Mipnei Darkei Shalom: The Promotion of Harmonious Relationships in the Mishnah’s Social Order
This paper will examine the principal of mipnei darkei shalom (in the interest of peace) as it manifests itself in the social order of Mishnah. This principle was used by the rabbis to modify putative laws sometimes explicitly stated in Mishnaic texts and at other times only implied. The Mishnah presents its reader with ten cases of mipnei darkei shalom. Before examining the cases, I first present eight assumptions on which Mishnah is based. These assumptions are used to analyze the ten cases and search out the components that motivate and justify the rabbis’ changing of an accepted law. Based upon my conclusions from the analysis of mipnei darkei shalom, I apply the Durkheim school of social theory to our evidence to better understand the social and cultural ideal world of Mishnah and its structure as presented by an early Palestinian rabbinic group.
My intention is that this essay is to offer a better understanding of the sociology and culture of the ‘world’ as defined by and in Mishnah’s substance, even if that world does not mirror any contemporary or historical Palestinian Jewish world.
Jacob Neusner, Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981); Jacob Neusner, Introduction to Rabbinic Literature (New York: Doubleday, 1994); Jack N. Lightstone, Mishnah and the Social Formation of the Early Rabbinic Guild. Waterloo, Ont., Canada: Wilfrid University Press, 2002; and Simcha Fishbane, Deviancy in Early Rabbinic Judaism (Leiden, NL: Brill, 2007).
Lightstone, Mishnah and the Social Formation, 7.
As Cohn explains, in Naftali S. Cohn, The Memory of the Temple and the Making of the Rabbis (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 1–4, there was no one alive to testify to or even experience Temple life or ritual, and a new form of Jewish rabbinic ritual life was in the making. The Temple life, ritual, and society were chosen to serve the rabbis’ agenda and enhance if not justify their authenticity and authority. As Jewish history has shown time and time again, when the new becomes the old, it acquires legitimacy.
See Lightstone, Mishnah and the Social Formation, 26.
Cohn’s 2013 monograph focuses primarily on this hypothesis of the Mishnah placing the rabbi in the major role, even in the Temple society. I believe that Cohn’s maximalist position is over-emphasized, but it is not the purpose of this essay is to take him to task. See Cohn, Memory of the Temple.
See Gary G. Porton, Goyim: Gentiles and Israelites in Mishnah-Tosefta (Atlanta: Brown University-Scholars Press, 1988).
This argument disclaiming the paralleling of Mishnah and Tosefta is developed in Jacob Neusner’s Tosefta: Its Structure and Its Sources (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986).
Jacob S. Neusner, Introduction to Rabbinic Literature (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 129.
Neusner, Tosefta: Its Structure and Its Sources, 1–7.
Basser and Basser translate mipnei darchei shalom as “for the sake of congeniality,” in Herbert W. Basser and Reena L. Basser, “Ideas of Human Social Concord and Discord in Judaism,” Research in Human Social Conflict, edited by J. B. Gittler, vol. 12 (West Yorkshire, UK: Emerald Group Publishing, 2000), 147. I will demonstrate later in this essay that this translation is correct only for specific instances in Mishnah.
All translations of the Mishnah texts are based upon Jacob Neusner: The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988).
Basser and Basser, Research in Human Social Conflict, 147.
For a general discussion of honor and the priest to include Sefer Torah, See Shlomo Josef Zevin, ed. Talmudic Encyclopedia. Vol. 27. [Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Talmudic Encyclopedia Institute, 2006), 196-214.
In his Mishnah commentary to our case, Maimonides suggests that this is related to a financial issue.
The Talmud 60b describes a scenario in which the last rather than the first cistern in the field receives the priority for the river’s water.
See Mishnah Kidushin 1:4–5 and Baba Batra 5:7 for a discussion of kinyan by dragging an object.
Throughout, the tractate Mishnah Kelim clarifies that a utensil is an object with a proliferation. Although not relevant to Mishnah, the Babylonian Talmud Baba Batra 85a states this principle.
For a rabbinic discussion and definition of the deaf-mute and idiot, see Tzvi C. Marx, Disability in Jewish Law (London: Routledge, 2002), 96–127.
See Catherine Hezser, Jewish Slavery in Antiquity. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 69-104.
Mishnah Pea 8:7–9 defines who is considered a poor person and may accept these gifts.
Tosefta in Gittin 5 offers an autonomous statement that the poor Gentiles are supported along with the Jew. I believe this to be a separate statement inde¬pendent of the agenda of the redactor of Mishnah, with its own agenda.
Although the commentators intensively discuss this Mishnah, offering varying interpretations, I am looking at the direct implications of the Mishnah.
Joan W. Scott and Louise A. Tilly, “Women’s work and the Family in the Nineteenth-Century Europe.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 17, no. 1 (January 1975): 36–64.
Scott and Tilly, Comparative Studies, 43.
The prohibitions regarding the interactions between the haber and the am haaretz are clarified in Mishnah Demai, chapter 2.
For a detailed discussion of the relationship between the am haaretz and the haber, see Richard S. Sarason, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: A Study of Tractate Demai (Leiden, NL: Brill, 1979), 1–21; and Mishnah Sheviis, rev., 1st ed., ArtScroll Mishnah Series (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 2000), 180-81.
This is implied in the passage in Leviticus 25:3, which states that the land should rest on the Seventh year. For a rabbinical discussion supporting this view; see Talmud Yerushalmi Tractate Shebiit [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Beth Midrash Hagavoah Bahalakhah Bahityashvut, 2006).
Translation of Tosefta is adapted from Neusner, 1969.
Shmuel Safrai, Zev Safrai, and Chana Saftai, eds., Mishnat Eretz Israel with Historical and Sociological commentary, vol. 109. Tractate Shakalim [Hebrew] (Jerusalem, Israel: E. M. Liphshitz Publishing House College, 2009).
Shmuel Safrai, Zev Safrai, and Chana Saftai, eds., Mishnat Eretz Israel, 73–74.
The Talmud chooses to explain this action by the rabbis because of the honor the priests deserve. The Mishnah implies otherwise.
In the case of Mishnah, it is difficult to differentiate between them.
Emile Durkheim, The Division of Labor in Society (New York: Free Press, 1997), 68-148; suggestions of reading are based on the translation of Giddens’ 1973 introduction (1–50) and chapters 4, 5 and 6 (108–54).
Mary Douglas, Cultural Bias (London: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 1979).
Mary Douglas, Cultural Bias, 8.
For a discussion of each of these characteristics, see Anthony Giddens, ed., trans., Emile Durkheim: Selected Writings (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1973), 5.
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