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What Is the Mishnah?

What Is the Mishnah?

The State of the Question

Edited by Shaye J. D. Cohen

ISBN 9780674278776

Publication date: 03/07/2023

The Mishnah is the foundational document of rabbinic Judaism—all of rabbinic law, from ancient to modern times, is based on the Talmud, and the Talmud, in turn, is based on the Mishnah. But the Mishnah is also an elusive document; its sources and setting are obscure, as are its genre and purpose.

In January 2021 the Harvard Center for Jewish Studies and the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law of the Harvard Law School co-sponsored a conference devoted to the simple yet complicated question: “What is the Mishnah?” Leading scholars from the United States, Europe, and Israel assessed the state of the art in Mishnah studies; and the papers delivered at that conference form the basis of this collection. Learned yet accessible, What Is the Mishnah? gives readers a clear sense of current and future direction of Mishnah studies.


  • Shaye J. D. Cohen is the Nathan Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. He is widely recognized as one of the leading scholars of ancient Judaism in the United States and has been studying the Mishnah since childhood. Cohen is also a coeditor of the Oxford Annotated Mishnah.

Book Details

  • 544 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law