The Rambam's Introduction1 to the Mishneh Torah

"In the name of God, Lord of the world"2 (Genesis 21:33)

"Then I will not be ashamed when I gaze at all Your mitzvot"3 (Psalms 119:6).

הַקְדָמַת הָרַמְבַּ"ם ז"ל בְּשֵׁם ה' אֵ-ל עוֹלָם אָז לֹא אֵבוֹשׁ בְּהַבִּיטִי אֶל כָּל מִצְוֹתֶיךָ.

The mitzvot given to Moses at Mount Sinai were all given together with their explanations,4 as implied by [Exodus 24:12]: "And I will give you the tablets of stone, the Torah, and the mitzvah."

"The Torah" refers to the Written Law; "the mitzvah," to its explanation. [God] commanded us to fulfill "the Torah" according to [the instructions of] "the mitzvah."5 "The mitzvah" is called the Oral Law.

כָּל הַמִצְוֹת שֶׁנִיתְּנוּ לוֹ לְמֹשֶׁה בְּסִינַי בְּפֵירוּשָׁן נִיתְּנוּ. שֶׁנֶאֱמַר וָאֶתְּנָה לְךָ אֶת לוּחוֹת הָאֶבֶן וְהַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִצְוָה. תּוֹרָה זוּ תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתַב. וְהַמִצְוָה זוּ פִּירוֹשָׁה. וְצִוָנוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת הַתּוֹרָה עַל פִּי הַמִצְוָה. וּמִצְוָה זוּ הִיא הַנִקְרַאַת תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה.

Moses, our teacher, personally transcribed the entire Torah before he died. He gave a Torah scroll to each tribe and placed another scroll in the ark as a testimonial, as [Deuteronomy 31:26] states: "Take this Torah scroll and place it [beside the ark…] and it will be there as a testimonial."

כָּל הַתּוֹרָה כְּתָבָהּ מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּינוּ קוֹדֶם שֶׁיָמוּת בִּכְתַב יָדוֹ. וְנָתַן סֵפֶר לְכָל שֵׁבֶט וָשֵׁבֶט וְסֵפֶר אֶחָד נְתָנָהוּ בָּאָרוֹן לָעַד. שֶׁנֶאֱמַר לָקוֹחַ אֵת סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֶה וְשַׂמְתֶּם אוֹתוֹ וגו'.

"The mitzvah" - i.e., the explanation of the Torah - he did not transcribe.6 Instead, he commanded it [verbally] to the elders, to Joshua, and to the totality of Israel,7 as [Deuteronomy 13:1] states: "Be careful to observe everything that I prescribe to you." For this reason, it is called the Oral Law.

וְהַמִצְוָה שֶׁהִיא פֵּירוּשׁ הַתּוֹרָה לֹא כְתָבָהּ אֶלָא צִוָה בָּהּ לַזְקֵנִים וְלִיהוֹשֻׁעַ וְלִשְׁאָר כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל. שֶׁנֶאֱמַר אֵת כָּל הַדָבָר אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶה אֶתְכֶם אוֹתוֹ תִשְׁמְרוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת וגו'. וּמִפְּנֵי זֶה נִקְרַאַת תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה.

Even though the Oral Law was not transcribed, Moses, our teacher, taught it in its entirety in his court to the seventy elders. Elazar, Pinchas, and Joshua received the tradition from Moses.

אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹא נִכְתְּבָה תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה לִמְּדָהּ מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּינוּ כּוּלָהּ בְּבֵית דִינוֹ לְשִׁבְעִים זְקֵנִים. וְאֶלְעָזָר וּפִנְחָס וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ שְׁלָשְׁתָּן קִבְּלוּ מִמֹשֶׁה.

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.

[In particular, Moses] transmitted the Oral Law to Joshua, who was his [primary] disciple, and instructed him regarding it.8

Similarly, throughout his life Joshua taught the Oral Law. Many elders received the tradition from him.9 Eli received the tradition from the elders and from Pinchas. Samuel received the tradition from Eli and his court. David received the tradition from Samuel and his court.

Achiah of Shiloh was one of those who experienced the exodus from Egypt.10 He was a Levite and heard [teachings] from Moses. He was, however, of low stature in Moses' age. Afterwards, he received the tradition from David and his court.

וְלִיהוֹשֻׁעַ שֶׁהוּא תַּלְמִידוֹ שֶׁל מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּינוּ מָסַר תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה וְצִוָהוּ עָלֶיהָ. וְכֵן יְהוֹשֻעַ כָּל יְמֵי חַיָיו לָמַד עַל פֶּה. וּזְקֵנִים רַבִּים קִבְּלוּ מִיהוֹשֻׁעַ. וְקִבֵּל עֵלִי מִן הַזְקֵנִים וּמִפִּינְחָס. וּשְׁמוּאֵל קִיבֵּל מֵעֵלִי וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וְדָוִד קִיבֵּל מִשְׁמוּאֵל וּבֵית דִינוֹ.1 וְאַחִיָה הַשִׁילוֹנִי מִיוֹצְאֵי מִצְרַיִם הָיָה וְלֵוִי הָיָה וְשָׁמַע מִמֹשֶׁה וְהָיָה קָטָן בִּימִי מֹשֶׁה וְהוּא קִיבֵּל מִדָוִד וּבֵית דִינוֹ.

Elijah received the tradition from Achiah of Shiloh and his court. Elisha received the tradition from Elijah and his court.

Yehoyada, the priest, received the tradition from Elisha and his court. Zechariah received the tradition from Yehoyada and his court. Hoshea received the tradition from Zechariah and his court. Amos received the tradition from Hoshea and his court. Isaiah received the tradition from Amos and his court. Michah received the tradition from Isaiah and his court. Yoel received the tradition from Michah and his court. Nachum received the tradition from Yoel and his court. Chabbakuk received the tradition from Nachum and his court. Tzefaniah received the tradition from Chabbakuk and his court.

Jeremiah received the tradition from Tzefaniah and his court. Baruch ben Neriyah11 received the tradition from Jeremiah and his court. Ezra and his court received the tradition from Baruch and his court.

וְאֵלִיָהוּ קִיבֵּל מֵאַחִיָה הַשִׁילוֹנִי וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וְאֶלִישָׁע קִיבֵּל מֵאֵלִיָהוּ וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וִיהוֹיָדָע הַכֹּהֵן קִיבֵּל מֵאֶלִישָׁע וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וּזְכַרְיָה קִיבֵּל מִיהוֹיָדָע וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וְהוֹשֵׁעַ קִיבֵּל מִזְכַרְיָה וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וְעָמוֹס קִיבֵּל מִהוֹשֵׁעַ וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וִיְשַׁעְיָה קִבֵּל מֵעָמוֹס וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וּמִיכָה קִיבֵּל מִיְשַׁעְיָה וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וְיוֹאֵל קִיבֵּל מִמִיכָה וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וְנַחוּם קִיבֵּל מִיוֹאֵל וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וְחַבַקוּק קִיבֵּל מִנַחוּם וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וּצְפַנְיָה קִיבֵּל מֵחַבַקוּק וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וְיִרְמִיָה קִיבֵּל מִצְפַנְיָה וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וּבָרוּךְ בֶּן נֵרִיָה קִיבֵּל מִיִרְמִיָה וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וְעֶזְרָא וּבֵית דִינוֹ קִיבְּלוּ מִבָּרוּךְ בֶּן נֵרִיָה וּבֵית דִינוֹ.

