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The New International Encyclopædia/Mishna

MISH′NA (Heb., explanation, from shānah, to learn). The body of the ‘oral law,’ or the juridico-political, civil, and religious code of the Jews. As such it forms a kind of complement to the Pentateuchal codes, which it explains, amplifies, and immutably fixes in accordance with traditional usage, enforced by the application of the peculiar exegetical methods developed in the rabbinical schools of Babylonia and Palestine. The Misnnaic laws were subsequently submitted to a process of exposition similar to that which the biblical enactments underwent, and hence there arose, as a supplement to the Mishna, the Gemara (q.v.), embodying the discussions on the Mishna by the rabbis of Babylonia and Palestine from the third to the sixth century, when the Mishna and the Gemara were brought together in a final compilation known as the Talmud. The Mishna, to which again there are ‘apocryphal’ supplements known as Toseftas (additions) and Baraithas (extras), was finally redacted, after some earlier incomplete collections by Rabbi Jehudah, called Hanasi (c.200 A.D.), at Tiberias. It is mostly written in pure Hebrew, and is divided into six portions (Sedarim): (1) Zeraim (seeds), on benedictions, agriculture, tithes, etc.; (2) Moed (feast), on the Sabbath, festivals, and fasts; (3) Nashim (women), on marriage, divorce, etc. (embracing also the laws on the Nazirship and vows); (4) Nezikin (damages), chiefly civil and penal laws (also containing the ethical treatise Aboth); (5) Kodashim (sacred things), sacrifices, etc.; description of the Temple of Jerusalem, etc.; (6) Tcharoth (purifications) on pure and impure things and persons. (See further Talmud.) An English translation of the Mishna has been published by J. Barclay (London, 1878).