BARAITA (plural Baraitas; Hebrew plural, Baraitot):


An Aramaic word designating a tannaite tradition not incorporated in the Mishnah; later it was applied also to collections of such traditions ("Barayata," plural of Baraita). The Aramaic form is , which in an old manuscript in Grünhut, "Sefer ha-Liḳḳutim," ii. 20b, is vocalized ("Barayta"). The form frequently used, "Boraitha" or "Boraita," is certainly erroneous; for it assumes the rendition of "ḳameẓ" by both "a" and "o" in the same word. The word means "the outside" or tradition, and is probably an adaptation of the Neo-Hebraic term "sefarim ha-ḥizonim" (outside books), denoting the Apocrypha (employed by so early a teacher as Akiba, Sanh. x. 1). The relation of the Baraita to the Mishnah is thus represented as similar to that of the Apocrypha to the canonical Biblical writings.

Another explanation of the term "Baraita" is the following: The Mishnah—that is, the collection of tannaite traditions compiled by Judah ha-Nasi—formed the authoritative subject of instruction in both the Palestinian and the Babylonian academies; whereas the Baraitas were taught in private schools for the academies (Sherira, "First Letter," ed. Neubauer, p. 14). Now these preparatory schools, existing alongside the academies, were designated by the term "bara" (the outside) (Shab. 106a; Beẓah 12b; Yeb. 77b; Sanh. 62b); and later in Babylonia they were called "tarbiẓa" (Isaac Halevy, "Dorot ha-Rishonim," iii. 226, was probably the first to prove the identity of the tarbiẓa with the bara). A Baraita, accordingly, is teaching delivered in such schoolhouses. A point in favor of this explanation is that it makes clear also the striking designation for the teacher of a Baraita, "tanna bara," instead of "tanna baraya," the proper form of an adjective. Thus "tanna bara" is neither more nor less than a "tanna of the bara" (outside school); and his teaching is the Baraita. The fact that the Yerushalmi (Pes. vii. 34a; Ḥallah iv. 59d; Yoma vi. 43d) has "tanna baraya" does not disprove this explanation, as the adjective "baraya" merely means "belonging to the bara."

Various Kinds of Baraita.

Whatever may have been the original meaning of the word "Baraita," it is certain that in the Babylonian Talmud it designates the most varied kinds of tannaite traditions not contained in the Mishnah, such as Sifra, Sifre, Mekilta, and Tosefta. In the Talmud Yerushalmi, "Baraita" rarely occurs, but it is not wholly lacking as Frankel maintains ("Mebo," 12a); see, for instance, Yer. Niddah iii. 50d. According to Weiss ("Dor," iii. 3), Yerushalmi once gives the Hebrew equivalent "Miḥuẓah" for the Aramaic "Baraita." His statement—which he fails to verify by any reference—is, however, scarcely correct. (The expression "mishnah ha-ḥiẓnah" occurs in Num. R. xviii. 21, a work which, in its present form, is hardly older than the twelfth century; in 'Aruk, s.v. 1, and s.v. ; in the writings of the Karaite, Judah Hadassi; in those of Judah of Barcelona, and in Halakot Gedolot.

Nature and Sources.