[The members of] Ezra's court are referred to as Anshei K'nesset Hagedolah (the men of the great assembly). They included Chaggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Daniel, Chananiah, Mishael, Azariah, Nechemiah ben Chakaliah, Mordechai the linguist, Zerubavel and many other sages - 120 elders in all.12

The last [surviving] member of this group was Shimon the Just. He was included among the 120 elders and received the Oral Law from all of them. He served as the High Priest after Ezra.

בֵּית דִינוֹ שֶׁל עֶזְרָא הֵם הַנִקְרָאִים אַנְשֵׁי כְנֶסֶת הַגְדוֹלָה וְהֵם חַגַי זְכַרְיָה וּמַלְאֲכִי דָנִיֵאל וְחַנַנְיָה וּמִישָׁאֵל וַעַזַרְיָה וּנְחֶמְיָה בֶּן חַכַלְיָה וּמָרְדְכַי בַּלְשָׁן וּזְרוּבָּבֶל וְהַרְבֵּה חֲכָמִים עִמָהֶם תַּשְׁלוּם מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים זְקֵנִים. הָאַחֲרוֹן מֵהֶם הוּא שִׁמְעוֹן הַצַדִיק וְהוּא הָיָה מִכְלַל הַמֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים. וְקִיבֵּל תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה מִכּוּלָם וְהוּא הָיָה כֹהֵן גָדוֹל אַחַר עֶזְרָא.

Antignos of Socho and his court received the tradition from Shimon the Just and his court.

Yosse ben Yo'ezer of Tzreidah and Yosef ben Yochanan of Jerusalem13 and their court received the tradition from Antignos and his court. Yehoshua ben Perachiah and Nittai of Arbel and their court received the tradition from Yosse ben Yo'ezer and Yosef ben Yochanan and their court. Yehudah ben Tabbai and Shimon ben Shatach and their court received the tradition from Yehoshua ben Perachiah and Nittai of Arbel and their court. Shemayah and Avtalion, who were righteous converts,14 and their court received the tradition from Yehudah and Shimon and their court.

Hillel and Shammai and their court received the tradition from Shemayah and Avtalion and their court. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Shimon, the son of Hillel the elder, received the tradition from Hillel [and Shammai] and his [their] court[s].15

אַנְטִיגְנוֹס אִישׁ סוֹכוֹ וּבֵית דִינוֹ קִיבּלוּ מִשִׁמְעוֹן הַצַדִיק וּבֵית דִינוֹ. וְיוֹסִי בֶּן יוֹעֶזֶר אִישׁ צְרֵידָה וְיוֹסֵף בֶּן יוֹחָנָן אִישׁ יְרוּשָׁלַיִם וּבֵית דִינָם קִיבְּלוּ מֵאַנְטִיגְנוֹס וּבֵית דִינֹו. וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן פְּרַחְיָה וְנִתַּאי הָאַרְבֵּלִי וּבֵית דִינָם קִבְּלוּ מִיוֹסִי בֶּן יוֹעֶזֶר וְיוֹסֵף בֶּן יוֹחָנָן וּבֵית דִינָם. וִיהוּדָה בֶּן טַבַּאי וְשִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן שָׁטַח וּבֵית דִינָם קִבְּלוּ מִיהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן פְּרַחְיָה וְנִתַּאי הָאַרְבֵּלִי וּבֵית דִינָם. שְׁמַעְיָה וְאַבְטַלְיוֹן גֵרֵי הַצַדִיק /הַצֶדֶק/ וּבֵית דִינָם קִבְּלוּ מִיהוּדָה וְשִׁמְעוֹן וּבֵית דִינָם. הִלֵל וְשַׁמַאי וּבֵית דִינָם קִבְּלוּ מִשְׁמַעְיָה וְאַבְטַלְיוֹן וּבֵית דִינָם. וְרַבָּן יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי וְרַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בּנוֹ שֶׁל הִלֵל הַזָקֵן קִבְּלוּ מֵהִלֵל [וְשַׁמַאי] וּבֵ"ד.

Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had five students [who were] great sages and received the tradition from him. They were: Rabbi Eleazar the great, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Yosse the priest, Rabbi Shimon ben Netanel and Rabbi Elazar ben Arach. Rabbi Akiva ben Yosef received from Rabbi Eleazar the great. Yosef, his father, was a righteous convert.

Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Meir, a son of righteous converts, received the tradition from Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Meir and his colleagues also received the tradition from Rabbi Yishmael.

חֲמִשָׁה תַלְמִידִים הָיוּ לוֹ לְרַבָּן יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי וְהֵם גְדוֹלֵי הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁקִיבְּלוּ מִמֶנוּ וְאֵלוּ הֵם. ר' אֶלִיעֶזֶר הַגָדוֹל וְר' יְהוֹשֻׁעַ וְר' יֹוסִי הַכֹּהֵן וְר' שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן נְתַנְאֵל וְר' אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עַרָךְ. וְר' עַקִיבָא בֶּן יֹוסֵף קִיבֵּל מֵר' אֶלִיעֶזֶר הַגָדוֹל וְיוֹסֵף אָבִיו גֵר צֶדֶק הָיָה. וְר' יִשְׁמָעאֵל וְר' מֵאִיר בֶּן גֵר צֶדֶק קִבְּלוּ מֵר' עַקִיבָא וְגַם קִיבֵּל ר' מֵאִיר וַחֲבֵרָיו מֵר' יִשְׁמָעאֵל.

The colleagues of Rabbi Meir include Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yosse, Rabbi Shimon, Rabbi Nechemiah, Rabbi Elazar ben Shamu'a, Rabbi Yochanan the shoemaker, Shimon ben Azzai, and Rabbi Chananiah ben Teradion.16

Similarly, Rabbi Akiva's colleagues also received the tradition from Rabbi Eleazar the great. Rabbi Akiva's colleagues include Rabbi Tarfon - the teacher of Rabbi Yosse of the Galil - Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar, and Rabbi Yochanan ben Nuri.

חֲבֵירָיו שֶׁל ר' מֵאִיר הֵם ר' יְהוּדָה וְר' יוֹסִי וְר' שִׁמְעוֹן וְר' נְחֶמְיָה וְר' אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן שַׁמוּעַ וְר' יוֹחָנָן הַסַנְדְלָר וְשִמְעוֹן בֶּן עַזַאי וְר' חַנַנְיָה בֶּן תְּרַדְיוֹן. וְכֵן קִיבְּלוּ חֲבֵירָיו שֶׁל ר' עַקִיבָא מֵר' אֶלִיעֶזֶר הַגָדוֹל. וַחֲבֵירָיו שֶׁל רַבִּי עַקִיבָא הֵם רַבִּי טַרְפוֹן רַבּוֹ שֶׁל רַבִּי יוֹסִי הַגְלִילִי וְרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר וְרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן בֶּן נוּרִי.

Rabban Gamliel the elder received the tradition from Rabban Shimon, his father - the son of Hillel the elder. Rabban Shimon, his son, received the tradition from him. Rabban Gamliel, his son, received the tradition from him and Rabban Shimon, his son, received the tradition from him.

Rabbi Yehudah, the son of Rabban Shimon and referred to as Rabbenu Hakadosh ("our saintly teacher"),17 received the tradition from his father, from Rabbi Elazar ben Shamu'a, and from Rabban Shimon and his colleagues.

רַבָּן גַמְלִיאֵל הַזָקֵן קִיבֵּל מֵרַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן אָבִיו בְּנוֹ שֶׁל הִלֵל הַזָקֵן. וְרַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בְּנוֹ קִבֵּל מִמֶנוּ וְרַבָּן גַמְלִיאֵל בְּנוֹ קִבִֵּל מִמֶנוּ וְרַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בְּנוֹ קִיבֵּל מִמֶנוּ וְר' יְהוּדָה בְּנוֹ שֶׁל רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן זֶהוּ הַנִקְרָא רַבֵּינוּ הַקָדוֹשׁ וְהוּא קִיבֵּל מֵאָבִיו וּמֵר' אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן שַׁמוּעַ וּמֵר' שִׁמְעוֹן חֲבֵירָיו.

