What is the Mishna? Mishna is part of the Oral Torah.

Initially, it was forbidden to write the Oral Torah. A Chacham (A Wise Torah Scholar) could write notes to help himself remember (this is why the Gemara (Talmud) sometimes mentions what was found in a hidden scroll), but one could not write Oral Torah to teach others.

Before Rebbi (R. Yehudah ha’Nasi— one of the heads of the earlier generations) there was an organization of Mishna (Shlah ha’Kadosh, Klal Rebbi 98, citing Sefer Krisos 8:2:58 proves this from the last Mishna in Kelim), whom would compile the oral torah.

Rebbi greatly abridged the oral torah when it had to be written down. Each Chacham used to have his own Mishnayos, i.e. a concise text of Halachah, according to categories. Even Avraham Avinu (Abraham our father) learned Mishnayos (Avodah Zarah 14b)! However, each Chacham had his own version, based on his opinion.

Rebbi and his Beis Din (court of Jewish law) codified one text of the Mishna for everyone to learn. It was meant to teach to his Talmidim (students) every law, concisely. The reasons were not put in the Mishna. They were left to be explained by Chachamim (wise Torah scholars) (Hakdamas Tosfos Yom Tov to the Mishna). When the Mishna brings an argument, the majority opinion is Stam (anonymous). Normally, the Halachah (ruling) follows a Stam Mishna. Rebbi liked the text of R. Meir’s Mishnayos. We assume that the text of a Stam Mishna is R. Meir’s text (unless we know that he disagrees).

Power of Learning Mishna

Importantly, learning Mishna helps settle the Neshamah (the Jewish Soul). (‘Mishna’ and ‘Neshamah’ are composed of the same letters). Therefore, one who arises early (to lament the hurban), should begin with Mishna. Beir Heitiv 1:6, citing the arizal and in Nusach Ashkenaz we say Mishnayos Eizehu Mekoman after accepting Shabbos and receiving an extra Neshamah (Shlah ha’Kodesh, cited in Chasam Sofer and Tzitz Eliezer 13:50:3).

It is praiseworthy to learn Mishnayos after Tefilah (prayer) in the Avel’s (mourner’s house) for Tikun ha’Neshamah (to help repair their soul) (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 207:5). The custom is to learn chapters such that their initial letters spell the name of the Mes (the deceased), if possible. They learn a chapter each day after Shacharis (the morning prayer service) and/or Minchah (the afternoon prayer service), or half a chapter after each. (If they finish the name of the Mes, they start again from the beginning.)

They conclude with the last four Mishnayos in Perek (chapter) 7 of Mikva’os, and a Tefilah (prayer) that begins ‘Ana.’ (Many editions of Mishnayos have Tefilas Ana, and a list of which chapters start with each letter of the Aleph-Beis – letters of the Hebrew alphabet.) The Avel (mourner) says Kaddish d’Rabanan, even though he himself may not say the Mishnayos. (During the week of Aveilus (first week after the deceased has passed), he may learn only sad matters of Torah.) We do not learn Mishnayos on Shabbos (Shabat) or after Minchah on Friday (Gesher ha’Chayim 20:4).

It is a great Tikun for the Neshamah (Jewish soul) to learn Mishnayos all 12 months (after the deceased has passed), and every year on the Yartzite (Aruch ha’Shulchan YD 376:13). This helps the Niftar (the deceased) more than all Kaddeshim (reciting of Kaddish) and Tefilos (prayers) (Yosef Ometz p.331, brought in Yechaveh Da’as 6:60 (b’Sof) and Pnei Baruch 35(35)). On the Yartzite (anniversary of death) one learns chapters like in the Avel’s house (mentioned above) (Ma’aseh Oreg, brought in Pnei Baruch 39:13. Some add Perek 24 of Kelim.)

Some say that learning Mishnayos is an especially great Tikun in the first 30 days after the deceased has passed (Mishneh Halachos 12:263. This is even if Yom Tov (Jewish Holidays) came during the 30 days and the Avel was exempted from the laws of Sheloshim.)


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