Structure and Style of the Mishnah / Baraita / Tosefta

Please note: "Reisha" refers to the first case in a mishnah or baraita, "Seifa" refers to the last case in a mishnah or baraita, and "Metziata" refers to a case which is between the Reisha and Seifa.


Structure of Cases / AttributionsAuthorship of MishnayotBrevity in a Mishnah/Baraita

A Mishnah is usually as brief as possible: Bava Metzia 2a, 9a

A Mishnah will not add verbosity to teach a special case ["Ichfil Tanna איכפיל תנא"]: Ketuvot 62a; Kiddushin 26b; Zevachim 15a

Where a Mishnah brings, or doesn't bring, similar cases/laws: Nedarim 2b

A Mishnah will not teach both the positive "This qualifies" and its converse "This does not qualify" where the converse is clear from the positive statement: Eruvin 76a

Asking why a Mishnah didn't combine two cases into briefer delineation ["Ne'Arvinhu VeNitninhu..."]: Eruvin 16a; Nedarim 4b; Kiddushin 23a

Statement of amazement at verbosity in a Mishnah: Kiddushin 16b

Bringing sets of clear, cut-and-dry Laws [Halachot Pesukot]: Rosh Berachot 1:9

A Mishnah concisely repeats what we know: Tos. Berachot 2a #5

A Mishnah presenting part of a set of cases, and the set being completed in a baraita: Bava Metzia 51a

The Mishnah will not get into a case which will require verbosity to explain [Delo Pesika Leih Lo Katani]: Eruvin 2a; Rosh HaShanah 7a-b; Succah 2a; Temurah 22a, 23b [2x]; Keritot 8a

Asking why a Mishnah extended a case involving generations, adding "ad infinitum," and responding that it was to indicate the extent of disagreement regarding status of descendants: Temurah 17b

They will not bring a long and difficult-to-implement solution, if a simpler [albeit weaker] solution to a problem is available [Kulei Hai Lo Atrichuha Rabbanan]: Eruvin 10b

A Mishnah presenting only whole numbers, and not fractions: Bava Batra 3b

A law was reported in one mishnah, and then mentioned along the way in another mishnah despite its redundancy ["agerara nasbah"]: Zevachim 11b

In the name of brevity, a mishnah stating a ruling will use wording that is appropriate for the majority of the cases it has enumerated, even if that wording is imprecise, and leaves a misimpression, for the rest of the cases: Zevachim 19a

Selection of cases to present in a Mishnah

"Lo Mibaya לא מיבעיא" - One Case wasn't brought, because it could have been understood from another: Succah 30a; Moed Katan 14b, 18b; Ketuvot 41a, 70b; Nedarim 12a; Kiddushin 8a, 8b, 25a; Bava Metzia 41a, 53b; Menachot 50b

A Mishnah will only list elements which have a set parameter, not vague elements: Kiddushin 16a, 16b [2x]

A Mishnah presenting "good advice" rather than law [Eitzah Tovah]: Eruvin 39a

"Tana VeShayer תנא ושייר" - A Mishnah left out certain cases from its list, despite enumerating others: Succah 54a-b; Ketuvot 41a; Kiddushin 16a, 16b [2x], 40a; Bava Kama 10a, 15a [2x]; Makkot 21b

Bringing sets of cases, each spelled out, instead of bringing them in one concise expression: Kiddushin 6a; Temurah 34a

A Mishnah doesn't tell is what was already in another Mishnaic lesson ["Taneina leHa" "Taneina Chada Zimna"]: Eruvin 41b, 69b, 76a, 81a, 85b; Gittin 15a; Kiddushin 30b; Makkot 19b; Zevachim 43a; Temurah 28a

A Mishnah doesn't bring bizarrely unlikely cases: Bava Metzia 46a

Mishnah records cases which are normal: Succah 10a, 46b; Bava Metzia 15a, 32b, 34a

A Mishnah bringing a series of dissimilar cases together [Mili Mili]: Menachot 45a

We don't bring "De'i" ["What If"] Cases: Pesachim 105a; Menachot 52a, 52b

A Mishnah only presenting cases which are ruled in an explicit, clear-cut fashion: Kiddushin 5b

Using a Mishnah to confirm what is known already in a Non-Mishnah: Bava Kama 14b

Bringing an anecdote in a Mishnah to argue with a Law ["Maaseh Listor?!"]: Berachot 16b; Succah 26b, 28b

Using one reason, where a second approach could also have been used ["Chada Ve'Od Kaamar"]: Berachot 14b; Rosh HaShanah 26a [2x]; Negillah 20a; Kiddushin 37b; Bechorot 10a

Bringing a case to teach a non-obvious rule: Keritot 3a

Bringing a case to show how one side held his point in an argument even to that extreme ["Lehodia Kocho/Kochan"]: Berachot 21b; Eruvin 35a-b, 45b, 72b; Succah 4b; Beitzah 2b, 6b, 11a; Nedarim 19b, 28a; Keritot 23b

