Torah is a Hidden Treasure: Proceedings of the Midrash Section, Society of Biblical Literature 9781463240790

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Torah is a Hidden Treasure: Proceedings of the Midrash Section, Society of Biblical Literature
 9781463240790

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Torah is a Hidden Treasure

Judaism in Context

22 Series Editors Rivka Ulmer Phillip Lieberman Elisheva Carlebach Jonathan Jacobs Naomi Koltun-Fromm W. David Nelson Lieve Teugels

Judaism in Context provides a platform for scholarly research focusing on the relations between Jews, Judaism, and Jewish culture and other peoples, religions, and cultures among whom Jews have lived and flourished, from ancient times through the 21st century. The series includes monographs as well as edited collections

Torah is a Hidden Treasure

Proceedings of the Midrash Section, Society of Biblical Literature

Volume 8 Edited by

W. David Nelson Rivka Ulmer

gp 2019

Gorgias Press LLC, 954 River Road, Piscataway, NJ, 08854, USA www.gorgiaspress.com Copyright © 2019 by Gorgias Press LLC

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise without the prior written permission of Gorgias Press LLC. ‫ܚ‬

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2019

ISBN 978-1-4632-4078-3

ISSN 1935-6978

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A Cataloging-in-Publication Record is available from the Library of Congress. Printed in the United States of America

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction ...................................................................................... 1 ‘Every Man According to his Blessing’: The Interpretation of Reuben and Issachar in Genesis Rabbah .................................. 7 AVRAM RICHARD SHANNON Exodus Rabbah and the Aggadic Response to Biblical Law: The Ten Commandments and the Covenant Code ........................ 25 JONATHAN SCHOFER Natural Law and the Statutes of Israel: Rabbinic Legal Discourse in Leviticus Rabbah ................................................................. 51 NICHOLAS J. SCHASER Towards a New Understanding of the Defining Features of Rabbinic Midrash ................................................................... 71 MATTHEW GOLDSTONE Authorship and Authority: Patterns of Change in Seder Eliyahu, Pirke De Rabbi Eliezer and the Alphabet of Ben Sira in their Geonic and Early Islamicate Contexts ..................................... 99 LENNART LEHMHAUS Retrospection as an Exegetical Devise in Rashbam’s Torah Commentary ........................................................................... 151 JONATHAN JACOBS A Necessary Yod: How Masorah and Midrash Helped to Clarify the Canon .............................................................................. 177 ROBERT VANHOFF

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INTRODUCTION YAAKOV ELMAN ‫ז"ל‬ Yaakov Elman was a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University's Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies where he held the Herbert S. and Naomi Denenberg Chair in Talmudic Studies. He also taught at Harvard University. He was the founder of Irano-Talmudica, which seeks to understand the Babylonian Talmud in its MiddlePersian context. Yaakov Elman was among the twelve scholars who supported the establishment of the Midrash Section of the SBL in 2002; he also presented several papers to the section. His humble demeanor and his expert academic advise supported many scholars. He passed away in 2018. He will be missed by many and his long legacy will endure.

CHAPTERS Matthew Goldstone seeks to challenge the widespread assumption held by scholars across the Humanities that a defining feature of Midrash is the proffering of multiple, sometimes contradictory, interpretations of the Biblical text. Particularly pronounced in the wake of postmodern reading practices, this feature of rabbinic Midrash diverges from many other forms of literature and thus garnered attention, leading to an exaggeration of the centrality of this characteristic. Consequently, Midrash is frequently conceptualized as an openended process that lauds polysemy. In opposition to this common premise, I demonstrate that the propensity to maintain multiple, irreconcilable interpretative possibilities is in fact a somewhat marginal aspect of the extant midrashic collections. Far more prominent in these works are the negation of potential meanings and the underlying assumption of a single authoritative reading of biblical sources. 1

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Nicholas J. Schaser focuses on Leviticus 26 and a series of blessings for the Israelites, provided that they “walk in [God’s] statutes” and fulfill the commands of the Torah (Lev 26:3). Leviticus Rabbah juxtaposes the statutes of the Mosaic covenant with the covenant(s) that God makes with time and space. Specifically, the rabbis equate the “statutes” of Lev 26:3 with “the statutes by which [God] established heaven and earth” (Lev. R. 35:4), and they cite Jeremiah to show that the latter covenant is both temporal and spatial. The midrash goes on to specify aspects of the natural order and associate them with biblical Law: the fact that God established a covenant with the “sun and the moon” (Jer 31:35) and “set the sand as the boundary of the sea” (Jer 5:22) shows that the Sinaitic statutes are just as eternal and unchanging as nature. On the other hand, the rabbinic intertexts that present Mosaic Law in natural terms come from biblical contexts that either predict or recall Israel’s failure to uphold the Torah (cf. Lev 26:14–39; Jer 5:23; 31:32). Thus the divinely inviolable covenants with nature intermingle with a Mosaic covenant that Israel is able to violate, so that God’s ability to uphold the laws of nature ensures the continuation of the Torah—regardless of Israel’s occasional inability to fulfill it. According to Leviticus Rabbah, Israel lives within a space-time-Torah continuum that defines and sustains Jewish identity. Jonathan Schofer examines a late stage in midrashic literature in Exodus Rabbah and its presentation of the importance of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) and the Covenant Code (Exodus 21–23). The paper makes three arguments. First, the homiletic midrash of Exodus Rabbah presents compilations that educate readers in difficult parts of the Bible that address relevant themes of legal cases and divine commands. Homiletic midrash in general shows that any given themes at hand are addressed throughout the rabbis’ scripture, but also in concrete ways, the late Exodus Rabbah shows that a concern with law and society runs through the Psalms and Prophets, and leadership from Moses to Daniel and Esther. The audience listening to or reading an exposition of known verses in the Pentateuch learns of relevant material in the Aramaic of the Book of Daniel, or in variants on the accounts of David told in the Books of Chronicles and not only the Deuteronomic History. Second, Exodus Rabbah reinforces the importance of prayer and liturgy by highlighting David as the writer of Psalms, and also links between the Ten

INTRODUCTION

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Commandments and the Shema. Exodus Rabbah does not discuss the synagogue specifically but rather draws the audience’s attention to a triad of scripture, law, and liturgy, which sets out a cultural connection for enduring time without sovereignty and in larger empires. Third, for this specific topic, Exodus Rabbah strongly links condemnations of idolatry and heresy, on one hand, with the call that Israel observe both the specifics of decisions for legal cases named in the Covenant Code, and the direct commandments of the Decalogue. Avram R. Shannon begins with an examination of Bereshit Rabbah 98:6: “A man does not say, I am a Reubenite or I am a Simeonite, but I am a Judahite.” This statement establishes the Sages’ position that being an Israelite and being a Jew were synonymous propositions regardless of any putative tribal affiliation. Indeed, the biblical twelve tribe system was largely a casualty of history. From a halakhic perspective, the only tribal affiliation that differed was Levi, and even that was connected to a Jewish identity. Each of the tribes receives interpretation in turn, but the interpretations do not apply the same hermeneutical tools to every tribe. This paper looks at the traditions about the Twelve Tribes in Bereshit Rabbah 98 in order to explore the various conclusions that the Sages bring to bear in their exploration and interpretation of the Bible. The midrashic process is never simply about somehow discovering some kind of original biblical intent. The Sages were embedded in a broader world of discourse, but the Bible represented a privileged place for discussion of identity and boundary maintenance. The whole of the Bible is brought to bear to explain the often cryptic sayings from Genesis 49. All of this then points to the role that the midrashic enterprise has in the rabbinic construction of their world, at the confluence of biblical ideology and their own lived experiences. Jonathan Jacobs focuses on Rabbi Samuel ben Meir (Rashbam, 1080–1160 approx.), who propelled the usage of intra-biblical exegesis to its height. His Torah commentary is replete with quotes of verses that assist him in interpreting Scripture based on other biblical sources. This method is employed in most of his Torah commentaries, and Rashbam utilized this tool more than any other commentator in his era. The use of verses from all areas of Scripture as exegetical tools reflects Rashbam’s approach whereby Scripture should be understood from within itself, without external aids. Despite the central role

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intra-biblical exegesis plays in Rashbam’s commentaries, it appears that until recently, appropriate attention has not been devoted to this component of his exegesis. In conclusion, whether there is a conscious theory of exegesis hidden behind Rashbam’s commentary on the Torah or not, this article has shown that he did use the principle of retrospection as an exegetical device in his commentary on the Torah. This insight adds an additional layer to our understanding of Rashbam’s commentary, enabling us to recognize it as a comprehensive, carefulconsidered and elegantly-built work. Robert Vanhoff broaches the topic of Biblical passages curiously neglected by the ancient rabbis. Though ignored in late antiquity, some such verses get attention in the medieval period, if only because of the commentators’ growing appreciation for and appropriation of masoretic tradition. Masorah lists contained numerous labor-ready textual oddities, any number of which a creative parshan could exploit to demonstrate his midrashic ingenuity and seeming mastery of arcane knowledge. Job 8:8 was among those finally put to work. This paper traces its spotty employment history in commentaries roughly spanning the masoretic adoption of the codex (10th c.) to the printing of the Rabbinic Bible (16th), highlighting older midrashic undercurrents that made this verse attractive. Lennart Lehmhaus explores authorship and attribution in postTalmudic texts from the early Geonic or Islamicate period, that were once deemed pseudepigraphic. He attempts to understand pseudepigraphy in those texts as a complex interplay with narrative traditions, virtues and values, and epistemologies tied to texts and figures of the distant and more recent past. For this purpose, he researches three works usually described under the umbrella term “late Midrash,” namely, Seder Eliyahu Zuta (SEZ) and Seder Eliyahu Rabba (SER), from the 9th or 10th centuries in Syro-Palestine. These texts are oscillating between ethical and spiritual guidance book, and homiletical, exegetical or narrative elements. Lehmhaus compares SER and SEZ to Pirke (de-)Rabbi Eliezer (PRE), a work, most probably also from Syro-Palestine in the 8th or 9th centuries, whose complex exegetical, ethical and epistemological discourse deploys several biblical ‘books’ or narration cycles as its structural scaffold, while also exploring themes that prevailed mostly in Second Temple traditions. Furthermore, he provides a comparative perspective by looking into the

INTRODUCTION

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author-character in the “Alphabeta de-Ben Sira/ Toledot Ben Sira” (ABS/TBS), a compound tradition possibly originating in the East (Babylonia). 14th Tamuz, 5779 W. David Nelson Rivka Ulmer

‘EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS BLESSING’: THE INTERPRETATION OF REUBEN AND ISSACHAR IN GENESIS RABBAH AVRAM RICHARD SHANNON The rabbinic interpretation of the biblical twelve tribes has its origin in the ways in which the Sages have turned the social situation of the biblical world to their own. The biblical twelve tribes were no longer a moving concern in the world-view of the Sages.1 Halakhically, the only tribe that really matters is Levi, since priests and Levites have certain special privileges under the law. The rest of Israel is subsumed under the umbrella of Judah. In spite of this, the Sages continue to interpret and talk about the Twelve Tribes. Within the confines of the Bible, one of the clearest places where the tribes are discussed and explored is in Genesis 49, often called Jacob’s Testament. 2 Because of the somewhat obscure nature of the texts of Jacob’s blessings, it served as a rich source for the Sages to practice midrashic thinking about the

1 On

the persistence of the Twelve Tribes in the world and history generally see, Zvi Ben-Done Benite, The Ten Lost Tribes: A World History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009); Rivka Gonen, The Quest for the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel: To the Ends of the Earth (North Vale, New Jersey: Jacob Aronson, Inc., 2002). 2 For an in-depth discussion of Genesis 49, including issues of dating, see Raymond de Hoop, Genesis 49 in its Literary and Historical Context (Leiden: Brill, 1999).

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Twelve Tribes as they adapted the concerns of the biblical text to their own world.3 By the time of the composition of Genesis Rabbah, Israel and Judah have largely become synonymous. After the Babylonian exile, the identity of the covenant people is bound up with being Yehudi, whether that is understood in national terms, ethnic terms, religious terms, or some combination of all three. In explaining Judah’s blessing, the phrase “Judah, your brothers will praise you” is interpreted in the name of Shimon bar Yohai: “All your brothers will be called by your name. A man does not say, I am a Reubenite or I am a Simeonite, but I am a Judahite” (GR 98:6).4 In addition, Genesis Rabbah brings in the blessings of Moses in Deuteronomy 33 in order to show that the universal nature of Israel applies to the tribes and their blessings. By noting that Judah is called a lion in Genesis and Dan a lion in Deuteronomy, the midrash connects all of the tribes’ blessings to one another. This is proven from a verse from the Song of Songs: “You are entirely beautiful, my love, there is no mark on you” (Song 4:7). All of Israel together is beautiful and whole. The blessing of one tribe actually applies to all tribes, because the division of the tribes is subsumed to the concept of Israel as a whole. This underscores all of the discussion of the tribes in Genesis Rabbah.

TRIBES IN THE BIBLE AND THE SECOND T EMPLE EXPRESSION It will be helpful to give a brief discussion of the tribes in the Bible. According to the account in Exodus twelve tribes—corresponding to the twelve sons of Jacob—accompanied Moses out of Egypt to Sinai and into the Promised Land.5 These tribes seemed to have been 3 Even within the translation of Targum Onqelos, generally considered to be

the most literal of the targums, Genesis 49 continues numerous additions and interpretations. See Moses Aberbach and Bernard Grossfield, Targum Onqelos on Genesis 49 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1976). 4 All translations from Hebrew and Aramaic are the author’s own. Texts are taken from Sefaria.org. 5 Zecharia Kallai, “The Twelve-Tribe Systems of Israel,” Vetus Testamentum 47, no. 1 (1997), 53–90; C. Umhau Wolf, “Some Remarks on the Tribes and Clans of Israel,” Jewish Quarterly Review 36, no. 3 (1946), 287–295.

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formed into some kind of loose league,6 which was eventually united into a monarchy under first Saul (1 Samuel 10), and then David (2 Samuel 5). At the accession of David’s grandson, Rehoboam, the northern tribes seceded from the ruling tribe of Judah, forming rival kingdoms of Israel and Judah (1 Kings 12). Most of the tribes were associated with the north, while Judah, Benjamin, and Levi were associated with the south. In 721 BCE, the kingdom of Israel was destroyed and carried off by the Neo-Assyrian Empire (2 Kings 15), and in 586 BCE the NeoBabylonian Empire similarly treated Judah (2 Kings 25). In 539 BCE, after the Neo-Babylonians had fallen to the Achaemenid Persians, the Persian overlords allowed some of the former inhabitants of Judah to return to their ancestral homeland (Ezra 1). These returned exiles rebuilt the destroyed Jerusalem temple and served as the matrix for later expressions of Judaism, the very name of which derives from both the kingdom and tribe of Judah. The above paragraph describes only the barest bones of the biblical record and tradition. Even within the biblical record, the twelve tribes are a somewhat enigmatic institution. As noted above, by the time of the Babylonian exile, however, the tribal affiliations of the Israelites do not seem to express any meaningful cultural identity, as may be seen in the reference in Esther 2:5 to Mordecai as being both a Jew and descendent of Benjamin. It is only after the breaking down of the tribes as a social category, and especially the ascension of Judah to a position encompassing and being synonymous with Israel, that Esther 2:5 makes any sense. The Sages, especially in Genesis Rabbah, continued to show interest in the tribes long after they had any legal or specific bearing in Jewish life or religion. This is true even of tribes that are relatively minor in the biblical record, such as Reuben or Issachar. For the Sages, to be Israel was to be Judah/Jewish, and so the various tribes are constantly interpreted through those lenses, whatever biblical history may be. This paper focuses the blessings of Reuben and Issachar in Genesis Rabbah to show the ways in which the Sages use a defunct category from the Bible in order to illustrate categories The biblical scholar Martin Noth famously connected this loose confederation with the Greek idea of the amphictyony. See Martin Noth, Das System der zwölf Stämme Israels, Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament 4, no 1, 1930 (reprint, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1966). 6

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that are meaningful in their own environment. I chose Reuben because the negative “blessing” of Reuben in Genesis 49 provides a lot of grist for discussion by the Sages. Because of their desire to show that all of Israel is ultimately one, there is a message of rehabilitation for Reuben. Issachar provides an example of how a relatively minor tribe can be rabbinized and provide something positive to say about Israel as a whole. Reuben will be discussed first, followed by Issachar. Reuben

One of the first things visible in the interpretation of Reuben is the desire to explain and rehabilitate Reuben’s good name. In essence, a stain on Reuben represents a stain on Israel as a whole. In the Bible, Reuben’s blessing barely qualifies for the word.7 It begins promisingly enough—Genesis 49:3 states: “Reuben, you are my first born: my power and the beginning of my strength, the excellence of dignity and the excellence of power.” The “blessing” goes on, however: “Gushing like water, you will not excel, because you went up to the bed of your father, then you defiled it—he went up to the couch.” The praise heaped on Reuben in the first verse is transformed into a rebuke and then essentially a curse that Reuben will no longer enjoy his previous preeminence. The reason given for this is a reference to Genesis 35:22, where Reuben sleeps with Bilhah, his father’s concubine. Reuben’s loss of blessings because of misconduct is also referenced in 1 Chronicles 5:1–2, “Now the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel, for he was the firstborn, but when he defiled the couch of his father, his birthright was given to the children of Joseph, the son of Israel, and so he is not to be enrolled in the genealogy of the firstborn. For Judah was preeminent among his brothers, and the ruler8 came from him, but the birthright was Joseph’s.” The language of Chronicles closely mirrors that of Genesis 49, suggesting that they are related. The Chronicler invokes this tradition from Genesis etiologically in order to explain why Joseph and Judah 7 De Hoop discusses Reuben’s blessing at Genesis

49, 86–97. See also Stanley Gevirtz, “The Reprimand of Reuben,” JNES 30 (1971), 87–98. 8 Heb. Nagid.

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are the most eminent in the tribal system, a position that should be Reuben’s by virtue of his birth. 9 It is from this point, then, that the Sages begin their interpretation. The blessing in Genesis 49 is essentially negative, which is problematic against the idea that what applies to one tribe applies to all. Rabbinic interpretation maintains much of the ambiguity of the biblical portrayal of Reuben. The first interpretation for Reuben begins with the statement “Reuben you are my firstborn.” The interpretation then begins— “Rabbi used to understand this as a word of praise and a word of shame. You [that is Reuben] are a firstborn, and Esau is a firstborn.” The interpretation in this passage begins with an opinion from Rabbi Judah the Prince, who states that Jacob compares Reuben to his own older brother, suggesting that being firstborn is not such a great thing on the surface. Reuben’s blessing is initially contextualized in terms of the biblical narrative about Jacob and his family. Immediately after this, however, the midrash turns to an interpretation based on the tribe as a corporate unit. Picking up from Genesis 49:3: “My power and the beginning of my strength. These are officers of warfare.” The darshan here associates the tribe of Reuben with an important role in warfare. This idea has its root in the biblical narrative of the Conquest, where those tribes who settled on the east side of the Jordan River, i.e. Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, fought with the rest of the Israelites. Joshua 4:12 states, “And the children of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh passed over in front of the children, armed for battle, just as Moses had told them.” Reuben is therefore associated with being at the forefront of warfare. Joshua 4:12 also explains the next tradition in the text—“The excellence of dignity and the excellence of power: “And their faces were as the faces of lions” (GR 98:4). This is a quotation from 1 Chronicles 12:8. There it describes men from the tribe of Gad who supported 9 Israel Finkelstein suggests that these genealogies in Chronicles point to a re-

flection of the Hasmonean period. See Finkelstein, “The Historical Reality behind the Genealogical Lists in 1 Chronicles,” JBL 131 (2012), 65–83. See also Yigal Levin, “From Lists to History: Chronological Aspects of the Chronicler’s Genealogy,” JBL 123 (2004), 601–636. Levin discusses Reuben on 615– 616 with the other Transjordanian tribes.

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David in his rebellion against Saul, describing them as “mighty heroes, men of the host of battle, skilled in handling shield and buckler and their faces were as the faces of lions.” Although in the Bible this verse is explicitly about warriors from Gad, because of the association of Reuben with Gad in Joshua in 4:12, this verse applies midrashically equally to both tribes. The textual connection in Genesis Rabbah derives from a preexisting connection already made in Joshua. Indeed, Reuben and Gad are often connected to one another in the biblical record.10 This biblical is turned in the midrash to further illustrate one of the key points of the tribes in Genesis Rabbah: All of Israel is one. By using a verse about Gad to explicate a verse about Reuben, the darshan is subtly supporting this point. Even though blessed (or cursed) as individual tribes, in the rabbinic perspective all of Israel is one. The praise of the children of Reuben as warriors and soldiers is part of Rabbi’s “word of praise.” Genesis Rabbah now turns to the “word of shame.” It once again places its interpretation in the mouth of Jacob, requoting Genesis 49:3: “Reuben, you are my firstborn. You are a firstborn, and I am a firstborn.” Before, the midrash presented Jacob comparing Reuben’s firstborn status to that of Esau, but here Jacob himself claims firstborn status. This is something of an unusual reversal. This reversal forms the backbone of the remainder of the construction of the midrash. Jacob castigates Reuben for his sexual crimes. He claims, “I was eighty-four years old before I had a nocturnal seminal emission, but as for you, ‘And he went and lay down with Bilhah.” Jacob essentially compares his own sexual continence against his son’s lack thereof. This castigation continues with a little bit of midrashic wordplay: “My power and the beginning of my strength. The beginning of my strength and the beginning of my trouble.” The biblical word ̔ôn “strength” is revoweled ῾aven, “trouble” or “disaster.”11 Using creative John Briggs Curtis, “Some Suggestions Concerning the History of the Tribe of Reuben,” JBR 33 (July, 1965), 247–249. 11 This word can be fruitfully connected to a ̔ von, although they are not etymologically related. 10

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philology, the biblical statement is understood both a word of shame and a word of praise. After this, Jacob explains how he and Reuben are both connected as firstborns. “The excellence of dignity and the excellence of power. The birthright was yours, the priesthood was yours, the kingship was yours, but now that you have sinned, the birthright is given to Joseph, the priesthood is given to Levi, and the kingship to Judah.”12 The comparison between Jacob and Reuben as firstborns is a negative comparison. Jacob was not a firstborn by birth. The Bible makes it amply clear that Esau was the elder of the two twin brothers. According Genesis 25, Jacob acquires the birthright by buying it from Esau for a bowl of lentil soup. In other words, Jacob becomes firstborn because Esau “despised his birthright” (Gen. 25:34). Reuben’s experience is exactly the opposite of that Jacob. He had the birthright by right of birth, including the priesthood and his kingship, but because of his actions, he lost all three. The midrash is picking up on that same tradition from 1 Chronicles 5:1–2, adding Levi and the priesthood alongside the biblical claims about Joseph and Judah. Reuben’s “blessing” as firstborn becomes, therefore, a referendum on Jacob’s own inheritance of firstborn status. The story of Jacob and Reuben are being used in essence to illustrate the idea that birth is not the most important thing in how the Lord interprets how blessings are bestowed. This idea finds support in an earlier part of Genesis Rabbah, interpreting Genesis 25 where Jacob purchases the birthright from Esau. At Genesis Rabbah 63:14, the midrash suggests that the Lord supported the transference of the birthright from Esau to Jacob with a citation from Exodus 4:22, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my son, my firstborn.” The passage in Exodus is referring to corporate Israel who are in slavery to Egypt, but the darshan, drawing on the fact that Jacob’s name is changed to Israel in Genesis 32:28 connects this statement to Jacob himself. The Lord himself acknowledges Jacob as firstborn. Thus, Jacob is a firstborn and Reuben is a firstborn, but Jacob is a firstborn chosen by God, while Reuben is a firstborn who has lost everything through his actions. The comparison between Reuben 12 This has parallels in Targum Onqelos. See Aberach and Grosfield, Targum

Onqelos, 2.

