In many ways, the Tosefta acts as a supplement to the Mishnah (tosefta means "supplement or addition"). The Mishnah is the basic compilation of the Oral law of Judaism; it was compiled around 200 CE. The Tosefta is a Halakhic work which corresponds in structure almost exactly to the Mishnah, with the same divisions for sedarim ("orders") and masekhot ("tractates"). It is mainly written in Mishnaic Hebrew, with some Aramaic.
According to rabbinic tradition, the Mishnah was redacted by Judah haNasi in consultation with members of his yeshiva ("academy"), while the Tosefta was edited by Rabbis Chiya and Oshaiah(who was a student of Chiya) on their own, thus the Tosefta is considered less authoritative. (Rashi in his commentary on Talmud Sanhedrin 33a).
At times the text of the Tosefta agrees nearly verbatim with the Mishnah. At others there are significant differences. The Tosefta attributes laws that are anonymous in the Mishnah to named Tannaim. It also augments the Mishnah with additional glosses and discussions. The Tosefta as we have it today functions like a commentary on unquoted Mishnaic material. It offers additional aggadic and midrashic material, and it sometimes contradicts the Mishnah in the ruling of Halakha (Jewish law), or in declaring in whose name a law was given.
The traditional view is that the Tosefta should be dated to a period concurrent with or shortly after the redaction of the Mishnah. This view pre-supposes that the Tosefta was produced in order to record variant material not included in the Mishnah.
Modern scholarship can be roughly divided into two camps. Some, such as Jacob N. Epstein theorize that the Tosefta as we have it developed from a proto-Tosefta recension which formed much of the basis for later Amoraic debate. Others, such as Hanokh Albeck, theorize that the Tosefta is a later compendium of several baraitot collections which were in use during the Amoraic period.
More recent scholarship, such as that of Yaakov Elman, concludes that since the Tosefta, as we know it, must be dated linguistically as an example of Middle Hebrew 1, was most likely compiled in early amoraic times from oral transmission of baraitot., "Babylonian Baraitot in Tosefta and the `Dialectology' of Middle Hebrew," Association for Jewish Studies Review 16 (1991), 1-29. Professor Shamma Friedman, has found that the Tosefta draws on relatively early tannaitic source material and that parts of the Tosefta predate the Mishnah.
Alberdina Houtman and colleagues theorize that the Mishnah was compiled in order to establish an authoritative text on halakhic tradition. However, a more conservative party opposed the exclusion of the rest of tradition and produced the Tosefta to avoid the impression that the written Mishnah was equivalent to the entire oral Torah. The original intention was that the two texts would be viewed on equal standing, but the succinctness of the Mishnah and the power and influence of Yehuda Ha-Nassi made it more popular among most students of tradition.
Ultimately, the state of the source material is such to allow divergent opinions to exist. These opinions serve to show the difficulties in establishing a clear picture of the origins of the Tosefta.
The definitive commentary on the Tosefta is by Rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky: Hazon Yehezkel (24 volumes, 1925-1975 in Hebrew).
The Tosefta has been translated into English by Rabbi Jacob Neusner and his students. They have also produced a commentary on Seder Zeraim.
- Yaakov Elman, Authority & Tradition, Yeshiva Univ. Press, 1994
- S.Y. Friedman, Le-Hithavvut Shinnuye ha-Girsaot be'Talmud ha-Bavli, Sidra 7, 1991.
- Alberdina Houtman, Mishnah and Tosefta: A Synoptic Comparison of the Tractates Berakhot, Mohr Siebeck, 1996
- See (for example) Jacob Neusner, The Law of Agriculture in the Mishnah and the Tosefta, Brill, 2005, especially page 1531.
- Some or all of this article is forked from Wikipedia. The original article was at Tosefta. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.
- "TOSEFTA" in the Jewish Encyclopedia