Rabbenu Hakadosh composed the Mishnah. 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.

רַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ חִבֵּר הַמִּשְׁנָה. וּמִימוֹת מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ וְעַד רַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ לֹא חִבְּרוּ חִבּוּר שֶׁמְּלַמְּדִין אוֹתוֹ בָּרַבִּים בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה. אֶלָּא בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר רֹאשׁ בֵּית דִּין אוֹ נָבִיא שֶׁהָיָה בְּאוֹתוֹ הַדּוֹר כּוֹתֵב לְעַצְמוֹ זִכָּרוֹן הַשְּׁמוּעוֹת שֶׁשָּׁמַע מֵרַבּוֹתָיו וְהוּא מְלַמֵּד עַל פֶּה בָּרַבִּים. וְכֵן כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד כּוֹתֵב לְעַצְמוֹ כְּפִי כֹּחוֹ מִבֵּאוּר הַתּוֹרָה וּמֵהִלְכוֹתֶיהָ כְּמוֹ שֶׁשָּׁמַע. וּמִדְּבָרִים שֶׁנִּתְחַדְּשׁוּ בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר בְּדִינִים שֶׁלֹּא לְמָדוּם מִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה אֶלָּא בְּמִדָּה מִשְּׁלשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה מִדּוֹת וְהִסְכִּימוּ עֲלֵיהֶם בֵּית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל.

This situation continued until [the age of] Rabbenu Hakadosh. He collected all the teachings, all the laws, and all the explanations and commentaries that were heard from Moses, our teacher, and which were taught by the courts in each generation concerning the entire Torah. From all these, he composed the text of the Mishnah. He taught it to the Sages in public and revealed it to the Jewish people, who all wrote it down. They spread it in all places so that the Oral Law would not be forgotten by the Jewish people.

וְכֵן הָיָה הַדָּבָר תָּמִיד עַד רַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ וְהוּא קִבֵּץ כָּל הַשְּׁמוּעוֹת וְכָל הַדִּינִים וְכָל הַבֵּאוּרִים וְהַפֵּרוּשִׁים שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ מִמֹּשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ וְשֶׁלָּמְדוּ בֵּית דִּין שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר בְּכָל הַתּוֹרָה כֻּלָּהּ וְחִבֵּר מֵהַכֹּל סֵפֶר הַמִּשְׁנָה. וּשְׁנָנוֹ לַחֲכָמִים בָּרַבִּים וְנִגְלָה לְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל וּכְתָבוּהוּ כֻּלָּם. וּרְבָצוֹ בְּכָל מָקוֹם. כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא תִּשְׁתַּכַּח תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל.

Why did Rabbenu Hakadosh make [such an innovation] instead of perpetuating the status quo? Because he saw the students becoming fewer, new difficulties constantly arising, the Roman Empire18 spreading itself throughout the world and becoming more powerful, and the Jewish people wandering and becoming dispersed to the far ends of the world. [Therefore,] he composed a single text that would be available to everyone, so that it could be studied quickly and would not be forgotten.19 Throughout his entire life, he and his court taught the Mishnah to the masses.

וְלָמָּה עָשָׂה רַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ כָּךְ וְלֹא הִנִּיחַ הַדָּבָר כְּמוֹת שֶׁהָיָה. לְפִי שֶׁרָאָה שֶׁתַּלְמִידִים מִתְמַעֲטִין וְהוֹלְכִין וְהַצָּרוֹת מִתְחַדְּשׁוֹת וּבָאוֹת וּמַלְכוּת רוֹמִי פּוֹשֶׁטֶת בָּעוֹלָם וּמִתְגַּבֶּרֶת. וְיִשְׂרָאֵל מִתְגַּלְגְּלִין וְהוֹלְכִין לַקְּצָווֹת. חִבֵּר חִבּוּר אֶחָד לִהְיוֹת בְּיַד כֻּלָּם כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּלְמְדוּהוּ בִּמְהֵרָה וְלֹא יִשָּׁכַח. וְיָשַׁב כָּל יָמָיו הוּא וּבֵית דִּינוֹ וְלָמְדוּ הַמִּשְׁנֶה בְּרַבִּים.

These are the great Sages who were part of the court of Rabbenu Hakadosh and who received the tradition from him: His sons, Shimon and Gamliel, Rabbi Effess, Rabbi Chanina ben Chama, Rabbi Chiyya, Rav, Rabbi Yannai, bar Kafra, Shemuel, Rabbi Yochanan, Rabbi Hoshaia. Thousands and myriads of other sages received the tradition from [Rabbenu Hakadosh] together with these great sages.

וְאֵלּוּ הֵם גְּדוֹלֵי הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁהָיוּ בְּבֵית דִּינוֹ שֶׁל רַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ וְקִבְּלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ. שִׁמְעוֹן וְגַמְלִיאֵל בָּנָיו. וְרַבִּי אָפֵס. וְר' חֲנִינָא בֶּן חַמָא. וְר' חִיָּא וְרַב וְרַבִּי יַנַּאי וּבַר קַפָּרָא2 וּשְׁמוּאֵל וְר' יוֹחָנָן וְר' הוֹשַׁעְיָא. וְאֵלּוּ הֵם גְּדוֹלֵי הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ מִמֶּנּוּ וְעִמָּהֶם אֲלָפִים וּרְבָבוֹת מִשְּׁאָר הַחֲכָמִים.

Even though all of the eleven sages mentioned above received the tradition from Rabbenu Hakadosh and attended his study sessions, [there are differences between them. At that time,] Rabbi Yochanan was of lesser stature. Afterwards, he became a disciple of Rabbi Yannai and received instruction from him. Similarly, Rav received the tradition from Rabbi Yannai, and Shemuel received the tradition from Rabbi Chanina ben Chama.20

אַעֲ"פִּ שֶׁאֵלּוּ הי"א קִבְּלוּ מֵרַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ וְעָמְדוּ בְּמִדְרָשׁוֹ. ר' יוֹחָנָן קָטָן הָיָה וְאַחַר כֵּן הָיָה תַּלְמִיד לְר' יַנַּאי וְקִבֵּל מִמֶּנּוּ תּוֹרָה.3 וְכֵן רַב קִבֵּל מר' יַנַּאי.4 וּשְׁמוּאֵל קִבֵּל מֵרַבִּי חֲנִינָא בַּר חַמָא.

Rav composed the Sifra and the Sifre to explain the sources for the Mishnah. Rabbi Chiyya composed the Tosefta21 to explain the subjects [discussed in] the Mishnah. Rabbi Hoshaia and bar Kafra composed baraitot to explain the matters [discussed in] the Mishnah. Rabbi Yochanan composed the Jerusalem Talmud in Eretz Yisrael approximately three hundred years after the destruction of the Temple.22

רַב חִבֵּר סִפְרָא וְסִפְרֵי לְבָאֵר וּלְהוֹדִיעַ עִקְּרֵי הַמִּשְׁנָה. וְר' חִיָּא חִבֵּר הַתּוֹסֶפְתָּא לְבָאֵר עִנְיְנֵי הַמִּשְׁנָה. וְכֵן ר' הוֹשַׁעְיָא וּבַר קַפָּרָא חִבְּרוּ בָּרַיְתוֹת לְבָאֵר דִּבְרֵי הַמִּשְׁנָה. וְר' יוֹחָנָן חִבֵּר הַגְּמָרָא הַיְּרוּשַׁלְמִית בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל אַחַר חֻרְבַּן הַבַּיִת בְּקָרוֹב שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה.