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and Jacob points back to the first comparison between Reuben and Esau as firstborns. Competing Interpretations of Reuben

The midrash then turns to the next verse in Reuben’s blessing, interpreting based on an obscure word, paḥaz. As a noun, it only appears here in Genesis 49, and means something like “recklessness” or perhaps “froth.” It is clearly intended in Genesis as a negative term.13 As a hapax, its original meaning is clearly lost on the traditions in Genesis Rabbah, since this word is understood there by means of a series of notakaria. Genesis Rabbah records three different positions: “R. Eliezer said, Paḥazta [You hurried], Ḥaṭata [you sinned], Zanita [you committed sexual sin]. R. Joshua said, Paraqta [you untied] the yoke, Ḥilalta [you profaned] my mattress, your desire trembled [Za῾] within you. R. Eliezer b. Yaaqov said, Pasa῾ta [you stepped] upon the law, Ḥabtah [you forfeited] you birthright, you were made a foreigner [Zar] to your privileges.” All three of these interpretations of the obscure Hebrew word paḥaz focus on how Reuben’s sin caused him to lose his birthright and blessings. Genesis Rabbah is not content to let it go at that, however. After these negative notakaria, we read, “They [the Sages] said, ‘We still need the Modiite, for Eleazar the Modiite came and interpreted, “Za’ta (you recoiled), Ḥaradta (you trembled), Paraḥ (sin flew from off your head).” Rather than being a negative statement, this tradition in the name of a second generation Tanna understands the word paḥaz to be essentially about Reuben’s forgiveness. In fact, this discussion about Reuben’s forgiveness continues through the rest of this 13 De Hoop argues from various Near Eastern contexts that this word means

“wily” or “deceitful.” See De Hoop, Genesis 49, 89; Raymond de Hoop, “The Meaning of pḥz in Classical Hebrew,” Zeitschrift für Althebraistik 10 (1997), 16–26. Building on De Hoop, Aaron D. Rubin suggests that the Arabic and Modern South Arabian cognates to this word have a sexual connotation, which could indicate wordplay in the tradition. See Aaron D. Rubin, “Genesis 49:4 in Light of Arabic and Modern South Arabian,” Vetus Testamentum 59 (2009), 499–502. For further discussion, see Gervitz, “Reprimand of Reuben,” 94–96.

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passage, with dueling opinions from various Sages and Eleazar the Modiite. Eleazar the Modiite continuously reads Reuben’s blessing as positive, often against the plain reading of the verse in Genesis. For example, the biblical phrase “As Water” is interpreted by the anonymous midrash as “like water flows from place to place, thus has it been loosed from you.” This has been traditionally understood as the privileges of birthright, kingship, and priesthood discussed previously.14 Eleazer the Modiite’s contrary opinion, “As Water. Rabbi Eleazar the Modiite said, there is no miqveh made of wine or oil, only water. Thus you have made yourself a miqveh of water, and purified yourself in it.” Where the anonymous interpretation understands the water in the biblical terms of instability, Eleazar of Modiim understands it as an example of Reuben’s repentance. The dueling interpretations continue in the Midrash: “You will not excel. R. Eliezer and R. Joshua said together, Thus did you not leave any surplus for yourself. R. Eleazar of Modiim said, There will not be left to you any of your sin.” Both of these competing interpretations rely on creative philology. Both R. Eliezer and Joshua’s joint interpretation and R. Eleazar’s interpretations connect “excel” (totar) with the verb for being indulgent and leaving surplus (vittar). In Eliezer and Joshua’s reading, this is turned to a negative meaning, while R. Eleazar reads it positively. The same interpretive tool and intersecting verb are turned to two very different purposes by these competing strands of interpretive tradition. Another example from later in the section further illustrates this point: “He went up. R. Eliezer and R. Joshua said together, It went up because of your sin. R. Eleazar said, It went up because of your gift.” The unspecified pronoun of the original in Genesis, which refers to Reuben himself, seems to be here re-understood as a reference to Jacob’s marriage bed. 15 The different interpretations hinge on how “It went up” is read. In keeping with the general vein of the dueling interpretations between Eliezer and Joshua on the one side and Eleazar on the other, the first interpretation should be negative while the second should be positive. The reference to a “gift” in Eleazar’s

14 H. Freedman, Midrash

Rabbah, vol. 2 (London: Soncino Press, 1983), 950, no. 5. 15 See Freedman, Midrash Rabbah, 951, no. 6.

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interpretation suggests that this is a reference to the story of Reuben’s mandrake’s which he found and then which his mother bargained to her sister for a night with their shared husband (Gen. 30:14–18). This encounter led to the birth of Issachar, meaning that it was ultimately positive for Israel. Reuben’s gift of mandrakes lifted up or exalted his father’s couch or bed. The reading of Eliezer and Joshua, on the other hand, perhaps points to the defilement of bed, and so the going up is a negative, rather than positive happening. This discussion is followed up with the final tradition about Reuben in Genesis Rabbah, still building on the biblical phrase “He went up.” The tradition begins, “Our Rabbis said, [Jacob said to Reuben], I will not send you away or bring you near, but rather I will leave you in suspense until Moses comes, as it is written concerning him, ‘And Moses went up to God’ (Ex. 19:3), and whatever he decides to do with you he will do with you. Therefore, when Moses came he began to bring him near—‘Let Reuben live!’ (Deut. 33:6).” This tradition continues the idea of Jacob’s “word of praise” and “word of shame”. In the end, the Sages say that Jacob chose to neither reject nor accept Reuben, but to leave that decision to Moses. In so doing, they employ verbal analogy and connect Ex. 19:3 with Gen. 49:4 through the connecting word ῾alah, so that Reuben’s going up to his father’s couch is held in abeyance by Moses’s going up to Mt. Sinai. Finally, the other blessing of Reuben from Moses’s blessing in Deuteronomy 33 is brought to show that Moses accepted Reuben and gave the tribe an unqualified blessing. Reuben is rehabilitated because what applies to one member of Israel applies to all. This is what makes the Sages’s insistence that we still need the Modiite so necessary. The clear original intent of Genesis is that Reuben’s blessing is not a blessing—Reuben has good qualities but they were squandered by sexual sin. Although most of the interpretations in Genesis Rabbah read and understand Reuben’s blessing in the negative light that it is certainly carries in the Bible, Eleazar’s more positive readings are, in some sense, “necessary.” This points back to how the Sages midrashically understand the Twelve Tribes generally. Israel is one, and a negative mark against one tribes is, in some sense, a negative mark against all the tribes. The midrashic exercise is too tied to the biblical record to get rid of the “word of shame”,

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but neither do the Sages in the end want to condemn Reuben unequivocally. Issachar: Rabbinization and Proselytes

Issachar’s blessing is more positive than Reuben’s, but much more obscure.16 In Genesis 49:14 we read, “Issachar is a large-boned donkey,17 who lies down between two saddlebags and he saw a resting place that was good, and the land that it was lovely; so he bowed his shoulder low to the burden, and became a corvee-slave.” Although the biblical interpretation almost certainly refers to labor of some kind,18 Genesis Rabbah understands it as referring to learning and Torah scholarship: “Just as the bones of a donkey are clearly visible, so also is the scholarship (talmudo) of Issachar clearly visible” (GR 98:12). The midrash continues in this vein, interpreting Issachar and Issachar’s descendants as having many disciples. Thus, “Lying down between two saddles bags: These are the three rows of the disciples of the Sages who sat before them.” Note how the Torah scholarship of Issachar is directly connected with disciples of the Sages—the blessing of Issachar is directly connected to rabbinic style teaching and learning. The midrash continues in this vein: “And he saw a resting place, that it was good: This is the Torah, as it is written, “For I give you good teaching” (Prov. 4:2). Here the “resting place” and is understood as the Torah, using verbal analogy, connecting the tov in Genesis 49:14 with the “good teaching” in Proverbs 4:2. Similarly, the “lovely land”

16 De Hoop discusses Issachar’s blessing at Genesis

49, 151–152. See also Stanley Gervitz, “The Issachar Oracle in the Testament of Jacob,” Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies 12 (1975), 104–112; Samuel I. Feigin, “Ḥamôr Gārîm, ‘Castrated Ass’,” JNES 5 (1946), 230–233; Calum M. Carmichael, “Some Sayings in Genesis 49,” JBL 88 (1969), 435–444. 17 Describing Issachar as a donkey apparently presented difficulties to the various ancient translators. Targum Onqelos has “Issachar, rich in possessions, shall have is inheritance between the borders.” Translation from Aberbach and Grossfeld, Targum Onqelos, 31. See the discussion on the translation from the versions in Aberbach and Grossfeld, Targum Onqelos, 31–34. 18 Carmichael, “Sayings in Genesis 49,” 437–438 suggests that it refers to being made slaves to the Canaanites.

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is also connected to Torah, building on the comparison in Job 11:9 of God’s mysteries with the land. Like the interpretations about Reuben’s blessing, the notion that Issachar was blessed with Torah scholarship, derives from a scripture coming from a passage in 1 Chronicles 12 describing the various tribes. 1 Chronicles 12:33 [32] states, “And from the children of Issachar, men that knew an understanding of times to know what Israel was to do…” The ability of these men from the tribe of Issachar to understand times points, even in Chronicles, to their intellectual prowess, and within the framework of the Sages, that means Torah scholarship. The midrash gives one of the more obscure tribes a rabbinic blessing and virtue, and since within the scheme of Genesis Rabbah the blessings of one tribe apply to all Israel, all of Israel is enjoined to Torah scholarship. GR 98:12 states, “And became a corvee-slave: This refers to the two-hundred heads of Sanhedrin that were part of the tribe of Issachar.” The Midrash then continues with the quote from Chronicles 12. Their abilities with Torah and halakhah means that Issachar is also associated with bringing proselytes to Judaism. The midrash claims that the phrase “Issachar is a large-boned donkey” means that the fruits of Issachar’s land were so large and visible that non-Israelites would see them and convert, because as amazing as Issachar’s agricultural produce was, their Torah scholarship was even more amazing. This point is then followed up with a statement from the 4th Generation Amora, Yehudah b. Simon in the name of R. Aḥa (a 3rd Generation Amora): “Issachar is a large-boned ass [means] Issachar is an ass for proselytes.” The manuscripts have ḥamor garmei, rather than ḥamor gerim, but Theodor-Albeck amend it to ḥamor gerim.19 This interpretation is based on creative philology. The biblical word translated as “large-boned” or “strong” is gerem, a word that, at its core, seems to refer to bones.20 Like most of the poetic blessings in J. Theodor and Chanoch Albeck, Bereschit Rabba mit kritschem Apparat und Kommentar. Vol. 3 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1929), 1263. Thanks to Matthew Goldstone for pointing me in this direction. 20 HALOT, 203. See the explicit usage in Proverbs 17:22. 19

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Genesis 49, it is somewhat unclear what is meant by a “bony donkey”, which is why translations go with “large-boned” or “strong” in an attempt to explain what is going on here.21 The Sages connect the phonetic similarity between gerem “bony” and gerim “resident aliens” or “proselytes.” During the biblical period, gerim where non-Israelites who lived among Israel and so were subject to certain provisions of the law of Moses.22 By the rabbinic period, the ger was not a resident alien, but someone who had converted to Judaism.23 Proselytes had a sometimes-uncertain position in the thoughtworld of rabbinic Judaism. It is this concept that is the regnant one in Genesis Rabbah, and it is this concept that that they connect Issachar’s gerem to. There is another intriguing wrinkle in this particular interpretation of Issachar’s blessing. The reading of Yehudah b. Simon—“ass of proselytes”—is how the Samaritan Pentateuch generally understands this particular collocation.24 This is significant because the Sages midrashically associate Issachar with the Samaritans in other places. The Samaritans represented somewhat difficult category for the Sages, since they claimed to be Israel, but not Jewish. As already noted, for the rabbinic Sages, to be Israel was to be Judah and vice versa. The individual tribal identities were subsumed under the broader Jewish identity. Samaritan claims to be Israel presented a real difficulty to this perspective. The complexities of this relationship are visible in a story in Genesis Rabbah that records an interaction between an unnamed Samaritan and the famous Sage Rabbi Meir, a 4th generation Tanna (c. 139– 160 CE). The story appears in the midrashic interpretation of Genesis 21 This is how it has been interpreted by the various versions and by medieval

commentators. De Hoop, Genesis 49, 152. Feigin suggests that this word means “castrated” on the grounds of an Arabic cognate relating to cutting. See Feigin, “Castrated Ass,” 233. 22 See the discussion in Stuart Krauss, “The Word ‘Ger’ in the Bible and its Implications,” Jewish Biblical Quarterly 34/4 (2006), n.p. 23 See Joseph Jacobs and Emil G. Hirsch, “Proselyte,” The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York: Funk and Wagnells, 1901–1906), 10:220–224. Jacobs and Hirsch note that already by the Septuagint, the Greek word προσήλυτος already translates Hebrew ger. See further 24 De Hoop, Genesis 49, 151.

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46, which is the list of the people who came up to Egypt with Jacob. 46:13 states, “And the sons of Issachar were Tola and Puvah and Yob and Shimron.” After quoting this verse, Genesis Rabbah begins the story of Meir and the Samaritan: “Rabbi Meir saw a Samaritan and said to him, ‘Where do you come from?’ He [the Samaritan] said, ‘From Joseph.’ Rabbi Meir said to him, ‘No.’ The Samaritan said to him, ‘From where [then]?’ He said to him, ‘From Issachar.’ [The Samaritan] said to him, ‘On what evidence do you say that?’ He said to him, ‘As it is written, “And the sons of Issachar were Tola and Puvah and Yob and Shimron.” This is Samaria’ (Genesis Rabbah 94:7). On the surface, this tradition seems to be about a Sage allowing for an Israelite origin for a Samaritan, with all of the attendant halakhic ideas that would entail. The tradition in Genesis Rabbah continues, however, and in so doing nuances the interpretation of this passage, and with it, our understanding of the Sages, the Samaritans, and their competing interpretive claims. The story continues, “He [the Samaritan] went to the Patriarch 25 [of the Samaritans] and said to him, ‘An elder of the Jews told me something, and it is astonishing.’ He said, ‘What is it?’ He said, ‘He asked me where I came from, and I told him from Joseph. He said to me, “No, from Issachar, as it is written, And the sons of Issachar: Tola, and Puvah, and Job, and Shimron, that is to say, Samaria.”’ [The patriarch] said to him, ‘On your life! He has released you from Joseph, but not brought you up to Issachar.” According to their traditions, the Samaritans claimed Israelite descent primarily from Joseph.26 They rejected the biblical narrative that the land was totally emptied by the Neo-Assyrians, who brought in non-Israelites that converted to the worship of the God of Israel to save their lives from lions (see 2 Kings 17). Other rabbinic passages show that the Sages accepted that core narrative.27 R. Meir claimed the Samaritans came from Issachar, but the Samaritan patriarch said this did not actually bring the Samaritans into Israel. The association between the Samaritans and proselytes, an association built from the The Aramaic here is ‫אפטוריקיא‬, which is a borrowing of the Greek πατριαρχης. 26 Indeed, they do so to this day. 27 L. H. Schiffman, “The Samaritans in Tannaitic Halakhah,” Jewish Quarterly Review 75 (1985), 323–350, discussion on 325. 25

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interpretation of the blessing on Issachar through rabbinic wordplay and creative philology, explains the Samaritan patriarch’s reticence. According to Genesis Rabbah 94:7, the Samaritan patriarch says, “On your life! He has released you from Joseph, but not brought you up to Issachar.” Associating the Samaritans with Issachar is not a statement giving them Israelite heritage. Instead, it connects the Samaritans with proselytes and underscores the rabbinic party line—the Samaritans were often disparaged by the Sages as “proselytes of the lion,” referring to the biblical story of the origin of the Samaritans. This explains the Samaritan patriarch’s explanation to the other Samaritan. Rabbi Meir has released the Samaritan from Joseph (and therefore from Israel), but not brought him up to Issachar, since a connection to Issachar brings the Samaritan up only to the level of proselyte, which is where the rabbis already placed the Samaritans. Through the use of midrashic wordplay, the Sages connect the tribe of Issachar first with proselytes and then with the Samaritans. The Sages take an obscure word in an obscure passage about the twelve tribes and redeploy it a manner that makes it significant in their religious and ritual system. The blessing of Issachar represents here the desirability that comes from the study of Torah, something that attracts people to Judaism and increases proselytes. Like with Reuben, because to be Israel is to be Jewish, even a relatively obscure tribe like Issachar becomes a locus for articulating rabbinic ideology and practice.

CONCLUSION By the time of the creation of the various traditions in Genesis Rabbah and especially by the time of its composition, the Twelve Tribes of Israel had long since stopped being a moving concern in Judaism. Within the world of Judaism, to be Israel was to be Judah, and vice versa. The tribes were, halakhically, an intriguing footnote in the covenant history of the Children of Israel. In spite of this lack of legal specification, the Twelve Tribes remain a topic of interest to the Sages. The tribes’ sometimes-obscure blessings in the biblical text provided the Sages with a fertile ground for the midrashic exercise, since they are full of the kinds of knobs and valleys that yield so richly to this kind of study.

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Indeed, the deployment and presentation of the twelve tribes in Genesis Rabbah illustrates the ways in which the Sages presented the ideas and ideals of the rabbinic community through biblical interpretation. As noted, because of the historical development of Judaism after the Exile, for the Sages, Israelite identity was bound up in Jewish and Judahite identity. Jews were Israel and through the application of some midrashic reasoning, all of the blessings of the various individual tribes belonged Israel as a whole. This means, of course, that it also applied to the Jewish community that Genesis Rabbah came out of and was addressed to. This created some difficulties where some of the blessings are negative, but this was not enough to keep them from a positive reading. In the “blessing” of Reuben, after the text records a number of negative interpretations of Reuben’s blessings, interpretations which were much closer to the plain reading of Genesis 49, Genesis Rabbah records the Sages exclaiming, “We still need the Modiite.” Eleazar of Modiim’s positive interpretations of Reuben provided the Sages with the necessary interpretation of both sides of the blessing. Rabbi himself began with a “word of praise” and a “word of shame.” The word of shame was a necessary part of how Reuben is presented in the biblical text, but the word of praise was a necessary part of the interpretation, because the blessing on Reuben applied to all of Israel. Likewise, even an obscure tribe like Issachar receives interpretation, exploration, and especially rabbinization. 1 Chronicles 12:32[33], one of the few biblical verses that discusses Issachar as a tribal and unit and which praises the men of Issachar for their knowledge of times, is given a decidedly rabbinic spin. The Sages in Genesis Rabbah equate this “knowledge of times” with prowess with the Torah, which is something that they wished to enjoin on all of Israel. Through the midrashic process, Issachar’s blessing in Genesis 49 becomes not simply an antiquarian point about a long-defunct minor tribe in Israel. Instead, it is transformed into a model for how the Sages understood Israel in their own day. The blessings for Issachar were blessings for all of Israel, which the Sages understood as Judaism. In the end, this pattern shows in all of the interpretations in Genesis Rabbah. Although the tribes were no longer specifically part of the Israelite community, their blessings lived on in the Jewish communities that Genesis Rabbah came from and was directed to. Genesis 49

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speaks of Jacob blessing each of his sons individually, “every man according to his blessing,” but Genesis Rabbah applies each of those blessings to all of Israel.

EXODUS RABBAH AND THE AGGADIC RESPONSE TO BIBLICAL LAW: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AND THE COVENANT CODE JONATHAN SCHOFER INTRODUCTION The Decalogue (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) and the set of laws that modern scholars call the Covenant Code (Exodus 21–23) were highly influential for the rabbinic law of the Mishnah, as well as Talmudic commentary, in tractates Baba Qamma and Sanhedrin. The compilers of Exodus Rabbah, a text redacted about five centuries later than the gemara of the Babylonian Talmud, articulates the significance of this resonance in its commentaries to Exodus 20:2 (“I am YHWH your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery”) and Exodus 21:1 (“And these are the judges’ decisions in legal cases [mishpatim]”). This paper shows that homilies in this late canonical midrashic collection show sustained exposition of the cultural importance of law, an aggadic response to biblical law that is not simply an interesting midrashic discussion as a side note to a Pentateuchal verse, but an elaboration that complements the halakhah of the Mishnah and Talmuds. The analysis presumes several key points emphasized in scholarship upon midrash since the late 1980s. First, midrash is a creative interpretation of scripture that can build motifs from reflection on one verse or from identifying a connection or juxtaposition between two or more verses. When two or more verses are brought together in midrashic interpretation, they generally are not proximate, and often the 25

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physical (in terms of location in the Bible) and apparent conceptual distance is a key point of interest. Second, midrash emphasizes puns and plays on words, and through this emphasis highlights the importance of the Hebrew text of the scripture, and for parts of the Books of Daniel and Ezra Aramaic, as privileged for interpretation. The Aramaic translation the Targum, for example, may be valuable for many purposes, but midrash does not address the Targum for interpretation. Third, midrash in both procedure of interpretation, and as directly stated in a number of key places, emphasizes that the Jewish scripture is a distinct text for interpretation: understood as divinely given, and as enabling forms of interpretation that are not relevant for ordinary speech and writing. Fourth, midrashic elaborations of scripture themselves become texts that were edited into compilations with literary significance. The arrangement of exegetical traditions into a rabbinic commentary itself reveals literary style as well as effectiveness in conveying meaning.1 This paper extends the call that we analyze more fully the historical changes in the forms of expression of midrashic literature over time. Rachel Anisfeld has emphasized the need for “a literary history of rabbinic literature or of rabbinic midrash” to undo a “generalized notion of rabbinic midrash” and to address “temporal differentiation” as well as geographic. Anisfeld draws attention to the point that 1 The scholarship is extensive, and I highlight four works on midrash aggadah.

