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The Mishnah or Mishna (Hebrew: משנה, "repetition", from the verb shanah שנה, or "to study and review", also "secondary;"[1] derived from the adj. shani שני) is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic literature.[2][3]

The Mishna was redacted circa 200–220 CE by Rabbi Yehudah 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.

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 Tehorot ("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, i.e. 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").[4]

A mnemonic that is used to remember the sequence of the orders was provided by Resh Lakish (Shab. 31a) that is based on the verse, "And there shall be faith in your times, strength, salvation, wisdom, and knowledge" (Isa. 33:6).

"Faith" refers to Zeraim (Seeds), because a farmer sowing the crop must have faith to believe God will provide a bountiful harvest. "Your times" refers to Moed (Festival). "Strength" refers to order Nashim (Women). "Salvation" refers to Nezikin (Damages) because knowledge of civil law "saves" people from each other. "Wisdom" refers to order Kodashim (Holy Things) and "knowledge" refers to order Tehorot (Purities) because they are so difficult to understand.[5]

An acronym is often used, which is another popular mnemonic "Z'MaN NaKaT."[6]

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

The six orders are:

  • Zera'im ("Seeds"), dealing with prayer and blessings, tithes and agricultural laws (11 tractates)
  • Mo'ed ("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
  • Tehorot ("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, i.e. 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).


A number of important laws are not elaborated upon in the Mishnah. These include the laws of tzitzit, tefillin (phylacteries), mezuzot, 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 Judah to discuss them. Reuvein Margolies suggests that as the Mishnah was redacted after the Bar Kochba revolt, Rabbi Judah 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 Judah would not have discussed this.[7]

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.


The Mishna was redacted in 220 CE by Rabbi Yehudah 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 certain aspects. The Mishnah is also called Shas (an acronym for Shisha Sedarim – the "six orders"), in reference to its six main divisions.[4] Rabbinic commentaries on the Mishnah over the next three centuries[8] were redacted as the Gemara, which, coupled with the Mishnah, make up the Talmud. Unlike the Gemara, which is written primarily in Aramaic, the majority of the Mishnah is written in Hebrew. European scholars over the past 1,000 years have termed this variety of the language "Mishnaic Hebrew."

The Mishnah reflects debates between 1st century BCE and 2nd century CE by the group of rabbinic sages known as the Tannaim.[9] 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 halacha, 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 aims to cover all aspects of human living, serve as an example for future judgments, and, most important, 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.


Main article: Tannaim

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,[10] 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 "Rabbi") who redacted the Mishnah 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.

Rabbi 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 Rabbi's death, which could not have been written by Rabbi 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 Rabbi chose to redact the Mishnah.

One must also note that in addition to redacting the Mishnah, Rabbi 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 Rabbi 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.[11] 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 Rabbi 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

Main article: Oral Torah

Before the publication of the Mishnah, Jewish scholarship was predominantly oral. Rabbis expounded on and debated the Tanakh (Hebrew: תַּנַ"ךְ), 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 proprietary Aramaic (one of Judaism's holy languages with Hebrew) word for this type of allowing systematic disagreement in Jewish law, is "Machloket" or argument.

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, both serving as sources of pride. It is during this period that Rabbinic discourse began to be recorded in writing.[12][13]

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 220 CE, when Rabbi 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. Jewish Law

Relationship with the Hebrew Bible

According to the historic view of the Jewish faith, allegorically 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 is to relay the authoritative nature of the Oral Law as 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. Jews refer to this as the 'messorah' roughly translated as tradition. In his introduction to Mishneh Torah Maimonides provides a generation by generation account of the direct line of all those who transmitted this tradition beginning with Moses himself up until the Mishnaic era.

Jewish law and custom is based not only on a literal reading of the Tanakh, but on the combined oral and written tradition. 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.

The Mishnah also quotes the Torah for principles not associated with law, but just as practical advice, even at times for humor or as guidance for understanding historical debates.

By 220 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.


From certain contexts of the Mishnah and Talmud it can be derived that women should not study Mishnah. There were female Tannaic Torah jurists such as Rabbi Meir's wife,[14] Rabbi Meir's daughter, and the daughter of Haninyah ben Teradyon[15] Haninyah's daughter is again mentioned as a sage in the non-Talmud 3rd-century text Tractate Semahot verse 12:13.[16] Rabbi Meir's wife is credited with teaching him how to understand some verses from Isaiah.[17] In the Mishnah there is also a reference to certain women teaching men the Torah from behind a curtain, so that no man would be offended.


