Learning at the Library Minyan
Every regular Shabbat morning (except for days when Hallel is said or there is a major Minyan simcha), the Minyan begins with a Mishna learning session. The session lasts 25 minutes, from 9:20 to 9:45, with rabbis, teachers, and other members of the Minyan taking turns to teach the week’s lesson. A printed sheet is distributed at the beginning of each session (and is available to stragglers as they come in). The sheet contains both the Hebrew and English texts of the Mishna, plus the commentaries (in both Hebrew and English) of Rabbi Kahati, a modern commentator. This year we are studying Tractate Rosh Hashana.
The Mishna is the earliest code of Jewish law, which was originally taught orally by the rabbis in the Holy Land during the approximately four centuries from the second century before the Common Era (BCE) to the 2nd century of the Common Era (CE). It was redacted (edited) by Rabbi Judah HaNasi (The Prince) at the end of the second/beginning of the third century of the Common Era and reduced to writing either then or shortly thereafter. Composed of 6 Orders, the Mishna represents an attempt by the rabbis to systematize the various laws included in the Torah into some sort of logical sequence. Each order is broken down into approximately ten tractates; tractates are divided into chapters; and chapters are divided into the smallest units, called mishnayot (Mishnas). Each Mishna is fairly short – less than 10 sentences – which makes it just the right length to cover in a 20 minute session. Occasionally, we take a couple sessions to learn one Mishna if there’s a lot of commentary.
The Mishna is the base layer in the two-layered repository of Jewish Law called the Talmud. The Talmud, which follows the exact same structure as the Mishna, has a second considerably more voluminous layer, the Gemara, which is a record of the discussions of the rabbis about the Mishna that ensued over the next three or four hundred years after the redaction of the Mishna. Different versions of the Talmud were produced in the two centers of Jewish life (Palestine and Babylonia) at that time (the 3rd to 6th centuries of the Common Era), but the Mishna layer of both Talmuds is virtually identical.
If you would like to check out the section of the Mishna we are studying, there are a few web sites that have the Mishna online.
If you are one who believes that the Oral law should be studied aurally, you can find it at shemayisrael.co.il/mishna/archives/archives.htm, where you should look for Masechta Rosh Hashana. This is the web site of the Shema Yisrael Torah Network, again their Mishna Yomis archives.
Finally, if you want the text in unvocalized Hebrew, you can check out chaver.com/Mishnah/TheMishnah.htm, which presents the text of the Mishna in Hebrew, graphically displayed so you can see the internal structure of the Mishna. The web site also contains articles in Hebrew and English on the internal structure of the Mishna and other sacred Hebrew writings. The web site belongs to Moshe Kline, an American now living in Jerusalem.
Thanks to Ronnie Cohen z”l for preparing this section.
Each week a member of the Minyan provides a d’var Torah, or interpretation, of that week’s Torah reading portion. Visit the Divrei Torah Archive to drashot from the past several years.
You can view some of the RA’s teshuvot at the following site: www.rabbinicalassembly.org/law/teshuvot_public.html. Check it out!