Among the great sages who received the tradition from Rav and Shemuel were:23 Rav Huna, Rav Yehudah, Rav Nachman, and Rav Kahana. Among the great sages who received the tradition from Rabbi Yochanan24 were: Ravvah bar bar Channah, Rav Ami, Rav Assi, Rav Dimi, and Rav Avin.

וּמִגְּדוֹלֵי הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ מֵרַב וּשְׁמוּאֵל רַב הוּנָא וְרַב יְהוּדָה וְרַב נַחְמָן וְרַב כַּהֲנָא. וּמִגְּדוֹלֵי הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ מֵר' יוֹחָנָן5 רַבָּה בַּר בַּר חָנָה וְר' אַמִי וְר' אַסִי וְרַב דִּימִי וְר' אָבִין.

Among the Sages who received the tradition from Rav Huna and Rav Yehudah were Rabbah and Rav Yosef. Among the sages who received the tradition from Rabbah and Rav Yosef were Abbaye and Ravva. Both of them also received the tradition from Rav Nachman. Among the Sages who received the tradition from Ravva were Rav Ashi and Ravina. Mar bar Rav Ashi received the tradition from Rav Ashi, his father, and from Ravina.

וּמִכְּלַל הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ מֵרַב הוּנָא וּמֵרַב יְהוּדָה6 רַבָּה וְרַב יוֹסֵף. וּמִכְּלַל הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ מֵרַבָּה וְרַב יוֹסֵף אַבַּיֵּי וְרָבָא. וּשְׁנֵיהֶם קִבְּלוּ גַּם מֵרַב נַחְמָן. וּמִכְּלַל הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁקִּבְּלוּ מֵרָבָא רַב אָשִׁי וְרָבִינָא. וּמַר בַּר רַב אַשֵּׁי קִבֵּל מֵאָבִיו רַב אַשֵּׁי וּמֵרָבִינָא:

Thus, there were forty generations from Rav Ashi back to Moses, our teacher, of blessed memory. They were:

1) Rav Ashi [received the tradition] from Ravva.

2) Ravva [received the tradition] from Rabbah.

3) Rabbah [received the tradition] from Rav Huna.

4) Rav Huna [received the tradi­tion] from Rabbi Yochanan, Rav, and Shemuel.

5) Rabbi Yochanan, Rav, and She­muel [received the tradition] from Rabbenu Hakadosh.

6) Rabbenu Hakadosh [received the tradition] from Rabbi Shimon, his father.

7) Rabbi Shimon [received the tra­dition] from Rabban Gamliel, his father.

8) Rabban Gamliel [received the tradition] from Rabban Shimon, his father.

9) Rabban Shimon [received the tradition] from Rabban Gamliel, the elder, his father.

10) Rabban Gamliel, the elder, [re­ceived the tradition] from Rabban Shimon, his father.

11) Rabban Shimon [received the Tradition] from Hillel, his father, and Shammai.

12) Hillel and Shammai [received the tradition] from Shemayah and Avtalion.

13) Shemayah and Avtalion [re­ceived the tradition] from Yehudah and Shimon [ben Shatach].

14) Yehudah and Shimon [received the tradition] from Yehoshua ben Perachiah and Nittai of Arbel.

15) Yehoshua and Nittai [received the tradition] from Yosse ben Yo'ezer and Yosef ben Yochanan.

16) Yosse ben Yo'ezer and Yosef ben Yochanan [received the tradi­tion] from Antignos.

17) Antignos [received the tradi­tion] from Shimon the Just.

18) Shimon the Just [received the tradition] from Ezra.

19) Ezra [received the tradition] from Baruch.

20) Baruch [received the tradition] from Jeremiah.

21) Jeremiah [received the tradi­tion] from Tzefaniah.

22) Tzefaniah [received the tradi­tion] from Chabbakuk.

23) Chabbakuk [received the tradition] from Nachum.

24) Nachum [received the tradition] from Yoel.

25) Yoel [received the tradition] from Michah.

26) Michah [received the tradition] from Isaiah.

27) Isaiah [received the tradition] from Amos.

28) Amos [received the tradition] from Hoshea.

29) Hoshea [received the tradition] from Zechariah.

30) Zechariah [received the tradition] from Yehoyada.

31) Yehoyada [received the tradition] from Elisha.

32) Elisha [received the tradition] from Elijah.

33) Elijah [received the tradition] from Achiah.

34) Achiah [received the tradition] from David.

35) David [received the tradition] from Shemuel.

36) Shemuel [received the tradition] from Eli.

37) Eli [received the tradition] from Pinchas.

38) Pinchas [received the tradition] from Joshua.

39) Joshua [received the tradition] from Moses, our teacher.

40) Moses, our teacher, [received the tradition] from the Almighty.

Thus, [the source of] all these people's knowledge is God, the Lord of Israel.

נִמְצָא מֵרַב אַשֵּׁי עַד מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם אַרְבָּעִים דּוֹרוֹת וְאֵלּוּ הֵן: א) רַב אַשֵּׁי מֵרָבָא. ב) וְרָבָא מֵרַבָּה. ג) וְרַבָּה מֵרַב הוּנָא. ד) וְרַב הוּנָא מַר' יוֹחָנָן וְרַב וּשְׁמוּאֵל. ה) וְרַבִּי יוֹחָנָן וְרַב וּשְׁמוּאֵל מֵרַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ. ו) וְרַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ מֵרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן אָבִיו. ז) וְרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן [מֵרַבַּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אָבִיו. ח) וְרַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל מֵרַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן אָבִיו ט) וְרַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן] מֵרַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הַזָּקֵן אָבִיו. י) וְרַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הַזָּקֵן מֵרַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן אָבִיו. יָא) וְר' שִׁמְעוֹן מֵהִלֵּל אָבִיו וְשַׁמַּאי. יב) וְהִלֵּל וְשַׁמַּאי מִשְּׁמַעְיָה וְאַבְטַלְיוֹן. יג) וּשְׁמַעְיָה וְאַבְטַלְיוֹן מִיהוּדָה וְשִׁמְעוֹן. יַד) וִיהוּדָה וְשִׁמְעוֹן מִיהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן פְּרַחְיָה וְנִתַּאי הָאַרְבֵּלִי. טוּ) וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ וְנִתַּאי מִיּוֹסִי בֶּן יוֹעֶזֶר וְיוֹסֵף בֶּן יוֹחָנָן. טז) וְיוֹסִי בֶּן יוֹעֶזֶר וְיוֹסֵף בֶּן יוֹחָנָן מֵאַנְטִיגְנוֹס. יז) וְאַנְטִיגְנוֹס מִשִּׁמְעוֹן הַצַּדִּיק. יח) וְשִׁמְעוֹן הַצַּדִּיק מֵעֶזְרָא. יט) וְעֶזְרָא מִבָּרוּךְ. כ) וּבָרוּךְ מִיִּרְמְיָה. כא) וְיִרְמְיָה מִצְּפַנְיָה. כב) וּצְפַנְיָה מֵחֲבַקּוּק. כג) וַחֲבַקּוּק מִנַּחוּם. כַּד) וְנַחוּם מִיּוֹאֵל. כֹּה) וְיוֹאֵל מִמִּיכָה. כו) וּמִיכָה מִיְּשַׁעְיָה. כז) וִישַׁעְיָה מֵעָמוֹס. כֹּחַ) וְעָמוֹס מֵהוֹשֵׁעַ. כט) וְהוֹשֵׁעַ מִזְּכַרְיָה. ל) וּזְכַרְיָה מִיְּהוֹיָדָע. לֹא) וִיהוֹיָדָע מֵאֱלִישָׁע. לֵב) וֶאֱלִישָׁע מֵאֵלִיָּהוּ. לג) וְאֵלִיָּהוּ מֵאֲחִיָּה. לֵד) וַאֲחִיָּה מִדָּוִד. לָה) וְדָוִד מִשְּׁמוּאֵל. לוֹ) וּשְׁמוּאֵל מֵעֵלִי. לז) וְעֵלִי מִפִּנְחָס. לַח) וּפִנְחָס מִיְּהוֹשֻׁעַ. לט) וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ מִמֹּשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ. מ) וּמֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ מִפִּי הַגְּבוּרָה. נִמְצָא שֶׁכֻּלָּם מֵה' אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:

All the sages who were mentioned were the leaders of the generations. Among them were heads of academies, heads of the exile, and members of the great Sanhedrin. Together with them in each generation, there were thousands and myriads that heard their [teachings].

