Monday, February 16, 2009

CAT (Commonly Ambiguous Terms) - Mishneh Torah (Part II)

Another part of the gadlut of the Mishneh Torah (go read Part I if you are confused) is the literary structure. That is to say, appreciating how Rambam ordered the topics of the halakhot. In general, we give the Mishneh Torah the same textual status as the Mishnayot - there is not one word that is accidentally out of place. Not only does this status apply to the individual halakhot, but it also applies to the overall structure of the Mishneh Torah as a whole. Rambam thoughtfully and purposefully organized the 613 mitzvot into 14 books of the Mishneh Torah.

When I posted about Shas, I explained that Chazal organized the 613 mitzvot into 6 Sedarim (sections). Clearly Rambam made a significant break from Chazal’s organizational system when he wrote the Mishneh Torah. A brief analysis of how Rambam and Chazal organized the halakhot should be informative and hopefully entertaining (in a nerdy way).

Being a former teacher I am addicted to charts, and I made a special one for all of you. This chart has three columns:

  • Column 1 lists the name of each book of the Mishneh Torah
  • Column 2 lists the main topics of each book of the Mishneh Torah
  • Column 3 lists where the main topics can be found in Shas

In the following weeks to come I will dedicate one post to each of the books of the Mishneh Torah. That post will analyze some of the organizational differences between Rambam and Chazal. I hope that these posts will discuss not only a philosophy of halakhah, but also a methodology for learning philosophy of halakhah.

Book of Mishneh Torah

Topics of Book of Mishneh Torah

Where the Topics are Found in Shas


Pre-requisite to halakhah: Knowing HaShem, Talmud Torah, Avodah Zarah, Teshuvah

Massechtot Kiddushin,  Avodah Zarah, and Yoma


Shemah, Tefillah, Berachot, Tefillin

Massechtot Berachot, Menachot


Shabbat, Chagim

Seder Moed


Marriage, Divorce

Seder Nashim (except Nedarim and Nazir)


Forbidden Relationships, Niddah, Kashrut

Massechtot Yevamot, Kidushin, Niddah and Chullin


Shavuot and Nedarim

Massechtot Shavuot, Nedarim, Nazir and Arachin


Laws of Agriculture

Seder Zeraim (except Berachot)


Laws of the Beit HaMikdash and Communal Korbanot

Massechtot Zevachim, Menachot, Middot, Tamid, and Meilah


Laws of Individual Korbanot

Massechtot Pesachim, Chagigah, Bechorot, Temurah, Kritot and Horiyot


Laws of Tumah and Taharah

Seder Taharot (except Niddah)


Laws of Damages and Murder

Massechtot Bava Kama, Sanhedrin and Makkot


Laws of Ownership and Slavery

Massechtot Bava Metziah and Kiddushin


Laws of Renting, Borrowing Objects and Money, Inheritance

Massechtot Bava Metziah, Bava Batra and Shevuot


Laws of Sanhedrin, Testimony, Mourning and Kings

Massechtot Sanhedrin, Horiyot, Shavuot, and Moed Katan

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