James Kugel examines the development of exegetical motifs primarily surrounding single verses in, In Potiphar’s House: The Interpretative Life of Biblical Texts (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983). Daniel Boyarin examines the development of exegetical motifs at the intersection of two verses in, Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990). Steven Fraade focuses on the editing of exegetical motifs into literary commentary in, From Tradition to Commentary: Torah and Its Interpretation in the Midrash Sifre to Deuteronomy (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1991). All of these works highlight that rabbinic midrash asserts the divinity of scripture, and this feature is examined most thoroughly by Michael Fishbane in, The Garments of Torah: Essays in Biblical Hermeneutics (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1992).

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many of the best studies of midrash in the 1990s either focus on tannaitic midrash—such as Daniel Boyarin’s Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash on the Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael, and Steven Fraade’s From Tradition to Commentary on Sifre Deuteronomy—or tend not to address differences over time. Anisfeld identifies distinct features of Pesikta deRav Kahana as her example of homiletic midrash in the Amoraic period.2 This paper focuses on material canonized in Midrash Rabbah and examines a later stage in midrashic literature exemplified through Exodus Rabbah. Most notably, I want to highlight that the homiletic midrash of Exodus Rabbah does not fit the account of the petihta set out in Anisfeld, or her predecessors including James Kugel and David Stern. Kugel writes in In Potiphar’s House, for example, that the petihta begins with “some out-of the way verse” that follows with a “meandering form” that may “arouse curiosity” but nothing more serious regarding the Pentateuchal verse at the core of the homily.3 In Exodus Rabbah, as well as the earlier Deuteronomy Rabbah, late canonical midrash frequently generates sustained treatment of the aggadic significance, or perhaps in today’s terms cultural significance, of the legal passage in question from the Pentateuch, and that the opening verse is a creative and provocative start whose importance is at the same time unexpected and meaningful. Specifically, Exodus Rabbah builds from consideration of the Decalogue and Covenant Code a three-fold focus upon scripture, liturgy, and law that directs the audience in

2 Rachel A. Anisfeld, Sustain

Me With Raisin-Cakes: Pesikta deRav Kahana and the Popularization of Rabbinic Judaism (Leiden: Brill, 2009), esp. 7–10, 45–49. More recently, Dov Weiss has identified key thematic features of the even later Tanhuma Yelammedenu literature; Dov Weiss, Pious Irreverence: Confronting God in Rabbinic Judaism (Philadelphia, PA: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016); Schofer, “Review of Dov Weiss, Pious Irreverence: Confronting God in Rabbinic Judaism (Philadelphia, PA: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016) in, Reading Religion: A Publicaion of the American Academy of Religion (2016), online. 3 Kugel, In Potiphar’s House, 263; also see David Stern, Midrash and Theory: Ancient Jewish Exegesis and Contemporary Literary Studies (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1996), 55–71; and Anisfeld, Sustain Me With Raisin-Cakes, 7–10, 45–49.

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appropriate response to divine commandments. These three concerns each appear in distinct and creative ways. In examining these three concerns of the late redactors of Exodus Rabbah, this paper makes three more specific arguments. First, as instructing in scripture, the homiletic midrash of Exodus Rabbah gathers with key verses from The Book of Exodus both other verses from the Pentateuch, and passages from far beyond, to create compilations that educate readers in the more difficult parts of the Bible that address relevant themes of legal cases and divine commands. The midrash as homiletic midrash of course shows that the themes at hand are addressed throughout the Jewish scripture, but also in concrete ways, the late Exodus Rabbah names difficult passages that might be overlooked and shows that a concern with law and society runs through the Psalms and Prophets, and leadership from Moses to Daniel and Esther. The audience listening to or reading an exposition of known verses in the Pentateuch learns, for example, of relevant material in the Aramaic of the Book of Daniel, or of variants on the accounts of David told in the Books of Chronicles and not only the Deuteronomic History. Second, Exodus Rabbah reinforces the importance of prayer and liturgy by highlighting David as not only the valued king, but also as the writer of Psalms, and also by highlighting links between the Ten Commandments and the Shema. Exodus Rabbah does not discuss the synagogue specifically, but rather draws the audience’s attention to the praise of God and the affirmation in the Shema as indicating liturgy. This emphasis on liturgy within homiletic midrash is exemplified for the audience through the figures of Moses and David, and sets out a cultural connection for enduring time without sovereignty and in larger empires, roughly a century or two after the creation of the full prayerbook by Amram Gaon in 850 CE.4 Third, Exodus Rabbah strongly connects, on one hand, condemnations of idolatry and heresy, with on the other hand, the call that Israel observe the specifics of decisions for legal cases named in the Covenant Code, along with the direct commandments of the 4I

do not, in this paper, take on the relation between the compilation of Exodus Rabbah and the compilation and dissemination of the prayer book, but the late date of Exodus Rabbah means that this midrashic collection likely emerged after significant development of Jewish liturgy.

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Decalogue, all given at Sinai as told in subsequent chapters of the Book of Exodus. The key point, then, is that Israel is separated from the heretics and the idolatrous peoples, and favored by God rather than condemned, only because of observance of law in its specificity. Exodus Rabbah juxtaposes accounts of God’s destruction of idolatrous empires, and God’s call for Israel to observe laws and decisions in legal cases, to emphasize Israel’s self-definition as accepting upon itself those laws and decisions.

T HE COVENANT CODE AND ITS INFLUENCE IN CANONICAL T ALMUDIC LAW In rabbinic law the importance of the individual cases in the Covenant Code appears most notably in the organization of key examples as “primary categories” (’avot) of damages by the opening unit of Mishnah tractate Baba Qamma. The mishnaic “primary categories” select and organize five key cases from Exodus 21—23, two of which center on an ox. The common features of these cases are first, that a person is responsible for damage caused to another person or another person’s property, and second, that the damage is caused indirectly: the responsible person does not directly strike or steal from another, but rather the responsible person owns an ox, or digs a pit, or lets loose cattle, or starts a fire, which then causes the damage5: And if an ox gores a men or a woman, and [the man or woman] dies, the ox must surely be put to death by stoning, and its flesh will not be eaten, and the owner of the ox is free from guilt. If it is an ox that is addicted to goring from the past, and protest was entered against the owner, and he [the owner] did not continually restrain it [the ox], and it [the ox] killed a man or a woman, the ox will be put to death by stoning, and the owner will be put to death by punishment (Exod. 21:28–29). And when a man’s ox strikes the ox of his fellow, and it [the ox of the fellow] dies, then they sell the living ox and divide the money, and also they divide the dead [ox]. Or, if it was known that it [the See also, regarding the importance of these passages for the Mishnah, Hanoch Albeck, The Six Orders of the Mishnah, Seder Nezikin (Jerusalem: Musad Bialek, 1988), 5–7, 17; Jacob Neusner, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Damages, Part One, Baba Qamma (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1983), 2–4. 5

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JONATHAN SCHOFER ox that struck the other ox] was an ox that is addicted to goring from the past, and its owner did not continually restrain it, then he [the owner of the ox that is addicted to goring from the past] must truly pay ox for ox, and the dead [ox] will be his (Exod. 21:35–36) And when a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit will pay money as recompense to its [the dead animal’s] owner, and the dead will be his (Exod. 21:33–34). If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, and he lets loose the cattle, and they graze in another field, he [the man] will make compensation with the best of his field and the best of his vineyard (Exod. 22:4). If fire goes out and finds thornbushes, and a stack of sheaves, or the standing grain, or the field is consumed, the one who caused the fire must truly make compensation for the burning (Exod. 22:5).

The biblical text does not identify these five cases as a group. Rather, the Mishnah selects from the Covenant Code these examples to build an account of indirect responsibility for harm. These indirect forms of responsibility for damage, then, become the “primary categories” of damages that open Mishnah tractate Baba Qamma: Four primary categories of legal cases concerning damages: the ox, and the pit, and the one that damages the crop, and the one that damages through carelessness in handling fire. And the case of the ox is not like the case of the one that damages the crop, and the case of the one that damages the crop is not like the case of the ox, and neither this one nor that one, since they have in them the breath of life, is like the case of the fire, that does not have in it the breath of life. And none of these, that their way is to go and cause damage, is like the case of the pit, that its way is not to go and cause damage [in other words, a pit does not move from its location].

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The points that are common in them [in the four primary categories of legal cases concerning damages], is that their [the entities described in the cases] way is to cause damage, and the [responsibility for] watching over them is upon you, and when it causes damage, the one who causes damage must pay the indemnities with the best of the land [or, out of his best land] (M. B. Qam. 1:1).

The Mishnah finds in the Covenant Code key cases in which a person’s livestock or actions generate a living being, or an inanimate object, whose “way is to cause damage,” and these cases constitute “primary categories” of legal cases for considering damages. Each is labeled by a term: the ox (shor), the pit (bor), the one that damages the crop (mav‘eh), and the one that damages through carelessness in handling fire (hev‘er). The Mishnah, then, is not here formally carrying out midrashic exegesis of scripture, but rather discussing the legal subject of damages with terms whose meaning derives from reference to cases described in the Pentateuch. The Mishnah also organizes these categories through three considerations: (1) does the entity that causes damage move or not? (2) Is the entity that causes damage a living being? (3) Among living entities, their way of causing damage can differ. The ox moves, is a living being, and causes damage by goring. The pit does not move, is not a living being, and causes damage by living beings falling into it. The one that damages the crop moves, is a living being, and causes damage by consuming crops improperly. The one that damages through carelessness in handling fire generates fire that moves, is not a living being, and causes damage through burning.6 These four primary categories, set out in the opening unit of Mishnah Baba Qamma, then become key starting points for legal discussions throughout the tractate addressing numerous considerations regarding damages and indemnity. For the Mishnah, then, the opening organization of cases from Exodus 21—23, the Covenant Code, For other discussions of this Mishnah, see Albeck, The Six Orders of the Mishnah, Seder Nezikin, 17; Neusner, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Damages, Part One, Baba Qamma, 14–15; also T. B. Qam. 9:1 and the discussion in Saul Lieberman, Tosefta Ki-Fshutah: A Comprehensive Commentary on the Tosefta, Part IX, Order Nezikin (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1988), 92. 6

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resonates through the discussion of damages. The commentary found in the gemara of the Babylonian Talmud to this Mishnah, moreover, is a massive and expansive anthology with several analytical interests. I highlight three. First, the gemara examines “secondary” categories of damages and their relation to the “primary categories.” Second, in doing so, the gemara gathers and compares features of the three places in the Mishnah that enumerate “primary categories” in some domain of law: for the Sabbath (M. Shab. 7:2), for damages (M. B. Qam. 1:1), and for impurity (M. Kel. 1:1–4). Third, the gemara cites passages from scripture, some the passages from the Covenant Code quoted above, and others from throughout scripture with midrashic expansion (B. B. Qam. 2a-9b). Between the compilation of the Mishnah in 200 C.E. and the completion of the gemara around 500 C.E., then, we see an immense development of legal categories and of complexity in legal exegesis.

T HE COVENANT CODE IN EXODUS RABBAH The preceding discussion of Mishnah Baba Qamma 1:1 illustrates the importance of the Covenant Code in rabbinic law, and is not meant to provide a comprehensive account of this importance but rather to show for one influential passage how the Mishnah builds its categories through organizing and analytically reflecting on cases from this section of the Bible.7 Exodus Rabbah is dated to the tenth century C.E. or later, and its compilation is then centuries later than these legal reflections on damages.8 As a canonical work of midrash aggadah within the larger context of Midrash Rabbah, Exodus Rabbah does not develop law through its exegesis but rather conveys and develops ethics, theology, and Jewish self-definition: what is sagely comportment, what is the nature of the Jewish God and its relation to humans, and what is Israel as connected with its deity? The units of Exodus Rabbah are first of all the “order” (seder), each of which appears presume a 7 See also the insightful analysis of “ownership,” building from the Covenant

Code, in Chaya Halberstam, Law and Truth in Biblical and Rabbinic Literature (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010), 45 (and more generally 42–75). 8 For a summary of the debates, see H. L. Strack and Günter Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, translated by Marcus Bockmuehl, Second Edition (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 308–309.

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section of the Pentateuch that would have been read as part of a cycle of reading the Pentateuch in weekly portions, and then every “order” has divisions, each of which is a “chapter” (parashah), and a chapter has further divisions. The discussion of the Covenant Code in Exodus Rabbah appears in the order, “And these are the judges’ decisions in legal cases (mishpatim)” (Exod. 21:1), an order that addresses Exodus 21—24, but the discussions of “judges’ decisions in legal cases” (mishpatim) begin the order and examine the cultural significance of the collection of legal cases presented starting in Exodus 21. Exodus Rabbah Chapter 30:1 opens this order with a unit of homiletic midrash that makes four points. First, the midrash strongly emphasizes monotheism and God’s power to create and destroy kings, both kings of Israel and kings that conquer Israel. Second, the midrash reinforces that God values judges’ decisions in legal cases, and righteousness, and that commitment to these elements in legal processes is central to the relationship between Israel and God that distinguishes Israel from other nations. Third, the midrash vividly states that God will destroy the idolatrous nations, but Israel’s commitment to law and judges’ decisions in legal cases, again, are necessary to separate Israel from these other nations. Fourth, the midrash highlights the Psalms of David as giving strength to God, so the practice of reciting Psalms in praise and blessing of the deity complements and strengthens the equities and righteousness brought by law. The literary organization of the homiletic midrash begins with the key verse from the Pentateuch, “And these are the judges’ decisions in legal cases” (Exod. 21:1). The petiha or petihta begins by juxtaposing this verse with a verse from the Psalms that also emphasizes judges’ decisions in legal cases, and in this verse the word mishpat appears twice, once in the singular and once in the plural (Ps. 99:4). The homiletic midrash also addresses two depictions of King David presenting words of prayer and blessing, one in the Book of 1 Chronicles, and one in Psalm 104. Beyond this, the midrash gathers three poetic passages presenting God’s destruction of the wicked, two from books of prophecy (Is. 27:2–6 and Nah. 1:2) and one from the Psalms (Ps. 60:10). And, the midrash brings these themes back to the commitment to a judge’s decision in a legal case (mishpat) through a verse from the Song of Moses near the end of the Book of Deuteronomy (Deut.

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32:41). Weaving through all these poetic passages are elaborations of narrative scenes from the Book of Daniel that portray God’s relations with an evil king (Dan. 2:37 and 4:27, both of which are in Aramaic), and a verse from the Book of Leviticus emphasizing that the descendants of Israel are “servants” of God as having been liberated by God from slavery in Egypt (Lev. 25:55). The combination of Psalms, poetry of the prophets, the Song of Moses, narrative material in Aramaic, and a verse from Leviticus all convey, to an audience engaged in a cycle of reading the Pentateuch in weekly portions, difficult passages in the Bible as a whole and unexpected places to find celebration of judiciary process. The homiletic midrash concludes with a return to the core verse, Exodus 21:1. Exodus Rabbah Chapter 30:1 begins with a flurry of unexpected material. The midrash opens by pairing Exodus 21:1, “And these are the judges’ decisions in legal cases,” with Psalms 99:4, which as noted above uses the term “a judge’s decision in a legal case” (mishpat) twice. The verse in the Psalm addresses God, calling God the “Strength of a king,” a point that will recur throughout this midrash. God not only can give strength to one in power, but also God loves and establishes equity and righteousness along with appropriate judicial outcomes. The rabbinic midrash asks a striking and ambiguous question, with a reply that seems disjunctive: And these are the judges’ decisions in legal cases (mishpatim) (Exod. 21:1) It is this which scripture says, And Strength of a king, Lover of a judge’s decision in a legal case (mishpat), [You established equities in government, judges’ decisions in legal cases (mishpatim) and righteousness in Jacob, You made] (Ps. 99:4). When did he give the strength to The Holy One, Blessed be He? In the time that He carries out the judgment regarding the worshippers of stars (Exod. Rab. 30:1).

Who is the person that gives “strength” to God, when Psalm 99:4 states that God provides strength to kings? Why does the midrash

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state that this person gives strength to God when God carries out judgment against idolatrous peoples? The answers are provided over the course of the midrash, for David turns out to be the one who gives strength to God, through his prayers and psalms. Perhaps contrasting this first valued king of Israel with evil kings, especially the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar as the king who destroyed Solomon’s temple and generated exile, the midrash will gather poetic words of praise from scripture for God’s destruction of God’s adversaries, and Moses’ words of song will link all of this with a judge’s decision in a legal case (mishpat). The midrash immediately turns to the topic of evil kings, and in a moment of affirming monotheism strongly, builds from the wording in a verse from the Book of Daniel to present God as emphasizing that even or especially the power of evil kings comes from the God of Israel: That thus you see regarding Nebuchadnezzar the Evil One, because he boasted and said, [The king responded to the situation and said,] Is this not great Babylonia [that I built as a royal residence with the might of my royal power, and to my majestic honor?] (Dan. 4:27). The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to him, “Evil one! Putrid drop! You boasted and said, ‘with the might of my royal power, and to the honor of my majesty’! And don’t you know that all is Mine: the greatness is Mine, and the power is Mine; the glory is mine and the majesty is mine!” (Exod. Rab. 30:1)

The terminology, “Putrid drop!” is, by the time of the compilation of Exodus Rabbah, very old rabbinic terminology for emphasizing the finitude and creaturely nature of humans.9 The midrashic portrayal of God criticizes the idolatrous and wicked king for his use of pronouns: “my royal power and my majestic honor” (Dan. 4:27). The king does not realize that even his power and honor belong to Israel’s God. The midrash contrasts Nebuchadnezzar’s words with those of David when David gives blessings for his deity. David in the Book of 1 Chronicles offers a blessing of God publicly that emphasizes that Jonathan Schofer, Confronting Vulnerability: The Body and the Divine in Rabbinic Ethics (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2010), 2 (and especially fn. 3). 9

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God is the source of greatness, might, perpetuity, splendor, the heavens, the earth, and also sovereignty and human rulers. In addition, the midrash adds a quote from Psalm 104:1, which continues a theme begun in Psalm 103:1–2 that David calls upon his soul to bless God, and which also links splendor and majesty with God: And thus David says, [And David blessed YHWH to the eyes of all the assembly, and David said, “Blessed are you, YHWH, God of Israel, our Father from everlasting and until everlasting,] to You, YHWH is the greatness and the might, and the beauty, [and the perpetuity and the splendor, for all in the heavens and in the earth is to you, YHWH: the sovereignty, and he who exalts himself as a human ruler”] (1 Chron. 29:10–11). And he said, [To David: Bless YHWH, my soul… (Ps. 103:1, 2; also see Ps. 103:22).] [Bless YHWH, my soul:] YHWH my God, You have become tremendously great; [You wear splendor and majesty] (Ps. 104:1) (Exod. Rab. 30:1).

For Exodus Rabbah, then, David contrasts with the wicked king Nebuchadnezzar in being an Israelite king who blesses God and emphasizes God’s power in the natural as well as political world. The midrash now turns back to the portrayal of an exchange between God and Nebuchadnezzar, reflecting up on the theological significance of the Babylonian exile. God is portrayed as building upon the scriptural words of Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar to emphasize two points. First, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar directly that God is the source of even Nebuchadnezzar’s power, and second, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom is “little” compared to the heavens and the earth that belong to God. Exodus Rabbah portrays God speaking to Nebuchadnezzar, calling his empire a little kingdom:

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The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to Nebuchadnezzar, “A little bit of a kingdom, which was given to you—it was from Me.” And thus Daniel said to him [Nebuchadnezzar], [You are the king, the king of kings,] that the God of the Heavens: He gives to you the kingdom, the royal power, and the might, and the honor (Dan. 2:37). And you said, “with the might of my royal power, and to the honor of my majesty” (Dan. 4:27). This proves, And Strength of a king, Lover of a judge’s decision in a legal case (mishpat) (Ps. 99:4): the strength of the King of the Kings of Kings, The Holy One, Blessed Be He, and He loves the judge’s decision in a legal case, and He gave it to Israel, for they are His ones who love [Him] (Exod. Rab. 30:1).

The midrash here ties the theme of God as the source of all kings’ power, even wicked kings, with the primary focus upon a judge’s decision in a legal case (mishpat). Exodus Rabbah again quotes Psalm 99:4, the verse that opened the petihta, with the further interpretation that God gives strength and appropriate judiciary decisions to Israel, since Israel loves God. The midrash continues to quote from Psalm 99:4 to illustrate the connections between correct decisions by judges and correct precedents in legal cases, and equity and peace: And whereas it is written, You established equities in government (Ps. 99:4): You established equity for Your lovers [of You], that by ways of the judges’ decisions in legal cases (mishpatim) that You gave to them, they make strife, one upon the other, and come to the hands of a judge’s decision in a legal case (mishpat), and they make peace (Exod. Rab. 30:1).

Recognizing that conflict and strife are part of social relations, the midrash affirms that law and the work carried out by judges makes for peace. The opening of this homiletic midrash emphasized the time when God “carries out the judgment regarding the worshippers of stars,” and this theme gains intensity though an exegesis upon the prophetic words of Isaiah 27:2–6, which provide the structure for the rest of the petihta until it returns to Exodus 21:1 as core verse from the Pentateuch. A striking scene is presented. Presuming that God is carrying out judgment against idolatrous peoples strongly, Israel asks, “Until

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when will you carry out judgment regarding worshippers of stars.” God replies that He will do so until they are truly “cut off”: Israel said before The Holy One, Blessed Be He, “Master of the Universe, when will you carry out judgment regarding worshippers of stars?” He said to them, “When their due season for being cut off arrives,” that it is written, In that day, vineyard of desire, you will sing sweetly of it (Is. 27:2). [I, YHWH, guard it by moments, I water it, Lest night-time injures it, And day, I shut it in (Is. 27:3). Rage, I do not have, Who gives Me thorns and thorn-bushes in war? Let Me march against it. I will burn it altogether (Is. 27:4). Or, he will lay hold of My refuge {ma‘uzi, from the same root as ‘oz, or “strength”} He will make peace with Me Peace, he will make with Me (Is. 27:5). {In} the coming {days}, Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, The faces of the earth will be full of produce (Is. 27:6)] (Exod. Rab. 30:1).