Bringing an extra element to teach something along the way ["Milta Agav Urcheih"]: Berachot 2a; Rosh HaShanah 15a; Succah 21b, 41b; Nedarim 25a; Niddah 10b [note that this principle also appears in talmudic discussion]

Bringing an anecdote in a Mishnah to back up a law: Shabbat 122a; Eruvin 87a

Adding cases because once one case was brought, the set is brought: Rosh HaShanah 5a; Gittin 23a; Bava Metzia 4b; Sanhedrin 3a-b

If a law is stated by an anonymous sage in a mishnah, without opposition, can we assume that other sages of the time agree?: Bechorot 2a

A sage stating that a person does not receive lashes for a certain act, even though he held that a person would receive lashes. He stated the exemption because the topic under discussion was an issue under which the person committing the act would be exempt [APetura Kai]: Temurah 4a-b

A sage stating an opinion related to a case which was discussed much earlier in a tractate: Eruvin 104b, 105a

Bringing the same case in mishnayot in both Kiddushin and Ketuvot because it relates to both areas of law: Ketuvot 72b

Mishnaic Language

A Mishnah's [in-]consistent use of days of the week and dates of the month to refer to the identical set of days: Megillah 4b

A sage re-stating the opinion which he himself stated anonymously as the mishnah's initial speaker, in order to idenitfy him: Niddah 19b

Sages later in a mishnah re-stating [or specifically not merely re-stating, but expanding] the law of the initial sage: Eruvin 23b; Nedarim 4b, 14a; Gittin 4a; Niddah 19a, 19b ["Hayyenu Tanna Kama!"]

A tanna will not use a fluctuating currency when explaining the amount to pay, or currency to use, for a given law: Bava Metzia 44b

Use of feminine or masculine language in a mishnah may depend on the content of the mishnah and not just its context: Kiddushin 2b

A mishnah may use masculine or feminine language imprecisely, and that should not be used to interpret law: Bechorot 2b

A mishnah's use of a language of approximation for one measure, because another measure in that Mishnah is going to have to be approximate: Eruvin 19a-b

Beginning a Mishnah with "ve'Od," adding to something which was, presumably begun in the preceding Mishnah: Eruvin 23a [see the Gemara's explanation]; Succah 27a

Use of "Shamati [I heard]" to indicate that one doesn't necessarily maintain this opinion as his own: Eruvin 35b

Rabbi Yehudah's use of "Eimatai" or "Bameh" ["When is this true"] in a Mishnah is always meant to explain the preceding view, and not to argue against it: Eruvin 81b-82a

The way a mishnah presents a verb teaches us whether the mishnah is supporting the action LeChatchilah [something permitted] or only explaining what to do Bedieved [ex post facto]: Shabbat 147a; Beitzah 7b; Rosh Hashanah 32b; Sotah 2b

Use of plural language to mean "cases like this" rather than to indicate that multiple parties are involved in that specific case [Ketanot]: Keritot 17a

A mishnah's use of a technical noun to mean one thing in a mishnah's first case, and to mean another thing in that mishnah's second case: Keritot 26b-27a

Order in a Mishnah

Teaching cases or subjects that are beloved to the Sages first: Bechorot 13a

Teaching subjects that are more concise first, before proceeding to more elaborate issues: Bechorot 13a

One mishnah is supposed to flow into the next, with a logical order: Taanit 2a

Bringing an additional statement which teaches more than the initial statement [Lo Zu Af Zu]: Eruvin 75a; Gittin 15b; Bava Metzia 37b-38a

Bringing an additional statement which could actually have been deduced from an earlier statement [Zu Ve'Ein Tzarich Lomar Zu זו ואין צריך לומר זו]: Eruvin 76a; Rosh HaShanah 32b, 33a; Ketuvot 58a; Nedarim 14b; Keritot 17b

"'Mah Hein' Ketani" - Mentioning a case and then explaining it: Sanhedrin 2b

Asking one question as a lead-in to another [Chada migo Chada mibaya leih]: Nedarim 7a

The lessons taught in a Mishnah

Rulings of Mishnayot are not to be expanded to include all cases, unless such an expansion is indicated in the Mishnah itself: Shabbat 148a

Establishing a Mishnah to be discussing an odd case, rather than have it argue with established law: Shabbat 112b

Bringing a rule of disqualification for a specific circumstance, as well as a method of correction: Succah 2a; Eruvin 2a

Bringing a rule as well as cases, to be a general study aid ["Simna be'Alma" סימנא בעלמא]: Megillah 22b

Using language in two opposite cases which present opposite lessons about an intermediate case ["meiha leca l'mashma mineih" מיהא ליכא למשמע מיניה]: Bava Metzia 81b

A mishnah ruling like one authority, but we rule otherwise in practice: Ketuvot 54a

Mishnah [or Baraita] PhraseologyTosefta