Introduction to Midrash
Richard Hidary –
email the whole class
This course surveys the major works and methods of rabbinic
midrash, both halakhic and aggadic. We will discuss the historical background of
Midrash, inner-biblical exegesis, exegesis in
(1) Attendance, prompt arrival and class participation are assumed. Anything more than two absences will lower your grade. Three lates are equivalent to one absence.
(2) Preparation and Participation: Reading assigned primary and secondary texts is essential for you success in grasping the wide survey of history we are covering in this course. Primary texts are important so that you learn the methodology of how historians use these sources to construct the past. Secondary texts help in presenting, organizing and helping us remember important historical data. I may assign written and electronic homework assignments and quizzes based on the readings. Students may also be selected randomly each class to read and explain the required texts or to summarize the assigned reading. (10%)
(3) Exams. A midterm (35%) and a final (40%) will assess your grasp and retention of material as well as give the class an opportunity to review and notice patterns that recur through many topics.
(4) Written assignments: (15%)
Assignment 1 – due on class 10
Write a translation and comprehensive commentary of Mekhilta d’R. Ishmael, Ba-hodesh, 8: “You shall not steal” (Exod 20:13). You should consult as many editions and commentaries as you can (quote them so I know you saw them). Your analysis should address the following: what hermeneutical method is the midrash using? What is the peshat of the pasuk? Compare the midrash’s interpretation to that of the Talmud and Rishonim. Cite any other source that might be relevant.
Choose one of the hermeneutical rules and find an example of it in Tannaitic midrash or in the Talmud. Find all manuscript variants, parallels, and related material. Address the following, if relevant: What exegetical problem does the midrash face? What is the peshat? Is this a מדרש יוצר or a מדרש מקיים? Does the midrashic argument make sense or does it seem forced? If the latter, what may be motivating such forced interpretation? Does this fit the methodology of R. Ishmael or R. Akiva? Are there significant differences in parallel midrashim? If so, which version is original? Always cite relevant material from the course readings.
Assignment 2 – due on class 25 – Write a translation and comprehensive commentary of Eicha Rabbah, petihta 24, starting from "דבר אחר ויקרא ה' אלקים צבאות." Include an introduction that discusses the main features of Eicha Rabba. Read Shaye Cohen, “The Destruction: From Scripture to Midrash” for relevant data. Address the following in your analysis: What is the significance of this midrash both in terms of content and method? Cite relevant points from class readings. What is the structure of the midrash? What exegetical problems does the midrash face? Is this a מדרש יוצר or a מדרש מקיים? What hermeneutical rules or other rhetorical devices are used in the midrash? What is its overall message?
All readings are available on this website below or as one pdf. Office hours will be on Thursdays, 12:00-2:00PM in room 523 or by appointment by email.
Please bring a Tanakh to every class.
1. Tuesday, August 26 - Definitions, Books and History
powerpoints - what
powerpoints - what is midrash
2. Thursday, August 28 - Inner-Biblical Exegesis
Texts: Resolving contradictions: Cooking Passover - Ex 12:8-9, Dt 16:7, 2Chron 35:13, Mekhilta d’R. Ishmael Piskha 6; Passover Animal - Ex 12:5, Dt 16:2, 2Chron 35 7-9, Mekhilta d’R. Ishmael Piskha 4. Narrative: Samuel and Chronicles. Daniel 9. Nehemiah 11.
to rabbinic lit, Jeremiah's
powerpoints - intro to rabbinic lit, Jeremiah's 70
handout - inner-biblical
handout - inner-biblical exegesis examples
3. Tuesday, September 2 - 4. Thursday, September 4 - Early Midrash in Second
Texts: Septuagint to Megilat Esther, Targum
Why Didn't Esther Pray?
Powerpoint - Why Didn't Esther Pray?
handout - From Transmission
to Interpretation, Fallen Angels
handout - From Transmission to Interpretation, Fallen Angels
5. Tuesday, September 9 – Early Midrash in the
to dead sea scrolls
powerpoints - intro to dead sea scrolls
6. Thursday, September 11 – Introducing Midrash Halakha
[Text: From Priest to Rabbi]
Powerpoint - Mekhilta on Abortion, Mekhilta
7. Tuesday, September 16 – Midrash Yoser or Midrash Mekayem
Halbertal, Moshe. "The History of Halakhah, Views from Within: Three
Medieval Approaches to Tradition and Controversy."(HTML) (PDF)
Halbertal, Moshe. "The History of Halakhah, Views from Within: Three Medieval Approaches to Tradition and Controversy."(HTML) (PDF)
Texts: Rambam Sefer haMisvot, Shoresh 2 and Ramban’s commentary.
Handout: Asmakhta (long
version), Shabbat Laws
Handout: Asmakhta (long version), Shabbat Laws
8. Thursday, Septamber 18 - Hermeneutical Rules מידות שהתורה נדרשת בהם – Kal va-Homer
Richard Hidary, “Talmudic Topoi: The Hermeneutical Methods of Midrash and Greco-Roman Rhetoric.”