The prophet’s words contrast God marching against one who gives “thorns and thorn-bushes in war,” with one who makes peace with God through holding God’s “refuge.” The word for “refuge” is based on the same root as the word for “strength” in Psalm 99:4 above (‘oz), so the midrashic development of God providing strength for His followers continues. The conclusion of this midrash, moreover, will link this strength again with proper justice and judges’ decisions.

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The exegesis of Isaiah 27:2–7, within Exodus Rabbah 30:1, again emphasizes songs of devotion to God, here portraying God singing and Israel singing in chorus with Him. The context is God’s protection of Israel along with God’s destruction of enemies: [Specifically regarding, In that day, vineyard of desire, you will sing sweetly of it (Is. 27:2).] Is there a person who cuts his vineyard before it is ripe? Rather, after it is ripe, he cuts it and places it in a vat for wine pressing, and he stamps on it, and he sings, and they sing in chorus after him. So too, The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to Israel, “Wait for me until the sufferings from Edom have arrived, and I will stamp on it,” as it is said, [Moab will be My wash-pot,] Upon Edom I will cast my shoe, [For me, O Philistia, shout in joy!] (Ps. 60:10). I open for you, and you sing in chorus after me. Therefore it is said, [V]ineyard of desire, you will sing sweetly of it (Is. 27:2). I, YHWH, guard it, by moments, I water it (Is. 27:3): I am the One who guards it and waters it many cups,” as it is said, [B]y moments, I water it (Is. 27:3). If I came to look at them, I would finish them off from the world, but rather [generally], Rage, I do not have (Is. 27:4). When they are filled with rage upon my children, what do I do to them? Let Me march against it. I will burn it altogether (Is. 27:4) (Exod. Rab. 30:1).

The words of the prophet Isaiah convey a strong moment of completion in the depiction of God’s war against adversaries, “I will burn it altogether.” The midrash, though, never rests fully in the focus upon God’s destruction of enemies. Integrating with the exegesis of Isaiah 27:2–6 words of the prophet Nahum as well as a verse from the Book of Leviticus and another from the Song of Moses, the rabbinic midrash pairs God’s vengeance against the wicked with God taking hold of a judge’s decision in a legal case (mishpat): Rabbi Levi said: The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to the worshippers of stars, “Israel, they are mine,” as it is written, For the

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JONATHAN SCHOFER descendants of Israel are servants to Me. [They are My servants, that I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am YHWH your God] (Lev. 25:55). And are they mine? As it is said, [A jealous God, And One who takes vengeance is YHWH] One who takes vengeance is YHWH, And a possessor of fury; [One who takes vengeance is YHWH to his adversaries, And He is One who maintains {wrath} to his enemies] (Nahum 1:2). And you are filled from mine to mine [perhaps, the descendants of Israel in exile and diaspora fill the idolatrous nations], as it is said, Who gives Me thorns and thorn-bushes in war? (Is. 27:4). And the rabbis say: The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to them, “If I sharpen my measure of justice by one lightning bolt, I destroy them,” as it is said, If I sharpen the lightening [flash] of My sword, [and My hand takes hold of the judge’s decision in a legal case (mishpat), I will pay vengeance to my adversaries, and to those who hate me, I will requite {them}] (Deut. 32:41). And what do I do? [A]nd My hand takes hold of the judge’s decision in a legal case (mishpat) (Deut. 32:41) (Exod. Rab. 30:1).

For Rabbi Levi, God contrasts Israel with “worshippers of the stars” by saying of Israel, “They are mine.” Israel belongs to God because God brought them out of slavery in Egypt, and God carries out justice and also vengeance against His enemies. God also provides with His “hand” the judge’s decision in a legal case. The midrash concludes by drawing together the exegesis of Isaiah 27:1–6, the opening verse of the petihta, Psalm 99:4, and the core verse of the unit, Exodus 21:1, to link the calls for Israel to grasp God’s strength as refuge, to recognize that God is the source of the strength of all rulers, and to stay within proper legal judgment:

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And thus the biblical verse says, Or, he will lay hold of My refuge [ma‘uzi, from the same root as ‘oz, or “strength”] (Is. 27:5). “My refuge” (ma‘uzi) means “judgment,” as it is written, And Strength (‘oz) of a king, Lover of a judge’s decision in a legal case (mishpat) (Ps. 99:4). The Holy One, Blessed Be He said to Israel, “Just as I have the ability to be too severe regarding the worshippers of stars, and I am not too severe, rather I take hold of judgment, so too, you, do not go beyond [proper legal] judgment, as it is said, And these are the judges’ decisions in legal cases (Exod. 21:1) (Exod. Rab. 30:1).

Psalm 99:4, then, is the connection between the “strength” that God can provide to a ruler and to a society, and a judge’s decision in a legal case. Israel can “lay hold of” this strength by observing proper legal judgment, and the precedents for such judgments are the cases set out in the discussion of law beginning in Exodus 21:1. A second, shorter, homiletic midrash also draws together God’s condemnation of those who persecute Jews, and God’s call for Jews to learn and study judges’ decisions in legal cases. This time the focus upon leadership links Moses and Esther: Another interpretation: And these are the judges’ decisions in legal cases (mishpatim) (Exod. 20:1). Moses himself gave three things to them, and they were called by his name, and they are these: Israel, and the Torah, and the judgments. Israel, how much he suffered on their behalf, and they are called by his name, as it is said, And He remembered the days past everlasting, Moses, his people. [Where is the One who brings them up from the sea together with the Shepherd of His sheep? Where is the One who placed in his {Moses’} midst the spirit of His Holiness?] (Is. 63:11). The Torah, as it is said, Remember the Torah of Moses, My servant, [that I commanded him at Horeb, upon all of Israel, Statutes and judges’ decisions in legal cases (mishpatim)] (Mal. 3:22).

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JONATHAN SCHOFER The judgments, as it is said, And these are the judges’ decisions in legal cases (mishpatim) that you will place before them (Exod. 21:1) (Exod. Rab. 30:4).

The petihta begins with two verses of the prophets that name Moses, along with the command to Moses at the start of the Covenant Code in the Pentateuch, to say that Israel is called by Moses’ name because Isaiah calls Israel “his people” (Is. 63:11), and the Torah is named after Moses since Malachi names “the Torah of Moses” (Mal. 3:22), and that judges’ decisions are ones that Moses placed before Israel (Exod. 21:1). The concluding words, however, take a striking turn by connecting Moses at the Exodus and Sinai, with the much later Esther in the Persian period. The Book of Esther calls Israel “her nation”: And thus Esther gave her life for Israel, and they were called by her name, as it is said, […and a copy of the edict of the law that was published by royal decree in Shushan, to exterminate them, he gave to him to show Esther and to tell her, and to command her to come to the king to implore favor from him] and to request from him for her nation (Esther 4:8) (Exod. Rab. 30:4).

The larger context of the Book of Esther is the presentation of serious threat to persecute Jews in the Persian empire: a threat written into law that was corrupt. Esther here works to change the carrying out of another empire’s “edict of the law,” in order to save “her nation.” Ultimately she succeeds and the aggressor is killed. Again the homiletic midrash of Exodus Rabbah contrasts the laws and judges’ decisions that Israel is to follow, with the practices of other empires, and the midrash also highlights leadership that spans from Moses to the period beyond the conquest by Babylonia, both founding and continuing in guidance as well as protection. In Exodus Rabbah 30:1 and 30:4, we see a set of aggadic teachings regarding the legal cases of Exodus 21–24 (and modern scholars designate Exodus 21–23 as the Covenant Code) that complement the Mishnaic and Talmudic development of law based on these cases and decisions. In Exodus Rabbah, homiletic midrash centered on “judges’ decisions in legal cases” (mishpatim) strongly presents God as loving and upholding judges’ decisions in legal cases along with righteousness, equity, and proper judicial process. Exodus Rabbah also presents other rulers who have other laws and other gods, and emphasizes God’s

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destruction of those who persecute Israel. Israel, though, is told repeatedly that they are to distinguish themselves from other peoples by following the judges’ decisions in legal cases set out in the Book of Exodus, and also Israel is reminded of the importance in its leaders: from Moses leading the Exodus and receiving the judges’ decisions in legal cases at Sinai, to David who wrote Psalms of praise and recited other prayers, to Daniel and Esther who exemplified Jewish leadership following the end of sovereignty.

T HE FIRST COMMANDMENT IN EXODUS RABBAH The threefold commitment in the homiletic midrash of Exodus Rabbah to integrate legal passages in the Book of Exodus with other verses that address related themes from relatively obscure parts of the scripture, and to uphold prayer and blessing of God as an intrinsic part of the practices set out for Israel, and to contrast idolatry and heresy with instructions for Israel to take up and embrace the laws commanded by the God of Israel, appears also in exegesis of the Ten Commandments. The exegesis focuses on the first commandment: “I am YHWH your God, [who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery]” (Exod. 20:2). Two passages of homiletic midrash take up this verse, which is understood to affirm monotheism centered on the divine name YHWH, with common developments. Both passages emphasize that Exodus 20:2 should be seen as closely related to passages in the Book of Deuteronomy, and that Exodus 20:2 can be juxtaposed with compelling passages in the Psalms that midrashically enable dynamic theological portrayals of God, angels, and Sinai—yet without the foundation of Exodus 20:2, these passages in the Psalms might tempt a naïve reader toward polytheism. The two passages are paired in sequence by the compiler of Exodus Rabbah as the opening discussions of the Decalogue. The homiletic midrash opens by juxtaposing the first commandment in Exodus 20:2 with a verse from Deuteronomy 4. This pairing is important for Exodus Rabbah, which in this midrashic unit and the next emphasizes to the audience that the Decalogue appears not only in Exodus 20 but also in Deuteronomy 5. In this case, the verse from Deutoronomy 4 is followed by an exchange between a rabbi and “heretics,” who would be Jews that follow false and improper teachings regarding Judaism. The heretics bring a fairly stupid observation to

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the rabbi—since the common word for “God” in the scripture is plural, ’elohim, then the heretics question monotheism: I am YHWH your God, [who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery] (Exod. 20:2). It is this which Scripture says, Has a nation heard the voice of God (qol ’elohim) [speak (medabber) from the midst of the fire, like you heard, and lived?] (Deut. 4:33). The heretics asked Rabbi Samla’i: They said to him, “There are many gods (’elohot) in the world.” He said to them, “Why?” They said to him, “That, behold, it is written, Has a nation heard the voice of God (’elohim) (Deut. 4:33) [perhaps emphasizing that ’elohim, “God,” is grammatically a plural noun, as is ’elohot, “gods”] (Exod. Rab. 29:1).

The rabbi responds that the emphasis on the plural noun misses that the relevant verb is singular: He said to them, “Perhaps you think it [the verb] is written ‘speak’ [in the plural, medabberim], but rather it is ‘speak’ [in the singular, medabber] (Exod. Rab. 29:1).

For the rabbi, then, a heretic who wants to assert that the plural noun designating God, ’elohim, may indicate multiple gods in the world, would have to find verbs in the plural designating divine actions. The next dialogue raises a related question internal to rabbinic Judaism. While the heretics might be dismissed for their simple challenge, the complexities of rabbinic depictions of God through midrash can generate more sophisticated problems. Exodus Rabbah presents a different response to students: His students said to him, “Rabbi, these [heretics] you dismissed with a very vague reply. To us, what do you respond?” Rabbi Levi returned and explained it [the verse]. He said to them, Has a nation heard the voice of God (qol ’elohim) [speak (medabber) from the midst of the fire, like you heard, and lived?] (Deut. 4:33). How so? If it was written, “The voice of YHWH in its strength,” the world could not have stood, but rather, The voice of YHWH in strength, [the voice of YHWH in splendor] (Psalms 29:4): in the strength of each and every one, the young men according to their strength, and the elders according to their strength, and the

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children according to their strength. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to Israel, “You should not think, because you heard many voices, ‘Perhaps there are in the heavens many gods (’elohot).’ Rather, you will know that I am He, YHWH your God, as it is written [in the chapter just following Deut. 4:33], I am YHWH your God, [who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery] (Deut. 5:6) (Exod. Rab. 29:1).

Rabbi Levi’s midrash builds from Deuteronomy 4:33, which itself has been juxtaposed by Exodus Rabbah with the opening of the Decalogue, Exodus 20:2, and which expands the portrayal of the revelation at Sinai to emphasize the power of God’s voice and the fire at the mountain. “Has a nation” other than Israel heard such a voice “and lived?” Rabbi Levi elaborates the reason for this survival, affirming the power as well as the nuance of God’s voice, through an exegesis of Psalm 29:4: God’s voice is immensely powerful (“in strength”) and also adapted its strength at Sinai (“in splendor”) to the capacity of each and every individual, including the young men, the elders, and the children. This nuance, though, could be misleading, and even an attentive student might confuse the adaptation of the power of God’s voice, with the possibility that there are many voices of many gods. The emphasis that God is singular and designated by the divine name YHWH, though, appears soon after Deuteronomy 4:33 in the restatement of the Ten Commandments starting with Deuteronomy 5:6, which is exactly the same as Exodus 20:2. The very next homiletic midrash in Exodus Rabbah presents a picture of the revelation at Sinai that is similar to that of Rabbi Levi above, yet is expanded and concludes with emphasis on the ritual affirmation the Shema. As with the prior midrash, this passage begins the exposition of the first commandment of the Decalogue in Exodus 20:2 with a verse from Deuteronomy that appears just before the restatement of the Ten Commandments, and here the verse is Deuteronomy 5:4: “Face to face, YHWH spoke with you [at the mountain from the midst of the fire].” Again the midrash intensifies the imagery regarding Sinai through exegesis of a Psalm. In this case, the elaboration of the Psalm includes several variations including two examples of “another opinion.” The exposition of the Psalm starts by ignoring parallelism in biblical poetry to state that, “The chariots of God are

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twenty-thousand,” in Psalm 68:18, followed by, “Thousands twicetold,” depicts 22,000 angels: Another opinion: I am YHWH your God, [who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery] (Exod. 20:2). It is this which scripture says, Face to face, YHWH spoke with you [at the mountain from the midst of the fire] (Deut. 5:4). Rabbi Ebdimi from Haifa said: Twenty-two thousand came down with The Holy One, Blessed Be He, to Sinai, as it is said, The chariots of God are twenty-thousand, Thousands twice-told, [My Lord (’adonay) is with them, Sinai in holiness] (Psalms 68:18), The handsome ones, the praised ones. It could be the case that, even though they are many, they were pressed, [but] the text reads, twice-told (shin’an): at ease (sha’anan) and at rest. My Lord (’adonay) is with them is not written with a yod (y) [in other words, the Psalm does not employ here the divine name YHWH, which then would be pronounced ’adonay to avoid blasphemy] but with aleph (’ ) dalet (d) [in other words, the Psalm says literally “My Lord,” ’adonay]: the Lord of all of the world is with them. Another opinion: My Lord (’adonay) is with them. Rabbi Levi said that there was a list of the Tetragrammaton written on their heart. Another opinion: My Lord (’adonay) is with them. The rabbis say: The name of God (’elohim) was mixed with each and every one: Michael (mikha’el), Gabriel (gavri’el) [specifically, the names of these angels have as a component the word or name for “God,” ’el] (Exod. Rab. 29:2).

While the midrash of Rabbi Levi raised the concern that the adaptation of God’s voice to the strength of each and every Israelite at Sinai could be mistaken for many gods with many voices, this midrash raises the concern that the angels with God at Sinai could be confused for

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many gods. The Shema and the first commandment, however, reinforce that God is singular and the name YHWH is crucial both to the revelation at Sinai and the ritual affirmation opening with Deuteronomy 6:4: The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said to Israel, “You should not think, because you saw many faces, ‘Perhaps there are in the heavens many gods (’elohot).’ Know that I am He, YHWH is one (Deut. 6:4), as it is said, I am YHWH your God (Exod. 20:2, Deut. 5:6) (Exod. Rab. 29:2).

Again Exodus Rabbah links biblical law, in this case the first commandment, with resistance to polytheism and with liturgy. The quotation from the Shema reinforces a continuity between the Ten Commandments, in which God opens revelation by giving His name to Israel, and the daily affirmation that YHWH is the God of Israel and that Israel’s theology is monotheistic.

CONCLUSION This paper begins from the standpoint that homiletic midrash is a productive starting point for examining the aggadic framing of law in rabbinic literature. It is well-known that homiletic midrash often or primarily addresses biblical law. In the large collections of Exodus Rabbah, Leviticus Rabbah, Numbers Rabbah, and Deuteronomy Rabbah we see midrashic expositions by way of the petiha or petihta, the creative “opening” of an exegetical homily, as common aggadic responses to biblical law. In many cases these aggadic responses complement and support the legal or halakhic expansion and refinement of biblical law found in the Mishnah and Talmuds, perhaps engaging an audience with interesting and meaningful connections between a discussion of legal matters in the Pentateuch, and evocative passages from the Prophets or Writings. This paper has identified specific stances toward law articulated in selected passages of homiletic midrash. In other words, rather than trying to identify a theory of law in aggadic materials, this paper identifies distinctively rich expositions in midrashic expression regarding the cultural significance of the detailed elaboration of laws in the Pentateuch as commanded by the rabbis’ God.

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In these examples of homiletic midrash, the editorial shaping of exegetical motifs is more sophisticated than in exegetical midrash. In one example, the compiler contrasts verses from the Psalms and prophets that uphold judges’ decisions in legal cases, and God’s destruction of wicked and persecutory empires, with verses from the Book of Daniel that are exegetically developed to depict dialogues between God and the wicked Nebuchadnezzar. In another example, the core verse from the Pentateuch, again centered on judges’ decisions in legal cases, gains elaboration through verses in the prophets that make reference to Moses, and here after returning to the Pentateuch to the original verse, the passage concludes with an emphasis on Esther continuing leadership of Israel long past the time of Moses, and in the context of the Persian empire. In two other examples, we see a layered approach to building from the laws in the Book of Exodus, where the compiler of Exodus Rabbah links the Decalogue in Exodus 20 with the Decalogue in Deuteronomy 5, along with preceding verses and the succeeding verse Deuteronomy 6:4 that constitutes the opening of the Shema. The compiler of Exodus Rabbah also adds to the verses from both the Book of Exodus and the Book of Deuteronomy with passages from the Psalms that midrashically strengthen radically the portrayal of God’s power at the revelation at Sinai. The midrash repeatedly states that a commitment to law distinguishes Israel from idolaters and heretics. The text do not appeal to any other feature of Israel, as a nation, other than adherence to law generated from the Bible. The Decalogue and the Covenant Code contain the commands and the decisions in legal cases that guide Israel in maintaining monotheism, righteousness, and equity. The voices of the prophets emphasize that God will destroy the wicked, and that Israel needs to maintain its commitment to law in order to seize hold of the divine stronghold and not become like the enemy nations. Rabbinic portrayal of sages’ dialogues with heretics and with students show that both teachings understood to be false and stupid, and the complexity of the rabbis’ own theological imagery, could lead to heretical intepretations of Jewish scripture as polytheistic, if not for continued grounding in the commands of the Pentateuch. The homiletic midrash of Exodus Rabbah also repeatedly emphasizes the importance of liturgy: David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29, David’s psalms of blessing and praise toward the divine, and the Shema starting with

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Deuteronomy 6:4. Isaiah’s statement that God “sings sweetly” becomes through exegesis an image that God begins to sing and Israel joins in chorus. These liturgical words are presented as informing Israel of its commitment to monotheism and the power of its deity, and even as giving strength to God for the destruction of Israel’s oppressors. The aggadic response to biblical law in the canonical Exodus Rabbah, then, teaches an audience the range of scriptural images that can in sophisticated ways be linked to a given verse from the Pentateuch, and emphasizes in graphic terms that scripture, liturgy, and law provide guidance for appropriate relations with God given divine power and the revelation at Sinai.

NATURAL LAW AND THE STATUTES OF ISRAEL: RABBINIC LEGAL DISCOURSE IN LEVITICUS RABBAH NICHOLAS J. SCHASER The rabbis elucidated Jewish law from within a Christianized Roman Empire. According to Graeco-Roman jurisprudence, the standard for human justice could be found in a divine law that was visible in both the natural order and human nature. However, Israel’s Torah does not fit neatly into this majority view of legality in Late Antiquity. Rather, the Torah’s authority often comes by way of divine fiat, and its commands are particular, sometimes arbitrary, and prone to change. Christine Hayes has shown that although the rabbis are familiar with Hellenistic notions of a rational and unchanging law, they tend to highlight the apparent irrationality and relative instability of the Torah—an approach that diverges from a Second Temple tendency to align biblical and natural law.1 In what follows, I argue that Leviticus Rabbah does not always share the resistance to natural law theory found elsewhere in rabbinic literature. Specifically, the midrash uses biblical intertexts to show that the divine laws in Leviticus are the very laws that God established to govern the natural order; therefore, according Leviticus Rabbah, Torah Law is just as unchanging and rational as the divine-natural law of the Gentiles. The rabbinic view of divine law follows that of previous Hellenistic Jewish thought but, Christine Hayes, What’s Divine About Divine Law? Early Perspectives (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015). 1

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unlike their predecessors, the rabbis do not attempt to naturalize the Torah for the sake of universal appeal; instead, the rabbinic melding of natural and biblical law presents the Torah as instruction for Israel alone, and thereby strengthens Jewish covenantal identity in a Christian-Roman world. The following analysis of Leviticus Rabbah adds to Hayes’s thorough and nuanced discussion of divine law by offering a rabbinic passage that is portrays the Mosaic Law in terms of Hellenistic natural law. In particular, Leviticus Rabbah 35:4 draws on verses from Jeremiah and Proverbs in order to show that the statutes given in Leviticus have a cosmic origin in the unchanging pattern of space and time. A summary of Hayes’s conclusions regarding the mailability of Torah vis-à-vis static Hellenistic law, and the marriage of the two in the Second Temple period, will provide the necessary background for interpreting Leviticus Rabbah. While some Greek-speaking Jews engaged in their symbiotic legal project in order to square Jewish law with the legislative assumptions of their Gentile neighbors, the Amoraic rabbis equate the laws of Moses and the cosmos to show how Israel is set apart from the nations. In order to appreciate the depth of connection between natural and biblical law, the reader must employ the interpretive method of “metalepsis”—a device by which, in this case, the rabbinic intertexts point to biblical contexts that provide further linguistic and thematic resonance with the cited verse(s). Metalepsis reveals the rabbis’ literary endeavor to ground the biblical commands in creation, and to underscore the ongoing significance of the people and Land of Israel at the same time. Leviticus Rabbah presents Mosaic Law in natural terms because the immutability of the cosmic order ensures Jewish covenantal security under Christian Rome.

