Braita(Plural briatot): From the root “bar,” meaning “outside.” “Braita” refers to a statement or passage found in the Talmud that could have been included in the Mishnah, but is nowhere to be found in the Mishnah. Thus, it lies “outside” the Mishnah. The Mishnah is part of the earliest strata of rabbinic literature and was codified around the year 200 CE. The Mishnah and the braitot contain material pertaining to events purported to have occurred even hundreds of years earlier. The braitot were preserved independently of the Mishnah and later scholars, whose discussions comprise the Talmud (or “gemara”), frequently cite braitot in their efforts to carefully analyze the information contained in the Mishnah. It is not clear why the braitot were excluded from the Mishnah. Possibly, the editors of the Mishnah were aware of the alternative versions of the laws and legends the braitot preserve and rejected them as inferior. Possibly, the Mishnah’s editors were unaware of these rival versions and additional sources of information, and therefore they could not include them, though subsequently they were retrieved for posterity by the later scholars. It is not known how historically reliable these texts are and they typically lack independent verification of any sort. On the one hand, their stories may only reflect the agendas of later Talmudic editors. On the other hand, the texts selected on this site seem to weave together coherent narratives of passionate yet nuanced individuals, who’s particular and rather sweeping agendas carry the ring of authenticity.


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The Deposing of Rabban Gamaliel