The Rambam is said to have written the Mishneh Torah to replace the study of the Talmud (although what he really said was that he intended it to be a compendium of all the rulings of the Talmud so someone who studied the written Torah and his work would know all he needed to know, which could mean that he intended to provide a resource that was easy to follow and resolve all doubt).

Was that really what he intended to do, or was it just a charge levied by his critics?

Whatever his intentions, was he successful? At the very least, can someone study Mishneh Torah thoroughly and come away with what he needs to know? Even assuming there might be strong differences of opinion among Rishonim, if someone (let's say a person with no Mesorah/Rebbi, like a Ba'al Teshuvah isolated from any other religious Jews in the days before mass-communication) were to rely on it for Pesak, are there those who would say he'd be in serious violation of anything? Would he have a solid understanding of Jewish law and Jewish thought?

  • 1
    Related to your second to last question ("are there those who would say he'd be in serious violation of anything?"): judaism.stackexchange.com/q/11625
    – Fred
    Nov 4, 2013 at 1:02
  • @Fred, of course some differences of opinion exist. An Ashkenazi generally doesn't follow M"T for Pesak. But for someone coming to Judaism in some sort of vacuum, is there anything wrong with using it as his main tool of Judaism? Does it serve its purpose?
    – Seth J
    Nov 4, 2013 at 1:09
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    pin7as hadayan wrote a letter to rambam stating that people are wondering if they should learn the jamoro or not since the rambam apparently wrote not to learn it. he answered that he never said that one should not learn the jamoro or the rif or anyone else, but he explicitly states that he wrote the mt for those who dont have time to learn through the works of previous generations, and therefore they will find everything in this book(mt) and they wouldnt need to look anywhere else. Nov 4, 2013 at 1:12
  • @Mori that's half an answer.
    – Seth J
    Nov 4, 2013 at 1:29
  • So would one following the Rif,Rosh,Tur,Shulchan Aruch,Mordechai... Nov 4, 2013 at 3:45

2 Answers 2


From the Rambam's introduction to the Mishna Torah:

ומפני זה נערתי חצני, אני משה ברבי מיימון הספרדי, ונשענתי על הצור ברוך הוא, ובינותי בכל אֵלו הספרים, וראיתי לחבר דברים המתבררים מכל אֵלו החיבורין בענין האסור והמותר, והטמא והטהור, עם שאר דיני התורה, כולן בלשון ברורה ודרך קצרה, עד שתהא תורה שבעל פה כולה סדורה בפי הכל בלא קושיא ולא פירוק. לא זה אומר בכה וזה אומר בכה, אלא דברים ברורים, קרובים נכונים, על פי המשפט אשר יתבאר מכל אלו החיבורין והפירושין הנמצאים מימות רבינו הקדוש ועד עכשיו. עד שיהיו כל הדינים גלוים לקטן ולגדול, בדין כל מצוה ומצוה, ובדין כל הדברים שתיקנו חכמים ונביאים. כללו של דבר: כדי שלא יהא אדם צריך לחיבור אחר בעולם בדין מדיני ישראל, אלא יהא חיבור זה מְקַבֵּץ לתורה שבעל פה כולה, עם התקנות והמנהגות והגזירות שנעשו מימות משה רבינו ועד חיבור התלמוד, וכמו שפירשו לנו הגאונים בכל חיבוריהן שחיברו אחר התלמוד. לפיכך קראתי שם חיבור זה "משנה תורה", לפי שאדם קורא בתורה שבכתב תחילה, ואחר כך קורא בזה ויודע ממנו תורה שבעל פה כולה, ואינו צריך לקרות ספר אחר ביניהם.

He writes that he has done all the heavy work having studied all of Halacha and distilled and organized them into a single work so that one has no need to repeat the hard work and simply refer to the finished product.

Did he succeed? Open up any classic version of the Mishneh Torah and you will see countless commentaries both debating and explaining the Rambam. We still learn the Talmud, and we still refer to later codes such as the Tur and Shulchan Aruch.

On the other hand, the Mishneh Torah was the last comprehensive code to cover all areas of Halacha. The only exception I can think of would be the Aruch HaShulchan/Aruch HaShulchan HaAtid. (Of course, today we have the Encyclopedia Talmudit which will be the next comprehensive and well organized summary of all of Halacha. But that's the work of several teams of rabbis, spanning generations.) Anyone who studies practical halacha will willy-nilly refer to the Rambam. Even one who opens a Mishnah Brura is indirectly leaning on the Rambam, since the MB is based on the Shulchan Aruch/Yosef Karo who in turn based his decisions on the Rambam, Rif and Rosh. On that level, the Rambam did succeed in writing a final and comprehensive code.

Thus, while the Mishneh Torah may not be the final or only sefer required, it's one of the very few that are (implictly) indispensable for all practical halachic study and decision making.


The Kesef Mishna already wrote in his hakdama that if you don't know the appropriate seder of shas before learning those sefarim of the Rambam then you simply won't understand what he's saying. So it would seem to me that it is impossible to "know what you need to know" by simply reading the Rambam. If you learn later works like the Mishna Berura who fill in a lot of information then you may come out knowing what to do, but that is only because the Mishna Berura learned the sugya extremely thoroughly beforehand in order to figure out what the Rambam/Shulchan Aruch etc. meant by what they said. The Rambam bases every halacha on multiple different ma'amarei chazal and with his own intricate and genius way of learning them up, which can sometimes be not like the pashtus. Take the sugya of "Shvuas Rav Huna" for example (Bava Metzia 34b) where every sefer you'll ever read for the rest of your life has their own pshat in the Rambam for what the "ikar shvuah" is. And there is no shortage of sugyos like this.

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