DIVINE LAW IN BIBLICAL AND GRAECO -ROMAN THOUGHT The theory of law found in the Torah diverges from that of the Greeks and Romans in several ways. Whereas Hellenistic formulations of legal practice are predicated on a natural law based in the cosmic order, the authority of Israelite laws comes from their divine origin. According to the Torah, Moses takes his legal cues not from an unwritten design reflected in nature, but from heavenly injunctions “written

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with the finger of God” (Exod 31:18; Deut 9:10).2 These divine commandments are designed to separate the people of Israel from the other nations and to ratify their national covenant. For several of these statutes, the people are to obey because God says so. Leviticus, in particular, has God justifying the divine commands solely based on the fact that they come from the Lord. For example, Leviticus 18:4 states, “You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God” (cf. Lev 11:44–45; 18:2, 5–6, 21; 19:3–4, 10–37; 20:7–8).3 The force of Israel’s laws proceeds from the heavenly realm and follows no earthly legal precedent. Insofar as the deity is the originator of these laws, God maintains the right to change them depending on time and place. While Deuteronomy cautions against the people of Israel “adding or taking away” from what God has enjoined (Deut 13:1), the same book is comfortable changing certain laws based on the future settlement of Canaan. For example, while Leviticus states that a person must slaughter an animal in the tabernacle prior to consumption (Lev 17:1–7), Deuteronomy allows the Israelite to slaughter “anywhere you desire” (‫)בכל אות נפשׁך‬ if the Temple in Jerusalem is too “far from you” (‫ ;ירחק ממך‬Deut 12:21).4 As Hayes notes, “in ancient Israel, the Law’s divinity was not perceived as entailing its fixity or absolute nature. Terms of the divine law were modified, revised, updated, and interpreted in the course of their transmission.”5 Indeed, the flexibility of the Torah’s instructions reinforces their basis in God’s dynamic choices, rather than in a static natural law. The theocentric and positivistic presentation of divine law in ancient Israel contrasts with a prominent Graeco-Roman view of divine law as rationale, unchanging, and universalistic. Further, this universal divine law has its origin in a natural law independent from human

2 All translations of ancient sources are my own unless otherwise noted. 3 Cf. Hayes, Divine, 22.

On the difference between these laws, see Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 17–22: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary [AYBC; 3A] (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), 1455. 5 Hayes, Divine, 21. 4

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law.6 In Greek thought, this natural divine law is associated with both the physical world and the nature of humanity. As Hayes notes, according to the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus, human laws are grounded in the single rational order (logos) of nature and are thus neither conventional nor relativistic…. This divine standard for human law is discoverable by human inquiry into the workings of both the cosmos and the human individual since humans can find within themselves the universal logos that orders the cosmos.7

In this construction of divine law, there is no bright line between the cycles of nature and what we would call “human nature.” More, humanity draws its awareness of law and justice from a monolithic and universal standard imbedded in the cosmos. Following Heraclitus, Cicero argues that nature allowed for the emergence of humanity, so that human nature is very closely related to the natural order. In his De Legibus, Cicero presents the origins of humanity in the following naturalistic terms: When considering the nature of humanity (natura hominis)… in the consistent movements and turnings of the heavenly places, a mature season came for planting the seeds of the human race (generis humani)…. Nature has lavished such a wealth of things for human expediency and use…. The arts have been found in abundance through the teaching of nature, which reason (ratio) imitated… to achieve things necessary for life. (1.24–26)

For Cicero, nature offers humanity avenues towards knowledge, and natural law is worthy of human assent because it is rational: “Law is the supreme reason (lex est ratio summa), immanent in nature (insita in natura), which prescribes what must be done and prohibits what is contrary” (1.18). Unlike the biblical laws, whose authority is based on 6 Hayes stresses that Graeco-Roman understandings of divine law are multi-

vocal, and she notes [Divine, 86] that her analysis of the various strands of Graeco-Roman legal discourse is an “attempt to impose order on an otherwise unwieldy mass of ideas.” 7 Hayes, Divine, 55 (emphasis original).

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the dictates of the sovereign deity, Cicero’s legal theory is grounded in the organization of a natural order by which human beings define their ontology. Since, according to Graeco-Roman divine law, human notions of justice are discoverable through the cosmic order, the natural divine law also offers a universal legal standard that all nations can access and follow. In other words, natural divine law is cosmopolitan.8 As Plutarch notes, the Stoics argued “that our household arrangements should not be based on cities or parishes, each one marked out by its own legal system, but we should regard all men as our fellow-citizens and local residents, and there should be one way of life and order, like that of a herd grazing together and nurtured by a common law.”9 According to this Hellenistic philosopher, the ideal goal is to create a common legal standard for all. Plutarch believes that the divine law, imprinted as it is in the natural order and human nature, is paradigmatic of this universal model for human legislation. In sum, Graeco-Roman divine law was grounded in the cosmic order and human nature, which are closely related concepts. In Hellenistic thought, divine natural law is the independent standard for human, positive law; and the telos of human law is to provide a universal, cosmopolitan legal rubric that mirrors the cosmic natural law.

DIVINE LAW IN SECOND T EMPLE JUDAISM Each of these Graeco-Roman characteristics of law appears in Second Temple Jewish literature which, to use Hayes’s phrase, goes about “bridging the gap” between Torah laws and Hellenistic theories of divine law.10 For instance, Hayes notes that Ben Sira draws on the Bible’s sapiential tradition in order to associate Wisdom with both the Torah and the natural order.11 Speaking of the various qualities of Wisdom and the rewards for attaining her, Ben Sira states, “All these are the book of the covenant (βίβλος διαθήκης) of the Most High God, a Law (νόµον) that Moses commanded us…. It fills up wisdom like Pishon and like Tigris in days of new. It supplies understanding like 8 See Hayes, Divine, 60.

Plutarch, On the Fortune of Alexander 329A-B SVF 1.262; following the translation in Hayes, Divine, 60. 10 Hayes, Divine, 94. 11 See ibid., 96. 9

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Euphrates and like Jordan in days of harvest; it makes education shine forth like light” (Sir 24:23–27). Hayes notes that in this text “both the cosmic order and the Torah are separately identified with Wisdom… [but] the two are not directly identified with one another. The realm of law is not directly identical with the realm of creation, and the law is not a comprehensive cosmic law but the particular Torah of Israel.”12 Ben Sira, then, presents God’s commands as running parallel to what the Greeks and Romans would define as divine law. While Ben Sira leaves room between the Torah and the natural order, some of the Qumran texts associate the two more closely. In particular, the Dead Sea Scrolls apply the term ‫“( חוק‬statute”) both to Torah laws and to the laws by which God orders the cosmos. Speaking of the Torah’s purity laws with reference to a person whose skin ailment has been healed, the Community Rule states that “his flesh shall be made clean by the humble submission of his life to all the statutes of God (‫( ”)חוקי אל‬1QS 3:8). Elsewhere, the writers refer to the divine statutes as separating “desert and grassland,” and assert that God created the winds “according to their statutes” (1QM 10:12–13). As Eckhard Schnabel notes, this double use of ‫“ חוק‬implies a concept of law according to which the cosmic order and Israel’s law constitute but one reality.”13 To add to Schnabel’s assessment, the fact that the cosmic order shares a single reality with the Mosaic Law shows that the latter is just as rational as the workings of nature. Yet at Qumran, the Torah still remains Israel’s Law – that is, a particular divine legal code for a particular people. It is not until Philo that Jewish law is presented in Stoic terms that cosmopolitanize the commands given at Sinai. In Special Laws 2.13, Philo equates the “laws and statutes” (νόµοι… καὶ θεσµοὶ) in the Jewish ancestral Law with “nature’s sacred words” (φύσεως ἱεροὶ λόγοι). As Hayes notes, for Philo “the positive Law of Moses is the universal law of nature.”14 Rather than attempting to bridge the gap between Israelite and Hellenistic legal theory, Philo eliminates it. Philo even envisions a time when the Law of Moses will become the 12 Ibid., 97 (emphasis original). 13 Eckhard J. Schnabel, Law and

Wisdom from Ben Sira to Paul: A Tradition Historical Enquiry into the Relation of Law, Wisdom, and Ethics (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1985), 179–80. 14 Hayes, Divine, 113.

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cosmopolitan legal standard, in which all the nations of the world “turn to honoring our laws alone” (µεταβαλεῖν ἐπὶ τὴν τούτων µόνων τιµήν; Life of Moses 2.44). According to Philo’s view, this future adoption of Jewish laws would only be possible insofar as the Torah already reflects the accepted legal norms of the Hellenistic world. Thus, while some Jews of the Second Temple period create a discursive bridge between the biblical and Graeco-Roman views of legislation, others incorporate them completely. On the one hand, Ben Sira associates Wisdom with both Mosaic Law and the natural order, and Qumran uses the term ‫“( חוק‬statute”) to describe both the Torah and the laws governing nature. On the other hand, Philo approaches Sinai from a Greek philosophical perspective and identifies biblical and natural law as one and the same entity, which presents the Torah as the cosmopolitan code appropriate for the entire world.

RABBINIC LAW AND NATURAL LAW: SIFRA AND LEVITICUS RABBAH Whereas Second Temple texts link Jewish and Hellenistic law to various degrees, rabbinic literature often maintains a contrast between the two. Hayes argues convincingly that much rabbinic discussion eschews the earlier tendency to align Mosaic Law with the rational, natural laws of the cosmos. After her analysis of mainly halakhic texts, Hayes concludes, “the overall trend of talmudic literature is clear: the Torah is divine because it originates in the will of the god of Israel, and the attribution of divinity to the Torah does not confer upon it the qualities of universal rationality, truth, and stasis.”15 Among the many rabbinic examples that Hayes offers, a particular comment in Sifra on Leviticus’ “judgments” and “statues” highlights the rabbis’ ambivalence toward Hellenistic legal rationality. In their interpretation of Lev 18:4—“My judgments (‫ )משׁפטי‬you shall observe and my statutes (‫ )חקי‬you shall keep, to walk in them; I am the Lord your God”—the midrashic commentators conclude that while some Torah laws are logical, others appear irrational: “My judgments you shall observe”: These are matters written in the Torah which… would be legally logical (‫ )בדין‬to write, such as [the prohibitions against] theft, sexual immorality, idolatry, 15 Ibid., 377.

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NICHOLAS J. SCHASER blasphemy, and bloodshed. “My statutes you shall keep”: These are [the matters] to which the evil inclination and the idolatrous nations of the world object, such as [the prohibitions against] eating swine, wearing mixed seeds, refusal of levirate marriage, the cleansing of skin disease, and the goat that is sent away. [In response to such objections], Scripture teaches, “I am the Lord” – meaning, you are not permitted to object to my statutes. (Sifra Ahare Mot 13:9)16

According to this passage, the apparent irrationality of certain Torah commands in the eyes of outsiders does not impact the validity of the divine decrees. More, the rabbis seem to admit—or at least acknowledge—such irrationality. That is, the midrash makes a bifurcation between judgments that accord with accepted legal norms (‫ )בדין‬and those that do not. 17 Insofar as Sifra does not posit reasons for the existence of the objectionable statutes, the midrash displays a lack of concern for the (Hellenistic) view of law as necessarily rational. A similar acknowledgement of ostensibly objectionable laws appears in Leviticus Rabbah. As in the midrash halakhah of Sifra, the aggadic midrash on Leviticus also declares that although some may take issue with Israel’s legal concerns, all of the Torah commands are of worth in God’s sight: “Certain passages of the Torah, though they appear (‫ )שׁנירות‬too disgusting or ugly to speak among the masses (‫—)לאמרן ברבים‬such as the laws (‫ )הלכות‬of bodily issues, skin disease, and childbirth—the Holy One blessed be he says, ‘These are pleasing to me’” (Lev Rab 19:3). This midrash follows Sifra in listing Levitical laws that appear unpalatable to the wider society, but that Jews are to observe because they come from the Lord. Leviticus Rabbah argues that, regardless of how Israel’s laws might appear to the outside world, “no part of the Torah is devoid of meaning and all of it [is] capable of providing inspiration and guidance.”18 Thus, the rabbinic resistance to Hellenistic legal rationality appears in both the halakhic Sifra and in the vastly aggadic Leviticus Rabbah. Yet, in the case of the latter, we

16 For Hayes’s treatment of this passage, see Divine, 247. 17 See ibid., 248. 18 Joseph Heinemann, “Profile of a Midrash: The Art of Composition in Le-

viticus Rabba,” JAAR 39 (1971), 142.

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will see that such resistance coexists with legal discourse that depicts Israel’s Torah in terms of natural law.

N ATURAL LAW AND THE STATUTES OF ISRAEL IN LEVITICUS RABBAH 35:4 In contrast to the above passage from Sifra, in which God’s “statues” are irrational laws that Jews must follow despite Gentile objections, Leviticus Rabbah uses the same term to show that the Torah commands are in harmony with the static and rational laws of nature. Leviticus Rabbah declares that God’s “statues” (‫ )חוקים‬accord with the cosmos, and therefore constitute just as rational a legal system as that reflected in Graeco-Roman law. More, in its exposition of Leviticus, the midrash includes co-texts that both underscore the link between biblical and natural laws, and also undergird Israel’s special status among the Gentile nations. Specifically, the rabbinic interpretive method turns on the concept of “metalepsis” which, according to Richard Hays, is a “device that requires the reader to interpret a citation… by recalling aspects of the original context that are not explicitly quoted.”19 Though the rabbis cite only one verse at a time, they use these terse scriptural statements as allusions to the verses’ broader original contexts. In Lev Rab 35:4, an examination of “statutes” gives way to a metaleptic exposition of the cosmic eternality of God’s covenant relationship with the Jewish people living under Christian Rome. The starting point of the midrash is Lev 26:3: “If you walk in my statues (‫ )חוקתי‬and observe my commandments and do them.” The ensuing discussion reads: ‫חקים שבהם חקקתי את השׁמים והארץ שנאמר אם לא בריתי יומם‬ ‫ולילה חקות שמים וארץ לא שמתי חקים שבהם חקקתי את השמש‬ ‫ואת הירח שנאמר כה אמר ה׳ נותן שמש לאור יומם חקת ירח וכוכבים‬ ‫לאור לילה חקים שבהם חקקתי את הים שנאמר בשומו לים חקו חקים‬ ‫שבהם חקקתי את החול שנאמר אשר שמתי חול גבול לים חקים‬ ‫שבהם חקקתי את התהום שנאמר בחוקו חוג על פני תהום‬

19 Richard B. Hays, “Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul: Abstract,” in

Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders, eds., Paul and the Scriptures of Israel (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), 43.

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NICHOLAS J. SCHASER Those statutes (‫ )חקים‬by which I ordained (‫ )חקקתי‬the heavens and the earth, as it says, “If my covenant is not with the day and night, and the statutes (‫ )ֻחקות‬of heaven and earth I have not ordained” [Jer 33:25]. Those statutes by which I ordained the sun and the moon, as it say, “Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the statutes (‫ )ֻחקות‬of the moon and stars to light by night” [Jer 31:35]. Those statutes by which I ordained the sea, as it says, “When he gave to the sea his statute (‫[ ”)חקו‬Prov 8:29]. Those statutes by which I ordained the sand, as it says, “I placed the sand for the boundary of the sea, as an eternal statue (‫[ ”)חק‬Jer 5:22]. Those statutes by which I ordained the deep, as it says, “When he ordained (‫ )חוקו‬a circle upon the face of the deep” [Prov 8:27].

The midrash’s base-verse (Lev 26:3) introduces lists of various blessings and curses that populate the rest of Leviticus 26. The chapter begins with the blessings that Israel will enjoy if they follow the commandments, but in Lev 26:15 God warns the people about the curses that will come “if you reject (‫ )תמאסו‬my statutes (‫)חקתי‬, and if you abhor my judgments, so that you do not do all my commandments, in order to break my covenant (‫)להפרכם את בריתי‬.” While the wider context of the Levitical base-verse alludes to breaking the Torah commands, the immediately following verses from Jeremiah in the midrash remind the reader that God’s covenant with Israel remains as firm as the heavens and the earth (Jer 33:25) and the sun and the moon (Jer 31:15). Thus, the rabbis use Jeremiah to show that the covenantal relationship between God and Israel is as assured as the workings of the cosmos: the endurance of the Torah is as trustworthy as the laws of nature. The immediate contexts of Jer 33:25 and 31:15 both echo the warning in Lev 26:15 against “rejecting” (‫ )מאס‬the commandments and “breaking” (‫ )פרר‬the “covenant” (‫)ברית‬. However, Jeremiah refashions the negative Levitical language into a positive assertion that God will always uphold the divine end of the covenant and, therefore, will never reject Israel:

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Jer 33:20–21, 26

Jer 31:32, 37

“If you can break my covenant (‫ )תפרו את בריתי‬with the day and my covenant with the night… then also my covenant may be broken (‫ )תפר בריתי‬with David my servant… [and] only then will I reject (‫ )אמאס‬the offspring of Jacob and my servant David.”

“[The new covenant] will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors… for they broke my covenant (‫…)תפרו את בריתי‬. If the heavens can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, [only] then will I reject (‫ )אמאס‬all the offspring of Israel.”

The contexts surrounding the explicit citations of Jeremiah show that the rabbis are doing more than merely aligning the Torah with natural law. To be sure, the midrash frames the biblical statutes in natural terms that align with Graeco-Roman thought, but it also uses that very Hellenistic, cosmopolitan legal framework to accentuate Israel’s covenantal status as a chosen nation. In utilizing the legal assumptions of the Roman Empire, the rabbis emphasize Jewish covenantal claims and consequently (though not necessarily purposefully) preclude Roman-Christian claims to that covenant. Moreover, Leviticus 26 contains a divine declaration that is repeated multiple times in the broader context of Jeremiah 31. Specifically, the conditional statement in the base-verse of Lev 26:3—“If you walk in my statutes and keep my commandments”—precedes a promise from the deity that “I will be God to you, and you shall be to me a people (‫לי לעם‬-‫( ”)והייתי לכם לאלהים ואתם תהיו‬Lev 26:12). God echoes this same promise through Jeremiah: “‘At that time,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will be the God (‫ )אהיה לאלהים‬of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be to me a people (‫לי לעם‬-‫ )יהיו‬... I will be God to them, and they shall be to me a people (‫לי לעם‬-‫”)והייתי להם לאלהים והמה יהיו‬ (Jer 31:1, 33). Insofar as Leviticus 26 and Jeremiah 31 contain the same announcement of the Lord’s relationship with Israel, the midrashic citations of Lev 26:3 and Jer 31:15 metaleptically allude to the steadfast bond between God and the Jewish people in the rabbinic period. Since the midrash connects this relationship with the inviolable laws of nature, the rabbinic text emphasizes the notion that, regardless of any future inability to keep the divine commandments, the people of Israel will always be God’s chosen people.

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After two successive citations of Jeremiah, the midrash incorporates two proximate verses from Proverbs 8 (vv. 29 and 27) that bookend another reference to Jeremiah (5:22): Those statutes by which I ordained the sea, as it says, “When he gave to the sea his statute (‫[ ”)חקו‬Prov 8:29]. Those statutes by which I ordained the sand, as it says, “I placed the sand for the boundary of the sea, as an eternal statute (‫[ ”)חק עולם‬Jer 5:22]. Those statutes by which I ordained the deep, as it says, “When he ordained (‫ )חוקו‬a circle upon the face of the deep” [Prov 8:27].

Although the rabbis cite only the first half of the median verse from Jeremiah (5:22a), the verse’s context recalls the words that follow the base-verse of Lev 26:3. Specifically, Jer 5:24 and Lev 26:4 both refer to God as the one who would send rains to Israel if the people were to follow the commandments: Lev 26:3–4a

Jer 5:22–24

““If you walk in my statutes (‫ )חוקתי‬and observe my commandments and do them, I will give your rains in their season (‫)נתתי גשׁמיכם בעתם‬.”

“I placed the sand for the boundary of the sea, as an eternal statute (‫…)חק‬. But to this people is a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, the giver of rain (‫)הנתן גשׁם‬, early and late, in its season (‫)בעתו‬.’”

In the midrash itself, Leviticus Rabbah limits its excerpt of Jeremiah to a part of 5:22—ostensibly because the prophet’s inclusion of “statute” (‫ )חק‬parallels the reference to “my statues” (‫ )חוקתי‬in Lev 26:3. However, further points of linguistic contact exist between the unstated text that follows the citations; namely, both of the uncited contexts state that God gives seasonal rains to the Land of Israel. The rabbis know the surrounding contexts of their cited verses, and they expect the same knowledge of their readers. While some scholars argue that the rabbis are only concerned with single verses that have been extricated from their original biblical contexts, this kind of atomistic

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approach limits the midrashic hermeneutical reach.20 Metaleptic readings problematize scholarly assumptions of atomism by showing that the rabbinic use of Scripture is predicated upon the biblical context of the quotations.21 In this case, the immediate contexts evoke the blessings for Torah observance according to Leviticus and the withholding of those blessings for the rebellious Israelites in Jeremiah’s day. At the same time, the equation of the commandments with the laws of nature shows that no amount of covenantal disobedience can dissolve the divine commitment to Israel. In the citation of Jer 5:22, the rabbis evoke Israel’s historical lack of observance, but they also remind the reader that God’s covenant faithfulness is as unfailing as the workings of the cosmos. Insofar as the chosen intertexts recall God’s gift of rain to the Land of Israel, the rabbis argue implicitly that God’s enduring contract with the natural order guarantees the ongoing wellbeing of that Land. Through metalepsis, the midrash alludes to God’s command over the cycles of nature benefiting the Land and people of Israel alone. This sole focus on Israel’s Land reappears later in Leviticus Rabbah, where an interpretation of Lev 26:4a highlights the particularity of the promise for rain: “‘I will give your rains (‫ )גשׁמיכם‬in their seasons’ [Lev 26:3a], but not the rains of all other lands” (Lev Rab 35:11). By highlighting the geographical and relational power that God maintains through natural law, Lev Rab 35:4 shows that the Land 20 E.g., James L. Kugel, “Two Introductions to Midrash,” Prooftexts

3 (1983): 131–55; David Stern, Parables in Midrash: Narrative and Exegesis in Rabbinic Literature (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), 153–54; Elizabeth Shanks Alexander, Transmitting Mishnah: The Shaping Influence of Oral Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 84–85; Burton L. Visotzky, Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2006), 114–15; Carol Bakhos, The Family of Abraham: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Interpretations (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014), 49. 21 For a fuller critique of atomistic approaches to Midrash, see Nicholas J. Schaser, “Midrash and Metalepsis in Genesis Rabbah: A Reappraisal of Rabbinic Atomism,” in Nelson, W. David and Rivka Ulmer, eds., From Creation to Redemption: Progressive Approaches to Midrash (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2017), 107–132.

