Maimonides on the Six Orders of the Mishnah

The sequence of the six orders follows the precedent of Scripture

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Following this, he discusses Seder Mo'ed be­cause this is their sequence in the Torah, as it is stated: Six years shall thou sow thy land and shall gather in the increase thereof; but the seventh year thou shall let it rest and lie fallow (Exodus 23:10-11) and immediately after is stated: Six days shall thou do thy work (Exodus 23:12); and this is followed by: Three festivals shall thou celebrate unto me in the year (Exodus 23:14).

After this he saw fit to have the laws of women precede the laws of damages, in order to follow the Divine approach as in the sequence in Scriptures which states, if a man sells his daughter to be a maid servant (Exodus 21:7),  And if men fight and hurt a pregnant woman(Exodus 21:22) and only then does it state; if an ox gores a man (Exodus 21:28). For this reason, he gave Seder Nashim precedence over Seder Nezikin. The Book of Ex­odus contains these four subjects, that is to say the topics of Seder Zera'm, Seder Mo'ed, Seder Nashim, and Seder Nezikin.

Having described the subject matter of the Book of Exodus, he then moved to the Book of Leviticus, according to their sequence in the Torah. And after Seder Nezikin he established Seder Kodashim and after that Seder Tohorot, because this is their sequence in Scripture. He gave the laws of sacrifices precedence over the laws of defilements and purifcations because purifications are first dis­cussed in the portion of Scripture: And it came to pass on the eighth day (Leviticus 9:1ff, whereas sacrifices are described in the first eight chapters of Leviticus).

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Dr. Fred Rosner

Dr. Fred Rosner is Director of the Department of Medicine of the Mount Sinai Services at the Queens Hospital Center and Professor of Medicine at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.