Sherira Gaon (l.c. pp. 12-13), Rabbi observed no definite sequence, but discoursed on each massekta singly without reference to the other treatises, changing their arrangement at will. This statement is supported by 'Ab. Zarah 7a, which states that for two treatises there was no definite order in the Mishnah—an assertion which is all the more trust, worthy since it is recognized as a principle in maing halakic decisions as well. It appears, on the other hand, from various passages in the Talmud (e.g., Sheb. 2b; Soṭah 2a; Ta'an. 2a), that even at an early period a certain arrangement of the several treatises within their respective orders was followed, and it is necessary, therefore, to adopt Hoffmann's view (in Berliner's "Magazin," 1890, pp. 322-323) that a definite sequence was gradually developed and observed in the course of instruction in the Palestinian and Babylonian academies. The teachers of these schools arranged their material on pedagogic lines, and in interpreting an order of the Mishnah they selected the longest treatise for the beginning of the lesson, when the minds of their pupils were still fresh, and then passed on to the smaller tractates. Likewise in Maimonides' sequence, which was the one generally adopted, the treatises from the second to the sixth order are arranged according to length, as Geiger has remarked ("Einiges über Plan," etc., in Geiger's "Wiss. Zeit. Jüd. Theol." ii. 480 et seq.); and this principle is evident in the first order likewise (Hoffmann, l.c. p. 323; Geiger, l.c. p. 402). Maimonides' sequence seems, therefore, to have been the same as that adopted in the Palestinian and Babylonian academies, and hence was the original one (for other reasons for this sequence see Maimonides' introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah; Frankel, l.c. pp. 255-264; Brüll, l.c. ii. 20-27).

The Chapters.

The division of the several treatises into chapters as well as the sequence of these chapters was the work of Rabbi himself (Letter of Sherira Gaon, l.c. p. 13). The portion discussed each day constituted an independent pereḳ; and this term was, therefore, applied elsewhere to a single discourse also (Ber. 11b; 'Er. 36b; on a statement in the "Seder Tanna'im we-Amora'im," to the effect that the Saboraim divided the treatises into chapters, see M. Lerner, "Die Aeltesten Mischna-Compositionen," in Berliner's "Magazin," 1886, p. 3, note 1). Generally speaking, the original division and sequence of the chapters have been preserved, as appears from various passages of the Talmud (R. H. 31b; Suk. 22b; Yeb. 9a; Ket. 15a; Niddah 68b; Zeb. 15a). The names of the chapters taken from the initial letters are likewise old, and some of them are mentioned even in the Talmud (B. M. 35b; Niddah 48a). In the course of time, however, various changes were made in the division, sequence, and names of the chapters; thus, for example, the division of Tamid into seven chapters is not the original one. On other variations in sequence see Frankel, l.c. pp. 264-265, and on the changes in the names see Berliner in "Ha-Misderonah," i. 40b.

There are altogether 523 chapters in the Mishnah, divided as follows: Zera'im 74 (Bikkurim 3), Mo'ed Ḳaṭan 88, Nashim 71, Neziḳin 73 (Abot 5), Ḳodashim 91, Ṭohorot 126. Some authorities reckon 524 chapters by adding a sixth chapter to Abot, while others count 525 by adding a sixth chapter to Abot and a fourth chapter to Bikkurim.

The division of the chapters into paragraphs, which is likewise very old, has not been preserved in its original form, the different recensions of the present Mishnah having a different division (comp. Frankel, l.c. p. 265). The several paragraphs are mostly cast in the form of the fixed Halakah without a Scripture passage (see Midrash Halakah), although Weiss (l.c. ii. 211, notes 1-6) has enumerated 217 passages in which the Halakah is given togetherwith the Scriptural text on which it is based, hence assuming the form of the Midrash. Some of these midrashic sentences in the Mishnah have the form of the earliest exegesis of the Soferim (comp. Frankel, l.c. p. 5), and there are also many passages modeled on the tannaitic Talmud (comp. Weiss, l.c. ii. 209-210).

The following is the list of the mishnaic orders with their treatises, according to Maimonides, the deviations in both Talmudim being given at the end of each order (for details see separate articles under the names of the respective orders and treatises; and on variations in certain editions of the Mishnah comp. Strack, l.c. pp. 9-12):

Orders and Treatises.


