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What is a good Masechta of Mishnayoth for someone to learn if they just want to get a basic understanding and complete a Masechta in a relatively short time?

Examples where this would be practical might be someone who has a limited background in learning and wants to make a Siyum but isn't ready for Gemara, or someone under time constraints to learn for a Sheloshim.

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Ta'anis, Megilah –  b a Dec 12 '12 at 3:18
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Or Avos (more mishnayos but no universal concepts needed to memorize) –  b a Dec 12 '12 at 3:32
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Traditionally, when studying Mishnayos, one does not make a siyum unless one finishes as complete Seder. Thus, while there are several mesechtos in Seder Mo'ed that are fairly easy, there are also several that are quite difficult (e.g. Eruvin). Are you just looking for an easy mesechta of mishnayos or do you specifically need to be able to make a siyum? If the latter, certain mesechtos of gemara will be easier than any seder of mishnayos. –  LazerA Dec 12 '12 at 15:51
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@LazerA, that's ok. But please read my question again. I'm pretty clear that I'm looking for ideas that would fulfill the Stam goal of the person covering an entire Masechta, just giving a couple of possible explanations as to why this might be someone's goal. –  Seth J Dec 12 '12 at 18:22
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5 Answers 5

Tamid is, except for the very end, a story of how things used to be in the bes hamikdash. You can practically just read through it without commentary (though having a floor plan of the second bes hamikdash — usually published as an appendix to nearby maseches Midos — handy will help a good deal).

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I've never been able to follow Tamid. I didn't know I could find a floor plan in Middoth. Thanks! –  Seth J Dec 12 '12 at 16:05
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Choosing a quick and easy mesechta of mishnayos is a highly subjective activity.

The first consideration, obviously, is length. However, there are plenty of relatively short mesechtos, so this is not a major problem.

The biggest issue, especially for someone with a limited background, is to avoid having too many new concepts at once, especially big complicated concepts (such as inyanei kodshim and taharos).

My personal recommendations would be either Megilah or Makkos.

Megilah is a well known "easy" mesechta.It is only four chapters long and most of the topics covered (e.g. Purim, krias haTorah) will already be basically familiar even to a relative beginner.

Makkos is, admittedly, a less obvious choice. While only three chapters long, the topics covered (false witnesses, exile for unintentional murder, and the penalty of lashes) deal with criminal law, and will not be immediately familiar to a beginning student. However, the key concepts of each chapter can be presented fairly quickly, and once grasped, the details of each chapter are fairly straightforward.

In my experience, having taught both of these mesechtos, brighter students generally found Makkos to be more interesting and stimulating than Megilla. However, as I said before, this is a highly subjective choice.

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Although the second mishnah of Makkos (about edim zomemim on a kesubah) is pretty difficult. –  Ypnypn Jun 11 at 23:44
    
IIRC, the real challenge isn't the mishna per se, but in working through all the different shitos in the rishonim. However, it is possible to get a basic pursuant without too much difficulty. –  LazerA Jun 25 at 0:30
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In a comment on the question, b a suggested:

Avos (more mishnayos but no universal concepts needed to memorize)

Its mishnayos are mostly moral lessons. They are deep, but can be read and understood superficially with some benefit.

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More important than the Masechta itself is your understanding of the background to that Masechta. If you are unfamiliar with the underlying concepts of that Masechta, it will be hard. The Kehati Mishnayot will make any Masechta easier by presenting the necessary background information in an orderly and organized manner.

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This presumes the person knows Hebrew. –  Ypnypn Jun 11 at 23:45
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smallest tractates are orlah,chagiga, moed katan,kinim,uktzin each having 3 chapters.

might be hard first time, but each subsequent time will get easier.

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Taanit, Makkot, Horyot, Tamid, Middot, Megillah, Zavim, Tevul Yom, and Yadayim are all shorter than Orla. Rosh haShana and Temurah are the same length. –  Double AA Oct 25 '13 at 14:42
    
Also, most of the ones you suggested are not good tractates for beginners. –  Double AA Oct 25 '13 at 14:46
    
right but the question asked that only as an example. –  ray Oct 26 '13 at 21:05
    
So to provide an example, picking 5 out of the 16 shortest tractates, you picked kinim, orla and uktzin??? –  Double AA Oct 26 '13 at 23:15
    
like i wrote in my answer, in terms of number of chapters these are the shortest. –  ray Oct 27 '13 at 5:50
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