From Academic Kids

Nezikin ("The Order of Damages") is the fourth order of Mishna (also the Tosefta and Talmud). It deals with Jewish "criminal and civil" law, court system etc.

There are 10 tractates:

  1. Bava Kamma: ("First Gate"); Deals with civil matters, largely damages and compensation. (See Shomrim)
  2. Bava Metzia: ("Middle Gate"); Deals with civil matters, largely torts and property
  3. Bava Batra: ("Last Gate"); Deals with civil matters, largely land ownership.
  4. Sanhedrin: ("The Sanhedrin"); Deals with the rules of court precedings in the Sanhedrin, the death penalty and other criminal matters.
  5. Makkot: ("Lashes"); Deals with collusive witnesses, cities of refuge and the punishment of lashes.
  6. Shevuot: ("Oaths"); Deals with the various types of oaths and their consequences.
  7. Eduyot: ("Testimonies"); Presents case studies of legal disputes in Mishnaic times and the miscellaneous testimonies that illustrate various Sages and principles of halakha.
  8. Avodah Zarah: ("Idolatry"); Deals with the laws of interactions between Jews and idolaters, and the subject of idol worship known as Avodah Zarah in Hebrew.
  9. Avoth: ("Fathers"); A collection of the Sages' favourite ethical maxims.
  10. Horayot: ("Decisions"); Deals with the communal sin-offering.

Originally, the first three tractates were counted as a single, very lengthy tractate. Since it was the chief repository of "civil" law, it was simply called Masechet Nezikin (The Tractate of Damages). The traditional reasoning for the order is as follows. The order begins with civil law (the first 3 tractates) because it is considered the cornerstone of righteousness within a Jewish state. It follows with Sanhedrin as the source of criminal law - the proliferation of which is considered to reflect badly on a society and seen to be caused by a neglect of "civil" laws. Makkot follows as it is a continuation of Sanhedrin's subject matter. Shevuot follows because it continues the general topic dealt with in Makkot of the false testimony. After outlining the main points of civil and criminal law, Eduyot follows to fit it all into a halakhic framework. After dealing with "damages" within a society, the next stage is damages to the universe, with Avodah Zarah placed to highlight the seriousness of idolatry in a society. Avot is probably placed there to counteract negativity and relate maxims of the Sages, an essential aspect of whose teaching was to counteract idolatry. Finally, Horayot brings the discussion from lofty heights to a humble note, highlighting that even the Sages and Bet Din can err.

There is both a Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud to each of the tractates except for Eduyot and Avot. This is probably because these two tractates aren't concerned with individual laws and therefore don't lend themselves to a Gemara style analysis.

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