The Mishnah of Hillel 1:2
D’varim 6:4-9 4 ¶ “Hear, O Israel! The L-RD is our God, the L-RD is one! 5 “You shall love the L-RD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Berachot 1:3 The House of Shammai say, “In the evening everyone should recline in order to recite [the Shema] and in the morning they should stand, “as it says [in the passage of the Shema], When you lie down and when you rise (Dt. 6:7).” But the House of Hillel say, “Everyone may recite according to his own manner [either reclining or standing], “as it says, And as you walk by the way (ibid.).” If it is so [that one may recite however he wishes] why does [the verse] say, When you lie down and when you rise? [It means you must recite the Shema] at the hour that people lie down [night] and at the hour that people rise [in the morning]. Said R. Tarfon, “I was coming along the road [in the evening] and reclined to recite the Shema as required by the House of Shammai. And [in doing so] I placed myself in danger of [being attacked by] bandits.” They said to him, “You are yourself responsible [for what might have befallen you], for you violated the words of the House of Hillel.”
Logic and the Mishnah
We have already looked at the logic of Hillel in our last post. In this post, I would like to take things to the next level of our understanding in the Mesorah of Mark.
The logic of the Mishnah is often over looked or not presented in Homiletics or by its Theologians. Why is this? As I stated before many have little or no knowledge of the logical and Hermeneutic system used to study the Torah or the logic used to develop the halachic database called the Mishnah.
I also related that Yeshua followed the practice of reciting the Shema just as the Mishnah demonstrated.
Berachot 1:2 From what time do they recite the Shema in the morning? From the hour that one can distinguish between [the colors] blue and white. R. Eliezer says, “Between blue and green.” And one must complete it before sunrise. R. Joshua says, “Before the third hour. “For it is the practice of royalty to rise [at] the third hour. [Thus we deem the third hour still to be 'morning.']” One who recites later than this [i.e., the third hour] has not transgressed [by reciting a blessing at the wrong time, for he is viewed simply] as one who recites from the Torah.
Yeshua’ devotion to halachic practice is seldom addressed or presented in Homilies of Theological lecture. This is because a halachic Yeshua demands something beyond what the lackadaisically minded want to hear. Likewise, it does not sell well at the bookstore.
Yeshua, A Halachacialy observant Jewish Orthodox Rabbi
Likewise, Yeshua’ devotion to Rabbinic Hermeneutic is farther from the Homilies of those same theologians. These practices are glossed over or ignored. Today there are a growing number of commentaries on the life of Yeshua placed on the bookshelves of the Christian bookstore. Where are the books that demonstrate Yeshua as a Halachacialy observant Jewish Orthodox Rabbi? I looked for one the other day. I also looked for a Hebrew Bible. When I was asked if I could be helped, I replied I was looking for a Hebrew Bible. (I did not believe that I would find the other book) The attendant walked over to the shelf I had been browsing for several minutes and picked up a Bible. It was a Greek Bible. I handed the Bible back to him saying this is a Greek Bible. I guess he did not know the difference.
Yeshua in a Different Light
Traditional practice at the dinner table in the western world is to say “Grace” before the meal. Some blessing is invoked to “bless the food.” This was NEVER the Biblical model. The Bible clearly says that “Grace” if we can use this term, is to be said when we have eaten and are satiated.
Deuteronomy 8:10 10 “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the L-RD your G-d for the good land which He has given you.
However, Judaism does have several B’racha (blessings) that are said before partaking of various foods. However, it should be noted that the Jew NEVER blesses the “food.” He ALWAYS blessed G-d for the food. An Orthodox Jew would never put anything in his mouth that was not kosher. The western practice of saying “Grace” before the meal may have stemmed from the practice of saying the Brachot over particular foods. Nonetheless, the western practice has circumvented the “Grace” after the meal. (Birkat haMazon)
My point here is not to argue the origins of the western practice. My point is that we are not directly told to say any kind of blessing before eating specific foods.
Nonetheless, the Rabbis of antiquity determined logically that we should make a B’racha before partaking certain foods. This addendum to the Torah’s mentioned “grace” was derived from hermeneutic practice called “Kal va komer.” The logic says that since we are obligated to say a B’racha after eating food we should say a B’racha before eating as well. Actually, this is only good common sense and did not really need much of a hermeneutic to establish this halachic practice. If the western practice were modified just a little, it would be closer to Orthodox Jewish practice, or following the practices that Yeshua followed. However, the Birkat haMazon would still be required after the meal per the Biblical mandate mentioned above.
I have eluded to Yeshua’ practice more than once. How did Yeshua react to this Rabbinic invention, logic and hermeneutic?
Mark 6:41 41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all.
I have cited from P’shat to remain faithful to the Mesorah of Mark. Likewise, I have struck out the italicized text. Any first grade theologian knows that the italicized text of the Bible means that it was added by translators to try to clarify the (or make their own point) the text.
The text needs no clarification or additional words to help us understand what Yeshua was doing. He looked up, made the appropriate B’racha and then broke the bread. He did NOT bless BREAD! He DID BLESS G-d!
However, we have noted that this was Rabbinicaly derived and not directly Biblical. If this practice of saying a B’racha before eating food was wrong Yeshua would have simply broken the bread, passed it out and began eating. And or, directly addressed the practice telling us that it was inappropriate. Conversely, we actually have Yeshua’ stamp of approval on this practice in the above cited verse.
