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Citation for Midrashic Exegesis

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Walfish, Barry D. . "Medieval Jewish Interpretation." In The Jewish Study Bible. Oxford Biblical Studies Online. Oct 30, 2020. <http://www.oxfordbiblicalcstudies.com/article/book/obso-9780195297515/obso-9780195297515-div1-1078>.


Walfish, Barry D. . "Medieval Jewish Interpretation." In The Jewish Study Bible. Oxford Biblical Studies Online, http://www.oxfordbiblicalcstudies.com/article/book/obso-9780195297515/obso-9780195297515-div1-1078 (accessed Oct 30, 2020).

Midrashic Exegesis

In the Middle Ages, the midrashic tradition was attacked on several fronts, especially by Karaites and Christians. As a result of these attacks, and because of the increased preference for peshat, many exegetes avoided rabbinic midrash as much as possible, while others incorporated it into their commentaries only sparingly, or else interpreted it philosophically or kabbalistically. Nevertheless, a strand of midrashic exegesis was maintained throughout the Middle Ages, quite possibly as a reaction to the elimination of such commentary from the medieval commentary tradition and out of a desire to hold up the standard of the rabbinic tradition and assure that it not be forgotten among Jews. Another reason could be the utility of midrashic material as a source for sermons, the demand for which seemed to increase as the Middle Ages waned. After the classical period of midrashiccreativity during the late talmudic and geonic periods, the Middle Ages witnessed the production of many midrashic compilations. The largest and most comprehensive was the 13th century Yalkut Shim'oni (attributed to Simeon the Preacher of Frankfurt), an attempt at producing a comprehensive verse‐by‐verse midrashic anthology for the entire Bible. Others in this vein were Midrash ha‐Gadol (The Great Midrash) by David Ha‐Adani (Yemen, 14th century), Yalkut (ha)‐Makhiri on the Latter Prophets and Writings by Makhir ben Abba Mari (Spain? 14th century?), and Yalkut Re'uveni (17th century), a kabbalistic‐midrashic compilation by Reuben Ha‐Kohen. There were also commentaries produced in the midrashic style, which included a great deal of peshat interpretation as well as midrashic material. Examples are the Lekaḥ Tov (Good Instruction) by Tobiah ben Eliezer (11th century, Byzantium) and Sekhel Tov (Sound Understanding) by Menaḥem ben Solomon (12th century, Italy?). Some anthologists had very ambitious goals for their work; for example, Jacob Sikili (Sicily, Damascus), stated in his anthology Talmud Torah (1366) that he included in it all halakhic and aggadic statements from all available sources, thus obviating the need to consult any other work.

Midrashic‐style commentary was especially popular in Yemen, which witnessed the production of, among others, Me'or ha‐ 'afelah (The Luminary of the Darkness) by Netanel ben Isaiah (1328–29), Midrash ha‐ḥefetz (The Midrash of Desire) by Zekhariah ha‐Rofe (1430), and Midrash ha‐be'ur (The Midrash of Explanation) by Saadia ben David (1441). These editors were not mere compilers, but often edited their texts and added comments of their own, including many of a philosophical nature. Also unique to the Yemenite midrashim are numerous citations from Muslim lore and literature, as well as folkloristic material. Anthological commentaries such as these remained popular through the late Middle Ages and into the early modern period.

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