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remains a Jewish inheritance—theologically, if not socio-politically— that continues to benefit from divine gifts. While the redactors of Leviticus Rabbah live in an Israel that Roman rule has left without a Temple, the midrashic exposition of biblical law vis-à-vis natural law presents the Land as “an ideal construction, unconstrained by the pragmatics of architecture or the accidentalities of history.”22 For the rabbis, Israel must acknowledge God as the “giver of rain” (‫;הנתן גשׁם‬ Jer 5:22) by keeping their particular commands in the midst of foreign rule. Leviticus Rabbah refers to the universal natural law in order to stress the particular national character of the Mosaic Law. On either side of Jer 5:22, the midrash cites Proverbs 8 to show that the Torah statutes recall when God “gave to the sea his statute (‫( ”)חקו‬8:29) and “ordained (‫ )חוקו‬a circle upon the face of the deep” (8:27). Accordingly, the statutes that the deity gave to Moses are the same that govern the depths of the seas. Although the context of these verse from Proverbs 8 does not echo the base-context of Leviticus, it does share language with its co-text, Jer 5:22. Just before the verses that the rabbis cite, Proverbs describes the creation of Lady Wisdom (‫)חכמה‬, saying, “When there were no depths I was brought forth (‫)חוללתי‬, when there were no springs overflowing with water. Before the mountains were shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth (‫( ”)חוללתי‬Prov 8:24–25). The same root that Proverbs uses to describe Wisdom being “brought forth” (i.e., ‫ )חוּל‬appears in the uncited part of Jer 5:22, which asks why the people do not “tremble” (‫ )חוּל‬before God. More, the verse from Jeremiah also contains a wordplay between the verb “tremble” (‫ )חוּל‬and the noun “sand” (‫)חוֹל‬, which reinforces the linguistic relationship with Proverbs’ use of “brought forth” (‫)חוּל‬. The whole of Jer 5:22 reads, “‘Do you not fear me?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do you not tremble (‫ )]חוּל[ תחילו‬before me? I placed the sand (‫ )חוֹל‬for the boundary of the sea, as an eternal statute (‫)חק‬.” In the citations of Jeremiah and Proverbs as co-texts with Leviticus, the midrash creates multiple metaleptic resonances. Not only does Jeremiah’s reference to “statute” (‫ )חק‬recall the Torah “statues” (‫)חקים‬ of Leviticus, but the prophet’s references to “trembling” (‫ )חוּל‬and “sand” (‫ )חוֹל‬also resound alongside the uncited Proverbial reference Jonathan Z. Smith, To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 49. 22

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to Wisdom being “brought forth” (‫)חוּל‬. This meticulous and strategic use of Scripture presents a philological tapestry of exegesis that fortifies Israel’s covenant in light of God’s creative capacity. Thus, the rabbinic association between the biblical commands for Israel and the divinely-created cosmic order echoes the Graeco-Roman view of divine-natural law as the blueprint for societal legislation. Taking a cue from Hellenistic legal theory, the rabbis assert that the Law of Moses is the very natural law that oversees the physical world. According to Lev Rab 35:4, “The statutes that govern the cosmos… are the same ones that govern Israel in the Torah.”23 In order to strengthen this connection between biblical and natural law, the rabbis provide metaleptic citations of Scripture for which the unstated contexts of Leviticus, Jeremiah, and Proverbs intermingle in a complex linguistic web. Metalepsis reveals the rabbinic belief that all of Scripture—the Torah (Leviticus), Prophets (Jeremiah), and Writings (Proverbs)—agrees that Moses’ laws are identical to the God-ordained laws of nature. However, the rabbinic sages do not draw on GraecoRoman legal assumptions in order to cosmopolitanize their Jewish legal heritage, or to argue for the Torah’s widespread adoption. To the contrary, the rabbis frame Israel’s “statutes” within an exposition of natural law in order to highlight the Torah’s particular place in the life of their people. In the increasingly Christian world of the fifth-century Roman Empire, Leviticus Rabbah both uses and transposes the prevailing legal philosophy to assert the eternal nature of the Torah, and the ongoing relationship between God and Israel.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS Those living in the Hellenized milieu of the Roman Empire were subject to a legal system that had its roots in Greek philosophical discourse. As Christine Hayes has shown, Jewish thinkers in the Second Temple and rabbinic periods variously responded to the Graeco-Roman idea of a divine law based in rationality and the unchanging natural world. The legal heritage of such Jews was the Torah, whose laws are changeable and based less in reason than in divine decree—a legal framework that would have looked to the Greeks and Romans more 23 Jacob Neusner, A

Theological Commentary to the Midrash: Volume Four: Leviticus Rabbah (Lanham: University Press of America, 2001), 155.

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like positive, human law than divine, natural law. Therefore, Jewish literature after Alexander begins to incorporate Hellenistic views into its reflections on Moses’ Law. In light of the natural law approach to the Torah in Leviticus Rabbah, it is clear that the rabbis echo their Jewish predecessors to varying degrees. First, in parallel with Ben Sira, the midrash on Leviticus associates Torah Law with descriptions of cosmic creation in the Wisdom tradition of Proverbs. Second, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, Leviticus Rabbah envisions God’s “statutes” (‫)חקים‬ as both Mosaic commands and the unchanging and rational laws of nature. Third, the midrash fully merges Moses’ Law with the laws by which God establishes and governs the natural order—or, to use Philo’s phrase, the rabbis argue that the Torah precepts are identical with “nature’s sacred words.” Yet, in contrast to Philo (and the Stoics), the midrashic rabbis do not present the Torah as universal; rather, they describe Israel’s statutes vis-à-vis natural law as a means of preserving the continual strength of God’s covenant and reinforcing the theological status of the Land and people of Israel. The rabbinic presentation of law in Lev Rab 35:4 stands as one of several midrashic reflections of Hellenistic influence. Over 75 years ago, Saul Lieberman rightly saw the Hebrew transliteration of a popular Greek proverb in Lev Rab 35:3 as one of the many ways that the “Rabbis elucidated the verses of the Bible not only by means of quoting from Jewish sources, but also from Greek law and literature.” 24 More recently, based on Leviticus Rabbah’s abundance of Greek loanwords, as well as similarities with Greek literary form and redaction tendencies, Burton Visotzky has identified the midrashic compilation

Saul Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1994 [1942]), 37. Lieberman [37–38; n. 49] identifies the phrase ‫ פרא בִסיליוס אונומוס אווגרפוס‬from Lev 35:3 as a Hebrew transliteration of the Greek Παρὰ βασιλέως ὁ νόµος ἄγραφος: “On the king the law is not binding.” Shortly after the above quotation, Lieberman [39] reiterates that “the Rabbis took whole sentences from Greek proverbs current among the people, from Greek legal documents, literature and similar sources.” 24

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as “Hellenistic provincial literature.”25 The foregoing analysis of Mosaic and natural law in Leviticus Rabbah highlights another component in the Hellenistic character of much rabbinic literature.26 The legal discourse in Leviticus Rabbah does not contradict Hayes’ conclusions about the majority of Talmudic literature resisting Greco-Roman theories of divine-natural law. However, while the legal outlook of the Talmudic sages may stand in tension with the rational, cosmic, and universal laws of Hellenism, the sages who compiled Leviticus Rabbah were happy to approach halakhah from classical Hellenistic perspectives. 27 Yet, at the same time that they present Torah in the light of natural law, the midrashic rabbis do not universalize the Mosaic commandments as a standard for the Greek polis; though the rabbis are comfortable with Greco-Roman legal premises, they do not share the cosmopolitan legal leanings of their Gentile neighbors. Therefore, it is an overstatement to claim that “what the Greeks pursued through reflective and speculative philosophy, the rabbis read into, out of, and through halakhah.”28 Leviticus Rabbah contains halakhic discourse that both aligns with and diverges from Hellenistic philosophies of law, nature, and society. Indeed, the rabbinic legal discussion reflected in Leviticus Rabbah is a Jewish form of Hellenistic literature—one that is uniquely concerned with the people and Land of Israel amidst the nations. 25 See Burton L. Visotzky, “LR as Hellenistic Provincial Literature,” in ibid.,

Golden Bells and Pomegranates: Studies in Midrash Leviticus Rabbah [TSAJ; 94] (Mohr Siebeck, 2003), 48–58; cf. Visotzky’s more encompassing conclusion [Burton L. Visotzky, “Midrash, Christian Exegesis, and Hellenistic Hermeneutics,” in Carol Bakhos, ed., Current Trends in the Study of Midrash [SJSJ; 106] (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 125–26] that “both Rabbinic and Patristic literatures should qualify as Hellenistic literatures for the sake of… comparisons.” 26 For a survey of scholarship on the relationship between rabbinic and Greek rhetorical and literary approaches, see Richard Hidary, Rabbis and Classical Rhetoric: Sophistic Education and Oratory in the Talmud and Midrash (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 15–23. 27 Neither were the Babylonian rabbis averse to employing classical Greek thought and rhetoric in their Talmudic discussions. See Hidary, Rabbis, esp. 106–30. 28 Chaim N. Saiman, Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018), 72.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Bakhos, Carol. The Family of Abraham: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Interpretations. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014. Hays, Richard B. “Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul: Abstract,” in Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders, eds. Paul and the Scriptures of Israel. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993: 42–46. Hayes, Christine. What’s Divine About Divine Law? Early Perspectives. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015. Heinemann, Joseph. “Profile of a Midrash: The Art of Composition in Leviticus Rabba,” JAAR 39 (1971): 141–50. Hidary, Richard. Rabbis and Classical Rhetoric: Sophistic Education and Oratory in the Talmud and Midrash. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Kugel, James L. “Two Introductions to Midrash,” Prooftexts 3 (1983): 131–55. Lieberman, Saul. Greek in Jewish Palestine. New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1994 [1942]. Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 17–22: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000. Neusner, Jacob. A Theological Commentary to the Midrash: Volume Four: Leviticus Rabbah. Lanham: University Press of America, 2001. Saiman, Chaim N. Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018. Schaser, Nicholas J. “Midrash and Metalepsis in Genesis Rabbah: A Reappraisal of Rabbinic Atomism,” in W. David Nelson and Rivka Ulmer, eds. From Creation to Redemption: Progressive Approaches to Midrash. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2017: 107– 132. Schnabel, Eckhard J. Law and Wisdom from Ben Sira to Paul: A Tradition Historical Enquiry into the Relation of Law, Wisdom, and Ethics. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1985.

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Shanks Alexander, Elizabeth. Transmitting Mishnah: The Shaping Influence of Oral Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Smith, Jonathan Z. To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. Stern, David. Parables in Midrash: Narrative and Exegesis in Rabbinic Literature. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991. Visotzky, Burton L. Golden Bells and Pomegranates: Studies in Midrash Leviticus Rabbah. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2003. Visotzky, Burton L. “Midrash, Christian Exegesis, and Hellenistic Hermeneutics,” in Carol Bakhos, ed. Current Trends in the Study of Midrash. Leiden: Brill, 2006: 111–131. Visotzky, Burton L. Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2006.

TOWARDS A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF THE DEFINING FEATURES OF RABBINIC MIDRASH MATTHEW GOLDSTONE What is Midrash? Numerous scholars have attempted to answer this question, each proffering their own parameters, qualifications, and insights towards defining the contours of this label. Some prefer broad definitions that can encompass works in the New Testament, while others opt for a more restricted scope, which limits Midrash to particular texts within rabbinic literature. 1 Some scholars discuss this label by focusing on the content of works; others tend to view Midrash more as an attitude than a discrete genre; others still situate a text within the category of Midrash primarily based upon a collection of literary features – a nonessentialist approach that offers perhaps the best path towards a description of the label “Midrash.”2 Those who highlight particular literary features often note the tendency for See, for example, René Bloch, “Midrash,” in Approaches to Ancient Judaism: Theory and Practice, ed. William Scott Green (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1978), 48–49; Gary Porton, “Defining Midrash,” in The Study of Ancient Judaism, ed. Jacob Neusner, vol. 1 (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1981), 58–59. 2 For a summary of many of these different approaches, see Porton, “Defining Midrash,” 58–63. Also see Jacob Neusner, Midrash as Literature: The Primacy of Documentary Discourse (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003). 1

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Midrash to offer “atomistic interpretations” of sentences, words, and even letters;3 the way that Midrash revolves around Scripture; the homiletical style of some Midrashic works; and the ways in which Midrash attempts to elicit contemporary relevance from earlier texts.4 Among the various features of Midrash identified by scholars, there is one in particular that deserves our attention and reconsideration: Midrashic multivocality. As Gary Porton notes, in Midrash, “we often find more than one comment per biblical unit. Several synonymous, complementary, or contradictory remarks may appear in connection with a single verse, word or letter.”5 Indeed, as James Kugel observes, “midrashic collections do not scruple at assembling different solutions to the same ‘problem’ in a verse, even though they may contradict one another: it is not that one is right and the others wrong, but that all are adequate ‘smoothings-over.’”6 To quote David Stern, there is a “typical midrashic predilection for multiple interpretations rather than for a single truth behind the text.”7 This feature of rabbinic Midrash became particularly pronounced in the wake of postmodern reading practices.8

3 James Kugel, “Two Introductions to Midrash,” Prooftexts 3 (1983), 147. 4 Bloch, “Midrash,” 31–33; Porton, “Defining Midrash,” 62. 5 Porton, “Defining Midrash,” 79. 6 Kugel, “Two Introductions to Midrash,” 146. 7 David Stern, Midrash

and Theory: Ancient Jewish Exegesis and Contemporary Literary Studies (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1997), 3. 8 See Susan Handelman, The Slayers of Moses: The Emergence of Rabbinic Interpretation in Modern Literary Theory (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1982), chaps. 3–4; Susan Handelman, “Fragments of the Rock: Contemporary Literary Theory and the Study of Rabbinic Texts—A Response to David Stern,” Prooftexts 5, no. 1 (1985), 75–95; David Stern, “Midrash and Indeterminacy,” Critical Inquiry 15, no. 1 (1988), 132–61; David Stern, “Literary Criticism or Literary Homilies? Susan Handelman and the Contemporary Study of Midrash,” Prooftexts 5, no. 1 (1985), 96–103; Beth Sharon Ash, “Jewish Hermeneutics and Contemporary Theories of Textuality: Hartman, Bloom, and Derrida,” Modern Philology 85 (1987), 65–80; William Scott Green, “Romancing the Tome: Rabbinic Hermeneutics and the Theory of Literature,” Semeia 40 (1987), 147–68.

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As the introduction to an important collection entitled Midrash and Literature puts it, “The view of midrash frequently suggested in this book is undoubtedly also a child of its time. What now seems particularly interesting is the unclassifiablity [sic] and waywardness of midrash, its ability to function without apparent boundaries.”9 As these examples indicate, many assume that a defining feature of Midrash is multivocality, the juxtaposed preservation of multiple and typically conflicting interpretations. However, in this article I shall suggest that focus on this aspect of Midrash is unduly overemphasized.10 In fact, the opposite tendency, the limitation of possible interpretations, is a far more prominent feature of Midrash. To make it abundantly clear, I am not arguing against the existence of the multivocal character of Midrash – I believe that this aspect exists and should be taken into account when comparing Midrash with other hermeneutical works and systems. Rather, my argument is more circumscribed: The multivocal (or polysemic) 11 nature of Midrash is a far less prominent feature than has often been assumed and, if we desire to include this characteristic in our definition of Midrash, we should also incorporate what I see to be its opposite – the limitation or exclusion of possible meanings, which is a far more pervasive feature within (at least) Tannaitic Midrashim. Although I am inclined to believe that limitation is a conspicuous element in most, if not all, Midrashic collections, the argument of the present paper revolves around Tannaitic Midrashim, and specifically Mekhilta deRabbi Ishmael. Therefore, at present my claim is restricted to this particular Midrashic work and tentatively to the other Midrashic collections from the Tannaitic period. Geoffrey H. Hartman and Sanford Budick, eds., Midrash and Literature (New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 1986), xii–xiii. 10 For previous scholars who have also challenged this characterization of Midrash in different ways, see the sources in Steven D. Fraade, “Rabbinic Polysemy and Pluralism Revisited: Between Praxis and Thematization,” AJS Review 31, no. 1 (2007), 2n4. 11 On the terminology of “multivocality” and “polysemy,” see Fraade, “Rabbinic Polysemy and Pluralism Revisited,” 3. Also note David Stern’s discussion of the category of “anthology” in David Stern, “Anthology and Polysemy in Classical Midrash,” in The Anthology in Jewish Literature, ed. David Stern (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 108–39. 9

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In order to argue for the importance of the limitation of interpretative possibilities in Midrash, I will first offer a brief quantitative analysis of the first four chapters of the early rabbinic Midrash on the book of Exodus, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael. Demonstrating that in this small sampling our Midrash excludes exegetical options more frequently than it opts for multivocality, I will move to an in-depth discussion of a few different ways through which this Midrash both includes and limits interpretations. I will conclude with a tentative suggestion for thinking about why limitation plays such a key role in Midrash. When attempting a quantitative analysis of instances of multivocality and limitation in a given Midrash one encounters a significant challenge. What exactly constitutes an example and how should each case be counted? Should a series of multiple glosses on a verse be considered a single instance of multiple interpretations, or should each individual interpretation be included in the tally. Contrastingly, when multiple interpretations conflict with one another, should subsequent possibilities be considered as a limitation or exclusion of the earlier interpretation(s)? Ultimately subjectivity is inescapable and different readers would surely produce conflicting tallies. In order to partially address this concern, I offer both maximal and minimal estimates of the number of examples of multivocality and I differentiate between two different types of limitation that I document in the first four chapters of the Mekhilta. These estimates will provide a range for comparing these two tendencies. When examining the number of instances of multivocality one could count every different interpretation offered for a single scriptural unit as a separate instance or one could consider every case where multiple interpretations are offered for the same scriptural unit to constitute only one instance of multivocality. For example, if three different rabbis proffer three disparate glosses on the same word, should each of these three statements be considered its own case of multivocality or should the presence of three juxtaposed statements collectively constitute one instance of multivocality? For the purpose of this study I record both counts, labelling the former as a “maximum” number of instances and the latter as a “minimum” number. In the first four chapters of Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael I counted a maximum of 40 instances of multivocality and a minimum of 15

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instances (see the Appendix). Within the minimum counting, I found nine cases in which only two interpretations were offered, in contrast to three cases of three interpretations, two cases of four interpretations, and one case of five interpretations. When it comes to counting examples of limitation, I would posit that in general there are two different types of limiting interpretations: Implicit limitation and explicit limitation.12 The former is characterized by the assertion of a particular meaning or interpretation for a text and is the basic form of any commentary or interpretation. For example, when encountering an ambiguous or unclear passage, commentaries seek to elucidate this material by providing a clear referent. In so doing, however, the commentary implicitly asserts that some other possible referents are incorrect. 13 By offering one understanding of a text, this form of interpretation tacitly excludes at least some alternatives. Implicit limitation is characteristic of many types of interpretation in antiquity, and in fact, implicit limitation is perhaps almost synonymous with interpretation itself. It is therefore not surprising that implicit limitation is present throughout rabbinic Midrashim. When it comes to the other possibility – explicit limitation – however, here we encounter something much more unusual. In many instances (that are not explicitly polemical) Tannaitic Midrashim will 12 These two types of limitation should not be confused with Jacob Neusner’s

“extrinsic” and “intrinsic” exegetical forms discussed in Jacob Neusner, Sifré to Numbers: An American Translation and Explanation, vol. 1: Sifré to Numbers 1–58, Brown Judaic Studies 118 (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1986), 10–11, 26–29, and 36–37. 13 This is not always necessarily the case. It is also possible that by proposing one interpretation a comment does not mean to exclude other possibilities. However, at the very least, it seems reasonable that when a comment asserts a specific interpretation of a scriptural unit, the opposite of the proposed interpretation, as well as mutually exclusive interpretations, are tacitly negated (at least within the context under discussion). For example, if a gloss on the phrase “God spoke to Moses and Aaron” comments that this means that God spoke to both Moses and Aaron simultaneously, this implies that according to the interpreter, the passage does not mean that God spoke only to Moses or only to Aaron.