Ravina and Rav Ashi were the final generation of the Sages of the Talmud.

כָּל אֵלּוּ הַחֲכָמִים הַנִּזְכָּרִים הֵם גְּדוֹלֵי הַדּוֹרוֹת. מֵהֶם רָאשֵׁי יְשִׁיבוֹת וּמֵהֶם רָאשֵׁי גָּלֻיוֹת וּמֵהֶם סַנְהֶדְרֵי גְּדוֹלָה. וְעִמָּהֶם בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר אֲלָפִים וּרְבָבוֹת שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ מֵהֶם וְעִמָּהֶם. רָבִינָא וְרַב אַשֵּׁי הֵם סוֹף חַכְמֵי הַגְּמָרָא.

Rav Ashi composed the Babylonian Talmud in Shin'ar approximately one hundred years after Rabbi Yochanan composed the Jerusalem Talmud.25 The intent of both the Talmuds is to elucidate the words of the Mishnah, to explain its deeper points, and [to relate] the new matters that were developed by each court from the era of Rabbenu Hakadosh until the composition of the Talmud.

From the entire [body of knowledge stemming from] the two Talmuds, the Tosefta, the Sifra, and the Sifre, can be derived the forbidden and the permitted, the impure and the pure, the liable and those who are free of liability, the invalid and the valid as was received [in tradition], one person from another, [in a chain extending back] to Moses at Mount Sinai.

וְרַב אַשֵּׁי הוּא שֶׁחִבֵּר הַגְּמָרָא הַבַּבְלִית בְּאֶרֶץ שִׁנְעָר אַחַר שֶׁחִבֵּר ר' יוֹחָנָן הַגְּמָרָא יְרוּשַׁלְמִית בִּכְמוֹ מֵאָה שָׁנָה. וְעִנְיַן שְׁנֵי הַגְּמָרוֹת הוּא פֵּרוּשׁ דִּבְרֵי הַמִּשְׁנָיוֹת וּבֵאוּר עֲמֻקּוֹתֶיהָ וּדְבָרִים שֶׁנִּתְחַדְּשׁוּ בְּכָל בֵּית דִּין וּבֵית דִּין מִימוֹת רַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ וְעַד חִבּוּר הַגְּמָרָא. וּמִשְּׁנֵי הַגְּמָרוֹת וּמִן הַתּוֹסֶפְתּוֹת וּמִסִּפְרָא וְסִפְרֵי (וּמִן הַתּוֹסָפוֹת) מִכֻּלָּם יִתְבָּאֵר הָאָסוּר וְהַמֻּתָּר הַטָּמֵא וְהַטָּהוֹר הַחִיּוּב וְהַפָּטוּר הַפָּסוּל וְהַכָּשֵׁר כְּמוֹ שֶׁהֶעְתִּיקוּ אִישׁ מִפִּי אִישׁ מִפִּי מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ מִסִּינַי:

Also, [the sources mentioned above] relate those matters which were decreed by the sages and prophets in each generation in order to "build a fence around the Torah." We were explicitly taught about [this practice] by Moses, as [implied by Leviticus 18:30]: "And you shall observe My precepts," [which can be interpreted to mean]: "Make safeguards for My precepts."26

Similarly, it includes the customs and ordinances that were ordained or practiced in each generation according to [the judgment of] the governing court of that generation.27 It is forbidden to deviate from [these decisions], as [implied by Deuteronomy 17:11]: "Do not deviate from the instructions that they will give you, left or right."

It also includes marvelous judgments and laws which were not received from Moses, but rather were derived by the courts of the [later] generations based on the principles of Biblical exegesis. The elders of those generations made these decisions and concluded that this was the law. Rav Ashi included in the Talmud this entire [body of knowledge, stemming] from the era of Moses, our teacher, until his [own] era.

The Sages of the Mishnah also composed other texts to explain the words of the Torah. Rabbi Hoshaia, the disciple of Rabbenu Hakadosh, composed an explanation of the book of Genesis.28 Rabbi Yishmael [composed] an explanation beginning at "These are the names" [the beginning of the book of Exodus,] until the conclusion of the Torah. This is called the Mechilta. Rabbi Akiva also composed a Mechilta.29 Other Sages of the following generations composed other [collections of the] interpretations [of verses] (Medrashim). All of these works were composed before the Babylonian Talmud.

גַּם יִתְבָּאֵר מֵהֶם דְּבָרִים שֶׁגָּזְרוּ חֲכָמִים וּנְבִיאִים שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר לַעֲשׂוֹת סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ מִמֹּשֶׁה בְּפֵרוּשׁ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת מִשְׁמַרְתִּי עֲשׂוּ מִשְׁמֶרֶת לְמִשְׁמַרְתִּי. וְכֵן יִתְבָּאֵר מֵהֶם הַמִּנְהָגוֹת וְהַתַּקָּנוֹת שֶׁהִתְקִינוּ אוֹ שֶׁנָּהֲגוּ בְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר כְּמוֹ שֶׁרָאוּ בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל אוֹתוֹ הַדּוֹר. לְפִי שֶׁאָסוּר לָסוּר מֵהֶם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר לֹא תָסוּר מִן הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יַגִּידוּ לְךָ יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאל. וְכֵן מִשְׁפָּטִים וְדִינִים מֻפְלָאִים שֶׁלֹּא קִבְּלוּם מִמֹּשֶׁה וְדָנוּ בָּהֶם בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל אוֹתוֹ הַדּוֹר בְּמִדּוֹת שֶׁהַתּוֹרָה נִדְרֶשֶׁת בָּהֶן. וּפָסְקוּ אוֹתָם הַזְּקֵנִים וְגָמְרוּ שֶׁהַדִּין כָּךְ הוּא. הַכֹּל חִבֵּר רַב אַשֵּׁי בַּגְּמָרָא מִימוֹת מֹשֶׁה וְעַד יָמָיו. וְחִבְּרוּ חַכְמֵי הַמִּשְׁנָה חִבּוּרִים אֲחֵרִים לְפָרֵשׁ דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה. רַבִּי הוֹשַׁעְיָא תַּלְמִידוֹ שֶׁל רַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ חִבֵּר בֵּאוּר סֵפֶר בְּרֵאשִׁית. וְרַבִּי יִשְׁמָעֵאל פֵּרֵשׁ מֵאֵלֶּה שְׁמוֹת עַד סוֹף הַתּוֹרָה וְהוּא הַנִּקְרָא מְכִילְתָּא. וְכֵן ר' עֲקִיבָא חִבֵּר מְכִילְתָּא. וַחֲכָמִים אֲחֵרִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם חִבְּרוּ מִדְרָשׁוֹת.וְהַכֹּל חֻבַּר קֹדֶם הַגְּמָרָא הַבַּבְלִית:

Thus, Ravina, Rav Ashi, and their colleagues represent the final era of the great Sages of Israel who transmitted the Oral Law. They passed decrees, ordained practices, and put into effect customs. These decrees, ordinances, and customs spread out among the entire Jewish people in all the places where they lived.30

After the court of Rav Ashi composed the Talmud and completed it in the time of his son, the Jewish people became further dispersed throughout all the lands, reaching the distant extremes and the far removed islands. Strife sprung up throughout the world, and the paths of travel became endangered by troops. Torah study decreased and the Jews ceased entering their yeshivot in the thousands and myriads, as was customary previously.

