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There are books and courses on studying the Mishna. Just the Mishna. Why would anyone want to study the Mishna by itself, without studying the Gemara at the same time? Practically speaking, when you study the Mishna, don't you also study the Gemara on the side, to understand the Mishna? It's called studying Talmud. So why is the Mishna a separate subject of study?

The Gemara seems to agree:

It has been reported: If one has learned Tanach and Mishnah but not Talmud, Rabbi Eleazar says he is an ignoramus [am ha-aretz]; Rabbi Shmuel ben Nahmani says he is a boor; Rabbi Yannai says he is a Samaritan [rejects sources beyond Torah]; Rabbi Aha ben Yaakov says he is a magician [who misleads others with illusions]. [Sotah 22a]

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    Practical time considerations? – Salmononius2 May 22 at 18:00
  • @Salmononius2 -- Understanding not required? – Maurice Mizrahi May 22 at 18:56
  • What is "called studying Talmud"? Please edit to clarify this point of support for your question. – Isaac Moses May 22 at 19:15
  • I assume he means studying the Talmud Bavli with the Mishna and Gemara together since he mentions "when you study the Mishna, don't you also study the Gemara on the side, to understand the Mishna", right? – Mordechai May 22 at 19:17
  • @MauriceMizrahi Looking at the answers provided so far, they seem to be missing the idea of what you are asking. Could you point to a specific source that is behind your question of, “Why would anyone study Mishnah by itself? Why is the study of Mishnah a separate study in itself?” – Yaacov Deane May 23 at 10:43
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Most of the commentators agree with the premise you state: there is no need to study the Mishna alone. The Mishna clearly held no independent standing in the eyes of Rashi as in his commentary he would not flesh out the concepts presented in the Mishna, but rather said “it is explained in the Gemara,” ("בגמרא מפרש"); in other words, the concepts and complexities in the Mishna will be addressed in the Gemara, and thus the reader should just look ahead to the Gemara’s discussion to answer his questions. Throughout the era of the Geonim, those commentaries that were written on Mishna were limited in scope and purpose focusing almost exclusively with material with respect to which no Talmud Bavli was written.

Then came the famous commentary of the Rambam on the Mishna. In that era, Mishna study was not a normal independent pursuit and Mishna commentary not typical. So what motivated the Rambam in this regard? In his introduction, although he does not expressly state his motivation for writing the commentary, he does address four benefits that he believes the work will serve:

האחת שאנו מלמדים פירוש המשנה על נכון ובאור מליה שאילו שאלת לגדול שבגאונים בעד פירוש הלכה מן המשנה לא יכול לומר בה דבר אלא אם ידע על פה תלמוד ההלכה ההיא או יאמר לך אראה מה שיש בה מן הדברים בתלמוד ואין ביכולת אדם לדעת על פה כל התלמוד וכל שכן בהיות הלכה אחת מן המשנה מפורשת בארבעה עלים וחמשה כי יבא דבר על דבר וטענות וקושיות ותשובות עד שלא ידע לבחור הברור מפירוש המשנה ההיא אלא אדם בקי בעיון.

(1) The one is that we teach the correct explanation of the Mishnah and the meaning of its words. As if you were to ask the greatest of the Geonim about the explanation of a law of the Mishnah, he would not be able to tell you anything unless the knew the Talmud of that law by heart; or he would say to you, "I will see that which is [written] about it in the words of the Talmud." As it is not possible for a man – unless he is an expert in reseach – to know all of the Talmud by heart; and all the more so in that one law of the Mishnah is explained in four or five pages – since one matter leads to another and [to] arguments and objections and rebuttals – to the point that he will not know [how] to choose the concise [conclusion] from the [Talmud's] explanation of the Mishnah.

והנה מה יעשה בהלכה אחת כי לא ישלם פירושה ופסקי הדין בה אלא משתי המסכתות או שלשה.

And behold, what will he do about a law the explanation and legal decision of which is only completed in two or three tractates?

