What is it?
Mishneh Torah means 'Repetition of the Torah (Teaching)'. It is considered to be a repetition of the Torah because it provides a practical summary of Jewish teaching.
The Mishneh Torah consists of fourteen books. Each book deals with a sphere of human life, and the laws governing behaviour in that sphere. The Mishneh Torah is often referred to as the 'Yad Chazakah' (literally, 'Strong Hand').
What is it about?
The Mishneh Torah is an attempt to summarise the decisions about all areas and topics of Jewish Law. The fourteen areas into which the work is divided are: Knowledge, Love, Festivals, Women, Consecration, Separation, Agriculture, Temple Worship, Sacrifices, Cleanliness, Damages, Acquisition, Legal Disputes, and Judges. The Mishneh Torah is a comprehensive work, and thus contains even those laws that were only applicable during the times of the Temples.
What does it look like?
Where does it come from? Who wrote it down?
The Mishneh Torah was written by Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides), and was compiled between 1170-80 CE. Maimonides is often known by the anacronym Rambam. Maimonides reviewed the Halachic discussions of the Talmud and Midrash, and then of the Geonim (600 - 1050 CE). Based on this review of the literature Maimonides attempted to judge what normative law was for all situations. However, the Mishneh Torah does not indicate what sources particular laws are based upon, or where they are derived from.
What do we do with it?
Because Maimonides did not indicate his sources, in places, it is unclear whether he had overlooked important material, or erred in some way Perhaps for this reason, and also because some of Maimonides' rulings were not acceptable to Ashkenazim (Jews from Northern Europe) the Mishneh Torah did not become the final authoritative code of Jewish Law. It has however, become one of the major sources to use for deciding Halachah.
What language is it in?
The Mishneh Torah is in a terse legal Hebrew, similar in style to that of the Mishnah.
If I want to read it...
Much of the Mishneh Torah is translated in an edition published by Moznaim. This edition includes notes. Other parts of Mishneh Torah exist in smaller translations.
Midrash | Shulchan Aruch
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