The contents of a Baraita are either haggadic or halakic, more frequently the latter; but the proportion of Haggadah to Halakah in the Baraita is quite different from their proportion to each other in the Mishnah. For, while the Mishnah rarely gives haggadic matter, the Babylonian treatise Berakot alone cites fifty Haggadot from the Baraita. The halakic Baraitas are either purely halakic or Midrashic-halakic; that is, they either simply state a law independently of Scripture, or deduce legal decisions from some passage in the Bible by means of certain hermeneutic rules. The sources used by the Talmud, especially for the halakic Baraitas, are the extant halakic Midrashim, Mekilta, Sifra, Sifre, Sifre Zuṭṭa, Mekilta de R. Simon, and Mekilta on Deuteronomy (the last three only partially preserved in manuscript form), as well as various tannaitic collections which did not survive the redaction of the Talmud and of which nothing is now known. To these lost Midrashic collections, which were still in existence at the time of the Amoraim and were the sources for a large number of the halakic Baraitas, belong the following: first, those named after the originator from whose school they issued, as the Baraita collections of R. Simon, of R. Eliezer b. Jacob, and of R. Ishmael (the last is often called "The Baraita of the school of R. Ishmael"); then those which are named after their last redactor; e.g., R. Ḥiyyah, R. Hoshaya, and R. Ḥizḳiyah, the last of whom may be regarded, if not as a tanna, at least as a semi-tanna (see Bar Ḳappara), and whose collection marks the transition from the tannaitic to the amoraic Baraita collections. Concerning the older pupils of Rabbi—namely, Bar Ḳappara, Levi, Abba Arika, and Samuel—it is known that they collected Baraitas and arranged them according to the Orders of the Mishnah (for instance, Ḳid. 76b; B. B. 52b, where the Baraita collection of Levi is cited as the "Kiddushin debe Levi"; see Rashbam, ad loc. But compare also I. Halevy, "Dorot ha-Rishonim," ii. 119-161).

Tannaitic Baraita Collections.

The great mass of traditional matter presented by these widely varying Baraita collections may be separated into two large divisions—the pre-Mishnaic Baraita and the post-Mishnaic. The origin and development, form, and contents of the two are so essentially different that they may be readily distinguished. Even in the first arrangement of the Mishnah made by the pupils of Shammai and Hillel in the time of the Temple, considerable portions of the traditional subject-matter were omitted. Thus, as was noted by Sherira (First Letter, ed. Neubauer, p. 16), the Talmud ('Er. 19a) speaks of a Baraita of the school of R. Johanan b. Zakkai, which can be taken to mean only that so far back as the time of Johanan b. Zakkai certain things were excluded from the authoritative teachings, which, nevertheless, continued to be transmitted. When Akiba undertook for the first time a comprehensive and systematic collection of the traditional matter, much was omitted by him, not only through his frequent and intentional disregard of the old Halakah, but for the purely economical reasons that he had to limit himself to a selection from the vast amount of material at hand. According to a Talmudic passage, not to be taken literally, but doubtless containing a foundation of fact, Eliezer b. Hyrcanus alone transmitted 300 Halakot in a special case (Sanh. 68a). Most of the tannaim of Akiba's time, like Ishmael and Abba Saul, also occupied themselves with collections and arrangements of the old traditions; and their collections, as well as those of others from which very many Baraitas are derived, have been preserved in more or less lengthy fragments. Unfortunately, Akiba's peculiar hermeneutics undid much of the good accomplished by his methodology; and, indeed, his pupils, R. Meïr, R. Judah, R. Simon, and R. Nehemiah, felt themselves compelled to modify essentially the collection begun by him; and in the process many old Baraitas were again excluded.

Effect of the Mishnah.

The redaction of the Mishnah by Judah ha-Nasi, which followed, was based chiefly on R. Meïr's recension of Akiba's Mishnah. It was owing to thegreat authority with which Rabbi's redaction became invested, that that branch of literature was produced to which later usage gave the name "Baraita." The vast amount of matter accumulated from the time of Hillel's activity—possibly from earlier generations—to the time of Judah ha-Nasi was divided into two groups by his Mishnah. It excluded from its contents nearly the whole halakic Midrash. Since the Mishnah is concerned chiefly with judicial statements, and not with causes, the reason for a Halakah and the means by which it was produced remain for the most part unknown. Often no regard is paid in the Mishnah to the opinions of individual authorities; the most recognized and most wide-spread view is adopted as law; and, even where varying opinions are cited, the editor omits, in most cases, the prolix discussions of his predecessors.

Halakic Baraitas.

