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Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi put the Oral Torah down on paper in the year 212, in the form known as the Mishnah. What prompted this radical move in the history of Jewish literacy? What constitutes the Mishnah? And what is its function in the Tradition?

Lesson 6. Boiling Point: The Mishnah Is Written

Lesson 6. Boiling Point: The Mishnah Is Written

Scroll Down - Part 6

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Michael Chighel Jerusalem July 26, 2016

Dear Dana, the short musical refrain off the top and at the end of Scroll Down is a small segment from an old Andalusian Jewish song known as "Quando el rei Nimrod." This particular version is based on a recording made for me by David Paoli playing the Oud. Reply

Dana Belmont, CA July 25, 2016

Dear Michael, In addition to enjoying this series and the style in which you present it, I am really diggin' the 'theme' music you have chosen for it. Could you please share the name of it? I would very much like to get it so I can listen to it at home on my stereo. Is it a CD? Reply

David Fern 32904 July 20, 2016

ב״ה

i can only find one fault
with all of the teachings
you have presented so far

on the other side of the coin
what if just one rabbi (just one)
got something wrong
we would never know about it
because
no one would ever question a rabbi

think about something i wrote
"all humans have a flaw
HaShem does not"
^ even a rabbi ^

otherwise
this course is a great learning experience

דוד פרן

שלום עליכם Reply

Rick Miller La Mesa, California July 11, 2016

Blessings Michael,

You are a mensch! Thank you so much.

Your classes bring knowledge in a simple, fun way that makes a beginner want more. I appreciate this series and hope to see more.

Sincerely,

Rick Miller Reply

Erika USA July 10, 2016

Hello -

I enjoyed the list of sages/scholars/rabbis. Yes, I would actually loved to have seen all 120 names and time periods. 120 is not very many. Reply

MIKE florida July 10, 2016

I FIND THIS SERIES GREAT! IT HAS EXPLAINED CONCEPTS TO ME (THAT I DID NOT TRUELY UNDERSTAND) IN AN ENTERTAINING WAY. I HOPE THAT RABBI WILL CONTINUE THIS AND MAYBE START OTHER CLASSES FOR ME AND OTHERS TO LEARN FROM. Reply

Michael Chighel Jerusalem July 10, 2016

Dear Avi,

If I understand you correctly, you are referring to the anonymous rulings ("סתם משנה") in the Mishna. In Sanhedrin 86a, Rabbi Yochanan says: “An anonymous mishnah comes from Rabbi Meir; an anonymous tosefta comes from Rabbi Nehemiah ... and all are taught according to the views of Rabbi Akiba.” Whence Rabbi Sherira Gaon (10th cent.) concluded in his well-known epistle that Rabbi Meir was the author of an earlier collection of mishnayot.

What would constitute such “authorship” is hardly clear however. It’s hardly possible to say that Rabbi Meir, or Rabbi Akiva his teacher, invented their mishnayot. Sherira Gaon himself stresses this in his Iggeret. In general, to “author” a piece of mishna is always in some ways tantamout to citing a previous authority. And ultimately the whole Mishna was authored by G-d Himself at Sinai as the Oral Law. Perhaps this is why Jewish authors are called mechabrim, “connectors” or “anthologizers.”

For practical purposes, in any case, the account given by Maimonides in his introduction to his Mishne Torah sums up the problem and confirms the primary architectural role of Rabbi Yehudah (Rabbeinu HaKadosh) in constructing the Mishna:

“Rabbenu Hakadosh composed the Mishnah [רבינו הקדוש חיבר המשנה].From the days of Moses, our teacher, until Rabbenu Hakadosh, no one had composed a text for the purpose of teaching the Oral Law in public. Instead, in each generation, the head of the court or the prophet of that generation would take notes of the teachings which he received from his masters for himself, and teach them verbally in public. Similarly, according to his own potential, each individual would write notes for himself of what he heard regarding the explanation of the Torah, its laws, and the new concepts that were deduced in each generation concerning laws that were not communicated by the oral tradition, but rather deduced using one of the thirteen principles of Biblical exegesis and accepted by the high court.” Reply

Alexander NYC July 8, 2016

If I can give more than two Thumps up I would, but thank G-d I only have two hands ^^^^^^^
Thank you keep me up to date! Reply

Denise Matis Sunnyside July 8, 2016

I was very disturbed to hear you refer to Native American prayer for rain as "hocus pocus voo doo stuff". I found it to be most disrespectful and condescending. I'm sure that our prayers (as a fellow Jew) sound as strange to non Jews. You may not agree with their way but it is not up to you or anyone else to mock another religion.. Reply

Howard Wright Jacksonville, Al.36265 July 8, 2016

Thank you, you make the lessons so great and I enjoy the way you teach them. Reply