The order Zera'im ("Seeds") contains the following eleven treatises:


Berakot ("Blessings"), divided into nine chapters; deals with the rules for the daily prayer, and other prayers and blessings.


Pe'ah ("Corner"); eight chapters; deals with the regulations concerning the corners of the field (Lev. xix. 9, 10; xxiii. 22; Deut. xxiv. 19-22), and with the rights of the poor in general.


Demai ("Doubtful"); seven chapters; deals chiefly with various cases in which it is not certain whether the offering of the fruit has been given to the priests.


Kilayim ("Of Two Sorts"; "Heterogeneous"); nine chapters; deals chiefly with rules regarding forbidden mixtures (Lev. xix. 19; Deut. xxii. 9-11).


Shebi'it ("Sabbatical Year"); ten chapters; deals with the regulations concerning the seventh year (Ex. xxiii. 11; Lev. xxv. 1-8; Deut. xv. 1 et seq.).


Terumot ("Offerings"); eleven chapters; deals with the laws regarding the offering to be given to the priest (Num. xviii. 8 et seq.; Deut. xviii. 4).


Ma'aserot or Ma'aser Rishon ("Tithes" or "First Tithes"); five chapters; deals with the prescription regarding the tithe to be given to the Levites (Num. xviii. 21-24).


Ma'aser Sheni ("Second Tithe"); five chapters; deals with the rules concerning the tithe or its equivalent which was to be eaten at Jerusalem (Deut. xiv. 22-26).


Ḥallah ("Cake"); four chapters; deals with the laws regarding the heave-offering of dough to be given to the priests (Num. xv. 18-21).


'Orlah ("Foreskin of the Trees"); three chapters; deals chiefly with the regulations of Lev. xix. 23-25.


Bikkurim ("First-Fruits"); three chapters; deals with the laws in Ex. xxiii. 19; Deut. xxvi. 1 et seq.

In many editions of the Mishnah, even early ones like those of Naples 1492, and of Riva 1559, as well as in most of the editions of the Babylonian Talmud, a fourth chapter to the eleventh treatise, which does not belong to the Mishnah, has been added (comp. the gloss in the Wilna edition of the Talmud, p. 87b). The sequence of the treatises of this first order in both the Talmudim corresponds with that of Maimonides.


Mo'ed ("Festivals") includes the following twelve treatises:


Shabbat ("Sabbath"); twenty-four chapters; deals with the laws regarding the seventh day as a day of rest (Ex. xvi. 23 et seq., xx. 8-11, xxiii. 12, xxxiv. 21, xxxv. 2-3; Deut. v. 12-15).


'Erubin ("Mingling"); ten chapters; deals with the means by which inconvenient regulations regarding the Sabbath may be legally obviated.


Pesaḥim ("Passover Festivals"); ten chapters; deals with the prescriptions regarding the Passover and the paschal sacrifice (Ex. xii., xiii. 6-8, xxiii. 15, xxxiv. 15 et seq.; Lev. xxiii. 5 et seq.; Num. ix. 2-14, xxviii. 16 et seq.).


Sheḳalim ("Shekels"); eight chapters; treats chiefly of the poll-tax of a half-shekel for each male, prescribed in Ex. xxx. 12-16, and which was devoted to defraying the expenses of the services of the Temple.


Yoma ("Day"), called also "Kippurim" or "Yom ha-Kippurim" (= "Day of Atonement"); eight chapters; deals with the prescriptions regarding worship and fasting on the Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi., xxiii. 26-32).


Sukkah or Sukkot ("Booth"); five chapters; deals with the regulations concerning the Feast of Tabernacles, the Tabernacle, and the garland on it (Lev. xxiii. 34-36; Num. xxix. 12 et seq.; Deut. xvi. 13-16).


Beẓah ("Egg"; so called from the first word, but originally termed, according to its subject, "Yom-Ṭob" = "Feast-Day"); five chapters; deals chiefly with the rules to be observed on the feast-days.


Rosh ha-Shanah ("New-Year Feast"); four chapters; deals chiefly with the regulation of the calendar by the new moon, and with the services on the New-Year.


Ta'anit ("Fasting"); four chapters; deals chiefly with the special fast-days in times of drought or other untoward occurrences.


