Mishnah

The Mishnah or Mishna (Hebrew: משנה, "repetition", from the verb shanah שנה, or "to study and review", also "secondary" (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 Judaism.

It was redacted 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. Rabbinic commentaries on the Mishnah over the next three centuries were redacted as the Gemara, which, coupled with the Mishnah, comprise 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. 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 C.E). 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 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.

Read more about Mishnah:  Structure, Authorship, Women, Competing Oral Laws and Acceptance, Cultural References

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