The origins and formation of the Mishnah and the Talmud

The Mishnah

The Mishnah is the written collection of the Oral Torah. This collection came about as a result of Roman oppression and occupation which caused the Jewish people to leave the Holy Land around 200CE.

The Mishnah was formed due to fear that the Jewish people would lose their unity and beliefs if they were not in the Holy City.

It ran into 63 volumes, and Rabbi Judah (the rabbi most closely associated with the compilation of the Mishnah) then divided it into the following six sections:

Name of SectionWhat matters does this section deal with?
Zeraim (‘seeds’) prayer, agricultural matters such as giving crops to the poor, the tithing of farm produce and Shemitta – the year when no farming was to be done
Moed (‘festivals’) the observance of the Sabbath and other festivals, temple sacrifice on these days, work which cannot be carried out, fasting and mourning
Nashim (‘women’) issues surrounding marriage – betrothal, documents, vows, those who cannot marry, divorce
Nezikin (‘damages’) damages, injury, compensations, fines, inheritance, the examination of witnesses, moral guidance
Kedoshim (‘holy matters’) sacrifices within the temple, layout of the temple
Taharot (‘purities’) purity of foods, how one might become pure or impure

The Talmud

The Talmud is a commentary on the Mishnah. It came as a result of the study of the Mishnah from the end of the second century CE. The discussions between rabbis and students in academies in Israel and Babylon were written down.

There are two forms of the Talmud

  • The Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) – this was put together by two Babylonian rabbis around 500CE
  • The Talmud Yerushalmi (The Jerusalem Talmud) – this was attempted 100 years earlier than the Babylonian Talmud. However, the Babylonian Talmud is more extensively studied.
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Even today, the Talmud is the most important subject studied in Jewish academies.
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