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Massekhet

MASSEKHET

MASSEKHET (pl. Massekhtot ; Heb. מַסֶּכֶת, pl. מַסֶּכְתּוֹת; lit. "a web," idiomatically a tractate; cf. Lat. textus), a main subdivision of each of the six orders, or sedarim, of the Mishnah. Each mishnaic order is divided into a number of massekhtot; each massekhet is divided into chapters, and each chapter into Mishnayot or paragraphs in the Babylonian Talmud and into halakhot in the Jerusalem Talmud. The total number of tractates of the entire Mishnah, which was originally 60, was subsequently, by a further minor subdivision, increased to 63. Massekhet also designates the corresponding Gemara tractates. Beginning with the editio princeps (1520–23, Venice), in all standard editions of the Babylonian Talmud each massekhet has a fixed number of folio pages. The most voluminous tractate, numbering 176 folios, is Bava Batra; the smallest is Horayot numbering 14. In the Jerusalem Talmud the original pagination of the tractates has been preserved only in the Venice edition of 1522–23, and in its later reprints. As there is no Gemara on all mishnaic tractates, the number of massekhtot in the Babylonian Talmud is only 37 and in the Jerusalem Talmud 39. Occasionally the term massekhet is also applied to rabbinical books outside the Talmud. See also *Talmud; *Mishnah; and Minor Tractates.

bibliography:

Epstein, Mishnah, 981–3.

[Jacques K. Mikliszanski]

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