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Why is Seder Nashim called Seder Nashim?

The mitzvos discussed do apply to women (except for some tangents like the 7th chapter of Sotah), but so do:

  • The overwhelming majority of Zeraim (everything but Shema, Zimun, Viduy Maaser, and Mikra Bikkurim)
  • Most of Moed (everything but parts of Shekalim, most of Yoma, just about all of Sukkah and Rosh Hashana, and parts of Chagigah)
  • Almost all of Nezikin (even the judgment procedure parts - for instance even though she can't be a witness, she needs to know who she can ask to be a witness)
  • Most of Kodshim (everything that a zar is allowed to do)
  • The overwhelming majority of Tahoros (everything but some of the procedures of Parah and the male biology of Zavim)

Nashim relates to the interactions between men and women, but with that reason alone, Nashim is no better a name than Anashim. If anything "Anashim venashim" would seem to be a more descriptive name.

Why was "Nashim" chosen?

  • youtube.com/watch?v=l5mn6GnXnXE -- check out Rabbi Kessin's Mishnayot Classes, his method of explaining the structure of Mishnayot. This one is on Nashim, and explains why the Seder is called Nashim – Menachem Jan 20 at 20:40
  • I suspect nashim more appropriately translates as "wives" rather than as "women". (Accordingly, the primary focus is on the laws related to marriage.) – Loewian Jan 21 at 1:32
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From "The Babylonian Talmud", edited by Rabbi Dr. Isidore Epstein of Jews’ College, London

INTRODUCTION TO SEDER NASHIM, BY THE EDITOR

With woman as its principal theme, the appelation Nashim as applied to this 'Order', is self-explanatory. It may, however, be noted that in the Cambridge MS. of the Mishnah the opening tractate is entitled Nashim instead of Yebamoth, the title evidently having been derived from the third Hebrew word in the tractate: [H] 'Fifteen women'.

Consequently, it has been suggested that Nashim was the name by which the first tractate was originally known and to which tractate it was originally restricted, and that this name was finally used to describe the whole of this 'Order', even as a whole is often made to bear the name of a part.

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    This works well with Nezikin too! – Double AA Jan 21 at 16:33
  • As I said I don't think it's self explanatory women are its principal theme any more than men are, but the second suggestion is nice! – Heshy Jan 21 at 16:50
  • @Heshy I would add that besides for “Yevamot” which begins with the words “15 nashim”, “Ketubot” also begins with “Betulah Nis’eat”, Sotah begins with “Ha’mekane le’ishto”, and “Kiddushin” begins with “Ha’isha Nikneit”; all focusing on the woman. – IsraelReader Jan 21 at 17:03
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At least contextually, "nashim" perhaps more appropriately translates as "wives" than as "women". Seder Nashim deals with the laws related to marriage (marriage-ishut being a halachic status that is rendered upon a woman-isha).

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    This makes a lot of sense. I don't quite buy the diyuk that ishut relates to ishah more than ish though (like איש נעמי). – Heshy Jan 21 at 16:23
  • @heshy It seems pretty clear that ish can at time mean "man" regardless of marital status. It may well be the case that isha can also include, at times, an unmarried woman. That said, it is pretty clear that, at least at the biblical level, marriage is primarily a status of the wife (e.g. regarding the laws of adultery, etc.). – Loewian Jan 21 at 18:28
  • @heshy Nonetheless, the fact that ishut seems to mean "marriage" (e.g. in Maimonides' Laws of Marriage) rather than, e.g. "manhood" or "personhood", suggests that there is at least one definition of the shoresh tied to the marital bond. – Loewian Jan 21 at 18:32
  • I agree that ishut means marriage. And I agree that marriage is a halachic status of the wife more than the husband. The only thing I don't agree with is your diyuk from the word. – Heshy Jan 21 at 18:34
  • @Heshy I didn't mean to make it sound as if the word isha inherently connotes marriage more so than does the word ish. Just that the word nashim is associated with marriage. – Loewian Jan 21 at 18:39
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From the perspective of the Talmudic scholars themselves, almost all of whom were men, it was appropriate to call that subject Nashim, since it deals with relationships with women.

There were women who interacted in learning, such as Beruriah, and Yalta wife of Rav Nachman, but if you just look at the names mentioned in the Talmud, and their frequency, it is pretty clear that the vast majority of scholars were men.

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