Avi Goldstein far rockaway, ny via capitalchabad.com July 7, 2016

I only commented on your statement that Rebbe wrote down the Mishnah. I am unsure what you mean by your response.
Rashi clearly indicates in several places (I will give sources if asked) that Rebbe did not actually write the Mishnah down, and that eis la'asos was not applied at the time of Rebbe. Rather, Rebbe put the Mishnah in order so that it could be more easily remembered. (Rebbe was not the first to put an order to the Mishnah, as is evident from the last Mishnah in Keilim, but Rebbe provided a definitive order.) Reply

Michael Chighel Jerusalem July 7, 2016

Dear Paul and dear Harriet,

Thank you for your heart-felt and sensitive comments regarding my gag with the Native American rain-dance. In retrospect, I must admit that the gag may have been misplaced, especially since it's just thrown out there, without subtext. So let me try to give some subtext here.

First of all, to call it "racist" is to misunderstand what "racism" means. The Natives Peoples of America continue to suffer as a people at the hands of the enduring colonial culture more than any other peoples in America. I believe it is the single greatest shame of America, still far from being properly addressed. My joke in no way targets the First Nations people. I see it along the lines of a scene from the "Frisco Kid" (1979), that Gene Wilder gem in which Jews and Native Americans are equally the butt of light humor.

What the joke does target, though, is the spiritual practise of rain-dances. I call it "voodoo." Now it would certainly be in line with political correctness to make room for the validity of all spiritual practises in the world. In fact, Voodoo (Vodun, Vudú, etc.) itself is a serious spiritual practise. But the Torah has never been politically correct. And particularly not when it comes to spirituality. The Torah works emphatically and systematically to refute any kind of spiritual practice that smells of magic. This is part of its programmatic rejection of idolatry. So it's not for me to make apologies, Heaven forbid, for the Torah's intolerance on this account. To be sure, it's certainly not our job to go around waging violent Jihad against idolatrous religions. G-d forbid! But neither would we be intellectually honest or true to our faith were we to accept all world religions as valid.

Which brings me to Honi the Circle Maker. This is certainly an example of a quasi-magical, "theurgic" practice among the Sages. The Talmud tells us how Honi did a kind of rain-dance himself (Mishna, Taanit 3:8; Taanit 23a). But the story must be read in all its nuance. In particular in light of Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach's sharp criticism of Honi as a "spoiled child" and rabbi Shimon’s intention to pronounce a rabbinic ban on him (cf. Berachot 19a). Honi is an exception to a rule that says: "G-d holds on to the keys of rain in His own hands and not entrusted them to human beings." (Taanit 2a) The Talmud in Taanit 23, in fact, goes on to relate the disastrous spiritual fallout among his generation of Honi's petulant manners.

In short, I hope you appreciate that I have zero intentions of poking fun at the beautiful Native American people, from whom I am convinced we have much to learn; while, at the same time, I make no apologies for the Torah's categorical rejection of some of their ancient magical practices. Reply

Babette Woolf SA July 7, 2016

Thanks for a brilliant informative and easy to understand videos. Reply

Harriet Portland OR July 6, 2016

I appreciated the overview and the humor- with one exception that hit me so much the wrong way that I was tempted to disregard the rest. The Native American chanting for rain is no more woo woo than our prayers, and to disregard their spiritual tradition as any less powerful than our own is shame on us. In these days of climate change and other unsustainable ways of living, spiritual communities need to be acknowledging each other's potency and working together both in prayer and policy, to be the stewards of this planet that the Native Americans had done so well with before western invaders came along. Reply

Jonathan USA July 6, 2016

Very Cute!!
Yes, it is unfortunate that the oral tradition had to be written down and Yes, it is fortunate that it was written down. It is something that can give us a glimpse into the thoughts and practices of people nearly 2000 years ago, while still being applicable for today.
Torah / Mishnah / Talmud Reply

Gary Europe July 6, 2016

Am I the only one who hopes at the 3rd Temple the Meshiach says, "Okay, no need to sacrifice animals this time around. Prayer will do." Reply

Eliezer Trenton July 6, 2016

WiFi at the base of Maslow's pyramid! Very funny. Reply

Anonymous July 5, 2016

The Mishnah is much harder to comprehend as far as its purpose to replicate. Like water the Mishnah can wash commentary away to keep it's true definition. When praying the fruit of the Mishnah grows into reality as laws of the land. This is what makes the Holy Temple "Holy" as Hashem embraces them all. Reply

Jay San Francisco July 5, 2016

I am enjoying this series. In Lesson 6, there is an excerpt from Wagner's Die Walküre. This doesn't particularly bother me, but he was a well known anti-Semite, as you know. Reply

Paul Tatelman Chelmsford July 5, 2016

I think the mockery of the Native American ceremony and equating it with Voodoo was insensitive and racist. I don't think Dr. Chighel would appreciate it if the same analogy was used for Honi the Circle Maker Reply