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| Mishnah |
The Mishnah is the essential source text for Rabbinic Judasim.
According to Jewish tradition, God presented Moses with an oral law, known as the Oral Torah, as a complement to the written Torah (the Five Books of Moses). Without this tradition, it would be impossible to fully understand the written Torah. In some cases, the Oral Torah overturns the literal meaning of verses in the written Torah (one famous example being "an eye for an eye" of Exodus 21:23-25).
This tradition was passed down from the time of the Exodus until around 200 CE. At that time, Roman persecution threatened the chain of tradition, and Rabbi Yehudah the Nassi (president of the Sanhedrin) made the bold and controversial decision to have the oral tradition written down. To this end, he assembled the notes of various rabbinical scholars and compiled them into a cohesive system. This compilation is what we know as the Mishnah.
The Mishnah describes the laws and regulations written in the Torah in greater detail, as well as recording many rabbinically ordained decrees.
The text of the mishnah used at Wikisource was made available by Mechon Mamre.