Baraita and Tosefta

By Ariel Scheib


A legal or historical document that was not integrated into the Mishnah of Judah ha-Nasi, is called a baraita (“outside”). These pieces were written by rabbinic scholars who lived during the time of the Mishnah. The Babylonian Talmud uses the term Matnita (Aramaic for Mishnah) to designate the extra information on halakhot (laws). Mishnah scholars, known as amoraim, utilized the knowledge of baraitot for the sake of attaining additional information. The baraitot would elucidate an issue or question regarding Biblical texts. Baraitot are introduced by the phrases: “the rabbis taught” and “it was taught.”

The Tosefta, meaning supplement, is a separate compilation of baraitot passages, organized in accordance with the order of the Mishnah. The Tosefta is much larger than the Mishnah, and contains interpretations of Judaic laws. These interpretations sometimes support the Mishnah, but may also contradict its teachings.


Source: Eisenberg, Ronald L. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions. PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2004; Wigoder, Geoffrey , Ed. The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia. NY: Facts on File, 1992.