The halakic Baraitas, therefore, if only those up to the time of the Mishnah are regarded, consist of tannaite traditions of the school of Shammai, which were neglected even by Akiba in his Mishnah, and naturally were still less heeded by Judah ha-Nasi. To give an example: In the Mishnah the rule ("One can not constitute another a representative ["messenger"] for a crime") obtains (see Accessory); whereas a Baraita (Ḳid. 43a) has preserved the following tradition: "Shammai taught, 'If some one bade a person, Go and kill so-and-so, he (the sender) has incurred the death-penalty.'" Another highly characteristic instance is the following: The pharisaic conception, according to which the Biblical lex talionis is valid only in case of murder, while for other crimes money compensation satisfies the law, was no longer an open question for the Mishnah. Hence, while the Mishnah (B. Ḳ. viii. 1) begins by determining the damages for bodily injuries, it is learned from a Baraita (ib. 84a) that this principle was not recognized by the school of Shammai, and that Eliezer b. Hyrcanus still upheld the old Sadducean view of the lex talionis (compare Mek., Mishpaṭim, 8; Geiger's "Nachgelassene Schriften," v. 162).

It is evident, then, that the Baraita not infrequently gives the old Halakah, while the Mishnah gives the later development (see Baraita de-Niddah). In the above-mentioned Talmud passage (B. Ḳ. 83b, 84a), ten Baraitas and Memras present ten different Midrashic reasons for the principle concerning money compensation for bodily injuries which the Mishnah assumes to be self-evident. This furnishes an example of the wealth of the halakic Midrash in the Baraita, contrasted with its comparative absence in the Mishnah.

As has already been observed, some of these halakic Midrashim have been preserved; but the purely halakic Baraita collections—i. e., those without Midrashic support from Scriptures—were completely supplanted by the Mishnah, and, with the exception of a few citations in the Talmud, they have entirely disappeared.

The same was the fate of the haggadic Baraitas; for it is highly probable that even Akiba, or at least his disciples, began Haggadah collections, arranged according to a certain system. The Book of Jubilees, as well as scattered haggadic Baraitas, furnishes plausible grounds for the supposition that homiletic elucidations and legendary amplifications based on the Bible text existed at a very early time. From such Haggadah collections many of the haggadic Baraitas cited in the Talmud and the Midrash were drawn, and there are numerous indications that haggadic opinions were early arranged by numbers (see Baraita of the Forty-Nine Rules), from which, probably, many Baraitas in numerical form have been derived (see, for instance, Ber. 3a, 3b, 10b, 43b, and many others enumerated by Weiss, "Dor," ii. 240).

Though the old Baraita, as has been shown, is not only quite independent of the Mishnah, but entirely different from it in character and contents, the distinguishing feature of the later Baraita, which originated among the disciples of Judah ha-Nasi, is its constant relationship with the Mishnah. Explanations and elucidations of the Mishnah, supplements to it, and opposing opinions were all contained in the Baraitas of Ḥiyyah, Levi, Bar Ḳappara, and the other pupils of Rabbi. To give an idea of these Baraitas, the following may serve as an example: The first Mishnah (Ber. i. 1), which gives the time set for the reading of the Shema', certainly originated in the period preceding the destruction of the Temple; and the time-limits which it sets for this reading were actually unintelligible and pointless at a later date. Judah ha-Nasi, who desired his Mishnah to be a text-book for instruction rather than a code of laws, preserved the old formula for the time of the Shema'-reading current in the academies. Not so Ḥiyyah, who in his Baraita changed the formula of the Mishnah in accordance with the conditions prevailing in his day (Yer. Ber., beginning).

At the first blush, these post-Mishnaic Baraitas frequently give the impression of presenting something quite new. Closer examination, however, reveals the fact that general rules laid down in the Mishnah are given a special application in the Baraita. The Talmud relates that an amora of the second generation made an interesting wager that he would give the source in the Mishnah of every teaching in a Baraita whose author was a disciple of Judah ha-Nasi (Ket. 69b). Cases in which these Baraitas present a view differing from that of the Mishnah are not very frequent; but they often give opinions disregarded in the Mishnah, at the same time naming the authority for them together with the opinion which the Mishnah holds to be the standard. The origin of these Baraitas, then, is not to be sought in any feeling of opposition to the Mishnah—though this may have played some part—but rather in a desire to supplement that work. Various passages of the Talmud, in fact (Naz. 52b; B. M. 51a), create the impression that the disciples of Judah ha-Nasi were prompted to undertake their work by Rabbi himself.

