The term "mishnah" is used in a number of different ways see below , but when used as a proper noun "the Mishnah" it designates the collection of rabbinic traditions redacted by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi usually called simply "Rabbi" at the beginning of the third century CE. The Mishnah supplements, complements, clarifies and systematizes the commandments of the Torah. The Torah, for example, commands: "Remember the Sabbath day" Ex. The Mishnah provides this abstract commandment with a concrete form — the kiddush and havdalah rituals which mark the beginning and the ending of the Sabbath day. The Torah commands "Observe the Sabbath day" Deut. The Mishnah specifies 39 categories of forbidden labor which are prohibited by this commandment, subsuming dozens of other kinds of labor under these 39 headings.
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The term "mishnah" is used in a number of different ways see below , but when used as a proper noun "the Mishnah" it designates the collection of rabbinic traditions redacted by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi usually called simply "Rabbi" at the beginning of the third century CE.
The Mishnah supplements, complements, clarifies and systematizes the commandments of the Torah. The Torah, for example, commands: "Remember the Sabbath day" Ex. The Mishnah provides this abstract commandment with a concrete form — the kiddush and havdalah rituals which mark the beginning and the ending of the Sabbath day. The Torah commands "Observe the Sabbath day" Deut. The Mishnah specifies 39 categories of forbidden labor which are prohibited by this commandment, subsuming dozens of other kinds of labor under these 39 headings.
The Torah commands: "When you eat and are satisfied, give thanks to your God for the good land which He has given you" Deut. The Mishnah spells out specific blessings to be recited before and after each kind of food, and what to do if the wrong blessing is recited by mistake.
It also extends the recitation of blessings to areas other than food, detailing blessings to be recited before and after the performance of commandments, blessings of praise and thanksgiving, even establishing a regular order of daily prayers. When the commandments seem chaotic or inconsistent, as in Lev. When they are already relatively detailed and systematic, as in Lev.
This process began long before the redaction of the Mishnah, and continued throughout the talmudic period 1st to 6th centuries CE and beyond. Nevertheless, the Mishnah has a unique place within the rabbinic tradition.
Through these works the Mishnah has shaped most of the actual practice of the Jewish religion down to the present day. In the post-talmudic period commentaries were composed to the Mishnah, and together with them the Mishnah came to serve as the authoritative epitome of the talmudic tradition as a whole.
In these two roles — as the foundation underlying the talmudic tradition and as the authoritative epitome of that tradition — the Mishnah has played a decisive role in the religious life of the Jewish people. We will then discuss the sources of the Mishnah, its redaction, and its dissemination and acceptance in the later talmudic academies. After a discussion of the contributions of traditional and academic scholarship to the understanding of the Mishnah, we will provide a brief survey of editions, translations, and other aids to Mishnah study.
The Mishnah as a Literary Work Originally the term "mishnah" designated the entire content of traditional Torah study, with the exclusion of the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible — "mikra" in Hebrew. Mishnah Ned. In midrash, rabbinic tradition is intimately interconnected with the explication of the biblical text, and the overall literary structure of midrashic compilations follows the order of the biblical text. Halakhot contain the same rabbinic material as is found in the midrash, but without any reference to the biblical text.
In the halakhot, rabbinic tradition stands on its own, the structure and order of halakhic compilations being determined solely by the content of rabbinic tradition itself.
Both of these works are divided into six sedarim sing. These six sedarim are further subdivided into tractates masekhtot, sing. The further subdivision of chapters into smaller groups of halakhot varies from edition to edition and does not seem to be original.
A tractate with a larger number of chapters comes first, followed by tractates with fewer chapters. If a seder contains more than one tractate with the same number of chapters, their order may vary between different manuscripts and editions. In the past, chapters of the Mishnah were referenced by the opening words of their first halakhah.