Text: Talmudic Topoi Powerpoint, Word, Sifra introduction and examples
9. Tuesday, September 30 - 10. Tuesday, October 21
Hermeneutical Rules – Gezerah Shavah, Binyan Av
Towner, W. Sibley.
“Hermeneutical Systems of
Hillel and the Tannaim: A Fresh Look.”
H. L. Strack and G. Stemberger. Introduction to the
Talmud and Midrash. Translated by Marcus Bockmuehl.
Hermeneutics Sourcesheet (Gezerah Shavah,
Text: Hillel's Hermeneutics Sourcesheet (Gezerah Shavah, Binyan Av)
11. Thursday, October 23
Assignment 1 due.
12. Tuesday, October 28
– Two Schools of R. Ishmael and R. Akiva
Progymnasmata and Midrash - Libanius
Eilberg-Schwartz, Howard. "Myth, Inference and the Relativity of Reason: An Argument from the History of Judaism." In Myth and Philosophy, edited by F. Reynolds and D. Tracy, 247-86. Albany: SUNY, 1990.
Text: Two Schools of Midrash
13. Thursday, October 30 – Updating Torah to Address New Realities
– Midrash and Ethics
handout - Apostate City
handout - Apostate City
14. Tuesday, November 4 - Updating Halakha to Address New Realities - Priests
“Shifting from Priestly to Non-Priestly Legal Authority: A Comparison of the
Priests to Rabbis
Priests to Rabbis Sources
Handout: Rebellious Elder
15. Thursday, November 6 – Midterm
16. Tuesday, November 11– On Interpreting Aggadah
Hananel Mack, The Aggadic Midrash Literature, Tel-Aviv: MOD Books, 1989, pp. 7-29.
Texts: Rambam - Introduction
to Perek Helek,
R. Abraham ben ha-Rambam, Introduction to Aggadah. Printed as an introduction to Ein Yaakov. Translation from S.H. Glick, En Jacob (1916).
handout - On Learning Aggadah
Was Rivkah Three Years Old?
17. Thursday, November 13 - Three Year Cycle and the Synagogue Derasha
Text: Bavli Shabbat 30a-b
Handout - Triennial Cycle
18. Tuesday, November 18 – The Petiha Format
Text: Rabbis as Orators - Sources
Beresheet Rabbah, Lekh Lekha
19. Thursday, November 20 – Midrash Rabbah
Reading: Mack, 88-118.
Suggested Reading: Heinemann on Lev Rabbah
Text: Vakikra Rabbah, Outline
20. Tuesday, November 25 – Methods of Aggadah
Reading: Mack, 119-144.
Suggested Reading: Yitzhak Heinemann, Darkei ha-Aggadah.
Text: Vayikra Rabbah cont.
Midrash and Literary Theory
Midrash and Theory:
Ancient Jewish Exegesis and Contemporary Literary Studies. Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 1996, ch. 1. (Introduction is
suggested reading, ch. 1 is required.)
(Introduction is suggested reading, ch. 1 is required.)
Text: Vayikra Rabbah cont.
21. Tuesday, December 2 – Passover Haggadah ,
(The Four Sons, Arami Oved Avi
Reading: Joseph Tabory, The JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, pp. 25-46.
22. Thursday, December 4 – The Sea Resists
Daniel Boyarin. Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990, pp. 93-104.
Mekhilta, Enuma Elish
23. Tuesday, December 9 - Midrash and Archaeology
Steven Fine, “From Meeting House to Sacred Realm: Holiness and the Ancient Synagogue” in Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World, 21-47.
Dura Europos and Midrash
24. Thursday, December 11 –
- Mashal and Dream Interpretation
David Stern, Midrash and Theory, ch 2.
Interpretaion and Polysemy
Polysemy in Midrash, Dream Interpretaion and Polysemy
Assignment 2 due.
25. Tuesday, December 16 - No Class
From Priests to Rabbis
26. Thursday, December 18 – Eicha Rabbah
Reading: Shaye Cohen, “The Destruction: From Scripture to Midrash” in The Significance of Yavneh and Other Essays in Jewish Hellenism (Mohr Siebeck, 2010).
Richard Hidary, “Why Are there Lawyers in Heaven?”
Final – Sunday January 4 at 10:00AM
Editions of Midrashim
מכילתא דרבי ישמעאל
*האראוויטץ - רבין
אייזק הירש וייס
ברכת הנני"ב - Gottesman Ref BM517.M43 B4 1997
מרכבת המשנה Gottemsn BM517.M43 T7 2003
דפוס ונציה וגם כאן
מכילתא דרבי שמעון בן יוחאי
*אפשטיין - מלמד
*פינקלשטין - בספריה
*א.ה. ווייס - בספריה
*שושנה - בספריה
מאיר איש שלום (פרידמן)
דפוס ויניציאה 1545
עם פירושי הראב"ד ור"ש משאנץ
צבי הירש הכהן רפפורט חלק א, חלק ב
מאיר איש שלום
יעקב זאב יאסקאוויטץ חלק ב
*פינקלשטין - בספריה
מאיר איש שלום