Instead, individuals, the remnants whom God called, would gather in each city and country, occupy themselves in Torah study, and [devote themselves] to understanding the texts of the Sages and learning the path of judgment from them.

נִמְצָא רָבִינָא וְרַב אַשֵּׁי וְחַבְרֵיהֶם. סוֹף גְּדוֹלֵי חַכְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הַמַּעְתִּיקִים תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה. וְשֶׁגָּזְרוּ גְּזֵרוֹת וְהִתְקִינוּ הַתַּקָּנוֹת וְהִנְהִיגוּ מִנְהָגוֹת וּפָשְׁטָה גְּזֵרָתָם וְתַקָּנָתָם וּמִנְהֲגוֹתָם בְּכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכָל מְקוֹמוֹת מוֹשְׁבוֹתָם. וְאַחַר בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל רַב אַשֵּׁי שֶׁחִבֵּר הַגְּמָרָא וְגָמְרוּ בִּימֵי בְּנוֹ נִתְפַּזְּרוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכָל הָאֲרָצוֹת פִּזּוּר יָתֵר וְהִגִּיעוּ לַקְּצָווֹת וְאִיִּים הָרְחוֹקִים וְרָבְתָה קְטָטָה בָּעוֹלָם וְנִשְׁתַּבְּשׁוּ הַדְּרָכִים בִּגְיָסוֹת וְנִתְמַעֵט תַּלְמוּד תּוֹרָה וְלֹא נִכְנְסוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל לִלְמֹד בִּישִׁיבוֹתֵיהֶם אֲלָפִים וּרְבָבוֹת כְּמוֹ שֶׁהָיוּ מִקֹּדֶם אֶלָּא מִתְקַבְּצִים יְחִידִים הַשְּׂרִידִים אֲשֶׁר ה' קוֹרֵא בְּכָל עִיר וָעִיר וּבְכָל מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה וְעוֹסְקִין בַּתּוֹרָה וּמְבִינִים בְּחִבּוּרֵי הַחֲכָמִים כֻּלָּם וְיוֹדְעִים מֵהֶם דֶּרֶךְ הַמִּשְׁפָּט הֵיאַךְ הוּא.

Every court that was established after the conclusion of the Talmud, regardless of the country in which it was established, issued decrees, enacted ordinances, and established customs for the people of that country - or those of several countries. These practices, however, were not accepted throughout the Jewish people, because of the distance between [their different] settlements and the disruption of communication [between them].

Since each of these courts were considered to be individuals - and the High Court of 71 judges had been defunct for many years before the composition of the Talmud - people in one country could not be compelled to follow the practices of another country, nor is one court required to sanction decrees which another court had declared in its locale. Similarly, if one of the Geonim interpreted the path of judgment in a certain way, while the court which arose afterward interpreted the proper approach to the matter in a different way, the [opinion of the] first [need] not be adhered to [absolutely]. Rather, whichever [position] appears to be correct - whether the first or the last - is accepted.

וְכָל בֵּית דִּין שֶׁעָמַד אַחַר הַגְּמָרָא בְּכָל מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה וְגָזַר אוֹ הִתְקִין אוֹ הִנְהִיג לִבְנֵי מְדִינָתוֹ אוֹ לִבְנֵי מְדִינוֹת רַבּוֹת לֹא פָּשְׁטוּ מַעֲשָׂיו בְּכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל מִפְּנֵי רִחוּק מוֹשְׁבוֹתֵיהֶם וְשִׁבּוּשׁ הַדְּרָכִים. וֶהֱיוֹת בֵּית דִּין שֶׁל אוֹתָהּ הַמְּדִינָה יְחִידִים וּבֵית דִּין הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁל שִׁבְעִים וְאֶחָד בָּטַל מִכַּמָּה שָׁנִים קֹדֶם חִבּוּר הַגְּמָרָא. לְפִיכָךְ אֵין כּוֹפִין אַנְשֵׁי מְדִינָה זוֹ לִנְהֹג כְּמִנְהַג מְדִינָה הָאַחֶרֶת. וְאֵין אוֹמְרִים לְבֵית דִּין זֶה לִגְזֹר גְּזֵרָה שֶׁגְּזָרָהּ בֵּית דִּין אַחֵר בִּמְדִינָתוֹ. וְכֵן אִם לָמַד אֶחָד מֵהַגְּאוֹנִים שֶׁדֶּרֶךְ הַמִּשְׁפָּט כָּךְ הוּא וְנִתְבָּאֵר לְבֵית דִּין אַחֵר שֶׁעָמַד אַחֲרָיו שֶׁאֵין זֶה דֶּרֶךְ הַמִּשְׁפָּט הַכָּתוּב בַּגְּמָרָא, אֵין שׁוֹמְעִין לָרִאשׁוֹן אֶלָּא לְמִי שֶׁהַדַּעַת נוֹטָה לִדְבָרָיו בֵּין רִאשׁוֹן בֵּין אַחֲרוֹן:

These [principles apply regarding] the judgments, decrees, ordinances, and customs which were established after the conclusion of the Talmud. However, all the matters mentioned by the Babylonian31 Talmud are incumbent on the entire Jewish people to follow. We must compel each and every city and each country to accept all the customs that were put into practice by the Sages of the Talmud, to pass decrees parallelling their decrees, and to observe their ordinances, since all the matters in the Babylonian Talmud were accepted by the entire Jewish people.

וּדְבָרִים הַלָּלוּ בְּדִינִים גְּזֵרוֹת וְתַקָּנוֹת וּמִנְהָגוֹת שֶׁנִּתְחַדְּשׁוּ אַחַר חִבּוּר הַגְּמָרָא. אֲבָל כָּל הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁבַּגְּמָרָא הַבַּבְלִי חַיָּבִין כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל לָלֶכֶת בָּהֶם וְכוֹפִין כָּל עִיר וָעִיר וְכָל מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה לִנְהֹג בְּכָל הַמִּנְהָגוֹת שֶׁנָּהֲגוּ חַכְמֵי הַגְּמָרָא וְלִגְזֹר גְּזֵרוֹתָם וְלָלֶכֶת בְּתַקָּנוֹתָם. הוֹאִיל וְכָל אוֹתָם הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁבַּגְּמָרָא הִסְכִּימוּ עֲלֵיהֶם כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל.

The [Talmudic] Sages who established ordinances and decrees, put customs into practice, arrived at legal decisions, and taught [the people] concerning certain judgments represented the totality of the Sages of Israel or, at least, the majority of them. They received the tradition regarding the fundamental aspects of the Torah in its entirety, generation after generation, [in a chain beginning with] Moses, our teacher.

All the Sages who arose after the conclusion of the Talmud and comprehended its [wisdom] and whose prowess gained them a reputation are called the Geonim.