Megillah ("Esther Scroll"); four chapters; contains chiefly regulations and prescriptions regarding the reading of the scroll of Esther at Purim, and the reading of other passages in the synagogue.


Mo'ed Ḳaṭan ("Half-Feasts"; originally called "Mashḳin," after its initial word); three chapters; deals with the regulations concerning the intermediate feast-days, or the days between the first two and the last two days of Pesaḥ and Sukkah.


Ḥagigah ("Feasting"); three chapters; deals among other things with the manner of observance of the three principal feasts.

In the Babylonian Talmud the treatises of the order Mo'ed are arranged as follows: Shabbat, 'Erubin, Pesaḥim, Beẓah, Ḥagigah, Mo'ed Ḳaṭan, Rosh ha-Shanah, Ta'anit, Yoma, Sukkah, Sheḳalim, and Megillah; while the sequence in the Palestinian Talmud is Shabbat, 'Erubin, Pesaḥim, Yoma, Sheḳalim, Sukkah, Rosh ha-Shanah, Beẓah, Ta'anit, Megillah, Ḥagigah, and Mo'ed Ḳaṭan.


Nashim ("Women") contains the following seven treatises:


Yebamot ("Widows Obliged to Contract a Levirate Marriage"); sixteen chapters; deals chiefly with the rules for the levirate marriage and of the Ḥaliẓah, whereby the widow is enabled to contract another marriage (Deut. xxv. 5-10).


Ketubot ("Marriage Contracts); thirteen chapters; deals chiefly with the mutual duties and rights of husband and wife.


Nedarim ("Vows"); eleven chapters; deals with the regulations concerning vows (Num. xxx. 2-17).


Nazir ("Nazarite"; called also "Nezirut" = "Nazariteship"); nine chapters; deals chiefly with the prescriptions regarding the Nazarite vows (Num. vi. 1-21).


Giṭṭin ("Documents"; "Bills of Divorce"); nine chapters; deals chiefly with the laws for the dissolution of marriage (Deut. xxiv. 1-4).


Soṭah ("Woman Suspected of Adultery"); nine chapters; deals chiefly with rules concerning a woman suspected of infidelity (Num. v. 11-31).


Ḳiddushin ("Betrothal"); four chapters; discusses the question how, by what means, and under what conditions a legal marriage may be contracted.

In the Babylonian Talmud the sequence of the treatises in this order is as follows: Yebamot, Ketubot, Ḳiddushin, Giṭṭin, Nedarim, Nazir, and Soṭah. In the Palestinian Talmud the sequence is: Yebamot, Soṭah, Ketubot, Nedarim, Giṭṭin, Nazir, and Ḳiddushin.


Neziḳin ("Injuries"; called also "Yeshu'ot"="Deeds of Help," as in Num. R. xiii.) contains the following ten treatises:


Baba Ḳamma ("First Gate"); ten chapters; deals chiefly with injuries and compensation for damages.


Baba Meẓi'a ("Middle Gate"); ten chapters; deals chiefly with the laws relating to sales, leases, objects found, and usury.


Baba Batra ("Last Gate"); ten chapters; deals chiefly with the rights of sale, the ownership of real estate, and the rights of succession.


Sanhedrin ("Court of Law"); eleven chapters; deals chiefly with judicial procedure and criminal law.


Makkot ("Blows," "Punishments"); three chapters; deals chiefly with the regulations concerning the number of stripes imposed as punishment by law (Deut. xxv. 1-3).


Shebu'ot ("Oaths"); eight chapters; deals chiefly with the rules regarding different oaths (Lev. v. 4 et seq.).


'Eduyot, or 'Ediyyot ("Evidences"); eight chapters; contains the testimony of later teachers regarding statements of earlier authorities, a large part of this material being contained in other portions of the Mishnah as well.


'Abodah Zarah ("Idolatrous Worship"); five chapters; deals chiefly with the regulations concerning the attitude of the Jews toward idolatry and idolaters.


Abot, or Pirḳe Abot ("Sayings of the Fathers"); five chapters; contains maxims and aphorisms. A sixth chapter called "Pereḳ Ḳinyan ha-Torah" (="Acquisition of the Law") was subsequently added to this treatise, but it does not belong to the Mishnah.


Horayot, or Hora'ot ("Decisions"); three chapters; deals chiefly with such religious and legal decisions as had been made through error.

