Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mishna recordings

As promised, I want to facilitate the learning and mastering of traditional Jewish sources.  One feature that had always been an essential part of any Jew's training in traditional Jewish sources is the reciting of Mishnayot.

The Mishna

So long as we, the Jewish People, was organized into national institutions with authority to decide our own laws, we had a centralized court system called the Bet Din haGadol.  Any legal question would be answered uniformly by the Bet Din haGadol, as one single voice.  Although the decisions may have developed through a process that had many disputes and drifts along the way, the end result (after a vote was taken and the majority opinion was adopted) was unified.

With the destruction of the Second Temple, the Bet Din haGadol was transferred to Yabhne by Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkay.  However, this arrangement did not enjoy the same degree of centralization found earlier in the Sanhedrin in Yerushalayim.  Four or five generations later, the Chief Justice of the Bet Din haGadol, Rebbi Yehuda HaNassi, did something unprecedented.  He published, for the general public, a record of some of the internal notes of the main deliberations of recent sessions of Bet Din haGadol (for the most part, he did not go beyond the last Bet Din haGadol in Yerushalayim -- one that had Bet Shammay and Bet Hillel).  These records were compiled into a collection known as the Mishna.

Ever since, the Mishna has been the framework for any discussion in Jewish Law.  The Talmud, for instance, is structured around the Mishna, discussing its sources, authors of its statements, and expanding its rulings.

The Mishna was composed in a way that is meant to facilitate memorization.  Oftentimes, clarity is sacrificed for the sake of brevity.


Although there are many editions of the Mishna, Sephardic communities in the last few generations have always used the Livorno edition, which preserves the traditional pronunciation of terms in its fully vocalized text.

I have so far recorded the first five volumes (out of six) of the Mishna, reciting the text from the Livorno edition in the traditional Syrian tune.  Each chapter is another clip.

Primarily, I did this to allow myself to review the Mishna during my commuting to and from work.  I would be very happy if this helps other as well.

I will be uploading the recordings gradually, starting with the volume of Zera'im.

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