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Most Jewish texts have a easy way to pin down a citation.

Some are numbered. For example, Rambam and Y'rushalmi and Tosefta have chapter and halacha. Some of these have different numberings in differing editions, but there aren't too many different numberings and, as, long as you assume your readers have an edition numbered like yours is, you can cite unambiguously.

Others have named (or colloquially named) sections, which are short enough that one can find stuff within each section. For example, Tanach has short sections, and many older texts (before chapters were in common use) refer to verses as being in "the section on sota", "written near Shimshon", or the like.

But the Talmud Bavli has no classically named or numbered sections below the level of chapter — its current near-universal pagination is a late invention — and its chapters (named and numbered) tend to be quite long. With some exceptions, pre-pagination texts tend to refer to citations only as "in (the start/end of) chapter such-and-such".

Why? It seems an easy matter to break up the text into sections numbered sequentially by the snippets of Mishna, as the Y'rushalmi does. Why was this not done?

  • Check out "The Culture of the Babylonian Talmud," it serves as a great analysis between Bavli and Yerushalmi. – rosenjcb Jun 3 '15 at 2:57
  • I am under the impression that the dafim date back to Daniel Bomberg, who printed the editio princeps of the Bavli (his Yerushalmi is also often used for citation purposes, or so I've heard). – Noach MiFrankfurt Jun 3 '15 at 13:39
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt So? – Double AA Jun 3 '15 at 17:23
  • @DoubleAA, so this would make them a relatively old innovation, rather than a new one as posited by msh210. Unfortunately, as I don't have a scan of a Bomberg sha"s, I can't verify this. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jun 3 '15 at 17:24
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt No it would make them a relatively new one as posited by msh210. Bomberg is relatively recent in Jewish history. None of the Rishonim used his works, for instance. – Double AA Jun 3 '15 at 17:25
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The Gemara on each "snippet of Mishna" is often pretty long anyway (see for example Rosh Hashana - second mishna is on 16a, or Kiddushin - second mishna on 14b), so that wouldn't really narrow things down much. Plus there are places where all of the mishnayos for the perek are jammed together at the beginning (last perek of Brachos, 1st perek of Sanhedrin), and in manuscripts there are even more such.


More to the point, the OP's assumption that the numbering of the halachos in the Yerushalmi and Rambam is ancient is incorrect. Manuscripts of the Rambam and early printings are divided into halachos, but they're not numbered. It looks like that started in the 1500s. And for the Yerushalmi, even later (one of the introductions there says that various numbering systems were developed by the Pnei Moshe and the Korban Haeidah, both 18th century). By that time the system of referencing the Bavli by page numbers was well established, so nothing else was needed.

  • How does this answer the question? – Scimonster Jun 3 '15 at 5:06
  • @Scimonster It explains why no one bothered numbering the halachos. It wouldn't help much to say that such-and-such is discussed in "Perek Aleph Halacha Aleph" if Halachah Aleph is the entire perek, or is 15 blatt long, etc. – Shamiach Jun 3 '15 at 5:14
  • But what if the halachot are designed to be shorter? – Scimonster Jun 3 '15 at 5:15
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    So because in a few cases it wouldn't be incredibly helpful, they didn't do it at all? Is it not true that Yerushalmi also has a few longer sections and a few shorter sections? – Double AA Jun 3 '15 at 5:16
  • @Scimonster: how much shorter can they be, sometimes? Look at the first mishna of Kiddushin: it really can't be broken up into any smaller units, and its Gemara takes up 13+ pages. – Shamiach Jun 3 '15 at 5:18

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