והתועלת השנית הם הפסקים שאומר לך בפירוש כל הלכה על דעת מי נפסקה ההלכה.

(2) And the second purpose is the decisions, since I will tell you in the explanation of each law, according to [which of the various opinions] is the law.

והתועלת השלישי להיות כמבוא לכל המתחיל בעיון החכמה ויקבץ לו ממנו דרך בדיקת הדבור וביאורו ויהיה אז כמי שכלל בדעתו כל התלמוד ויהיה לו לעזר גדול בכל התלמוד.

(3) And the third goal is to be like an introduction to anyone who is a beginner to the research of wisdom. And he can gather from it a path to check speech and its clarification, and he will then be like one who encompasses all of the Talmud in his mind. And it will be a great assistance to him in all of the Talmud.

והתועלת הרביעית שיהיה למזכרת למי שיקרא וידע ויהיה כל מה שקרא נצב בין עיניו תמיד ותהיה משנתו ותלמודו סדורה על פיו.

(4) And the fourth goal is that it be a mnemonic for the one who [studied] and knew [the Talmud, such that] all that he read will always be present in front of his eyes, and his [knowledge of] Mishnah and Talmud will be arranged in his mouth.

So the Rambam in a way answers your question: "why is the Mishna a separate subject of study?"

Also, in his commentary to Mikvaot, the Rambam cites a debate among certain commentators as to whether a specific kind of mikva is kosher and wrote about how they were needlessly debating a matter that could be found explicitly addressed in the Mishna and notes that what caused this in his view was the neglect of Mishna study.

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Pirkei Avos 5:21 states how the study of Mishnah should proceed the study of Talmud:

הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, בֶּן חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים לַמִּקְרָא, בֶּן עֶשֶׂר לַמִּשְׁנָה, בֶּן שְׁלשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה לַמִּצְוֹת, בֶּן חֲמֵשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה לַתַּלְמוּד

[R' Yehuda Ben Teima] used to say: At five years of age the study of Scripture; At ten the study of Mishnah; At thirteen subject to the commandments; At fifteen the study of Talmud

While this statement was said in the context of children, it can also be applied to adults- for example if a person began to study Torah for the first time no one would prescribe said person to jump headfirst into the complexities of the Talmud. Instead, mishnah learning would be a much better start.

Even if one is a seasoned & experienced learner, learning mishnayos can help a person get a good background for a new Masechta he's about to learn or to even serve as "cliffnotes" ie by learning mishnah it will refresh his memory re: the accompanying gemara.

Lastly, 26 Masechtot in Shas Bavli ONLY have mishnayot so one would miss out on a large portion of precious halachos and Torah study if they didn't learn mishnayot.

  • I think you've misunderstood the Mishna. In that context, Mishna is more like what we'd call Bekiut, and Talmud more like what we call Iyun. – Double AA May 22 at 18:41
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    Your last line is the correct answer: Lastly, 26 Masechtot in Shas Bavli ONLY have mishnayot so one would miss out on a large portion of precious halachos and Torah study if they didn't learn mishnayot. – Danny Schoemann Jun 13 at 11:56
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You might as well have asked:

There are books and courses on studying the Mishna. Just the Mishna. Why would anyone want to study the Mishna by itself, without studying the commentary of R. Ovadya of Bartinura ("Rav") at the same time? Practically speaking, when you study the Mishna, don't you also study the Rav on the side, to understand the Mishna? It's called studying Rav. So why is the Mishna a separate subject of study?

Talmud is an explanation of the Mishna but it's far from the only one. And I don't know many people who learn a Mishna with no commentary: certainly it's not widely considered acceptable, at least not in my experience.[1]

[1] Of course, after someone has learned it with commentary, he can review it without reading the commentary if he remembers it by heart.

