At the end of Pirkei Avot 5, we have a statement (of either Ben Hei Hei or R. Yehuda ben Tema --- I have two siddurim with slightly different texts):

He used to say: at five years of age, the study of Scripture; at ten, the study of Mishnah, at thirteen, the mitzvot; at fifteen, the study of Gemara [...]

However, Ben Hei Hei and R. Yehuda are tannaim, and Pirkei Avot is itself part of the Mishnah, so the references to "Mishnah" and "Gemara" seem anachronistic. What do they refer to, and what relationship do they bear to the Mishnah and the Gemara that we have today?

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    That statement is not in the Mishna. It's a braysa or some other somewhat later addition. – Double AA Nov 25 '13 at 3:46
  • @DoubleAA neat, that might explain why my siddurim disagree about the text. So if I looked in a volume of Mishnah, it wouldn't be there, but it's conventionally associated with Pirkei Avot so the siddurim add it? – Shivaram Lingamneni Nov 25 '13 at 4:25
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    If you look in a volume of Mishna that's centuries old, you probably will not find it. I can't say the same for later modern editions. For instance, consider this manuscript from ~1100 CE kaufmann.mtak.hu/en/ms50/ms50-173v.htm Note also the Rambam not writing commentary to it. – Double AA Nov 25 '13 at 4:28
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    @DoubleAA, the Alter Rebbe says explicitly that is not part of the Mishna in the Kuntres Achron here, noting that the Rambam doesn't have it as part of the Mishna and the Medrash Shmuel (a student of the Arizal) concurs. – Yishai Nov 25 '13 at 4:39
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    @Yishai I wasn't aware of any debate on the matter. – Double AA Nov 25 '13 at 4:46

The Alter Rebbe in his Hilchos Talmud Torah (2:1) defines Mishna as Halachic decisions which explain the 613 Mitzvos, their conditions and details, as well as Rabbinic enactments, as statements without their reasons.

Talmud (Gemara in that statement - as is clear from the context there and in Chapter 1) on the other hand is the reasons/explanations for the Halachic decisions. The Kuntres Acharon which starts there and continues on the next page explains that this is according to Rashi; the Rambam however defines it differently.

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    Isn't he referring to the terms in the context of the obligation of splitting one's study in thirds? Do you have a reason to suspect parallel definitions would apply to the OP's braysa? – Double AA Nov 25 '13 at 3:49
  • @DoubleAA, Chapter 1 in the Kuntres Achron there, very specifically associates what he is talking about with the statements in Pirkei Avos. – Yishai Nov 25 '13 at 4:02

See Rashi Brachos 5a and Sotah 22a. There, when discussion statements that contrast (maybe not the right word) the terms Mishna and Gemara, Rashi explains that Gemara refers to the explanations of the laws recorded in the Mishna.

See also Rashi on Brachos 11a (I'll translate the bold):

אף לגמרא צריך לברך. שהוא עיקר התורה שממנו הוראה יוצאה. גמרא היינו סברת טעמי משנה ותירוצי משניות הסותרות זו את זו וחסורי מחסרא:

Gemara: This is logical reasons of the Mishna and reconcilliations of Mishnayot that contradict one another, as well as missing statements in the Mishna.

Note that the Baal HaTanya says this in his Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hichot Talmud Torah Chapter 2, Halacha 1:

במשנה שהן הלכות פסוקות בלי טעמים שבכל המשניות וברייתות ומימרות האמוראים שהן‏ פירוש התרי"ג מצות שבתורה בכל תנאיהם ודקדוקיהם ודקדוקי סופרים...בתלמוד המבאר טעמי ההלכות שבמשניות וברייתות ומימרות האמוראים

See the Baal HaTanya's note in the Kuntres Acharon where he explains why the Rambam does not learn the distinction between Mishna and Talmud this way (but rather interprets "Talmud" as "learning one thing from something else, and comparing things")

This can also be used to explain Ben Hei Hei's statement. A child would first learn the laws for five years before delving into the underlying logic behind those laws.

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    It's nice of Rashi to define what those terms mean in those contexts, but I'm not sure how this answers the OP's question. – Double AA Nov 25 '13 at 5:40
  • @DoubleAA: If one means the laws, and the other means the explanation of said laws, then that is how the term could be used during the Mishnaic Period. – Menachem Nov 25 '13 at 5:42
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    Do you have any reason to think that that is how they were used in the OP's statement? Your answer makes it sound like Rashi is explaining the OP's statement, instead of you assuming these terms have very fixed definitions (something I am skeptical of considering how much they change over time). – Double AA Nov 25 '13 at 5:45
  • My understanding is that when the Talmud refers to Mishna and Gemara in this way, the distinction is as I mentioned above. I seem to remember other places where this same distinction is made, but I can't remember them now. I edited the question to try and clarify – Menachem Nov 25 '13 at 5:57

According to the sefer דורות הראשונים the original mishnah was completed at the latest by the time of the אנשי כנסת הגדולה, a long time before the period of the Tannaim, and remained an oral teaching until Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi and his Beis Din decided that it should be written down.

The gemara is explanation of the mishnah which was transmitted orally until Ravina and Rav Ashi decided that it should be recorded in writing.

  • He disagrees with Rashi (Eiruvin)? – ertert3terte Nov 25 '13 at 3:13
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    @ShmuelBrin Why the question mark? – Double AA Nov 25 '13 at 3:46
  • @DoubleAA what's his source? – ertert3terte Nov 25 '13 at 4:25
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    Did the Anshei Keneset Hagedola put things in their Mishna like "R Akiva said X"? – Double AA Nov 25 '13 at 14:53
  • My answer was only to show how a certain Gadol BaTorah would answer the question. A discussion of the sefer is beyond the scope of this question/answer. – user4523 Nov 25 '13 at 18:30

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