The sequence of these treatises is as follows in the Babylonian Talmud: Baba Ḳamma, Baba Meẓi'a, Baba Batra, 'Abodah Zarah, Sanhedrin, Makkot, Shebu'ot, Horayot, 'Eduyot, and Abot. The usual sequence is observed in the Mishnah of the Palestinian Talmud.


Ḳodashim ("Holy Things") contains the following eleven treatises:


Zebaḥim ("Sacrifice"; originally called "Sheḥiṭat Ḳodashim" = "Slaughtering of the Holy Animals"; B. M. 109b); fourteen chapters; deals chiefly with the laws regarding sacrifices (Lev. i. et seq.).


Menaḥot ("Meat-Offering"); thirteen chapters; deals chiefly with the rules concerning meat-offerings (Lev. ii.; v. 11-13; vi. 7-16; vii. 9-10; xiv. 10-20; xxiii. 13, 16; Num. v. 11 et seq., vi. 13-20, xv. 24, xxviii., xxix.).


Ḥullin ("Profane"; called also "Sheḥiṭat Ḥullin" = "Slaughtering of Non-Consecrated Animals"); twelve chapters; deals chiefly with the laws for slaughtering and withother rules relating to the eating of meat.


Bekorot ("First-Born"); nine chapters; deals chiefly with the regulations concerning the various firstlings (Ex. xiii. 2, 12 et seq.; Lev. xxvii. 26 et seq.; Num. viii. 16-18, xviii. 15-17; Deut. xv. 19 et seq.).


'Arakin ("Estimations"); nine chapters; deals chiefly with the prescriptions regarding the ransom of those who have been dedicated to God (Lev. xxvii. 2 et seq.).


Temurah ("Exchange"); seven chapters; deals chiefly with the laws regarding the exchange of a dedicated animal (Lev. xxvii. 10, 33).


Keritot ("Extirpations"); six chapters; deals among other subjects with the punishment by excommunication ("karet"), which is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament.


Me'ilah ("Trespass"); six chapters; deals with the rules concerning trespass in the case of a dedicated object (Num. v. 6-8).


Tamid ("The Daily Morning and Evening Burnt Offering"); deals among other subjects with the regulations for the daily sacrifice (Ex. xxix. 38-42; Num. xxviii. 2-8). In the editions of the Mishnah, Tamid is divided into seven chapters, excepting in Lọwe's edition, where it has but six; while Levi b. Gershon (RaLBaG) enumerates only five chapters for Tamid in the introduction to his commentary on the Pentateuch.


Middot ("Measures"); five chapters; describes the apartments and furniture of the Temple.


Ḳinnim ("Birds' Nests"); three chapters; deals with the prescriptions regarding the offering of doves (Lev. i. 14-17, v. 1 et seq., xii. 8).

In the Babylonian Talmud the sequence of the treatises of this order is as follows: Zebaḥim, Menaḥot, Bekorot, Ḥullin, 'Arakin, Temurah, Keritot, Me'ilah, Ḳinnim, Tamid, and Middot.


Ṭohorot ("Purifications") contains the following twelve treatises:


Kelim ("Utensils"); thirty chapters; deals chiefly with the regulations concerning the different kinds of uncleanness of vessels (Lev. xi. 32 et seq.; Num. xix. 14 et seq., xxxi. 20 et seq.).


Oholot, or Ahilot ("Tents"); eighteen chapters; deals chiefly with the laws regarding the defilement occasioned by a corpse (Num. xix. 14-20).


Nega'im ("Leprosy"); fourteen chapters; deals with the rules concerning the various kinds of leprosy (Lev. xiii., xiv.).


Parah ("Red Heifer"); twelve chapters; deals with the regulations concerning the red heifer and the purificative ashes obtained from it (Num. xix.).


Ṭohorot ("Purities"; euphemistic for "Impurities"); ten chapters; deals with minor defilements.


Miḳwa'ot, or Miḳwot ("Ritual Baths"); ten chapters; deals with the regulations concerning the bathing of the defiled (Lev. xiv. 8, xv. 5 et seq.).


Niddah ("Menstruous Woman"); ten chapters; deals with the laws concerning the defilement caused by menstruation (Lev. xii., xv. 19 et seq.).


