The Mishnah: An Introduction


In his brilliant introduction on the Mishnah, Jacob Neusner asks:
How do you read a book that does not identify its author, tell you where it comes from, or explain why it was written – a book without a preface? And how do you identify a book with neither a beginning nor end, lacking table of contents and title? The answer is you just begin and let the author of the book lead you by paying attention to the information that the author does give,...

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The Mishnah: An Introduction

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In his brilliant introduction on the Mishnah, Jacob Neusner asks:
How do you read a book that does not identify its author, tell you where it comes from, or explain why it was written – a book without a preface? And how do you identify a book with neither a beginning nor end, lacking table of contents and title? The answer is you just begin and let the author of the book lead you by paying attention to the information that the author does give, to the signals that the writer sets out.
As Neusner goes on to explain, the Mishnah portrays the world in a special way, in a kind of code that makes it a difficult work for the modern reader to understand. Without knowing how to decode the Mishnah, we may read its works without receiving its message.
Neusner, one of the world’s foremost Mishnaic scholars, demonstrated that the Mishnah’s own internal logic and structure form a solid foundation on which to build an understanding of this vitally important Jewish work. Using examples of how the Mishnah’s language, logic, and discourse associate and categorize behaviors, events, and objects, Neusner opens the Mishnah to readers who would not otherwise be able to grasp its most fundamental concepts.
Since the Mishnah forms the basis of both the Babylonian and the Palestinian Talmuds (which are, in Neusner’s elegant terms, “the core curriculum of Judaism as a living religion”), study of the Mishnah is essential to an understanding of Judaism. Drawing on his own new translation of the Mishnah and displaying the enthusiastic dedication that has sparked a whole new body of Mishnaic research, Neusner allows readers with no previous background to join Jews who have studied, analyzed, and delighted in the wisdom of Mishnah for centuries.
In addition to giving us a thorough exploration of the Mishnah’s language, contents, organization, and inner logic, Neusner also provides us with a broad understanding of how it communicated its own world view – its vision of both the concrete an spiritual worlds. The Mishnah: An Introduction gives us a tour of this sacred Jewish text, shedding light on its many facets – from its view of life to its conception of God and His relation to our world.

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Editorial Reviews

Rabbi Emanuel Rackman
“For 70 years I have studied Mishnah virtually every day of my life. Yet there is hardly a page in Professor Neusner’s monumental work, The Mishah: An Introduction, that did not reveal for me a new and often exciting insight.”
-Emanuel Rackman
Chancellor, Bar-Ilan University
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis
“Professor Neusner offers us far more than an introduction to the Mishnah. With the patience and shrewdness of a detective, he guides the reader through the text to uncover the presuppositions and intentions of its unknown authors.
“Neusner is a master teacher. He goes to the text itself and under his skillful, inductive probings, allows it to reveal its autonomous logic. Following him, the reader gains insight into the interdependence of ‘ethos, ethics, and ethnos’ that supports the intellectual structures of Mishnah Judaism.”
-Harold M. Schulweis
Rabbi, Valley Beth Shalom, Encino, California
Samson H. Levey
“This is a great book, a major contribution of exceptional magnitude to Jewish learning and to the scientific study of religion. As a remarkable introduction to the Mishnah, it is yet another tribute to Jacob Neusner as the mature Herculean scholar who revolutionized rabbinic scholarship in the twentieth century. In it he soars to new heights of brilliance as an interpreter of the rabbinic mind, and as a writer of unusual beauty and style, as a prophetic voice in the wilderness.”
-Samson H. Levey
Professor, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion
Drawing on his own recent translation, Neusner introduces The Mishnah, the 2nd century classic codification of oral Jewish law, explaining its internal logic and structure, and its relevance to modern life. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780876688762
  • Publisher: Aronson, Jason Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/1988
  • Pages: 235
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 11.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author
Jacob Neusner is a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University and the Ungerleider Distinguished Scholar of Judiac Studies at Brown University. The author of over 300 books on Judaism that have been translated into many languages, Dr. Neusner holds nine honorary degrees and has lectured throughout the world.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Acknowledgements and Permissions xiii

1. The Mishnah as Literature 1

Identifying the Mishnah 1
Mishnah Tractate Berakhot 1:1 2
Mishnah Tractate Uqsin 3:11 2
Using the Evidence in Hand 6
The Contents and Organization of the Mishnah 10
An Outline of the Topical Program of the Mishnah 13
The Rhetoric of the Mishnah: Patterning Language 17
The Logic of the Mishnah: Proving Propositions 26
The Meaning of the Mishnah’s Rhetoric and Logic 34
The Purpose of the Mishnah: Law Code or Schoolbook? 37

2. The Mishnah as Religion 40

Defining a Religion and a Judaism 40
The Mishnah’s Judaism before 70 C.E. 42
The Mishnah’s Judaism after the Destruction of the
Temple: 70-132 C.E. 45
The Mishnah after 135 C.E.: The System Seen Whole 51
The Judaism of the Mishnah 53

3. The Mishnah’s Social Vision: Means of Production, Market, Wealth 61

The Building Block of Society in the Mishnah’s Social Vision 61
The Household: Baba Batra Chapter 3 64
The Market: Baba Mesia Chapter 4 79
Wealth: Baba Mesia Chapter 5 97
The Steady-State Economy in a Static Social World 118

4. The Mishnah’s Social Vision: Woman and Caste 121

Women in the Household 121
Women: Yebamot Chapter 10 123
Case Structure: Qiddushin Chapter 4 131
The Social Vision of the Mishnah 140

5. The Mishnah’s Theological and Philosophical Vision 149

History and the Laws of History: Rosh Hashanah
Chapter 4, Taanit Chapter 4, Zebahim Chapter 14,
Sotah Chapter 9 149
Israel and God, Partners in the Land: Maaserot Chapter 1 172
Intention: Makhshirin Chapter 4 181
Humanity in Crisis: What Can Israel Do? 198

6. The Mishnah and the Torah: The Impact of the Mishnah on the Formation of Judaism 200

The Problem of the Mishnah 200
Tractate Avot Chapter 1 206
The Mishnah and the Torah: The Theory of Tractate Avot 211
The Yerushalmi Talmud’s Theory of the Mishnah 214
The Mishnah and the Judaism of the Dual Torah 220
The Relevance of the Mishnah to Judaism in the
Twenty-First Century 227

Structure of the Mishnah 230

Index 231

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