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A Different Mishnah?



Okay, it has been some time, too long time, but the studies and work have simply been too big a bite for me to also write on a regular basis. At least for now. I’m not giving up though, and now I found something interesting enough, that I really wanted to share it with all of my readers out there.

But I have to warn, this might be a little geeky, somehow technical, so please forgive me if this isn’t going to be the great inspirational post. Not that I believe so many of my posts are, but anyway, I do believe that it’s going to be interesting.


Now, I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Mishnah, or on which level you are familiar with it. Explained in short, Mishnah is the compilation of what in Judaism is considered the Oral Law, given to Moshe Rabenu, A”S, and handed down through the generations until it was written down in the time of R. Yehudah HaNasi, Z”L, around the year 200 CE. There is one Mishnah, which became the basis for later commentaries, called Gemarrot (in plural, singular it’s Gemarrah), and the two, Mishnah and Gemarrah, are compiled in what we call Talmud (which later on had a lot of commentaries added, but that’s another story).


The problem: We are supposed to have on Mishnah, not two. So with that in mind, I would expect that whether I read the Talmud Bavli (the Babylonian Talmud) or the Talmud Yerushalmi (the Palestinian Talmud) the same Mishnah would appear. But it doesn’t. Or, it does, but with textual variances.

Let me clarify before I continue, what we have is not a different Mishnah, it is the same, and the text is basically the same. Some words differ, some ways of spelling, and some suffixes and prefixes exist in the one Mishnah, but not in the other. I will give an example, from the first Mishnah in the first tractate in the first order (Seder Zera’im, Masechet B’rachot, Mishnah Alef), which talks about from when we can recite the Qriyat Shma’ in the evening. The translation goes, whether the one form or the other:


“From when do we recite the Shma’ in the evenings? From the time that the Kohanim enter in order to eat their T’rumah until the end of the first shift, words of R. Eliezer. And the Sages say until midnight. Rabban Gamliel says until the dawn rises.

It happened: And his sons came from the drinking house, they said to him: We did not recite the Shma’, he said to them: If the dawn still has not risen, you are obliged to recite.

And not this alone did they say but all that the Sages said until midnight are we commanded until the dawn rises the incenses, the fats, and the limbs. And (we) are commanded until the dawn rises in all the eating on one day.

If that is so, why did the Sages say until midnight? In order to keep man from the sin.”


Note: My translation has been kept pretty strict to the Hebrew text, unless where I had to change in order to give meaning.

The thing is, there are differences, which – since the Mishnah was written down, long time before the Talmuds (either one) was written – should not be there. Let me present the Hebrew text.

The following are the result of comparing and combining the Mishnah from the two Talmuds. Everything written in black, is the common text, which is found in both versions. The blue text is as it is found in the Bavli, and the red as it is found in the Yerushalmi.

משנה א:

מאימתי קורין את שמע בערבין. משעה שהכהנים נכנסין\ם לוכל\לאכול בתרומתן, עד סוף האשמורת\ה הראשונה, דברי ר’ אליעזר. וחכמים אומרים עד חצות. רבן גמליאל אומר עד שיעלה עמוד השחר. מעשה, ובאו בניו מבית המשתה ואמרו לו, לא קרינו את שמע, אמר להן\ם, אם לא עלה עמוד השחר חייבין אתם לקרות. ולא זו בלבד אמרו, אלא כל מה שאמרו חכמים עד חצות מצותן עד שיעלה עמוד השחר. הקטר חלבים ואיברים מצותן עד שיעלה עמוד השחר. כל הנאכלין\ם ליום אחד מצותן עד שיעלה עמוד השחר. אם כן, למה אמרו חכמים עד חצות. כדי להרחיק את האדם מן העבירה

There are four types of differences, type of suffix (the nun-soffit instead of the mem-soffit), prefixes appearing in one version but not the other, letters being part of the spelling in one version but not the other (the yod in eyvarim), and words being different and/or only appearing in one version but not the other (luchal/le’echol, and et ha in the last line).

Exactly why this is the case I can’t say, at least not yet. But it’s certainly a subject I’m going to put more focus on, so don’t be surprised if you’re going to hear more from this front.

All the best

1 Comment

  1. […] text in the two Talmuds. I have dealt with this issue in some earlier posts, which you can read here, here and here. This might have been caused by the Mishnah being transferred orally in the Land of […]

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