Makshirin ("Predisposings"; called also "Mashḳin" = "Liquids"); six chapters; deals with the rule which declares that an object is defiled by contact with anything unclean only in case it was wet beforehand (Lev. xi. 34, 37, 38).


Zabim ("Sufferers from Discharges"); five chapters; deals with the rules in Lev. xv.


Ṭebul Yom ("He Who Has Taken a Ritual Bath on That Same Day"); four chapters; deals chiefly with the effect produced upon an entire object which has come in contact with a "ṭebul yom," who, according to Lev. xv. 5, is unclean until sundown, even though this contact has been only partial.


Yadayim ("Hands"); four chapters; deals chiefly with the defilement and cleansing of the hands.


'Uḳẓin ("Stems"); three chapters; deals chiefly with the relation of the fruit to the stems, skins, and seeds, with reference to defilement, uncleanness of the fruit affecting the stems, skins, and seeds, and vice versa.

In the Babylonian Talmud the sequence of the treatises in Ṭohorot is as follows: Niddah, Kelim, Oholot, Nega'im, Parah, Ṭohorot, Miḳwa'ot, Makshirin, Zabim, Ṭebul Yom, Yadayim, and 'Uḳẓin.

Editions and Commentaries.

The Mishnah is extant in many editions, although only the earlier ones can be mentioned here: first edition, Naples, 1492, fol., with the Hebrew commentary of Maimonides; Venice, Justiniani, 1546-50, fol.; Venice, 1549, 4to, with the commentary of Obadiah Bertinoro; Riva di Trento, 1559, fol., with the commentaries of Maimonides and Obadiah; Sabbionetta and Mantua, 1559-63, 4to; Venice, 1606, fol., with the same two commentaries.

Many commentaries on the Mishnah have been written. Maimonides wrote one in Arabic with a general introduction on the history, origin, and arrangement of the Mishnah. This commentary, which was translated into Hebrew several times, is printed in many editions of the text. The Arabic original of several treatises has recently been published, in addition to that of the entire sixth order, edited by Derenbourg (comp. the enumeration in Strack, l.c. p. 113 and Appendix); the Hebrew translation, which is faulty in many passages, being corrected to agree with it.

Asher b. Jehiel of Germany (d. Toledo 1327) wrote a commentary on the first and sixth orders, which was first printed in the Amsterdam edition of the Talmud, 1714-16, and in the Frankfort-on-the-Main edition, 1720-21. R. Samson of Sens also wrote a commentary on the same orders, which is printed in most of the editions of the Talmud. R. Obadiah Bertinoro (end of 15th cent.) wrote a commentary on the entire Mishnah, which is printed in most editions. The commentaries "Tosefot YomṬob" by Yom-Ṭob Lipmann Heller (1579-1654) and "Tif'eret Yisrael" by Israel Lipschütz are likewise printed in many editions of the Mishnah. The following commentaries may also be mentioned: "Kaf Naḥat," by Isaac ibn Gabbai, printed in the Venice edition of the Mishnah, 1609, and in some other editions; "'Eẓ ha-Ḥayyim" (Leghorn, 1653 et seq.), by Jacob Ḥagiz; "Ḳab we-Naḳi," by Elisha b. Abraham, in ed. Amsterdam, 1697, 1698, etc.; "Zera' Yiẓḥaḳ," by Isaac b. Jacob Ḥayyut, Frankfort-on-the-Oder, 1739; "Sefer Bet Dawid," Amsterdam, 1739; "Melo Kaf Naḥat," by Senior Phoebus b. Jacob, in ed. Offenbach, 1737; Berlin, 1832-34; "Sefer Mishnat Rabbi Natan," on Zera'im (Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1862), by Nathan Adler; and "Liḳḳuṭe ha-Mishnah" (Breslau, 1873), by Shraga Phoebus Frenkel.


