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שנו חכמים בלשון המשנה, ברוך שבחר בהם ובמשנתם

Our Sages taught in the words of the Mishnah; blessed is He Who chose them and their Mishnayos

In all standard Siddurim that I’ve seen, this phrase is used to introduce the “sixth Perek” of Avos. This is also the phraseology used here. The only variation I’ve seen is that occasionally רבותינו is used instead of חכמים.

Why is this phrase included? The first half I understand: as תנו in Aramaic is the same as שנו in Hebrew, the more verbose שנו חכמים בלשון המשנה would seem to be equivalent to the Gemara’s תנו רבנן, as both introduce Braisos.

What I don’t understand is the second half of the phrase. Why do we mention here, specifically, “Blessed is He Who chose them and their Mishnayos”? What relevance does that have to here, especially as the first half establishes that this isn’t actually a Mishnah?

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In this critical edition of the Seder Eliyahu Zuta, the author, in a lengthy note comparing the present text with that of the sixth chapter of Avot, suggests that the שנו חכמים is basically synonymous with תנו רבנן, and the words "בלשון המשנה" were added by a later printer to make that point clear. The last phrase is to validate the words of Baraita, to indicate that they are just as significant and meaningful as teachings of a Mishnah.

ע"כ דעתי שעיקר הנוסחא שנו חכמים. שהיא כמו תנו רבנן. והוסיף ברוך שבחר וכו' וברכה זו להחשיבה שאין הברייתא מועטת בחשיבותה מן המשנה. ובגליון ניתוסף בלשון המשנה. לומר שהיא כמו תנו רבנן.

  • FYI, an abridged version of this is mentioned in Birnbaum's siddur at the beginning of the 6th chapter. – DanF Aug 21 '17 at 14:15

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