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Seder Zeraim (Hebrew: סדר זרעים, lit. "Order of Seeds") is the first and shortest Seder ("Order") of the Mishnah, the first major work of Jewish law. The section of mishnah was written by the rabbis to inform religious Jews what must be done to fulfill their biblical obligations of prayer and commandments about food. Observers of Jewish law are bound with many obligations and restrictions regarding agricultural areas, and must adhere to a stringent schedule for prayer times.
Of all the Tractates in Seder Zeraim, only Berakhot has a corresponding Gemara in the Babylonian Talmud. However, many of the mishnayot of Seder Zeraim are addressed throughout the Babylonian Talmud. The Tractates of Seder Zeraim are included in the Jerusalem Talmud.
Zeraim is divided into eleven tractates:
- Berakhot (ברכות, Blessings) deals with the rules of blessings and prayers, particularly the Shema and the Amidah. It consists of nine chapters.
- Pe'ah (פאה, Corner) deals with the regulations concerning the commandment to leave the corner of one's field for the poor (Leviticus 19:9–10, 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19–22), and with the rights of the poor in general. 8 chapters.
- Demai (דמאי, Doubtful Produce) deals chiefly with various cases in which it is not certain whether the priestly donations have been taken from produce. 7 chapters.
- Kil'ayim (כלאים, Of Two Sorts; Heterogeneous) deals chiefly with rules regarding forbidden mixtures in agriculture, clothing and breeding (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9–11). 9 chapters.
- Shevi'it (שביעית, Seventh Year) deals with the agricultural and fiscal regulations concerning the Sabbatical Year (Exodus 23:11, Leviticus 25:1–8, Deuteronomy 15:1–11). 10 chapters.
- Terumot (תרומות, Donations) deals with the laws regarding the terumah donation given to the Kohanim (Jewish priests) (Numbers 18:8–20, Deuteronomy 18:4). 11 chapters.
- Ma'aserot (מעשרות, Tithes) or Ma'aser Rishon (מעשר ראשון, First Tithe) deals with the rules regarding the tithe to be given to the Levites (Numbers 18:21–24). 5 chapters
- Ma'aser Sheni (מעשר שני, Second Tithe) deals with the rules concerning the tithe which was to be eaten in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 14:22–26). 5 chapters
- Hallah (חלה, Glob of Dough) deals with the laws regarding the hallah offering of dough to be given to the Kohanim (Numbers 15:18–21). 4 chapters
- Orlah (ערלה, Blockage of Trees) deals chiefly with the prohibition of the immediate use of a tree after it has been planted (Leviticus 19:23–25). 3 chapters.
- Bikkurim (ביכורים, First-Fruits) deals with the first-fruit gifts to the Kohanim and Temple (Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 26:1). 3 / 4 chapters.
In many editions of the Mishnah, even early ones like those of Naples 1492, and of Riva 1559, as well as in most of the editions of the Babylonian Talmud, a fourth chapter, which is likely a Baraisa, has been added to Bikkurim (comp. the gloss in the Vilna edition of the Talmud, p. 87b). The sequence of the volumes of Zeraim in both editions (as they are numbered above) corresponds with that given by Maimonides.
Although the first volume, about blessings, seems not to belong in a section on agriculture, the reasoning for its inclusion is as follows: In Judaism, a blessing must be said before enjoying food or other produce. Similarly, before studying the laws pertaining to sustenance, it is appropriate to learn the laws of blessings.