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    Also, he could have asked about studying Gemara without Rishonim or Sh"A without M"B or many other examples. – Heshy May 22 at 19:27
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Vayikra Rabbah (7:3) explains the benefit of learning Mishnah [seemingly, in Seder Kodoshim], as this can be in the place of bringing Karbnos, as well as heralding the redemption.

רַבִּי הוּנָא אָמַר תַּרְתֵּי, אֵין כָּל הַגָּלֻיּוֹת הַלָּלוּ מִתְכַּנְסוֹת אֶלָּא בִּזְכוּת מִשְׁנָיוֹת, מַה טַּעְמָא (הושע ח, י): גַּם כִּי יִתְנוּ בַגּוֹיִם עַתָּה אֲקַבְּצֵם. רַבִּי הוּנָא אָמַר חֳרֵי (מלאכי א, יא): כִּי מִמִּזְרַח שֶׁמֶשׁ וְעַד מְבוֹאוֹ גָּדוֹל שְׁמִי בַּגּוֹיִם וּבְכָל מָקוֹם מֻקְטָר מֻגָּשׁ, וְכִי יֵשׁ מִנְחָה טְהוֹרָה וּקְמִיצָה וְהַקְטָרָה בְּבָבֶל, אֶלָּא אֵיזוֹ, זוֹ מִשְׁנָה. אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הוֹאִיל וְאַתֶּם מִתְעַסְּקִים בַּמִּשְׁנָה כְּאִלּוּ אַתֶּם מַקְרִיבִין קָרְבָּן

Chidushey Radal (14) explains that Mishnah has used and unused laws, in a way which the Talmud does not.

בזכות המשניות ניכלל כל דינין הנוהגין ושאינן נוהגין משא״כ בתלמוד

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Mishna and Talmud are not books x and y. There are kind of learning. See also this post

BM 33ab

ת"ר העוסקין במקרא מדה ואינה מדה במשנה מדה ונוטלין עליה שכר תנו רבנן רבו שאמרו רבו שלמדו חכמה ולא רבו שלמדו מקרא ומשנה דברי ר"מ

The Gemara enumerates different learnings, learning Mikra, Mishna, … the rav who teach Mikra, Mishna, Chochma.

Rashi explains this.

מקרא - תורה נביאים וכתובים: משנה - כמו שהן שנויות ואין טעמן מפורש בהן

Mishna is the Mishna as it is recited and the rational is not explicitly taught:

גמרא - כבר פירשתי למעלה שהוא לתת לב להבין סתימות טעמי המשנה מה הם וכששתים סותרות זו את זו יבין לתרץ שיהיו שתיהן קיימות או לדעת דברי התנאים החלוקים בדבר ונימא הא מני פלוני חכם הוא

Gemara... To pay attention to understand the rational of Mishna that are not clear, or when two teaching are contradictory, he understands and resolves the contradiction to make them congruents, or to know to which of two opponent tanayim says some sentence.

So you can read a Mishna book and make a Talmudic work or read a daf of Gemara and make a Mishnaic work.

As @msh210 writes in his answer an as the Shla (right column below) (1) wrote in his masechet Shavuot chapter, to learn Mishna with commentaries Bartenura and Rambam is Gemara (and Tosfot) following the above cited Rashi definition. To learn e.g. the Tosfot Yom Tov is often a highly organized Gemara learning. To learn Gemara superficially with Steinsaltz might be sometime a kind of Mishna learning. I think that some texts help you to learn a Gemara learning, but with every deep approach you can learn "Gemara learning" without wasting time if the author is a deep writer. Some texts are not deep as Kehati and Steinzalts and are adapted only for knowledge, a "Mishna learning". See in the book Tehilat Chochma how to read a Mishna deeply.