Of these Baraita collections only fragments have been preserved in the Talmuds and Midrashim; and probably the Tosefta was in part prepared in accordance with them.

Authority of the Baraita.

The diverse origins of the Baraitas explain the varied estimation put upon them during the periodof the Amoraim, and its unequal influence upon the development of the Halakah. The time of the first amoraim was a time of conflict between the Mishnah and the Baraita; but at so early a period as that of the most prominent Palestinian amoraim of the second generation the rule had been established that the teachings not officially delivered in the academies could not lay claim to authority (Yer. 'Er. i. 19b). In the same spirit was the rule in the Babylonian Talmud that no reliance should be placed on Baraitas not embodied in the collections of Ḥiyyah and Hoshaya (Ḥul. 141a et seq.); for these were the only Baraita collections taught in the academies (Sherira, First Letter, ed. Neubauer, p. 15). But even these favored Baraitas possessed authority only in so far as they did not clash with the Mishnah (for numerous instances see Sherira, ib.).

Cases in which the Talmud sides with the Baraita in opposing the Mishnah are very rare; indeed, only one such case can be adduced with certainty (Lampronti, "Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ," i. 52). Nevertheless, certain amoraim gave special attention to the study of the Baraita. The principal of these in Babylonia were Sheshet and Joseph b. Ḥiyyah, of the third generation of amoraim, who prided themselves on their knowledge of the Baraita ('Er. i. 67a; compare also the remark of R. Joseph in Giṭ. 6b). In general, however, the Babylonians did not possess so intimate a knowledge of the Baraita as did the Palestinians, who could state the origin and development of each Baraita with exactitude. If, nevertheless, some Baraitas remained unknown to the Palestinians, though familiar to the Babylonians, it was due to the fact that independent Halakot collections were made in Babylonia, prior to the redaction of the Mishnah, which never became widely known in Palestine (Sherira, ib. p. 16). Weiss, however, is not quite right in asserting ("Dor," iii. 32) that the many scholars during the amoraic period, who are called "Tannaim" and are referred to in the Talmud as "arrangers of 'Mishnayot' before the Babylonian scholars," were those who carried the Baraitas from Palestine to Babylonia (I. Halevy, "Dorot ha-Rishonim," iii. 4, 5; see also Tannaim). They, in fact, were the very ones who transmitted numerous Halakot and halakic Midrashim, which remained wholly unknown to the Yerushalmi, and for whose sources the Palestinian Baraita collections might have served just as well as the Babylonian.

In post-Talmudic times, "Baraita" came to be the general designation of those works which either originated or were claimed to have originated in the time of the Tannaim. Hence, in a wider sense, the word can be applied to the Tosefta and the halakic Midrashim.

It is probable that the Geonim and later generations of scholars were acquainted with some Baraita collections now unknown. Hai Gaon reports that he saw in the possession of an old scholar supplements to the Mishnah ("Sha'are Teshubah," 1858, No. 143). A Baraita on the stones in the "ḥoshen" (breastplate) and "ephod" and on the "degalim" (banners) was consulted by so late a writer as Maimonides, but seems now to be entirely lost (Epstein, "Mi-Ḳadmoniyot," pp. 83-90; compare Mishnah, Midrash, Tosefta.

  • Z. Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, pp. 218, 311-313;
  • idem, Mebo, 22a et seq.;
  • Hoffmann, Zur Einleitung in die Halachischen Midraschim, pp. 1-3, 79-81;
  • Abraham Krochmal, Yerushalaim, ha-Benuyah, pp. 6 et seq.;
  • idem, in He-Ḥaluẓ, iii. 118 et seq.;
  • Nahman Krochmal, Moreh Nebuke ha-Zeman, pp. 200 et seq.;
  • Lampronti, Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ, 1st ed., i. 52a et seq., s.v. ;
  • Oppenheim, in Bet Talmud, ii. 348 et seq.;
  • idem, in Keneset Yisrael, ii. 50 et seq.;
  • Sherira Gaon, First Letter;
  • Weiss, Dor Dor we-Dorshaw, ii. 189 et seq., 239-244, iii. 3;
  • Zunz, G. V. 2d ed., p. 52.
J. Sr. L. G.