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The Mishnah is supposedly THE codex of the Jewish Law. I'm trying to understand the purpose of the questions in the Mishnah. It appears to be gratuitous as it adds no information.

Compare the original Mishnah (Berachot 1:1):

"מֵאֵימָתַי קוֹרִין אֶת שְׁמַע בְּעַרְבִית? מִשָּׁעָה שֶׁהַכֹּהֲנִים נִכְנָסִים לֶאֱכֹל בִּתְרוּמָתָן, ..."

"From when may one recite Shema in the evening? From the time when the Kohanim go in to eat their Terumah ..."

Vs a "normalized" version:

"קוֹרִין אֶת שְׁמַע בְּעַרְבִית מִשָּׁעָה שֶׁהַכֹּהֲנִים נִכְנָסִים לֶאֱכֹל בִּתְרוּמָתָן..."

"One may recite Shema in the evening from the time when the Kohanim go in to eat their Terumah..."

The use of questions throughout the Mishnah seems inconsistent, e.g. not every Mishnah starts with a question.

I've heard a couple of speculations, like: "so it can be remembered better", or "they wrote exactly what the Rabbi said" but for a legal document that defines the principles of Judaism it sounds "unprofessional" (to me at least).

Is there a [non circumstantial] reason for this phenomenon?

  • I read somewhere (it's been so long that I have to dig hard to locate where) that the Mishnah follows the Socratic methodology. This was a common learning method at that era. The concept is that people learn better by posing questions and either answering it themselves or posing answers from others and discussing it thus leading to follow-up or counter-questions. Even if you don't follow this theory, in many cases, there are multiple opinions. So, in a sense, it's like being in a classroom where a question is posed and you get multiple answers. – DanF Sep 17 '18 at 21:37
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    But the Mishna is not a "codex of Jewish law" or "legal document"; it was taught orally for a long time before being written down – b a Sep 17 '18 at 22:37
  • @ba So what is it, and what's the codex of the Oral law? Did G-d say Moses to write down questions? – Al Berko Sep 17 '18 at 22:51
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    @AlBerko God didn't say to Moses to write down the Mishna. If there were a written codex of the oral law, it wouldn't be oral – b a Sep 17 '18 at 22:53
  • @DanF If you're following my questions I am very interested in understanding the theory of Judaism, which is unfortunately totally missing. People study Torah for decades without understanding the bases (it's better for them that way I think). Meanwhile, the picture that emerges from [the lack of] answers is that everything we know about Judaism miraculously appeared out of nothing at the end of the Second T. – Al Berko Sep 17 '18 at 23:11

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