Generally chachamim call Mishna the work of memorization without approximation. See Sotah 22a

תנא התנאים מבלי עולם ... שמורין הלכות מתוך משנתן

Rashi

שמורין הלכה מתוך משנתן - קאמר שמבלין עולם בהוראות טעות דכיון דאין יודעין טעמי המשנה פעמים גורמין שמדמין לה דבר שאינו דומה ועוד יש משניות הרבה (במשניות) דאמרינן הא מני פלוני הוא ויחידאה היא ולית הלכתא כוותיה ועוד שאינן יודעים במחלוקת תנאים הראשונים הלכה כדברי מי הלכך מורין הוראות טעות

People who didn't rub talmide chachamim and rule halachot from their knowledge of Mishna. They damage the world by mistaken halachic decisions because they don't know the rational of Mishnayot and can compare two separate topics or think that two Mishnayot are congruent when they follow two different opinions, because they don't know the scope of machloktot and don't know according to which Tana the Halacha is.

Why is it a custom to learn Mishna with commentaries such Bartenura and not only Gemara? The Shla there explains that the learning fo Mishna and Bartenura summarizes the Gemara and you can repete the learning of the Shas endlessly and acquire a very strong basis in Gemara.


(1)

ולעולם הוי רץ למשנה יותר מן התלמוד ומכל שכן האידנא שזכירו לפירוש הרמב"ם והרב ברטנור"ה שמבארים המשנה כפי ההסכמה שבתלמוד וגם כתבו פסק ההלכה הרי מעלת המשנה רבה כי מה שאמרו תחילה תלמוד אין לך מידה גדולה הימנו כי גירסת המשנה בלא תלמוד לא יגיעהו לתכלית המכוון ללמד חוק ומשפט בישראל שאם לא ידע טעמי הדבר פעמים ידמה דבר לשאינו דומה ויורה הוראות טעות ועל זה אמרו במסכת סוטה פרק ג' תנאים מבלי עולם הן וכי במבלי עולם הן והלא מיושבי עולם הן שנאמר הליכות עולם לו אלא שמורין הלכה מתוך משנתן עד כאן. אבל עתה בפירוש הרמב"ם והרב ברטנורה מתוקן הכל. על כן רוב העסקו יהיה במשניות ללמוד ולחזור אותם בלי ערך ובלי הפסק

  • I can understand the value of memorizing Mishna, so it always stays fresh in your mind. But then there should be no commentaries attached to Mishna study books or courses. The commentaries would come later when you try to understand what you memorized. – Maurice Mizrahi May 22 at 22:07
  • There are commentaries as קו ונקי that only translate hard words – kouty May 22 at 22:08
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People learn Mishnah because it is easier.

Sanhedrin 100b (end):

אמר ר' זירא אמר רב מאי דכתיב (משלי טו, טו) כל ימי עני רעים אלו בעלי תלמוד וטוב לב משתה תמיד אלו בעלי משנה

Rabbi Zeira says that Rav says: What is the meaning of that which is written: “All the days of the poor are terrible, and for the good-hearted it is always a feast” (Proverbs 15:15)? “All the days of the poor are terrible”; these are masters of the Talmud, who invest constant effort in their study and encounter endless difficulties and questions. “And for the good-hearted it is always a feast”; these are masters of the Mishna, who study only halakhic conclusions and encounter no difficulties.

Rashi:

בעלי תלמוד - שקשה ללמוד מרוב קושיות וסוגיות שיש בו

The Talmud is difficult to learn because of all the complex questions and topics.

משנה - נוחה ללמוד

Mishnah is easy to learn

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Firstly, as alicht already answered, 26 Masechtot in Shas Bavli ONLY have mishnayot so one would miss out on a large portion of precious halachos and Torah study if they didn't learn mishnayot.

Secondly, it's the quickest way to review the entire Talmud. Study Mishna with the Bartenura and the Ikar-Tos.-Yom-Tov and you can review almost the "entire" Talmud (a.k.a the Shas) in a relatively short amount of time.

E.g.:

  • 18 chapters daily and you finish it monthly.
  • More practically (from experience): an hour (about 3 chapters) daily and you finish in about 6 months. So you review a good bulk of the Oral Law twice yearly.

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