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I have recently started learning Talmud / Gemara recently, and though I am enjoying the experience greatly, something tells me that it would be helpful if I actually went about learning Mishnayot first and making siumim on the 6 sedarim before pursuing finishing Shas full time.

With that said, I have heard opinions that there is no need to learn Mishnayot on their own, because you will learn them as you go through Gemara. Some have even said that one might not get as much out of learning just Mishnayot as opposed to pursuing Gemara.

What is the logic behind this thinking? Is this in fact a wide spread opinion? I would think that logically one should learn Mishnah before learning Gemara, no?

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    Hello Leyzer! Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for the interesting question (+1). I hope you find a satisfying answer to this one. In my own experience, I've found that knowing mishnayos (particularly belonging to the masechta that I'm currently learning, but not limited to those) helps a lot with learning gemara, because you have access to the basic ideas of the gemaras that you'll be learning, but YMMV on that one. – Shokhet Nov 14 '14 at 19:48
  • keep your talmud seder and learn a couple of mishas a day in spare time. i've seen people fall into this trap and burn out completely. main chiyus is from talmud study. cannot get deep clarity in mishna. its good for kids but not too much for adults. – ray May 31 '15 at 21:15
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This answer is from my personal experience.

I made a siyum hashas on mishna for my bar mitzvah before ever opening a gemara. We (my father and i) learned with Perush Kehati.

When there was something ambiguous in the mishna that was explained by the gemara, Kehati would bring it. We didn't have to look it up in the gemara, which was good, because i had not yet learned how the gemara works.

Now that i'm learning gemara, i find that knowing the concepts from learning mishna is very helpful. For example, the different levels of tumah.

So, i think it is helpful to learn the mishna before starting gemara. I got plenty out of it.

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Disclaimer: the answer is based on my personal experience.

Learning Mishna before learning the Gemara is very helpful to get the basic knowledge. However, learning all the mishnayot is very time consuming. Also, in many cases, learning mishnayot may be less pleasurable then gemara (warning: this is a subjective statement). And getting pleasure from the learning is an important value. Not only because of egoistic goal to get pleasure from the life. Recieving a pleasure is an integral part of fulfilling the mitzva of talmud torah (see preface of Iglei Tal).

Therefore, I found the following to the excellent balance. Before (or at least very close after starting of) learning a tractate of a gemara, I try to finish all the mishnayot of that tractate. This makes it much easier to understand gemara when it cites a mishna from the following part of the tractate.

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You've asked an interesting and useful question. I don't have a definitive answer, as I think both views are valid.

To start, Pirkei Avot (Chapters of the Fathers) Chapter 5, Mishnah 21 cites Yehudah ben Tamai who said that when one turns 10, he should learn Mishnah, and at 15, he should learn Gemarah. Perhaps, this is the source of separating the two. I hunted, but I haven't found a commentary that elaborates on why Yehuda ben Tamai said this. But, apparently, the Mishnah, encourages, or at least Yehuda ben Tabai, himself, suggests, separation. I surmise that since he places ages, his opinion is based on mental maturity / capacity.

So, what I state below is my opinion, based on having done both methods - together and separately.

The majority of the Mishnah is in Hebrew and most of the Gemarah is in Aramaic. In elementary school, I learned Hebrew first, so in 5th grade, I studied only Mishnah. In 6th grade, prior to learning Gemarah, we had to memorize several pages of common Aramaic Gemarah words before we could even begin learning Gemarah. Bear in mind, that this was in the pre Art Scroll era. (I'll address this, briefly, later.) In hindsight, while my rebbe was harsh, and a bit meshugah in his pedagogy, I think this method did get us to better understand the gemarrah. So, in short, if your Hebrew is good, but your Aramaic is next to zero, you MIGHT want to follow some of my original methodology.

Having stated this, we are now in a wonderful era of Art Scroll, Soncino and Steinzaltz. I prefer Steinzaltz, even in the Hebrew version, though the English one is wonderful for beginners as well. Point is, that even if your have no Hebrew or Aramaic knowledge whatsoever, and even if you can't read Hebrew, you can understand Gemarrah well.

Preference? I find that learning Gemarah together with the Mishnah is better, esp. if you have a good command of Hebrew and enough of a command of "common Gemarah Aramaic" to follow the most common words as well as understand Gemarah methodology (it's rules). The Mishnah is an "overview". It states the facts along with different opinions, sometimes, of what to do. Rarely does the Mishnah state the Torah source or describe the details of how or why it said what it did. As a matter of fact, often when you look at Rash"i commentary on the Mishnah, he will say nothing more than "The Gemarra will explain this, further." So, in a sense, you're FORCED to view the Gemarrah! And even if you used Steinzaltz, Art Scroll, etc., for just the Mishnah, where do you think most of their explanations came from? The Gemarah, of course!

(I am, generally, not in favor of someone using any of these English translations, as, no matter who good they are, anything translated can not be as good as the original source. Something is almost always lost in translation. However, I do understand that not everyone is competent in English, Aramaic or "Yeshivish", so these translations certainly are useful for this crowd. But if possible, better to learn Hebrew and some Aramaic. Don't learn "yeshivish", though ... PLEASE don't. I get irked when people call them "tallaysim" and people stay "BY" someone for 3 "Shabbosim".)

Summarizing - If you're satisfied with a quick overview, the Mishnah will suffice. But, if you really want to appreciate what you are learning, understanding better the source of things as well as seeing different opinions and gaining a better appreciation of logic and honming your logical skills (a side-effect o following Gemarah methodology), then learn it with the Gemarah.

One last small note - There are many tractates that have no Gemarah! In the order of Zera'im, only Brachot has a Gemarah. As a matter of fact, the phrase I quoted at the top, from Pirkei Avot, is another tractate with no Gemarrah. So, if you were to just concentrate on Gemarrah ... my oh my... you'd be missing out on quite a bit :-) Just something to keep in mind!

Note: Yerushalmi includes many of the tractates left out of Bavli...

  • Thanks so much for the the detailed response. Thankfully, I have a strong hold of Hebrew, which makes understanding Aramaic easier as well. Unfortunately, what I do find is that I still have trouble understanding Rashi and Tosfot on their own as well, because there is Aramaic in their commentaries, and I feel at times I have to re-read some of the longer pieces multiple times in order to understand. Therefore, my plan is to try to learn the daf on my own, and then use Artscroll / Steinzalts as a reference to clear up any misunderstandings. What do do you think? – Leyzer Nov 24 '14 at 17:35
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The Talmud in Avodah Zarah 19a says:

"אין אדם לומד תורה אלא ממקום שלבו חפץ"

"A person can learn Torah only from a place in the Torah that his heart desires" [i.e., his delight is in the part of the Torah that he wishes to study.]

As others have mentioned, if you want to learn mishnayos as a supplement that's a great idea. Learning Mishnayos is an incredible endeavor that will expand your b'kius of halachos and shas principles... not to mention bringing a huge smile to your face when you're learning the Talmud and encounter a Mishnah you're familiar with.

But if you switch to just mishnayos and you don't enjoy it as much as learning the Talmud, I would think it's better to learn Talmud. All Torah is precious and it would seem to make sense to learn that which brings you the most joy.

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