Today references are made to tractates by name, and to chapter and individual halakhah by number, according to the accepted division of the most recent editions. The redaction and dissemination of the Mishnah in the early third century marked a turning point in the history of rabbinic literature. As a result, talmudic literature is divided into two periods — the earlier, tannaitic period and the later, amoraic period.
The tannaitic literature consists primarily of the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and tannaitic midrashim — Sifra, Sifre, and Mekhilta, etc. Finally, the individual unit of tannaitic tradition was called "a mishnah" pl. The baraitot were preserved not only in the Tosefta, but were also included in and transmitted as part of the amoraic tradition in the two Talmudim.
It is also used to refer to individual units of tradition, irrespective of their authoritative status Avot , and even to incorrect traditions Oha. These traditions may involve no more than the simple restatement or brief elaboration of some custom or practice. But by far the most characteristic tendency of the individual tannaitic halakhah is the close examination of some dimension of ordinary human life or experience, and the careful categorization of certain aspects of that experience in line with a limited number of formal dichotomies.
The most obvious — and familiar — halakhic dichotomy is the one between "forbidden" asur and "permitted" mutar. This dichotomy is most regularly applied to human behavior. For example, the Mishnah may categorize sexual relations between two individuals under certain circumstances as permitted, and under other circumstances as forbidden.
While eating on the Day of Atonement is certainly forbidden, tannaitic halakhah lists certain exceptions to this rule and even requires children under a certain age to eat. Similarly, the halakhah permits heating food on the Sabbath under certain circumstances and forbids it under other circumstances. This dichotomy is generally applicable to actions which have already been categorized as forbidden.
For example, tannaitic halakhah forbids the carrying of an object in the public domain on the Sabbath. In order for the transgressor to be considered "liable" for sanctions, however, the act of carrying must conform to a number of different conditions.
If any one of these conditions is not met, the transgressor is considered "exempt" from sanctions. Similarly, the halakhah forbids baking bread on a holiday for use the following day. One who transgresses this rule is, however, not necessarily liable for punishment.
It is forbidden to steal. Under certain circumstances the thief will be liable to pay double indemnity, while under other circumstances he will be exempt from this additional payment. Although a person can be liable for the indirect or inadvertent consequences of his or her actions or inaction , it is not always possible to categorize these actions as forbidden. When prepared improperly, the Mishnah states: "it may not be used in order to fulfill the obligation" ein yosin bo.
Halakhic categorizations are, however, by no means limited to the field of human behavior. The Torah itself designated certain days as "holy" kodesh , during which various forms of activity are forbidden. It also designated certain places as holy, such as the Temple and walled cities, from which various kinds of impurity must be excluded.
The holiest times were defined by the most rigorous and most comprehensive set of prohibitions, and lesser degrees of holiness by more lenient and less comprehensive sets of prohibitions. Similarly, the Mishnah defines ten ascending levels of holy space Kel. The most highly developed area of tannaitic halakhah is to be found in its system of ritual purity. Seder Toharot applies the dichotomy between ritually pure tahor and ritually impure tame to virtually every aspect of ordinary life. These terms can signify either that an object is susceptible to becoming impure, or that it is actually impure and capable of transmitting this impurity to something else.
Certain tractates define the purity or impurity of tools, garments, vessels, and places of residence. Others define the purity or impurity of foods and drinks. Others categorize certain individuals as themselves being sources of ritual impurity, and other individuals as impure as a result of contact with other sources of ritual impurity.
This area of halakhah seems to have played a decisive role in the life of the tannaitic sages, even among non-priestly families, and with no obvious connection to the Temple see Alon. Tosefta Demai ff. Demai This example of Toharot should serve as a warning against viewing tannaitic halakhah as a legal system consisting entirely of formal obligations enforceable by earthly courts.
While true in part, other aspects of tannaitic halakhah could be more accurately described as a moral or a spiritual discipline which the initiate freely accepts in order to draw closer to the ideal of divine service. Aggadah in the Mishnah The other primary component of the Mishnah is the aggadah.