וְאוֹתָם הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁהִתְקִינוּ אוֹ שֶׁגָּזְרוּ אוֹ שֶׁהִנְהִיגוּ אוֹ שֶׁדָּנוּ דִּין וְלָמְדוּ שֶׁהַמִּשְׁפָּט כָּךְ הוּא, הֵם כָּל חַכְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אוֹ רֻבָּם וְהֵם שֶׁשָּׁמְעוּ הַקַּבָּלָה בְּעִקְּרֵי הַתּוֹרָה כֻּלָּהּ דּוֹר אַחַר דּוֹר עַד מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם. וְכָל הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁעָמְדוּ אַחַר חִבּוּר הַגְּמָרָא וּבָנוּ בּוֹ וְיָצָא לָהֶם שֵׁם בְּחָכְמָתָם הֵם הַנִּקְרָאִים גְּאוֹנִים.

All these Geonim that arose in Eretz Yisrael, Babylonia, Spain, and France taught the approach of the Talmud, revealing its hidden secrets and explaining its points, since [the Talmud's] manner of expression is very deep. Furthermore, it is composed in Aramaic, with a mixture of other tongues. This language was understood by the people of Babylonia in the era when the Talmud was composed.

וְכָל אֵלּוּ הַגְּאוֹנִים שֶׁעָמְדוּ בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבְאֶרֶץ שִׁנְעָר וּבִסְפָרַד וּבְצָרְפַת לִמְּדוּ דֶּרֶךְ הַגְּמָרָא וְהוֹצִיאוּ לָאוֹר תַּעֲלוּמוֹתָיו וּבֵאֲרוּ עִנְיָנָיו, לְפִי שֶׁדֶּרֶךְ עֲמֻקָּה דַּרְכּוֹ עַד לִמְאֹד. וְעוֹד שֶׁהוּא בִּלְשׁוֹן אֲרַמִּי מְעֹרָב עִם לְשׁוֹנוֹת אֲחֵרוֹת לְפִי שֶׁאוֹתָהּ הַלָּשׁוֹן הָיְתָה בְּרוּרָה לְכָל אַנְשֵׁי שִׁנְעָר בְּעֵת שֶׁחֻבְּרָה הַגְּמָרָא.

However, in other places, and even in Babylonia in the era of the Geonim, a person cannot understand this language unless he has studied it.32

The inhabitants of each city would ask many questions of each Gaon who lived in their age, to explain the difficult matters that existed in the Talmud. They would reply to them according to their wisdom. The people who had asked the questions would collect the replies and make texts from them, so that they could consider them in depth.33 Also, the Geonim of each generation composed texts to explain the Talmud. Some of the them explained only certain halachot. Others explained selected chapters that had created difficulty in their age. Still others explained entire tractates and orders.

אֲבָל בִּשְׁאָר מְקוֹמוֹת וְכֵן בְּשִׁנְעָר בִּימֵי הַגְּאוֹנִים אֵין אָדָם מַכִּיר אוֹתָהּ הַלָּשׁוֹן עַד שֶׁמְּלַמְּדִים אוֹתוֹ. וּשְׁאֵלוֹת רַבּוֹת שׁוֹאֲלִין אַנְשֵׁי כָּל עִיר וָעִיר לְכָל גָּאוֹן אֲשֶׁר הָיָה בִּימֵיהֶם לְפָרֵשׁ לָהֶם דְּבָרִים קָשִׁים שֶׁבַּגְּמָרָא. וְהֵם מְשִׁיבִים לָהֶם כְּפִי חָכְמָתָם. וְאוֹתָם הַשּׁוֹאֲלִים מְקַבְּצִים הַתְּשׁוּבוֹת וְעוֹשִׂין מֵהֶם סְפָרִים לְהָבִין מֵהֶם. גַּם חִבְּרוּ הַגְּאוֹנִים שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר חִבּוּרִים לְבָאֵר הַגְּמָרָא. מֵהֶם מִי שֶׁפֵּרֵשׁ הֲלָכוֹת יְחִידוֹת. וּמֵהֶם שֶׁפֵּרֵשׁ פְּרָקִים יְחִידִים שֶׁנִּתְקַשּׁוּ בְּיָמָיו. וּמֵהֶם מִי שֶׁפֵּרֵשׁ מַסֶּכְתּוֹת וּסְדָרִים.

Also, [the Geonim] composed [texts recording] the decisions of Torah law regarding what is permitted and what is forbidden, when one is liable and when one is free of liability, with regard to subjects that were necessary at the time, so that they would be accessible to the grasp of a person who could not comprehend the depths of the Talmud.34 This is the work of God, which was performed by all the Geonim of Israel from the completion of the Talmud until the present date, 1108 years after the destruction of the Temple, 4937 years after the creation of the world.35

וְעוֹד חִבְּרוּ הֲלָכוֹת פְּסוּקוֹת בְּעִנְיַן אִסּוּר וְהֶתֵּר וְחִיּוּב וּפָטוּר בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁהַשָּׁעָה צְרִיכָה לָהֶם כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ קְרוֹבִים לְמַדַּע מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לֵירֵד לְעָמְקָהּ שֶׁל גְּמָרָא. וְזוֹ הִיא מְלֶאכֶת ה' שֶׁעָשׂוּ בָּהּ כָּל גְּאוֹנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִיּוֹם שֶׁחֻבְּרָה הַגְּמָרָא וְעַד זְמַן זֶה שֶׁהִיא שָׁנָה שְׁמִינִית אַחַר מֵאָה וָאֶלֶף לְחֻרְבַּן הַבַּיִת, וְהִיא שְׁנַת אַרְבַּעַת אֲלָפִים וּתְשַׁע מֵאוֹת וּשְׁלֹשִׁים וְשֶׁבַע לִבְרִיאַת עוֹלָם:

At this time, we have been beset by additional difficulties, everyone feels [financial] pressure, the wisdom of our Sages has become lost, and the comprehension of our men of understanding has become hidden. Therefore, those explanations, laws, and replies which the Geonim composed and considered to be fully explained material have become difficult to grasp in our age, and only a select few comprehend these matters in the proper way.

וּבִזְמַן הַזֶּה תָּקְפוּ הַצָּרוֹת יְתֵרוֹת וְדָחֲקָה הַשָּׁעָה אֶת הַכֹּל וְאָבְדָה חָכְמַת חֲכָמֵינוּ וּבִינַת נְבוֹנֵינוּ נִסְתְּרָה. לְפִיכָךְ אוֹתָם הַפֵּרוּשִׁים וְהַהֲלָכוֹת וְהַתְּשׁוּבוֹת שֶׁחִבְּרוּ הַגְּאוֹנִים וְרָאוּ שֶׁהֵם דְּבָרִים מְבֹאָרִים נִתְקַשּׁוּ בְּיָמֵינוּ וְאֵין מֵבִין עִנְיְנֵיהֶם כָּרָאוּי אֶלָּא מְעַט בְּמִסְפָּר.

Needless to say, [there is confusion] with regard to the Talmud itself - both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds - the Sifra, the Sifre, and the Tosefta, for they require a breadth of knowledge, a spirit of wisdom, and much time, for appreciating the proper path regarding what is permitted and forbidden, and the other laws of the Torah.

Therefore, I girded my loins - I, Moses, the son of Maimon, of Spain.36 I relied upon the Rock, blessed be He. I contemplated all these texts and sought to compose [a work which would include the conclusions] derived from all these texts regarding the forbidden and the permitted, the impure and the pure, and the remainder of the Torah's laws, all in clear and concise terms, so that the entire Oral Law could be organized in each person's mouth without questions or objections.