Beruryah (her name is a standard Jewish female name meaning 'the clarity of God') is a Tannah mentioned by name in the Talmud, who has a female name, has orally been transmitted as a female, and is referred to in the text using the nekava (feminine Hebrew and Aramaic) adjectives and adverbs. Originally she was believed to be either Rabbi Meir's wife mentioned above, or Rabbi Chaninyah's daughter mentioned above, however over the past three to four centuries Rabbinic scholars have realized that these generations do not correspond to Beruryah's law decisions, and life, therefore she today is just 'Beruryah' and of heretofore unknown lineage.

Her law decisions were minor but set a crucial ancient precedent for modern Jewish women. She is mentioned at least four times in the Talmudic discourse regarding her law decrees first Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 10a then in Tosefta Pesahim 62b in Babylonian Talmud Eruvin 53b–54a and Babylonian Talmud Avodah Zarah 18b. In one case she paskinned din on "klaustra" a rare Greek word referring to an object, used in the Talmud, unfortunately Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi did not believe women could be credited with paskining din, as it says 'do not speak too much to women' (Tannah Rabbi Jesse the Galilean), and therefore credited the law to Rabbi Joshua who may have been her father.[18]

Beruryah however was actually remembered with great respect in the Talmud where she is lauded to have been reputed as such a genius that she studied “three hundred Halachot from three hundred sages in just one day” (Pesachim 62b). Clearly contradicting the injunction against women studying Torah.

Rashi's Daughters

Rashi had no sons and taught the Mishnah and Talmud to his daughters, until they knew it by heart as Jewish tradition teaches,[19] they then transferred their knowledge of original Mishnah commentary to the Ashkenazi men of the next generation.

Haim Yosef David Azulai, AKA 'The Hid'aa'

The Hida, wrote (Tuv Ayin, no. 4) woman should not study Mishnah only if they do not want to.'We cannot force a woman to learn, like we do to boys'. However, if she wants to learn then not only may she do so on her own, but men may originally teach her, and she can then teach other women if they so choose. According to the Hida, the prohibition against teaching women does not apply to a motivated woman or girl. Other Mizrahi Rabbis disputed this with him.

His response to detractors was that indeed, in truth, there is a prohibition against teaching Mishnah to any student—male or female—who one knows is not properly prepared and motivated, referred to a talmid she-eino hagun (Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 246:7). Babylonian Talmud Berakhos 28a relates that Rabban Gamliel would announce that any student who is not pure enough so that 'his outer self is like his inner self' may not enter the study hall. While this approach, requiring absolute purity, was rejected by other ancient Rabbis, for example 'he who is not for the name of God, will become for the name of God', and a middle approach was adopted by Jews as standard. If one has knowledge that a particular Mishnayot student is definitely bad then he may not be taught. He claimed that 'it seems that for women there is a higher standard and she must be motivated in order to have this permission to learn' in his response to the Mizrahi tradition.

Yisrael Meir Kagan

Main article: Yisrael Meir Kagan
One of the most important Ashkenazic rabbanim of the past century, Yisrael Meir Kagan, known poularly as the Chofetz Chaim. favored Torah education for girls to counteract the French "finishing schools" prevalent in his day for the daughters of the bourgeoisie.

"It would appear that all [these sexist laws] were intended for earlier generations when everyone dwelt in the place of their familial ancestral home and ancestral tradition was very powerful among all to follow the path of their fathers... under such circumstances we could maintain that a woman not study Mishnayos and, for guidance, rely on her righteous parents, but presently, due to our myriad sins, ancestral tradition has become exceptionally weak and it is common that people do not dwell in proximity to the family home, and especially those women who devote themselves to mastering the vernacular, surely it is a now a great mitzvah to teach them Scripture and the ethical teachings of our sages such as Pirkei Avos, Menoras Ha-Ma'or and the like so that they will internalize our sacred faith because [if we do not do so] they are prone to abandon the path of God and violate all principles of [our] faith."[20]

Joseph Solovetchik

Rabbi Yoseph Solovetchik 'amened' the teachings of The Hafetz Haim. Rabbi Solovetchik taught all religious Ashkenazi Jews with the exception of hardline Hasidim, not should, or if they show motivation, but must teach their female children Gemarah like the boy school children. He among others fully institutionlized the teaching of Mishnah and Talmud to girls, from an autobiography on him by Rabbi Mayor Twersky called "A Glimpse of the Rav" in R. Menachem Genack ed., Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik: Man of Halacha, Man of Faith, page 113:
"The halakha prohibiting Torah study for women is not indiscriminate or all-encompassing. There is complete unanimity that women are obligated to study halakhot pertaining to mitsvot which are incumbent upon them... The prohibition of teaching Torah she-Ba'al Pe to women relates to optional study. If ever circumstances dictate that study of Torah sh-Ba'al Pe is necessary to provide a firm foundation for faith, such study becomes obligatory and obviously lies beyond the pale of any prohibition." Undoubtedly, the Rav's prescription was more far-reaching that that of the Hafets Hayim and others. But the difference in magnitude should not obscure their fundamental agreement [on changing the attitudes Halachically].

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.

Main article: Karaite Judaism

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

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 19th 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

Amar Rabbi Elazar
File:Omar Rabbi Elozor.ogg
A traditional setting of the last passage of the first tractate, Berakhot, which describes how scholars of the Talmud create peace in the world. Performed by Cantor Meyer Kanewsky in 1919 for Edison Records.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

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.


  • The two main commentaries on the Mishnah are the Babylonian Talmud and the Yerushalmi Talmud. Neither work covers the whole Mishnah, but each work is on about 50%-70% of the text. The reason that the Talmud is not usually viewed as a commentary on the Mishnah, is because it also has many other goals, and can get involved in long tangential discussions. However, the main purpose of the Talmud is as a commentary on the Mishna.
  • 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[21] – 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[22] 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 20th century, but a 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 on some tractates. 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 Bartenura" 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 the 12th–13th centuries. 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 Tehorot (Rav Efrayim Yitzchok from Premishla)
    • The Sidrei Tehorot on Kelim and Ohalot (the commentary on the rest of Tehorot 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 Tehorot
  • A prominent commentary from the 19th century is Tiferet Yisrael by Rabbi Israel Lipschitz. 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.
  • A popular commentary was written in Yiddish by Dr. Symcha Petrushka. Its vocalization is supposed to be of high quality.
  • 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 20th 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.
  • Rabbi Yehuda Leib Ginsburg wrote a commentary looking for the ethical messages found within the text in his "Musar HaMishnah". The commentary appears for the entire text except for Tehorot and Kodashim. Using the text itself and various halachic rulings, Ginsburg finds hidden meaning in the text. It is currently out of print, though it is available for free online.

As a 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.

Audio Lectures

  • Download all 6 tractates of Mishnah for Free on

Cultural references

The most notable literary work on the composition of the Mishnah is probably Milton Steinberg's novel As a Driven Leaf.


See also


English translations

  • Philip Blackman. Mishnayoth. The Judaica Press, Ltd., 2000 (Tehorot.
  • 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.
  • [Yoseph Milstein + Various editors.] The Mishnah, a new integrated translation and commentary based on Rabbeinu Ovadiah M'Bartenurah, Machon Yisrael Trust, available online at

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


'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.

Digitised Manuscripts

  • Complete Mishnah manuscript (second century BCE), Cambridge Digital Library

Other electronic texts

  • Learn Mishna in Someone's Memory – Create a Shloshim Mishnah list online
  • Mechon Mamre – Hebrew text of the Mishnah according to Maimonides' version (based on the manuscript of his Mishnah commentary in his own handwriting).
  • The Structured Mishnah – Hebrew text according to the Albeck edition (without vowels) with special formatting.
  • Online Treasury of Talmudic Manuscripts, Jewish National and University Library in Hebrew.
  • Codex Kaufmann of the Mishnah High resolution images of this important textual witness.
  • emishnah English Translation & Commentary.

Mishnah study and the daily Mishnah

  • Aaron Ahrend, "Mishna Study and Study Groups in Modern Times" in JSIJ 3: 2004 (Hebrew). Available online here (Word & PDF).
  • Mishna Yomit – One Mishnah per day. (Note: this study-cycle follows a different schedule than the regular one; contains extensive archives in English).
  • Mishnah Yomit – hosts a weekly publication complementing the learning of people studying the regular program. It include articles, review questions and learning aids.
  • Kehati Mishna a program of two Mishnayot 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 Mishnah.
  • Mishna Sdura
  • Perek HaYomi – in Hebrew. Host to Shiurim, and learning and review according to the Perek HaYomi in Mishna instituted by the Maharal.

Audio lectures

  • The "Master Torah" Mishnah Ba'al Peh Program by Rabbi Meir Pogrow.
  • Rav Avraham Kosman – Slabodka on the Mishnah and Talmud in English – Produced in Israel
  • Mishna Audio – given by Rabbi Chaim Brown in English
  • Rav Grossman on the Mishna in English produced in Los Angeles

Oral traditions and pronunciation

  • The National Sound Archives at the Hebrew University (catalogue not currently online).
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