Of the translations of the Mishnah the following may be mentioned: (1) "Mischna sive Totius Hebræorum Juris, Rituum, Antiquitatum ac Legum Oralium Systema cum Clarissimorum Rabbinorum Maimonidis et Bartenoræ Commentariis Integris; Quibus Accedunt Variorum Auctorum Notæ ac Versiones in Eos Quos Ediderunt Codices; Latinitate Donavit ac Notis Illustravit Guilielmus Surenhusius," Amsterdam, 1698-1703, 6 vols., fol.; the text in Hebrew and Latin, with the commentaries of Maimonides and Obadiah Bertinoro in a Latin translation. (2) "Mishnayot," Berlin, 1832-34, 6 parts, 4to. (3) Vocalized Hebrew text of the Mishnah, with German translation in Hebrew letters. (4) The commentary "Melo Kaf Naḥat," and (5) a brief German introduction with notes, published by the Gesellschaft von Freunden des Gesetzes und der Erkenntniss, generally known as "Jost's translation." (6) Johann Jacob Rabe, "Mischnah, oder der Text des Talmuds Uebersetzt und Erläutert," 6 parts, 4to, Onolzbach, 1760-1763. A new edition of the vocalized Hebrew text with a German translation has been undertaken by D. Hoffmann and E. Baneth, of which several parts have appeared. An Italian translation by Vittorio Castiglione is likewise in course of publication (1904).

Bibliography: Letter of Sherira Gaon, ed. Neubauer, in M. J. C. pp. 3-41, Oxford, 1887; Maimonides, introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah, printed in many editions of the Talmud after the treatise Berakot; Z. Frankel, Hodegetica in Mischnam, Leipsic, 1859; J. Brüll, Mebo ha-Mishnah, part i., Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1876; part ii., ib. 1885; S. J. Rapoport, in Kerem Ḥemed, vii. 157-167; A. Krochmal,Toledot R. Yehudah ha-Nasi, in He-Ḥaluẓ, ii. 75-83; idem, ib. iii. 118-124; idem, preface to his Yerushalayim ha-Benuyah, Lemberg, 1867; O. H. Schorr, in HeḤaluẓ, 1866, pp. 41-44; vi. 32-47; Z. Frankel, Introductio in Talmud Hierosolymitanum, pp. 19a-22a, Breslau, 1870; Joachim Oppenheim, Zur Gesch. der Mischna, in Bet Talmud, ii. 143-151, 172-179, 237-245, 269-273, 304-315, 343-355 (also reprinted separately, Presburg, 1882); A. Geiger, Einiges über Plan und Anordnung der Mischna, in Geiger's Wiss. Zeit. Jüd. Theol. 1836, ii. 474-492; idem, Lehrbuch zur Sprache der Mischna, Breslau, 1845; Isaac Lampronti, Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ, s.v. Mishnah; W. Landsberg, Plan und System in der Aufeinanderfolge der Einzelnen Mischnas, in Monatsschrift, 1873, pp. 208-215; Tobias Cohn, Aufeinanderfolge der Mischnaordnungen, in Geiger's Jüd. Zeit. 1866, iv. 126-140; Dünner, Veranlassung, Zweck und Entwickelung der Halakischen und Halakischexegetischen Sammlungen Während der Tannaimperiode im Umriss Dargestellt, in Monatsschrift, 1871, pp. 137 et seq., 158 et seq., 313 et seq., 363 et seq., 416 et seq., 449 et seq.; idem, R. Jehuda Hanasi's Anteil an Unserer Mischna, ib. 1872, pp. 161 et seq., 218 et seq.; idem, Einiges über Ursprung und Bedeutung des Traktates Edoyot, ib. 1871, pp. 33-42, 59-77; D. Hoffmann, Die Erste Mischna und die Controversen der Tannaim, Berlin, 1882; idem, Bemerkungen zur Kritik der Mischna, in Berliner's Magazin, 1881, pp. 121-130, 169-177; 1882, pp. 96-105, 152-163; 1884, pp. 17-30, 88-92, 126-127; M. Lerner, Die Aeltesten Mischna-Compositionen, ib. 1886, pp. 1-20; J. Derenbourg, Les Sections et les Traités de la Mischna, in R. E. J. 1881, iii. 205-210; A. Berliner, in Ha-Misderonah, i. 20 et seq., 40 et seq.; J. S. Bloch, Einblicke in die Gesch. der Entstehung der Talmudischen Literatur, Vienna, 1884; I. H. Weiss, Dor, ii. 182-184, 207-217; idem, Mishpaṭ Leshon ha-Mishnah, ib. 1867; L. A. Rosenthal, Ueber den Zusammenhang der Mischna; Ein Beitrag zu Ihrer Entstehungsgesch. Strasburg, 1891-92; idem, Die Mischna, Aufbau und Quellenscheidung, ib. 1903.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.


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