This seriously puzzles me. The Oral Law in the form of the Mishnah (and the following Gemmorah), which is the six Sdarim, is well known, and the Gemmorah itself testifies (Shabbos 31a) its division is of divine origin.
However, when Rambam wrote his Mishne Torah, he chose a completely different Seder of 14 tractates. Next came HaTurim and made it into four, with his own subdivisions.

So does it mean the Oral Law does not have a fixed divine structure as the written Torah?

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    Is there a claim that the content of the Rambam and the Tur are divine oral law or just codifications of the law as derived from the mishna and gemara? If they are just codifications, then why do they have to follow the same structure? The Torah is written in a particular order but if I wanted to classify elements of it, can't I categorize it alphabetically?
    – rosends
    Oct 28, 2017 at 23:13
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    "the gemmorah" testifies about no such thing. It merely quotes a [piece of a] homily by Resh Lakish. This entry in JE should be greatly enlightening to for you.
    – Oliver
    Oct 28, 2017 at 23:55

1 Answer 1


In explaining a statement of Rambam, his son Rabbenu Avraham explains (Exodus 24:12) that when the Midrash speaks of the Mishnah being Sianaic, it doesn't mean that there was a set formula for it, or that all the details in it were transmitted, but rather that ideas were transmitted. Indeed, in his introduction to his commentary to the Mishnah, Rambam discusses R. Yehuda HaNassi's motivation for structuring the Mishna as he did, and nowhere does he indicate that this was divine rather than R. Yehuda HaNassi's idea:

כאשר חשב לחבר את הספר הזה לפי תכנית זו, ראה שצריך לחלק אותו לחלקים, ולכן חלקו לששה חלקים

Accordingly, presumably, he would reject the aggada in Shabbat, or more likely, explain it homiletically.

Regarding the structure of the Mishneh Torah and Turim, the Turim is not really equivalent to the Mishna in that it skips everything not practically relevant today anyway. Regarding the structure of the Mishneh Torah, Rambam himself states (Introductino to Sefer HaMitsvot) that he considered using the Mishnaic structure, but ultimately decided that his categorisation system would be more practical:

וכאשר כוונתי בדעתי התכלית הזאת שמתי מחשבתי באי זה פנים אחלק החבור ושעריו איך ראוי שיהיה. אם אחלקהו כמו חלוק המשנה ויספיק לי דרכו, או אחלקהו חלוק אחר ואקדים ואאחר לפי מה שיחייב העיון שהוא היותר ראוי והיותר נקל ללמוד. ונראה לי שהטוב שתהיה חלוקתו שיושם הלכות הלכות מקום המסכתות מהמשנה עד שיאמר בו הלכות סוכה הלכות לולב הלכות תפילין הלכות מזוזה הלכות ציצית. ושאחלק כל כלל לפרקים והלכות כמו שתעשה המשנה. עד שיהיה דרך משל בהלכות תפילין פרק ראשון ופרק שני ופרק שלישי ורביעי וכל פרק נחלק להלכות כדי שיהיה נקל לדעת אותו על פה למי שירצה או לזכור דבר ממנו

While he respects the Mishnaic division enough to initially consider it, he makes no suggestion that the system is divine. Even had he believed that there was divine inspiration in the Mishnaic system, it doesn't change his point that it is not the most useful for his purposes.

Interestingly, the Tosafot Yom Tov does chide another Mishnaic commentator for changing the order of the Mishna. Importantly, the context seems to be a commentary on the Mishna itself; not a separate halakhic work like the Mishneh Torah, or the Turim:

נקטינן בסידורן כדאיתא פרק במה מדליקין דף ל"א. אמר ריש לקיש מאי דכתיב והיה אמונת עתך חוסן ישועות חכמת ודעת וגו'. אמונת. זה סדר זרעים. עתך. זה סדר מועד. חוסן. זה סדר נשים. ישועות. זה סדר נזיקין. חכמת. זה סדר קדשים. ודעת. זה סדר טהרות ע"כ. והנה אחרי שחכמים הגידו סדרן. תמיהני איך מלאו לבו של בעל כף נחת להפוך הסדר. ונזיקין שהוא רביעי לדבריהם ז"ל לאחרונה יסע לדילוגו.

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    Do you know in what way the Kaf Nachat changed the order? If it was just the order of authorship, even the compilers of the Gemara didn't write in order, they skipped zeraim and shekalim. Same with Rashi (bava batra etc.) and all the other rishonim who didn't write on the entire Shas.
    – Heshy
    Oct 29, 2017 at 13:10
  • It sounds like he placed nezikin last in the work. I don't know exactly. If someone does, I would be happy to be enlightened.
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 29, 2017 at 13:14
  • I changed the title but left the question intact. I think your answer still fits well.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 13, 2018 at 19:04

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