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expressly contend that a particular interpretation is incorrect.14 While instances of implicit interpretation are ubiquitous (practically every time a biblical verse is mentioned), cases of explicit limitation are less frequent – but still appear in significant number. In my survey of the first four chapters of the Mekhilta, I encountered 91 examples of implicit limitation and 35 instances of explicit limitation (see the Appendix). Although the maximum count of cases of multivocality (40) is greater than the number of instances of explicit limitation (35), the tallies are not so far apart. However, if one compares the number of examples of explicit limitation (35) to the minimum count of instances of multivocality (15), then we find that there are more than twice as many instances of limitation as there are cases of multivocality. Indeed, if we were to compare all of cases of limitation (126) to the minimum number of instances of multivocality (15), we would find that there are more than eight times as many cases of limitation as there are cases of multivocality. It must be reiterated, however, that this count is subjective and others would perhaps tally the examples somewhat differently.15 Nevertheless, these numbers It is important to note that implicit limitation is theoretically the more restrictive form of limitation as it ostensibly asserts that a single interpretation is correct, to the exclusion of all (or most) others; whereas explicit limitation merely excludes a single possible interpretation but leaves open a hypothetically infinite number of alternative possibilities. However, in practice, many instances of explicit interpretation include an assertion of the “correct” interpretation, thereby excluding not only the specifically mentioned “incorrect” interpretation, but also other possible interpretations as well. 15 For example, I have included five instances of the form ...‫ אלא‬...‫ אין‬as cases of explicit limitation. These examples typically assert that a particular word carries a specific meaning, to the exclusion of other possible meanings. For instance, the Mekhilta asserts, “[The word] ‘rest’ here is but a designation for ‘the spirit of prophecy’” (Jacob Zallel Lauterbach, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael a Critical Edition, Based on the Manuscripts and Early Editions, vol. 1 [Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2004], 14). One could see this type of example as a case of implicit interpretation, as one meaning is asserted and no specific alternative meaning is rejected. However, I include this formulation among examples of explicit limitation because the phrase ‫ אלא‬...‫אין‬ (“it is but a designation for”; or “it is none other than”) involves a double 14

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suggest that the limitation or exclusion of interpretations is a phenomenon that should be taken seriously. If a definition of Midrash includes mention of multivocality then it should certainly also consider the dimension of limitation (even just explicit limitation) as a relevant feature. Moving from my brief quantitative analysis to a more qualitative look at multivocality and limitation, I would like to highlight a couple of different ways in which even multivocal elements within Tannaitic Midrashim have their limitations. In some cases, alternative interpretations are introduced with the words ‫דבר אחר‬, “another matter.” The first four chapters of Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael include two examples of this formulation.16 In an article from 1990, Eli Ungar examines instances of alternative interpretations introduced by the phrase ‫ דבר אחר‬within the 5th century collection Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana. Towards the end of the article he concludes, …the multiple explications of a given verse, when presented in a Davar-Aher passage, are mutually inclusive. While the alternate interpretations of a non-Davar-Aher passage frequently conflict, in a Davar-Aher construction, the correctness of one reading of the verse never invalidates the legitimacy of the other explications. Rather than set forth multiple explications that each vie for acceptance, the authorship in the Davar-Aher passage presents

negative (which offers an explicit hint towards the rejection of other possibilities). Even if one chooses to label instances of the form ...‫ אלא‬...‫ אין‬as examples of implicit limitation, there are still 30 cases of explicit limitation in the first four chapters of Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, a tally worthy of note. 16 See Lauterbach, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, 1:1 and 27. In this article, translations of, and references to, the Mekhilta are based upon Lauterbach’s edition. I have specifically chosen to use this version as it includes both a critical edition of the Mekhilta text as well as an English translation, which allows for greater accessibility on the part of a diverse readership.

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MATTHEW GOLDSTONE multiple interpretations that each state essentially the same thing, in a variety of ways.17

Ungar’s work builds upon a point made by William Scott Green regarding a particular set of glosses on the phrase “doing wonders” (‫)עשה פלא‬, introduced with the words ‫ דבר אחר‬in chapter 8 of the Mekhilta. Green writes, As is typical of most lists of davar 'aher comments in rabbinic literature, the three segments not only do not conflict but are mutually reinforcing… Thus, rather than ‘endless multiple meanings,’ they in fact ascribe to the words ‘doing wonders’ multiple variations of a single meaning.18

Consequently, when our Midrash employs this form of multivocality, it may not truly be offering us alternative interpretative possibilities, but rather different expressions of the same idea, each mutually reinforcing the primary understanding of the text. Although the phrase ‫ דבר אחר‬often introduces interpretations that are reducible to a single point, most of the multiple interpretations from my survey do not employ this expression. Many provide the alternative gloss in the name of a different authority figure.19 Thus, for example, the Mekhilta provides four alternative glosses on the word “saying” (‫ )לאמר‬from Exodus 12:1 – “And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying.” Each of the four interpretations is proffered by a different rabbi (R. Ishmael, R. Eliezer, R. Shimon ben Azzai, and R. Akiva) and each interpretation ostensibly diverges from the previous: One rabbi understands “saying” to mean “go tell the people immediately;” another rabbi suggests that it means Eli Ungar, “When ‘Another Matter’ Is the Same Matter: The Case of Davar-Aher in Pesiqta DeRab Kahana,” in Approaches to Ancient Judaism, New Series, vol. 2 (Atlanta GA.: Scholars Press, 1990), 39–40. 18 William Scott Green, “Writing with Scripture: The Rabbinic Uses of the Hebrew Bible,” in Writing with Scripture: The Authority and Uses of the Hebrew Bible in the Torah of Formative Judaism, ed. Jacob Neusner [Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003], 19. Also see Yehuda Bohrer, “A Historical and Methodological Exposition of Aggadic Sources,” in Samuel K. Mirsky Memorial Volume: Studies in Jewish Law, Philosophy, and Literature, ed. Gersion Appel (New York: Sura Institute for Research, 1970), 160. 19 I have labelled such examples as “‫ ”פלוני אומר‬in the Appendix. 17

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“go tell the people and then bring Me back word;” the third view is that “saying” means that one should “teach in the same manner in which you hear;” finally, the last position suggests that “saying” implies that it was for the peoples’ sake that God spoke these words in the first place. While these different interpretations may seem like an archetypical instance of competing and mutually exclusive understandings of the biblical text, immediately following the last view, attributed to Rabbi Akiva, we find that the previous speaker (R. Shimon ben Azzai) jumps in again to qualify our understanding of his view. He is attributed as saying, “I am not arguing against the words of my teacher but merely adding to his words” ( ‫איני כמשיב על דברי‬ ‫)רבי אלא כמוסיף על דבריו‬.20 Thus, the speaker himself is presented as asserting that his interpretation is not truly intended as an alternative interpretation, but rather as an addendum to another understanding of the text. This response, combined with the observation noted above concerning the phrase ‫דבר אחר‬, opens up the possibility that Midrashic multivocality, particularly of inconsistent or contradictory views, is not as widespread as we might expect, at least within early rabbinic Midrashim.21

20 Lauterbach, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, 1:13.

This type of qualifying statement is not common in Tannaitic Midrashim, however, note the parallel statement attributed to Rabbi Shimon ben Azzai in Sifra Dibbura de-Nedavah Parasha 1 Pereq 2; Louis Finkelstein, Sifra on Leviticus: according to Vatican Manuscript Assemani 66 with variants from the other manuscripts, Genizah fragments, early editions and quotations by medieval authorities and with references to parallel passages and commentaries, vol. 2 (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1982), 17. 21 Relatedly, see Azzan Yadin-Israel’s comment about the Mekhilta’s use of Jer. 23:29 (in contrast to that of the Bavli): “The Mekhilta uses this verse (if it does) to explain a unique crux in the Bible. It is not, by any means, a statement about the polysemic nature of the biblical text as such. Indeed, it suggests an underlying non-polysemic understanding… In other words, even the biblical verses that are best suited for a polysemic derashah, and which appear as prooftexts for such arguments in Amoraic literature, are not cast in this role in the Mekhilta.” in Azzan Yadin, “The Hammer on the Rock: Polysemy

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Turning now from examples of multivocality of interpretation to instances of explicit exclusion of interpretations, we find that there are a few different introductory phrases that Tannaitic Midrashim employ in order to signal that a particular interpretation is wrong. Some of these are more specific to the particular Midrashic collection and the school of rabbinic thought with which it is associated. 22 In what follows I will examine a few different formulas used by Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, in order demonstrate how this Midrash utilizes explicit limitation. One formula employed by the Mekhilta for excluding interpretative possibilities is quite blatant. The Midrash uses the word ‫להוציא‬ (“to exclude”) to indicate that scripture utilizes a particular word or passage in order to exclude a specific possibility.23 Often the excluded possibility is obvious. For example, glossing Exodus 12:5 (‫“ ;שֹה תמים‬a perfect lamb”), the Midrash asserts that the use of the word “perfect” (‫ )תמים‬is to exclude a lamb that has a blemish (‫)להוציא בעל מום‬.24 Even without this gloss, the term ‫ תמים‬here implies that the animal should be free of any blemishes, and some translations assert this explicitly (e.g., the NJPS Translation: “Your lamb shall be without blemish”). Other instances of ‫ להוציא‬can include elements that may not have been as blatantly obvious from the biblical text. For example, immediately following the aforementioned gloss, the Mekhilta goes on to assert that the use of the word “male” (‫ )זכר‬is intended to exclude and the School of Rabbi Ishmael,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 10, no. 1 [2003), 13–14. 22 Take, for example, Michael Chernick’s conclusions regarding ‫כלל ופרט‬ ‫ וכלל‬and ‫ ריבויים ומיעוטים‬in Midrashim attributed to the schools of R. Akiva and R. Ishmael in Michael Chernick, Hermeneutical Studies in Talmudic and Midrashic Literatures (Israel: Habermann Institute for Literary Research, 1983), 88. 23 Compare ‫ להוציא‬to other terms of exclusion such as those from the roots ‫ט‬.‫ע‬.‫ מ‬and ‫ט‬.‫ר‬.‫פ‬. See Michael Chernick, “The Use of Ribbūyīm and Mi’ūṭīm in the Halakic Midrash of R. Ishmael,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 70, no. 2 (1979), 96–116; Chernick, Hermeneutical Studies in Talmudic and Midrashic Literatures. 24 Lauterbach, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, 1:28.

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three alternatives: 1) an animal with no clear external genitalia, 2) an animal with both male and female genitalia, and 3) a female animal. 25 While the last of these three possibilities (a female animal) might have been immediately obvious from the biblical use of the word “male,” the other two possibilities are more ambiguous and the Midrashic comment adds a degree of clarification (at least for the rabbinic understanding of what the biblical text means). In addition to adding a greater degree of clarity, the word ‫ להוציא‬can also introduce an interpretation that is not at all apparent from the biblical text. Commenting on Exodus 12:3, “Speak to the whole community of Israel saying, ‘on the tenth day of this month take each man a lamb for his household, a lamb for his home,’” the Mekhilta interprets the word “this” (‫ )הזה‬to mean that the practice of taking a lamb on the tenth of the month only applied in the inaugural celebration of Passover and not for subsequent generations.26 The biblical text on its own gives no clear indication that the taking of the lamb on the tenth is restricted to the initial observance of this festival. It is only through the rabbinic lens of reading this passage that the restrictive interpretation applied to the word “this” becomes an accepted possibility. In addition to the term ‫להוציא‬, which offers a straightforward exclusion of a possible interpretation, we also find another formula used by the Mekhilta in order to preclude an incorrection interpretation: ...‫ תלמוד לומר‬...‫ או אינו אלא‬...‫“ – אתה אומר‬You say that [this is the correct interpretation?]… or perhaps it is not so, but rather [the correct interpretation is]… the Torah says {biblical quote} [therefore the latter interpretation is incorrect].”27 In this case, an interpretation 25 Lauterbach, 1:28. 26 Lauterbach, 1:25.

On this phrase, see Bacher’s comment: “‫ או אינו אלא‬leitet die Annahme einer anderen, als der zuerst einfach hingestellten Erklärung ein, worauf die Annahme widerlegt wird” in Wilhelm Bacher, Die exegetische Terminologie der jüdischen Traditionsliteratur. 1. 1. (Hildesheim u.a.: Olms, 1990), 5. Also see the discussion in Richard Hidary, Rabbis and Classical Rhetoric: Sophistic Education and Oratory in the Talmud and Midrash (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 137–38. On the phrase ‫תלמוד לומר‬, see Miguel Pérez Fernández, “Modelos de argumentación en la exégesis de los tannaítas: Las series Talmûd lômar y mâ Talmûd lômar,” Sefarad 47, no. 2 (1987): 363–81. 27

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of a biblical passage is presented, followed by an alternative possibility that is then proven incorrect based upon a biblical verse. Take the following example: Speak unto the entire congregation of Israel saying: On the 10th day [Exod. 12:3] – The commandment [of the new month] was given on the first of the month, the purchase of the lamb was made on the tenth, and the slaughtering on the fourteenth. You say that [‫ ]אתה אומר‬the command was given on the first of the month and the purchase was made on the tenth and the slaughtering on the fourteenth. Perhaps it is not so, but rather [‫]או אינו אלא‬ both the command and the purchase occurred on the tenth, and the slaughtering on the fourteenth? The Torah says, [ ‫תלמוד‬ ‫“ ]לומר‬This new moon shall be unto you…” [Exod. 12:2] When, then, was the command given? On the new moon. Consequently, it is impossible for you to argue as in the latter version, but you must say as in the former… the command was given on the first, the purchase was made on the tenth and the slaughtering on the fourteenth of the month.28

In this example an initial interpretation is offered for Exodus 12:3, which suggests that the three main events: 1) the divine command; 2) the acquisition of an animal; and, 3) the ritual slaughter, each took place on a different day of the month. A counter interpretation is proffered that the divine command actually took place on the tenth of the month, the same day that people purchased their animals. This possible interpretation is then rejected in light of the fact that the previous verse introduces the command by asserting that the present month will be the first month in the calendar – suggesting that this command itself was given on the first of the month. In this form of explicit limitation, first an understanding deemed proper is introduced, followed by an alternative that is then rejected by a biblical proof. Unlike the use of ‫להוציא‬, which merely asserts that a particular Lauterbach, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, 1:23–24. (‫דברו אל כל עדת )בני‬ ‫ אתה אומר‬.‫ ושחיטה בי"ד‬.‫ ולקיחה בעשור‬.‫ הדבור הזה בראש חודש‬.‫ישראל‬ ‫ או אינו אלא הדבור‬,‫הדבור היה בראש חודש ולקיחה בעשור ושחיטה בי"ד‬ ‫ אימתי היה‬.‫ דברו‬,‫ולקיחה בעשור ושחיטה בי"ד? תלמוד לומר החדש הזה לכם‬ ‫הדבור בראש חודש הא אין עליך כלשון האחרון אלא כלשון הראשון הדבור בראש‬ .‫[ חודש ולקיחה בעשור ושחיטה בי"ד‬bold added for emphasis] 28

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83

interpretative possibility is incorrect, the tripart formulation ‫אתה‬ ...‫ תלמוד לומר‬...‫ או אינו אלא‬...‫ אומר‬contrasts the preferred interpretation with another interpretation, which turns out to be incorrect (at least according to the rabbis). This interpretative sequence is employed ten times within the first four chapters of Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael and it serves as a prime example of the way that this Tannaitic Midrash explicitly excludes interpretative possibilities.29 We also find an introductory formula for an explicit limitation in the Mekhilta that begins with the erroneous interpretation. The phrase ‫שומע אני‬, (literally “I hear,” but more colloquially “from this I might understand”) typically begins by introducing an incorrect interpretation before moving to the correct understanding. 30 This phrase is quite common in the Mekhilta, appearing five times within the first several paragraphs of the Midrash. Here is the example that opens Mekhilta Tractate Pisḥa: And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the Land of Egypt saying [Exod. 12:1] – From this I might understand [‫]שומע אני‬ that the divine word was addressed to both Moses and Aaron. When, however, it says: “And it came to pass on the day when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt” [Exod. 6:28], it shows 29 Compare this formulation with the related tripart pattern: ‫ והלא כבר‬...‫וכי‬ ‫ אלא‬...‫( נאמר‬And could it be [that this is the correct interpretation]?... is it not already said {biblical verse}… rather [the correct interpretation is as follows…]). This sequence similarly introduces a hypothetical interpretation that is ultimately eliminated in the face of the preferred interpretation. The main difference between these two formulations appears to be that while ...‫ תלמוד לומר‬...‫ או אינו אלא‬...‫ אתה אומר‬typically cites a part of the same verse that is being glossed as proof that the proffered interpretation is incorrect, the sequence ...‫ אלא‬...‫ והלא כבר נאמר‬...‫ וכי‬generally introduces a different verse (or series of verses) to indicate that the suggested interpretation is incorrect. 30 On this phrase, and its parallel within the Akivan Midrashim, see Azzan Yadin, Scripture as Logos: Rabbi Ishmael and the Origins of Midrash (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 39–46 and 52–54; Azzan Yadin-Israel, Scripture and Tradition: Rabbi Akiva and the Triumph of Midrash (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), 52–62.

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MATTHEW GOLDSTONE that the divine word was addressed to Moses alone and not to Aaron. If so, what does Scripture mean to teach by saying here, “to Moses and Aaron”? It merely teaches that just as Moses was perfectly fit to receive the divine words, so was Aaron perfectly fit to receive divine words. And why then did God not speak to Aaron? In order to grant distinction to Moses.31

In this example, after part of a biblical verse is quoted, the Midrash introduces a hypothetical interpretation that is immediately rejected through the citation of a different biblical verse. The initial interpretation is actually the more straightforward reading of the verse – we would expect that if the verse says that God spoke to Moses and Aaron, then God spoke to both of them. However, drawing upon a prior verse that only mentions Moses, the Midrash argues that this more obvious reading is incorrect and a different understanding is necessary – that when the base verse includes Aaron’s name this merely indicates that Aaron was worthy to have God speak to him, not that God actually spoke directly to Aaron. In this example, and in many other cases of ‫ שומע אני‬arguments, a perfectly logical and likely interpretation is introduced and then deflected by reference to another verse. Rhetorically, this maneuver often proactively rejects the straightforward meaning of the verse in order to introduce the Midrash’s preferred reading. I have suggested that the limitation of meaning within Tannaitic Midrashim, or at least within Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, is a more prominent feature than the preservation of multiple interpretative possibilities. If we include both implicit and explicit examples, then we find limitation within almost every instance when a biblical verse is quoted, including cases where multiple interpretations are preserved in sequence. Even limiting ourselves to examples of explicit limitation, we still find that this rhetorical formulation is prominent. We have also seen how the explicit limitation of meaning can appear in a few Lauterbach, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, 1:1. ‫ויאמר ה' אל משה ואל אהרן‬ ‫ כשהוא אומר "ויהי‬.‫ שהיה הדבר לאהרן ולמשה‬,‫ שומע אני‬:‫בארץ מצרים לאמר‬ ,‫ א"כ‬.‫ביום דבר ה' אל משה )בארץ מצרים(" ]שמות ו'[ – למשה היה ולא לאהרן‬ ‫ מלמד שכשם שהיה משה כלל‬,‫מה תלמוד לומר אל משה ואל אהרן? אלא‬ ‫ ומפני מה לא היה מדבר עמו? מפני כבודו‬.‫ כך היה אהרן כלל לדברות‬,‫לדברות‬ ‫של משה‬. 31

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different ways – an interpretation deemed incorrect can be explicitly rejected; an interpretation deemed correct can be asserted first and then an alternative proffered and rejected; or the Midrash can first introduce and reject the misinterpretation before moving to the preferred understanding. This approach of explicitly indicating an interpretation to be excluded stands in marked contrast to one of the most explicitly exegetical genres of literature preserved among the Dead Sea Scrolls – the so-called Pesharim.32 The Pesharim are thematic and running commentaries on parts of various biblical books, including Isaiah, Psalms, and some of the Minor Prophets. These texts present a basic form of implicit limitation by asserting the proper meaning of various passages. For example, glossing Habakkuk 1:6 (“For lo, I am raising up the Chaldeans, That fierce, impetuous nation”; NJPS Translation), Pesher Habakkuk (Col. 2 lines 12–13) asserts, “This refers to the Kittim, w[ho are] swift and mighty in war, annihilating many people.”33 By proposing that the “Chaldeans” in Habakkuk prophetically refer to the Kittim (likely the Romans),34 this text implicitly excludes other possible identifications for the Chaldeans. This form of implicit limitation is the standard interpretative form of the Pesher literature, which does not regularly employ explicit limitation. Given that Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael and other Tannaitic Midrashim use both implicit and explicit limitation while previous Exegesis is present in many texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, the Pesharim are the best parallel to Tannaitic Midrashim for my purposes insofar as both adopt a “commentary mode” rather than paraphrase of scripture or implicit citation. See Steven D. Fraade, “Rabbinic Midrash and Ancient Jewish Biblical Interpretation,” in The Cambridge Companion to The Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, ed. Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert and Martin S. Jaffee (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 105–6. 33 Translation follows Michael O. Wise, Martin G. Abegg Jr, and Edward M. Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, Revised Edition (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005). ‫פשרו על הכתיאים א]שר הם[֗ה קלים‬ ‫במלחמה לאבד ר֗בי֗ם וגבורים‬. 34 See Nadav Sharon, “The Kittim and the Roman Conquest in the Qumran Scrolls,” Meghillot 11 (2016): 357–88. 32

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Jewish exegetical works such as the Pesharim only frequently employ the former, we must ask why do the Tannaitic Midrashim (and other rabbinic works) adopt this unusual approach of explicitly excluding possible interpretations when many other commentaries such as the Qumran Pesher literature provide primarily implicit limitation? The answer is perhaps to be found in a comparison between rabbinic works and Greco-Roman rhetoric. A number of scholars including Rikva Ulmer, David Brodsky, and more recently Richard Hidary, have argued that the rhetorical structures that we find within parts of rabbinic literature are drawn from Greek rhetorical practices.35 These scholars have shown how the Sophistic progymnasmata (Greco-Roman primers) and controversiae present a number of similar rhetorical progressions to that which we find in the Tannaitic Midrashim, the Yerushalmi, and the Bavli. Moving from thesis to antithesis, and arguing both sides of a given issue, these Sophistic rhetorical works present us with a similar monological rejection of possibilities to that which we find in Midrashim.36 However, early rabbinic literature diverges from much of Sophistic rhetoric in that it offers a fusion of rhetoric and exegesis. Unlike most works of Sophistic rhetoric, rabbinic use of rhetorical techniques revolves around interpretation of scripture.37 It seems probable then, that the combination of exegesis and sophistic rhetoric in Midrashim results in the prevalence of limitations and rejections of interpretative possibilities. This Midrashic synthesis is reminiscent of the work Philo of Alexandria, whose various exegetical works similarly combine rhetorical style and form with exegesis, albeit with a philosophic orientation. As Hidary and others have argued with regard to Midrash, Philo’s work

Rikva Ulmer, “The Advancement of Arguments in Exegetical Midrash Compared to That of the Greek ΔΙΑΤΡΒΗ,” JSJ 28, no. 1 (1997): 48–91; David Brodsky, “From Disagreement to Talmudic Discourse: Progymnasmata and the Evolution of a Rabbinic Genre,” in Rabbinic Traditions between Palestine and Babylonia, ed. Ronit Nikolsky and Tal Ilan (Leiden: Brill, 2014); Hidary, Rabbis and Classical Rhetoric. 36 Brodsky, “From Disagreement to Talmudic Discourse,” 30. 37 Hidary, Rabbis and Classical Rhetoric. 35