Instead of [arguments], this one claiming such and another such, [this text will allow for] clear and correct statements based on the judgments that result from all the texts and explanations mentioned above, from the days of Rabbenu Hakadosh until the present. [This will make it possible] for all the laws to be revealed to both those of lesser stature and those of greater stature, regarding every single mitzvah, and also all the practices that were ordained by the Sages and the Prophets.

To summarize: [The intent of this text is] that a person will not need another text at all with regard to any Jewish law. Rather, this text will be a compilation of the entire Oral Law, including also the ordinances, customs, and decrees that were enacted from the time of Moses, our teacher, until the completion of the Talmud,37 as were explained by the Geonim in the texts they composed after the Talmud.

וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר הַגְּמָרָא עַצְמָהּ הַבַּבְלִית וְהַיְּרוּשַׁלְמִית וְסִפְרָא וְסִפְרֵי וְהַתּוֹסֶפְתָּא שֶׁהֵם צְרִיכִין דַּעַת רְחָבָה וְנֶפֶשׁ חֲכָמָה וּזְמַן אָרֹךְ וְאַחַר כָּךְ יִוָּדַע מֵהֶם הַדֶּרֶךְ הַנְּכוֹחָה בַּדְּבָרִים הָאֲסוּרִים וְהַמֻּתָּרִים וּשְׁאָר דִּינֵי הַתּוֹרָה הֵיאַךְ הוּא. וּמִפְּנֵי זֶה נָעַרְתִּי חָצְנִי אֲנִי מֹשֶׁה בֶּן מַיְמוֹן הַסְּפָרַדִּי וְנִשְׁעַנְתִּי עַל הַצּוּר בָּרוּךְ הוּא וּבִינוֹתִי בְּכָל אֵלּוּ הַסְּפָרִים וְרָאִיתִי לְחַבֵּר דְּבָרִים הַמִּתְבָּרְרִים מִכָּל אֵלּוּ הַחִבּוּרִים בְּעִנְיַן הָאָסוּר וְהַמֻּתָּר הַטָּמֵא וְהַטָּהוֹר עִם שְׁאָר דִּינֵי הַתּוֹרָה. כֻּלָּם בְּלָשׁוֹן בְּרוּרָה וְדֶרֶךְ קְצָרָה עַד שֶׁתְּהֵא תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה כֻּלָּהּ סְדוּרָה בְּפִי הַכֹּל בְּלֹא קֻשְׁיָא וְלֹא פֵּרוּק. לֹא זֶה אוֹמֵר בְּכֹה וְזֶה בְּכֹה. אֶלָּא דְּבָרִים בְּרוּרִים קְרוֹבִים נְכוֹנִים עַל פִּי הַמִּשְׁפָּט אֲשֶׁר יִתְבָּאֵר מִכָּל אֵלּוּ הַחִבּוּרִים וְהַפֵּרוּשִׁים הַנִּמְצָאִים מִימוֹת רַבֵּנוּ הַקָּדוֹשׁ וְעַד עַכְשָׁו. עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ כָּל הַדִּינִין גְּלוּיִין לַקָּטָן וְלַגָּדוֹל בְּדִין כָּל מִצְוָה וּמִצְוָה וּבְדִין כָּל הַדְּבָרִים שֶׁתִּקְּנוּ חֲכָמִים וּנְבִיאִים. כְּלָלוֹ שֶׁל דָּבָר כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא אָדָם צָרִיךְ לְחִבּוּר אַחֵר בָּעוֹלָם בְּדִין מִדִּינֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶלָּא יְהֵא חִבּוּר זֶה מְקַבֵּץ לְתוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה כֻּלָּהּ עִם הַתַּקָּנוֹת וְהַמִּנְהָגוֹת וְהַגְּזֵרוֹת שֶׁנַּעֲשׂוּ מִימוֹת מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ וְעַד חִבּוּר הַגְּמָרָא וּכְמוֹ שֶׁפֵּרְשׁוּ לָנוּ הַגְּאוֹנִים בְּכָל חִבּוּרֵיהֶם שֶׁחִבְּרוּ אַחַר הַגְּמָרָא.

Therefore, I have called this text, Mishneh Torah ["the second to the Torah,"38 with the intent that] a person should first study the Written Law, and then study this text39 and comprehend the entire Oral Law from it, without having to study any other text between the two.

I saw fit to divide this text into [separate] halachot40 pertaining to each [particular] subject, and, within the context of a single subject, to divide those halachot into chapters. Each and every chapter is divided into smaller halachot so that they can be ordered in one's memory.

לְפִיכָךְ קָרָאתִי שֵׁם חִבּוּר זֶה מִשְׁנֵה תוֹרָה. לְפִי שֶׁאָדָם קוֹרֵא בְּתוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתָב תְּחִלָּה וְאַחַר כָּךְ קוֹרֵא בָּזֶה 7 וְיוֹדֵעַ מִמֶּנּוּ תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה כֻּלָּהּ וְאֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לִקְרוֹת סֵפֶר אַחֵר בֵּינֵיהֶם. וְרָאִיתִי לְחַלֵּק חִבּוּר זֶה הֲלָכוֹת הֲלָכוֹת בְּכָל עִנְיָן וְעִנְיָן. וַאֲחַלֵּק הַהֲלָכוֹת לִפְרָקִים שֶׁבְּאוֹתוֹ עִנְיָן. וְכָל פֶּרֶק וָפֶרֶק אֲחַלֵּק אוֹתוֹ לַהֲלָכוֹת קְטַנּוֹת כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיוּ סְדוּרִים עַל פֶּה.

[Regarding] the halachot which pertain to specific subjects: Some of the halachot contain the laws governing only one mitzvah, this being a mitzvah that has many matters of the tradition [associated with it] and is a subject in its own right. Other halachot contain the laws governing many mitzvot, since they deal with the same subject matter, for I have divided this text according to topics, not according to the number of mitzvot, as will become clear to the reader.41

The number of mitzvot which are incumbent on us at all times42 is 613. 248 are positive commandments; an allusion to their [number], the number of limbs in the human body.43 365 are negative commandments (prohibitions); an allusion to their [number,] the number of days in a solar year.44

אֵלּוּ הַהֲלָכוֹת שֶׁבְּכָל עִנְיָן וְעִנְיָן יֵשׁ מֵהֶם הֲלָכוֹת שֶׁהֵם מִשְׁפְּטֵי מִצְוָה אַחַת בִּלְבַד. וְהִיא הַמִּצְוָה שֶׁיֵּשׁ בָּהּ דִּבְרֵי קַבָּלָה הַרְבֵּה וְהוּא עִנְיָן בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ. וְיֵשׁ מֵהֶם הֲלָכוֹת שֶׁהֵם כּוֹלְלִים מִשְׁפְּטֵי מִצְוֹת הַרְבֵּה אִם יִהְיוּ אוֹתָן הַמִּצְוֹת כֻּלָּם בְּעִנְיָן אֶחָד. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁחִלּוּק חִבּוּר זֶה לְפִי הָעִנְיָנִים לֹא לְפִי מִנְיַן הַמִּצְוֹת כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר לַקּוֹרֵא בּוֹ. וּמִנְיָן מִצְוֹת הַתּוֹרָה הַנּוֹהֲגוֹת לְדוֹרוֹת שֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת וּשְׁלֹשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה מִצְוֹת. מֵהֶם מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה מָאתַיִם וְאַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁמֹנָה סִימָן לָהֶם מִנְיַן אֵבָרָיו שֶׁל אָדָם. וּמֵהֶם מִצְוֹת לֹא תַעֲשֶׂה שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת וְשִׁשִּׁים וְחָמֵשׁ סִימָן לָהֶם מִנְיַן יְמֵי שְׁנַת הַחַמָּה: