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In the beginning pages of the Bavli Sanhedrin (5a), it states that the power of the ראש גלותא in Babylon was bigger than that of נשיא in the land of Israel in the time of R' Yehuda Hanassi (see the whole Suggyah of certifying judges).

"פשיטא מהכא להכא ומהתם להתם מהני ומהכא להתם נמי מהני דהכא שבט והתם מחוקק "

How come R' Yehuda Hanassi in the Holy Land decided on the codification of the Mishnah, but no ראש גלותא did so also, for they really could - they had the brains and the political power to force their decisions on all others Rabbis? Why was the "Israeli Mishnah" accepted unanimously even though the Israeli Rabbis were not trusted so much in Babylon?

Bonus wonder: how would the Bavli Mishnah be different from R' Yehudah's?

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  • Well, this question has the History tag, so the historical situation of the time might have something to do with it. A guess: Israel at the time wasn't even named Israel, or even Judea after Bar Kochba's revolt, and the Jewish people remaining in the Land of Israel had a hard time existing. Babylon was not under Roman domination at the time, so the community there had an opportunity to thrive, especially with the Rabbis that fled there after the revolts. The Mishna, however, was in oral form before the revolts, and dispersion of the people, so it was authoritative for both communities.
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 15:54
  • So, my guess continued -- even though the power of the head of Babylon's Jews physically had more power, mainly because he had more freedom, the remaining core of the community in Israel still had more halachic authority(and sheer amount of oral transmitted traditions), since they were still the "home base", at least until the Sanhedrin there was banned a couple of centuries later. After then, the Palestinian Talmud was basically finished(and cut short, probably), but the Babylonian community still had the freedom to develop the Bavli, until the Islamic takeover of the area.
    – Gary
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 16:03
  • Why do you assume they didn’t collaborate on it?
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 21:04
  • Maybe there was a Mishnah Bavli only it didn't survive? Lots of stuff was lost throughout the years. (This is just speculation)
    – ezra
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 1:33
  • @ezraMaybe but it is never mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 9:35

4 Answers 4

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I think the simplest reason why is because of the influence of Rav and Shemu'el. Most of the Babylonian amora'im can be traced back to them somehow through their students. Having learned personally from Rabbi Yehuda Hannasi, they would have wanted to continue teaching as they learned, through the mishnayot of the land of Israel. Their influence is clear from the fact that later generations were apparently more familiar with their disputes than with certain parts of the Mishnah itself (Berachot 20a). Pesachim 30a is another case in which Shemu'el is influential in an actual case deciding the law for pot-sellers. The fact that Rav and Shemu'el, unlike the Resh Galuta, were actually going and teaching people, is probably the biggest reason for the Mishnah, particularly that of Rabbi Yehuda Hannasi, to have become the code of law for Babylonian Jews.

Regarding the question of how the Babylonian Mishnah would be different from the Mishnah we have: The Mishnah already leans Babylonian. The Mishnah already has a strong preference for the opinions of the school of Hillel the Babylonian (as he is called in Pesachim 66a) over those of the school of Shammai (see for example Berachot 1:3). (This is probably another reason why it wouldn't have been hard for Babylonians to accept it.)

There are Babylonian rabbis who aren't quoted in the in the Mishnah we have, but whom we do know from baraytot (e.g. Rabbi Yehuda ben Betera, who lived in Nisibis according to Pesachim 3b). I don't know whether they had a set of teachings based on something like the Mishnah Rishonah (Sanhedrin 3:4) that Rabbi Akiva or Rabbi Yehuda Hannasi worked from, or whether they had only the unconnected teachings that we have attributed to them in baraytot. A Babylonian version of the Mishnah would probably have included more of these people as tanna'im. In any case, these tanna'im did make it into the final law by way of the baraytot, so they weren't forgotten despite not having made it into the Mishnah.

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Because in Issur VeHetter, the Sanhedrin in Eretz Yisrael had authority over the Reish Galusa.

The Gemara says in Pesachim 51a

ורבה בר בר חנה לית ליה הא דתנן נותנין עליו חומרי המקום שיצא משם וחומרי המקום שהלך לשם אמר אביי הני מילי מבבל לבבל ומארץ ישראל לא"י אי נמי מבבל לא"י אבל מא"י לבבל לא כיון דאנן כייפינן להו עבדינן כוותייהו

The Gemara asks: And is Rabba bar bar Ḥana, who was lenient with regard to a matter that is prohibited, not in agreement with that which we learned in the mishna: When one travels from one place to another, the Sages impose upon him the stringencies of the place from which he left and the stringencies of the place to which he went? Abaye said: That applies when one travels from one place in Babylonia to another place in Babylonia, or from one place in Eretz Yisrael to another place in Eretz Yisrael, or alternatively, from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael. However, when traveling from Eretz Yisrael to Babylonia, no, this principle does not apply. Since we, the residents of Babylonia, are subordinate to them in terms of halakha, we act in accordance with their custom, but a resident of Eretz Yisrael is not required to follow the Babylonian custom.

(Emphasis mine).

The reason is, as Rashi says:

אנן כייפינן לבני א"י דאינהו סמיכי ובבבל לא סמיכי

We're subject to those in Israel, since they have Smicha and we don't.

So the answer is that the Beis Din in Israel has authority since it has Smicha.

Tosfos says another answer:

בני א"י חכימי טפי דאוירא דא"י מחכים כדאמר הכא דאיקרו מחוקק שמלמדין תורה ברבים The Torah scholars in Israel are wiser, since the air of Israel makes one wise, as the verse says "staff" - they teach Torah in public.

So why does the Reish Galusa have primacy in appointing judges?

Rashi says (on the Gemara you mentioned):

לשון שררה ויש להן רשות להפקיר דהפקר ב"ד הפקר דכתיב (עזרא י) וכל אשר לא יבא וגו' ביבמות בהאשה רבה

They have permission to declare objects owner-less, since the court has the power to make objects owner-less.

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  • Thank you for those points. By mentioning the relations between נשיא and ר"ג I deflected the discussion from the main point. Even if the relations were the opposite of what I assumed it shouldn't have prevented the ר"ג from editing **his own Mishnah. ** As all the answers and the comments followed that direction I think about rewording the question and asking a new question about the very idea of Bavli Mishnah. What do you think?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 10:06
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Introduction:

Most of the info here is based off of Prof. Yaakov Nachum Epstein's books "מבואות לספרות התנאים" and "מבוא לנוסח המשנה". I recommend at least flicking through them to get a basic understanding of the whole process of the creation of the mishna.


This question seems to come out of a misunderstanding of the process of the creation of the mishna, or to be more specific, what made Rebbi's mishna "The Mishna". Typically, Jews are taught that Rebbi used his resources to collect all of the teachings of all of the sages, proceeded to edit them together, and thus, The Mishna was formed. However, proper analysis of Tannaic, Amoraic and later sources shows us that the story was much more complicated than that. In truth, Rebbi was not the first person to create a mishna, i.e., a compilation of discussions of halachot. There are traditions that there were ancient mishnas in the far past. For example:

  • According to Chagigah 14a, in Yeshayahu's time there were 600 or 700 sidrei mishna. Machzor Vitrei states this same number as having existed from Moshe's time until Hillel.

  • According to Yalkut Shimoni on the Torah 42:2, before Metushelach there were 900 sidrei mishna.

Then we have a trace of a tradition that there was some sort of mishna from the time of the Chashmonaim, as Epiphanius, a Jew who converted to Christianity, wrote in his book Panarion:

"Scribes had four 'repetitions.' [=this word is typically understood to mean "mishna"] One was in circulation in the name of the prophet Moses, a second in that of their teacher called Aqiba or Bar Aqiba, another in the name Addan or Annan, also called Judas, and another in the name of the sons of Hasmonaeus."​

Note that besides for referring either to Sefer Devarim, AKA Mishneh Torah or to some of the traditions of mishnas from the time of Moshe, he also mentions The Mishna authored by Rebbi, as well as a fourth: A mishna by Rabbi Akiva. There is much evidence for Rabbi Akiva's mishna. Just a few examples:

And so forth. We also find evidence of mishnas by other Tannaim. For example:

The long and short of everything is that mishnas were being compiled long before Rebbi. As Yishai Tzvi-Rosen put it (my translation):

"Scholars are in agreement that at least from the time of Rabbi Akiva and onwards there are not only traditions but also organized mishnas, that later became the building blocks of our mishna." (בין משנה למדרש - קריאה בספרות התנאים, pg. 86)

Mostly, mishnaic compilations were created by the Tannaim to organize all of the halachic discussions from their time and back, to be able to pass these on to later generations in an orderly manner. Rebbi, however, had another reason for creating his compilation. As Rambam put it (Introduction to Mishneh Torah):

"But why did our Holy Master thus, and did not leave the matter as it was heretofore? Because he observed that the number of students continued to decrease, whereas the volume of oppression continued to increase with renewed strength; that the Roman Empire continued to spread out its boundaries in the world and conquer, whereas Israel continued to drift aimlessly and follow extremes, he, therefore, compiled one book, a handy volume for all, so that they may study it even in haste and not forget it. And his whole lifetime, he sat together with the members of his tribunal and gave public instruction in the Mishna."

Was Rebbi planning for his mishna to be the final word on mishnaic compilations? Probably not (particularly considering that his students had their own mishnas). But he felt that a new one was necessary for his generation. Recall, Rebbi was born in the waning days of the Bar Kochva Revolt (Kiddushin 72b), which led to the exile really starting. A new compilation was needed. Rebbi merited to have his mishna be of such supreme quality, that it became popular very fast and eventually, became known as The Mishna. As Chanoch Albeck put it (my translation):

"Immediately after Rebbi organized a mishnaic compilation of teachings from many batei midrashot and didn't yet finish his holy work, his mishna spread out among the students and became accepted in all of the settlements of Yisrael." (מבוא למשנה, pg. 110)

Babylonian mishnas:

Having explained that other Tannaim created mishnaic compilations, we now turn to the subject of Babylonian Tannaim and their mishnas. Yes, there were mishnas created by the Babylonians. Most notably, Rabbi Natan's mishna, but there is evidence for others:

Midrash Tehillim 104:15 mentions masechtot of Rabbanan Bavlai, Beresheet Rabbah 33:3 mentions hilchata of Bavlai and Yerushalmi Bava Batra 13b brings a halacha in the name of Rabban Bavlai. So was the differentiation between the mishna of Eretz Yisrael and that of Babylon that at one point Rabbi Natan said to Rebbi (Bava Batra 131a):

"You taught in your Mishna..."

You - of Eretz Yisrael - taught in your mishna - the mishna of Eretz Yisrael. Likewise, wrote Rav Shrira Gaon in his Iggeret (my translation):

"And in the time of Rebbi and afterwards there was the Mishna of the Babylonians, which was called in Eretz Yisrael "the Mishna of Rabbi Natan"."

Explicit mention of his mishna can be found in Temurah 16a, Ketubot 93a and Yalkut Shimoni on Nach 27:1. Interestingly, according to the Aruch, Rabbi Natan was the son of the Reish Galuta, so technically, his mishna was probably at the behest of the Reish Galuta.

As stated above, the reason that Rabbi Natan's mishna was "overtaken" by Rebbi's was because Rebbi's was of such good quality both in terms of the content (the great mass of various Tannaic halachic traditions brought) and in terms of editing style, that it became the most popular of compilations.

What was a Babylonian Mishna like?

There are two possible answers to this question:

The first possibility - There are some traces of Rabbi Natan's mishna that can be found in our sources. To get a sense of what a Babylonian mishna was like, look no further than some of Rabbi Natan's teachings. For example:

The author of Sifrei Zuta, probably a student or students of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov, also used the mishna of Rabbi Natan in the midrash. Epstein has a detailed explanation which I won't get into now because this answer is already long.