This term is notoriously difficult to define, and it has become the custom among scholars to define aggadah by means of negation — as the non-halakhic component of rabbinic tradition Frankel, Midrash and Aggadah, While fair enough, we must be careful in adopting this approach not to define halakhah itself too narrowly.
As we have seen, the halakhah of the Mishnah can be described in part as a system of laws, but not infrequently it also has the character of a personal moral and spiritual discipline. It can be expressed in the form of concrete judgments about specific cases, but also in rules involving varying degrees of abstraction and generality. The Mishnah may even use stories to express a halakhah.
This is obviously so when the story reports an explicit legal precedent. But it may also be true when a story merely describes the behavior of a notable sage, if it is understood that this behavior is worthy of imitation. Despite these differences in form, the rules, judgments and precedents included in the Mishnah all have one thing in common.
They all categorize specific forms of behavior and well defined areas of concrete experience in line with formal dichotomies of the sort described in the previous section. Aggadah, on the other hand, investigates and interprets the meaning, the values, and the ideas which underlie the concrete forms of religious life — as opposed to the specific rules which actually govern that life.
Starting from the last distinction, it is clear that the Mishnah makes extraordinary demands upon the external behavior of the sages and their disciples. Along with these external demands, the Mishnah makes equally extraordinary "internal" demands on the character, the faith, and the understanding of the sages and their disciples.
The Mishnah contains a tractate — Avot — devoted in its entirety to these principles of character, faith, divine providence, justice, etc. Moreover, the Mishnah introduces related aggadic elements into the context of specific halakhic discussions. After defining the specific sums one is obligated to pay in restitution for assault, the Mishnah declares that "one is not absolved [of the sin] until one asks [the victim for forgiveness]" BK The Mishnah then goes on to state that the victim "should not be cruel" but rather should be merciful and forgiving.
It is in this sense that we should understand the programmatic statement concerning the nature and the purpose of the aggadah, found in the tannaitic midrash, Sifre Deut. The aggadah of the Mishnah also deals with classic theological issues such as divine providence, theodicy and the afterlife. These issues, however, are regularly integrated into some appropriate halakhic context.
For example, one of the most highly developed aggadic themes running throughout tannaitic literature is the doctrine of "measure for measure. The tannaitic literature develops it into a general theory of divine justice. More specifically, it is used to explain and to justify the details of divine retribution as described in various biblical passages. One of these passages concerns the sotah, a wife suspected of unfaithfulness Num. In the following two mishnayot, the Mishnah summarizes the entire tannaitic doctrine of measure for measure, not only with regard to divine retribution, but also with regard to divine reward.
Another prominent aggadic theme is that of the afterlife — the "portion in the world to come. It also fits the immediate context, coming immediately after a dispute whether a non-priest who served in the Temple is to be executed "by the hands of Heaven," and before a discussion of the inhabitants of an idolatrous Israelite city , who lose their portion in the world to come. By a recent count there are more than 50 such aggadic passages in the Mishnah, not including Avot and those found at the ends of tractates or sub-divisions of tractates which are generally viewed as later scribal additions, and not as integral parts of the text of the Mishnah Frankel, The Aggadah in the Mishnah, — While preliminary conclusions may be drawn concerning this phenomenon as a whole, there is still much room for detailed analysis of each individual case in its own particular halakhic context.
Finally, we should mention that, despite its overall literary character, the Mishnah does contain a number of midrashic passages.
Mazulabar Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Yehuda, and Professor Hanoch Albeck whom he quotes in his commentary. FinallyEnglish version is available with the Hebrew one. This work was translated into English and published in as The Mishnah. The first pamphlets contained commentaries that Kehati compiled from local yeshiva students. Information Seller Zeev Weinstadt.
Biography[ edit ] Kehati was born in Volhynia , Poland. He began studies at Hebrew University but was forced to abandon them due to financial difficulties. He initially worked as a teacher and with HaPoel HaMizrachi. Later, for many years, he worked as a teller in Bank Mizrachi.