What is the Difference Between the Torah and the Mishnah?

Both Jewish and non-Jewish people have some trouble distinguishing between the various holy texts that guide the religious lives of believers in Judaism. The terms Torah, Talmud, Mishnah, and Midrash are at times used interchangeably to refer to different texts. The Jewish law adhered to by most modern Jews is based on the Torah. There is a consensus that the Torah is at the top of all holy references in the Jewish community. However, a good number of Jews still base some of their practices on the Mishnah Study contained in the Talmud. 

Read on to learn more about the differences between the Torah and Mishnah, which are significant Jewish religious manuscripts. 

What is the Torah? When Was It Written? And by Whom? 

Torah is the Hebrew word for instruction. The Torah can refer to both the written Torah and the Oral Torah, but it is most commonly used to refer to the five books of Moses. In Hebrew, these books are referred to as Chameesha Choomshey Torah. They are Genesis (Bresheit), Exodus (Shemot), Vayicra (Leviticus), Bamidbar (Numbers), and Devarim (Deuteronomy). 

Moses wrote the five books in 1273 BCE. The five books of Moses (the written Torah) are called the Pentateuch in most Jewish nations. The Torah is considered the Jewish Bible because it is the whole context of Jewish traditions and laws and contains all 613 commandments (mitzvahs).

Jewish beliefs dictate that Moses received the Torah alongside an oral version and commentary. The Talmud (oral Torah) holds that the entire Torah, except for the last eight verses of Deuteronomy (which describe Moses’ death and burial), was dictated by God and written by Moses. Joshua wrote the previous eight verses. A scroll of the Torah at the University of Bologna was proven to be over 800 years old and is the oldest complete Torah scroll in existence. 

While some people refer to the Torah and other prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible as the Old Testament, this terminology is unacceptable to Jews who do not recognize a New Testament; what Christians refer to as the Old Testament is called Tanakh in the Jewish faith. 

What is the Mishnah? When was it Written and by Whom?

The term Mishnah in Hebrew means repeated study. The Mishnah is one-half of the oral version of the Torah that Moses received is referred to as the Talmud. The Talmud (the Mishnah and Gemara) is a vital manuscript in conventional Judaism. The Mishnah refers to the written, oral traditions, and the Gemara refers to the additional commentaries that rabbis added to the Mishnah over the years. 

Many people even take private lessons for the language to better understand and decode it.

Jews rely on the Mishnah and Gemara as their primary tool for decoding the scriptures of the Torah and prophetic books and understanding the ethics that accompany the customs in their religion. It contains the entire history, laws, and beliefs of the Jewish faith. The Mishnah and Gemara make it easier for believers to apply the scriptures to their daily lives. 

The Jewish people faced persecution and exile in 190 CE, which prevented the typical transmission of the Oral Torah. Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi is credited with the primary codification of the oral Jewish decrees handed down from student to teacher since the era of Moses and Joshua. He was worried that some elements of the Oral Torah had begun to be forgotten. The Mishnah became a religious text as soon as it was completed.

He made written notes referred to today as the Mishnah. He arranged the Mishnah into its prolific orders of Agriculture, Festivals, Marriages, Damages, Offerings, and Purity. He wrote the Mishnah in codified form so students would still need a rabbi for the oral explanations. Rabbi Judah the Prince

The Mishnah comprises sixty-three tractates which are in turn divided into six orders (Sedarim). These orders contain laws that pertain to seasons (moed), agriculture, observation of the sabbath and other festivals, women (Nashim), marriage, divorce, crimes, civil disputes, holy things (Kodashim), and damages (Nezikim). Unlike in the Torah (where Sabbath laws are scattered amongst five books), the Mishnaic Sabbath laws are listed together. 

Summary of Differences

The Torah is a religious scripture written by Moses and inspired by God. The Mishnah was an oral commentary that helped Jews decode the scripture and utilize it daily. Existential threats to the Jewish religion caused rabbis to write down the Mishnah as part of the Talmud. The scripture in the Torah is authoritative. The Mishnah contains persuasive and suggestive instructions on how to follow and live following the Torah. 

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