In short, Rabbi Natan's mishna - or any other mishna of a Babylonian Tanna - differed from Rebbi in the views presented there and/or in historical traditions brought there that were perhaps unknown to Rebbi, or he did not think were necessary to be included in his mishna.

The second possibility - From the second and third generations of the Amoraim, we find textual differences between the mishnas repeated by the Babylonians and those repeated by the Eretz-Yisraelians. Well aware that the Yisraeli version was superior, we find that the Babylonians commonly asked their Yisraeli counterparts what was the original way the mishna was taught. For example:

"When Rabbi Elazar ascended from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael he found Ze’eiri and said to him: Is there a tanna who taught Rav that an udder roasted without first being torn is prohibited? Ze’eiri showed him Rav Yitzḥak bar Avudimi. Rav Yitzḥak bar Avudimi said to Rabbi Elazar: I did not teach Rav that an udder is prohibited at all; rather, Rav found an unguarded valley and fenced it in."

"When Isi bar Hini ascended from Babylonia to Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Yoḥanan found him teaching the mishna to his son. Isi taught that the obligation of the first sheared wool applies only in the case of sheep [reḥelim], the masculine plural form of raḥel, meaning a sheep. Rabbi Yoḥanan said to Isi: You should teach him using the term reḥelot, the feminine plural form. Isi said to him in reply: I teach the mishna in accordance with that which is written: “Two hundred reḥelim”..."

Moreover, in general, disputes between the Bavli and the Yerushalmi around the views of different Tannaim (i.e., what each Tanna really said) is taken as evidence that the Babylonians had a different mishna in the name of each Tanna. For example, compare Rashbi in Pesachaim 51 to Yerushalmi Berachot 6b.

In short, the mishna of Rebbi was preserved differently by the Babylonians than how it was preserved by the Eretz-Yisraelians. This leads to textual differences - sometimes minute differences in phrasing and sometimes major disputes between the views of the Tannaim.

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    Related is the Gra somewhere who is quoted saying a Mishnah maybe in bava kama is the way it was taught to Moshe or something to that affect
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 18:16
  • @Dr.Shmuel I don't know of this Gra, but yes, thanks. Good point. I'm sure there are others that have made similar points.
    – Harel13
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 18:48
  • I believe I read it in that book פנינים משלחן הגרא
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 22:40
  • תוספות ב"ק צ"ד ע"ב ד"ה בימי רבי נשנית משנה זו
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Commented Nov 21, 2021 at 4:10
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I honestly don't understand the question. The writing of the Mishna is forbidden by the Torah. It was Rebbe who saw it as imperative to employ the rule of עת לעשות לה' הפרו תורתיך because he was afraid of the Torah being forgotten. That having been said, Rebbe's accomplishment was not to create a code of Law. (It is important to note that the Talmud does not always accept Rebbe's פסק.) Rather, it was to write down words of the Tanaim which have been passed down through the ages, both in Eretz Yisroel and in Bavel. That is why I don't think that this is a question of authority.

The question might be asked a little differently: Why did no one else see the importance that Rebbe did? To that we might answer, that he was first to act on it. Or, that in Bavel they were not as afraid of the Torah being forgotten, because of the fact that they were more comfortable there. However that is just speculation. My main point is that this is not a question of halachic authority.

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  • "The writing of the Mishna is forbidden by the Torah." - You should differentiate interpretations from the source. There's no prohibition of writing down anything in the plain text, it was a homiletic Pharisee interpretation (this is not what the text says), and as Rambam explains in his Introduction to MT, everyone was keeping his records in writing. Numerous Midrashim existed in written form long before the Mishna. Rabbi might have compiled those sources into a single work, but he did not write it down for the first time ever.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 10:07
  • Note that this common excuse is mentioned nowhere in the Mishana itself, not even in Avos. IMHO, it was an excuse for presenting personal opinions as if it was a transmitted tradition. Notice, that the transmission of any tradition is also not mentioned either in the Tanach or (from the sages of Great Assembly to R' Yehuda) in the Mishna.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 10:12
  • You know, there's a disagreement whether Rebbi actually wrote down his mishna.
    – Harel13
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 20:54

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