Yeshua and Mishnaic Logic
Mark 12:28-31 28 ¶ And coming up one of the scribes heard them reasoning, knowing that He had answered them well, he asked Him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Yeshua answered him, The first of all the mitzvot is, “Hear, O Israel, the L-RD our G-d is one L-RD; 30 and you shall love the L-RD your G-d with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
We cited this passage in the previous article. The above-cited verse tells us that Yeshua believed that the Shema was the first commandment (Mitzvah). This idea needs a bit of clarification. I shall be as brief as possible here.
The Greek text uses the word “protos” for the “first” mitzvah. There are several words for “first” in Greek. For example, the Greek word “arche” mean first in priority. The word “protos” builds upon the idea of being the first thing we do as a priority and a numerical since. It may be best understood as something in front of another. Or, that which is primary. The Hebrew text fir this verse would read (הָרִאשׁנָה לְכָל־הַמִּצְוֹת׃) harishonah hamitzvot. Therefore, we can see that the Shem is first and primary in several ways. Let’s see if we can put this all together in a way that is simplifies out point.
When we look at the Mishnah the first Order is called “Zeraim” (Seeds – Agriculture). There are six orders to the Mishnah. The subsections to each “Order” is called a “Tractate.” The first “Tractate” of Seder (Order) Zeraim is called “Berachot.” The divisions of each tractate are normally called chapters. Each passage of a Tractate is called a “Mishnah.” The first Mishnah opens with the phrase, “From what time may they recite the Shema in the evening?”
This is all very perplexing. The reason it is so perplexing is that we have the Shema’s recital at the beginning of an Oder on Agriculture. It is not until the sixth chapter that we have any connection to agriculture. In this chapter, we have the above mentioned Berachot. (Blessings for various foods)
Why is the Shema in the opening Tractate of the Mishnah.
Rabbinic logic says that logic needs no scripture. In other words we do not need Scripture, Mishnah or otherwise to tell us logical truths. However, the Scripture and Mishnah are filled with good simple logic. Take for an example “You will not steal.” While we are commanded not to steal our neighbor’s possessions, it is simple common sense. To quote a Mishnah we cite Avot 1:7. Nittai the Arbelite says, “Keep away from a bad neighbor.” “And don’t get involved with a wicked man.” “And don’t give up hope of retribution.” This is really only good common sense. We could cite many such example, however I believe this will suffice.
When Yeshua was questioned by the Scribe we are usually told that there is some sort of argument taking place. However, looking at the verses closely we see a sincere interchange taking place. The Sofer (Scribe) wanted a discussion with someone of sensible intelligence. Their interchange answers a question concerning Yeshua’ logic as well as a look into the logic of the Mishnah.
Mark 12:32-34 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Rabbi; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; 33 AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Yeshua saw that he had answered logically, (my interpretation) He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of G-d.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.
Before we comment on these verses we would like to note… “After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” Why does no one ask any questions after this answer? I believe that Yeshua demonstrates a logic that many had been searching for. They found this logic in a walking Mishnah, Yeshua.
The Sofer gives a profound answer. This answer is often misinterpreted. It is often believed that Yeshua was saying that the sacrifices and offering were of no value. However, it is not Yeshua who makes this statement. These are the words of the Sofer. Likewise, the Sofer was not suggesting the annulment of the offerings and sacrifices. His saying describes ideal life. Actually the key to this response is in Yeshua’ reply. “You are not far from the kingdom of G-d.” Why does Yeshua make this statement?
Mark1:14-15 Now after Yochanan was arrested and put in prison, Yeshuah came into Galilee, proclaiming the good news (the Masorot – the Traditions) of the kingdom (governance) of G-d [through the Hakhamim and Bate Din as opposed to human kings], 15. And saying, The [appointed period of] time is fulfilled (completed), and the kingdom (governance) of God [through Hakhamim and Bate Din] is at hand; repent (have a change of mind and return to Torah wisdom) and faithfully obey the Masorah (Traditions/Oral Law).
I offer this translation of Mordechai (Mark) 1:14-15 to make this point. This verse was translated by His Eminence Rabbi Dr. Yoseph be Haggi. What is the coming Kingdom? The Kingdom is the governance of G-d by the Mesorah – Oral Tradition. The core of this Mesorah would be the Mishnah. Personally, I am convinced that the core of this governance would be through the Mesorah of Yeshua as presented by Mordechai. The Sofer was about to experience the Kingdom as we have it described. Likewise, I believe that the Sofer understood exactly what Yeshua was saying.
Yeshua’ logic is expressed in harmony with the Mishnah in the following way. The beginning of the Biblical day has always been the evening as the Shema itself reports. “When you lie down and when you rise up.” Therefore, Yeshua logically deducts that the first thing to do during the day (evening) is to recite the Shema. However, as the Mishnah states the age-old question (I believe that question was posed LONG before the time of Yeshua) from what time in the evening (the beginning or first part of the day) may we recite the Shema?
What is the most important act of the day? According to Yeshua’s Mishnah, the Shema. When do we recite it? When the day begins. When does the day begin? Just after the Cohanim eat the terumah.
This Mishnah follows Yeshua’ logic. The Mishnah disregarded order (Agriculture) and started with the same logic Yeshua presented to the Soferim. Whose logic does the Mishnah follow?
More to come………
 Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah A New Translation, (New Haven & London: Yale University Press) 1988.
- Hillel’s Mishnah
- Mark 60