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is also influenced by the Sophistic rhetorical tradition.38 Like Midrash, Philo at times introduces multiple interpretative possibilities; in particular, literal and allegorical (or metaphorical) interpretations.39 Moreover, as commentary, Philo’s works frequently employ implicit limitation. What is particularly noteworthy, however, are a number of instances in which Philo explicitly excludes interpretive possibilities.40 In surveying the work of Philo, Bruce Winter calculates that there are, “forty-two references to ‘sophist’ (σοφιστής) in Philo, apart from fifty-two references to cognates, and numerous comments on the sophistic movement” (Bruce William Winter, Philo and Paul among the Sophists [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997], 7). He argues that, “The evidence suggests that Philo denotes contemporary, professional orators and sophists in Alexandria” (Winter, 67). Despite the fact that Philo had many critiques of the sophists (see Winter, 83–98), he nevertheless still valued rhetoric, as “Philo maintained that those with a thorough training in ‘the styles of rhetoric’… will conquer the sophists” (Winter, 109). 39 Surveying Questions and Answers on Genesis 1, Gregory Sterling counts that 51 out of 100 answers provided are only literal, 24 answers are only allegorical, and 25 provide both literal and allegorical interpretation. See Gregory E. Sterling, “Philo’s Quaestiones: Prolegomena or Afterthought?,” in Both Literal and Allegorical: Studies in Philo of Alexandria’s Questions and Answers on Genesis and Exodus, ed. David M Hay (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 2009), 104–5). However, Philo’s incorporation of multiple interpretations is not limited to the literal and allegorical. See, for example, his comments on the fig leaves that Adam and Eve wear, regarding which he offers two alternative reasons for the appearance of parts of fig trees. See Aram Topchyan and Gohar Muradyan, “Questions and Answers on Genesis and Exodus,” in Outside of the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture, vol. 1 (Lincoln, NE; Philadelphia, PA: University of Nebraska Press; Jewish Publication Society, 2013), 817. 40 Gregory Sterling comments on the relationship between literal and allegorical interpretations in his survey of Questions and Answers on Genesis 1: “In nineteen cases, there does not appear to be any tension between them… Twice Philo expresses preference for the allegorical over the literal (QG 1.13, 31). In only four instances does he appear to reject the literal, and even then he does so in a way that not close the door on it completely (QG 1.10, 11, 12, 39) [sic]” (Sterling, “Philo’s Quaestiones: Prolegomena or Afterthought?,” 105). Also commenting on the use of multiple interpretations (or meanings) 38

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Looking even just briefly at a few works of Philo we find a number of examples in which Philo appears to explicitly reject a possible interpretation. Commenting on Genesis 2:8 (“The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom He had formed;” NJPS Translation), Philo writes in his Questions and Answers in Genesis: Some, believing Paradise to be a garden, have said that since the moulded man is sense-perceptible, he therefore rightly goes to a sense-perceptible place. But the man made in His image is intelligible and invisible, and is in the class of incorporeal species. But I would say that Paradise should be thought a symbol of wisdom.41

In this answer, Philo presents one possible interpretation advanced by others, before offering his preferred understanding. Although Philo does not unequivocally state that the former interpretation is incorrect, the subsequent placement of his own understanding rhetorically suggests that the interpretation of Paradise as an actual garden is faulty. This is a more express limitation than simply presenting one understanding (i.e., “implicit limitation”), but it is not as clear-cut as the aforementioned Midrashic instances of explicit limitation. However, when we look to Philo’s Allegorical Commentary, we find a number of cases in which Philo denounces a particular understanding more vocally.

in this first section of Philo’s work, Anita Méasson and Jacques Cazeaux note that, “The interpretations may be distinguished as correct or incorrect (1, 10, 11, 18), as acceptable or better (8, 12, 57), as literal or closer to ‘the nature of things’ (6, 11, 13, 25, 31, [39], 44–49, 52–53, 88, 94–95, 97).” See Anita Méasson and Jacques Cazeaux, “From Grammar to Discourse: A Study of the Quaestiones in Genesim in Relation to the Treatises,” in Both Literal and Allegorical: Studies in Philo of Alexandria’s Questions and Answers on Genesis and Exodus, ed. David M Hay (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 2009), 129. 41 Questions and Answers on Genesis 1.8; Translation from Philo, Questions and Answers on Genesis, trans. Ralph Marcus, Loeb Classical Library 380 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 5.

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89

In several passages in his Allegorical Commentary Philo vociferously rejects interpretations that rely upon an anthropomorphic understanding of the divine. For example, when glossing Genesis 2:7 (“the Lord God fashioned the man from dust of the earth. God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature”) Philo writes: Now the expression “breathed into” is the same as “blew into” or “put a soul into soulless things.” We ought not be filled with the kind of folly (ἀτοπίας) that suggests that God requires the organs of a mouth or a nose in order to breathe into. For God is without quality, not just lacking a human form.42

Philo dismisses as “folly” an interpretation that would ascribe human organs to God. Likewise, elsewhere in his Allegorical Commentary Philo declares “May no such impiety take hold of human reasoning so as to assume that God ploughs the earth and plants gardens” and that “The one who thinks that God has a quality or that He is not One or not unbegotten or not imperishable or not immovable, wrongs himself.”43 Such explicit rejections of misinterpretations also appear in Philo’s other works. For example, in On the Creation of the World, Philo comments on Genesis 1:27, which states that humans were created in the divine image: “But no one should infer this likeness from the characteristics of the body, for God does not have a human shape and the human body is not God-like.”44 While not as ubiquitous as in Tannaitic Midrashim, these examples suggest that explicit limitation is nevertheless a significant feature of Philo’s commentaries, which are also influenced by the Sophistic rhetorical tradition. In this brief exploration of the presence of limitation in Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael I have proffered quantitative and qualitative arguments for taking into account the feature of limitation when defining the category (or genre) of Midrash. I have suggested that previous focus on the appearance of multivocality in Midrashim 42 Allegorical

Commentary 1.36; Louis H. Feldman, James L. Kugel, and Lawrence H. Schiffman, Outside the Bible: Ancient Jewish Writings Related to Scripture, vol. 1 (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2013), 906–7. 43 Allegorical Commentary 1.43 and 1.51; Feldman, Kugel, and Schiffman, 1:909–11. 44 On the Creation of the World 69; Feldman, Kugel, and Schiffman, 1:895.

90

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(particularly the preservation of inconsistent interpretations) has often been overstated and, more importantly, has overshadowed the exclusion of interpretative possibilities, which is a significant feature in its own right. The presence of several instances of explicit limitation not only challenges scholars to reassess the role of multivocality in Midrash, but also encourages further investigation into the dependence of Tannaitic Midrashim on the Greek rhetorical tradition as a key aspect for understanding the genre of Midrash more broadly. There is much that is yet to be explored in analyzing the ways through which rabbinic Midrash limits and excludes possible interpretations. I hope this brief initial survey offers greater insight into the genre of Midrash and propels towards new and revised understandings of the nature of rabbinic interpretation of scripture.

APPENDIX Maximum Number of Examples of Multivocality Page in Lauterbach

1

1

2

1

3

2

4

11

5

11

6

13

7

13

8

15

9

15

10

19

Type

‫דבר‬ ‫אחר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬

Description (translations from Lauterbach)

Initial interpretation of "unto Moses and Aaron" Alternative interpretation of "unto Moses and Aaron" Rabbi's interpretation of "unto Moses and Aaron" Rabbi Ishmael's interpretation of "saying" Rabbi Eliezer's interpretation of "saying" Shimon ben Azzai's interpretation of "saying" Rabbi Akiva's interpretation of "saying" Rabbi Ishmael's interpretation of "this new moon shall be unto you" Rabbi Akiva's interpretation of "this new moon shall be unto you" Initial interpretation of eclipse

THE DEFINING FEATURES OF RABBINIC MIDRASH

11

19

12

19

13

19

14

19

15

20

16

22

17

22

18

22

19

22–23

20

23

21

23

22

24

23

24

24

26

25

26

26

27

27

27

28

27

29

27

‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫דבר‬ ‫אחר‬

91

Rabbi Meir's interpretation of eclipse Rabbi Josiah's interpretation of eclipse Rabbi Jonathan's interpretation of eclipse Initial interpretation of "observe the month of Spring" Rabbi Jonathan's interpretation of "observe the month of Spring" Initial interpretation of "it shall be the first month of the year to you" Rabbi Josiah's interpretation of "it shall be the first month of the year to you" Rabbi Ishmael's interpretation of "speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel" Rabbi Ahai's interpretation of "speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel" Rabbi Simon's comment on "speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel" Initial comment on "In the tenth day" Rabbi Ahai's comment on "in the tenth day" Rabbi Jose's comment on "in the tenth day" Rabbi Ishmael comments on "then shall he and his neighbor… take one" Rabbi Akiva comments on "then shall he and his neighbor… take one" Initial interpretation of "and his neighbor" Rabbi Simon's interpretation of "and his neighbor" Initial interpretation of "according to the number of the souls" Alternative interpretation of "according to the number of the souls"

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MATTHEW GOLDSTONE

30

28

31

28

32

29

33

29

34

30

35

30–31

36

31

37

31

38

32

39

32

40

33

‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬

Rabbi Ishmael's interpretation of "for the lamb"

‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬

Rabbi Ishmael's kal vahomer argument to prove "a lamb during the entire first year of its life" Rabbi Jose's kal vahomer argument to prove "a lamb during the entire first year of its life"

‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬ ‫פלוני‬ ‫אומר‬

Rabbi Isaac's interpretation of "for the lamb"

Rabbi Eliezer's comment about sheep and goats Rabbi Josiah's comments about sheep and goats Rabbi Jonathan's comments about flock and herd Rabbi Eliezer's comments about flock and herd Rabbi Akiva's comments about flock and herd Rabbi Ishmael's comments about flock and herd Rabbi's comments about flock and herd

Minimum Number of Examples of Multivocality

1 2 3 4 5

Page in Lauterbach 1–2

11–13 15 19 19–20

6

22

7

22–23

8

23–24

9

26

Description (translations from Lauterbach)

3 interpretations of "unto Moses and Aaron" 4 interpretations of "saying" 2 interpretations of "this new moon shall be unto you" 4 interpretations of eclipse 2 interpretations of "observe the month of Spring" 2 interpretations of "it shall be the first month of the year to you" 3 comments on "speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel" 3 comments on "in the tenth day" 2 comments on "then shall he and his neighbor… take one"

THE DEFINING FEATURES OF RABBINIC MIDRASH 10 11 12

27 27 28

13

29

14 15

30–31 31–33

93

2 interpretations of "and his neighbor" 2 interpretations of "according to the number of souls" 2 interpretations of "for the lamb" 2 different kal vahomer arguments for "a lamb during the entire first year of its life" 2 comments on sheep and goats 5 comments on flock and herd

Examples of Implicit and Explicit Limitation Page in Lauterbach

1

1

2

1–2

Type of Explicit Limit

‫ש''א ]= שומע‬ ‫ כשהוא‬...[‫אני‬ ‫אומר‬

Limit Type

Description

Explicit

"unto Moses and Aaron"

Implicit

"unto Moses and Aaron"

Explicit

"unto Moses and Aaron"

3

2

‫ ת''ל‬...‫ש''א‬ [‫]=תלמוד לומר‬

4

2

‫ ת''ל‬...‫ש''א‬

Explicit

5

2–3

‫ ת''ל‬...‫ש''א‬

Explicit

6

3

‫ ת''ל‬...‫ש''א‬

Explicit

7

3

‫ ת''ל‬...‫ש''א‬

Explicit

8

3

‫ או‬...‫אתה אומר‬ ‫אינו אלא‬

Explicit

"In the land of Egypt"

9

4

Implicit

10

4

Implicit

11

5

Implicit

12

5

Implicit

13

5

Implicit

14

5

Implicit

15

6

Implicit

16

6

Implicit

"Take heed to thyself…" "For the Lord has chosen Zion…" "It is an everlasting covenant…" "And it shall be unto him..." "Ought ye not to know…" "A voice is heard in Ramah" "And I was by the stream of Ulai" "As I was by the side of the great river…"

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" "I am the God of your father…" "Honor thy father and they mother" "And Joshua the son of Nun…"

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MATTHEW GOLDSTONE

17

6

Implicit

18

6

Implicit

19

6

Implicit

20

6

Implicit

21

7

22

‫ והלא כבר‬...‫וכי‬ ...‫ וכתיב‬...‫נאמר‬ ‫אלא‬

"And the word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel…" "had come" "and came" "Arise go forth into the plain"

Explicit

"But Jonah rose up…"

7

Implicit

23

7

Implicit

24

7

Implicit

25

7

Implicit

26

7

Implicit

"Whither shall I go…" "The eyes of the Lord, that run to and fro..." "The eyes of the Lord are in every place…" "Though they dig into the netherworld…" "There is no darkness…"

27

8

Implicit

28

9

Implicit

29

9

Implicit

30

9

31

9

Implicit

32

9

Implicit

33

10

Implicit

34

10

Implicit

35

10

Implicit

36

10

Implicit

37

11

Implicit

38

11

Implicit

39

11

Implicit

40

11

Implicit

"Saying" (Rabbi Eliezer) "And, behold, the man clothed in linen..." "they go and say"

41

12

Implicit

"And, behold, six men…"

42

13

Implicit

"Saying" (Rabbi Akiva)

‫ אלא‬... ‫אין‬

Explicit

"We have transgressed…" "And there were added besides…" "And he said, I have been very jealous…" "in thy room" "But Jonah rose up…" "And the word of the Lord came to Jonah" "And he said unto them: Take me up…" "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin…" "And if Thou deal thus with me…" "And David spoke unto the Lord…" "Saying"

THE DEFINING FEATURES OF RABBINIC MIDRASH

95

"And I remained there appalled…" "And it came to pass at the end of seven days…" "And it came to pass after ten days…" "Thou didst say: Woe is me now!..." "rest" "And the spirit rested upon them…" "The spirit of Elijah doth rest of Elisha" "And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him" "Great things"

43

13

Implicit

44

13

Implicit

45

14

Implicit

46

14

Implicit

47

14

48

14

Implicit

49

14

Implicit

50

14

Implicit

51

15

52

15

Implicit

53

15

Implicit

54

15

Implicit

55

15

Implicit

56

15–16

Implicit

57

16

Implicit

58

16

Implicit

59

16

Implicit

"Tell me, I pray thee…" "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee…" "Baruch son of Neriah!..." "This new moon shall be unto You" (Rabbi Ishmael) "This new moon shall be unto You" (Rabbi Akiva) "And these are they which are unclean unto you" "And this is the work of the candlestick" "Now this is what thou shalt do upon the altar"

60

16

Explicit

"This month"

61

17

Implicit

62

17

Implicit

63

17

Implicit

64

18

Implicit

65

18

Implicit

"The beginning of Months" "In the fourth year of Solomon's reign…" "On the feast of unleavened bread…" "At the end of seven years…" "And the feast of ingathering at the end of the year"

66

18

Explicit

"Shall be unto you"

‫ אלא‬...‫אין‬

‫ אלא‬...‫אין‬

‫ או‬...‫אתה אומר‬ ‫אינו אלא‬

‫ או‬...‫אתה אומר‬ ‫אינו אלא‬

Explicit

Explicit

96

MATTHEW GOLDSTONE

Implicit

"Thus saith the Lord: Learn not the way of the nations…" "The beginning of Months" "It shall be unto you the first of the months of the year" "Observe the month of Spring and keep the Passover" "It shall be the first to you" "Observe the month of the spring" "Observe the month" "Observe the month" & "And on the fifteenth day…" "Observe the month" & "Thou shall therefore keep…" "It shall be the first month of the year to you" "It shall be the first unto you…"

67

19

68

19

69

19

Implicit

70

19

Implicit

71

20

Implicit

72

20

Implicit

73

20

Implicit

74

21

75

21–22

76

22

Implicit

77

22

Implicit

78

22

79

22

Implicit

80

23

Implicit

"Speak thou unto the children of Israel" "Speak ye"

81

24

Explicit

"Speak ye… tenth day"

82

24

Explicit

"Speak ye… tenth day" & "saying"

83

24

84

24

85

25

‫להוציא‬

Explicit

86

25

‫ אלא‬...‫וכי‬

Explicit

87

25

‫ש''א‬

Explicit

‫ אף‬...‫אי מה‬

Explicit

‫ ובא‬...‫או אפילו‬ ‫ת''ל‬

Explicit

‫ והלא כבר‬...‫וכי‬ ‫ ומה‬...‫נאמר‬ ‫ אלא‬...‫ת''ל‬

‫ או‬...‫אתה אומר‬ ‫ ת''ל‬...‫אינו אלא‬ ‫אתה אומר כן או‬ ‫ ת''ל‬...‫אינו אלא‬ ‫אתה אומר כן או‬ ‫ ת''ל‬...‫אינו אלא‬

Explicit

Explicit Implicit

Implicit

"Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel"

"Speak ye… tenth day" & "and ye shall keep…" "In the tenth day of the month they shall take" "This" "They shall take to themselves" "Every man a lamb"

THE DEFINING FEATURES OF RABBINIC MIDRASH

97

103

27

104

27

‫ או אינו‬...‫ש''א‬ ‫ ת''ל‬...‫אלא‬ ‫ אלא‬...‫אין‬

105

27

‫ ת''ל‬...‫ש''א‬

106

27

Implicit

107

27

Implicit

108

27–28

109 110 111 112 113 114

28 28 28 28 28 29

115

29

116

29–30

Implicit

117 118

30 30

Implicit Implicit

"According to their fathers' houses" "By their families, by their fathers' houses" "According to…" & "a lamb for a household" "and if the household be too little for a lamb" "then shall he and his neighbor… take one" "then shall he… take one" "and his neighbor" & "next unto his house" "number" "number" & "according to every man's eating…" "every man" "according to the number of souls" "according to the number of souls" & "according to his eating" "ye shall make your count" "for the lamb" "lamb" "perfect" "a male" "of the first year" "from the sheep and from the goats" "and if his offering be of the flock…" "it shall be for you" "ye shall take it"

119

30

‫אתה אומר כן או‬ ‫ ת''ל‬...‫אינו אלא‬

Explicit

"and thou shalt sacrifice…"

120

31

‫אתה אומר כן או‬ ‫ ת''ל‬...‫אינו אלא‬

Explicit

121

31

88

26

89

26

90

26

100

26

Implicit

101

26

Implicit

102

26

‫ אלא‬...‫אין‬

Explicit Implicit

‫ש''א‬

Explicit

Implicit

...‫ ת''ל‬...‫משמע‬ ‫יצאו‬

‫להוציא‬ ‫להוציא‬ ‫אתה אומר כן או‬ ‫ ת''ל‬...‫אינו אלא‬

Explicit Explicit Explicit

Explicit Implicit Implicit Implicit Explicit Explicit Implicit Explicit

Implicit

"ye shall take it" & "a lamb perfect, a male" (Rabbi Jonathan) "that thou shalt keep this service this month"

98

MATTHEW GOLDSTONE

‫אתה אומר כן או‬ ‫ ת''ל‬...‫אינו אלא‬

122

31

123

31–32

Implicit

124

32

Implicit

125

32

126

33

‫אתה אומר כן או‬ ‫ ת''ל‬...‫אינו אלא‬

Explicit

Explicit Implicit

"ye shall take it" & "a lamb perfect, a male" (Rabbi Eliezer) "and ye shall observe…" "thou shalt sacrifice…" "draw out and take you lambs…" "and thou shalt sacrifice…" & "a lamb perfect, a male" "and thou shalt sacrifice"

AUTHORSHIP AND AUTHORITY: PATTERNS OF CHANGE IN SEDER ELIYAHU, PIRKE DE RABBI ELIEZER AND THE ALPHABET OF BEN SIRA IN THEIR GEONIC AND EARLY ISLAMICATE CONTEXTS1 LENNART LEHMHAUS INTRODUCTION Except for some pioneering studies, until very recently late Midrash was often understood in the best case as an interesting phenomena on

This article is based on a chapter from my doctoral dissertation (MartinLuther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, defended 21 March 2013), which offers for the first time a German translation of SEZ with commentary and a second part with an analysis of the work. A slightly abbreviated and amended version is to be published as Lennart Lehmhaus, ‘Derekh Eretz im Torah’ – Seder Eliyahu Zuta als ethisch-religiöser Diskurs in gaonäischer Zeit (TSAJT, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019). I would like to express my utter gratitude to Rivka Ulmer and W. David Nelson for organizing the program unit on Midrash at SBL and for inviting me to contribute to this volume. Further, I thank Katharina Keim, Rachel Adelman, Nora Schmidt, Nora K. Schmid, Simcha Gross, Dina Stein and Yaacov Elbaum for exchanges on various issues regarding post-Talmudic Jewish texts and their contexts that pertain to the present study. 1

99

100

LENNART LEHMHAUS

the fringes of Talmudic culture.2 Scholars drew, at times, a sharp dichotomy between the “Golden Age” of Amoraic Midrashic exegesis and those later traditions in which they noticed signs of eclecticism, stagnation or decline.3 By contrast, I would like to raise in the following paper the awareness for the shifts in form and content that made the later texts important forerunners of medieval literary models. I will especially explore the multi-faceted dimensions of authorship and attribution in post-Talmudic texts from the early Geonic or Islamic Period that were once deemed pseudepigraphic, at times even levelled with charges of deliberate forgery. The present discussion aims not only at disproving such purely judgmental characterizations, but also intends to go beyond the usual assumptions of pseudepigraphy that are largely understood as a mere strategy of textual authorization. While this is but one dimension, I will demonstrate in the following how we can understand pseudepigraphy in those texts as a Cf. Ephraim Urbach, “On the Question of Language and Origin of the Book Seder Eliyahu,” Leshonenu 21 (1956), 183–197 [Hebrew]; Jacob Elbaum, “Between Redaction and Rewriting: On the Character of the Late Midrashic Literature [Hebrew],” in The Ninth World Congress of Jewish Studies, Vol. 3 (Jerusalem, 1985), 57–62; Idem, “From Sermon to Story: The Transformation of the Akedah,” Prooftexts 6 (1986), 97–117; idem, “The Midrash Tana debe Elijahu and Ancient Esoteric Literature,” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought 6:1–2 (1987), 139–150 [Hebrew]; idem, “A Combination of Midrash and Ethical Treatise: A Study of Chapters 1–6 of Tana debe Elijah,” Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature 1 (1981), 144–154 [Hebrew]. 3 Rina Drory, Models and Contacts: Arabic Literature and Its Impact on Medieval Jewish Culture (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 150/152 states: “Rabbanite literature […] was progressively stagnating, its creative models showing signs of ossification....[N]o new literary material could be admitted in a Rabbanite text unless it would be molded after the classical models.” Cf. also Jeffrey Rubenstein, “From Mythic Motifs to Sustained Myth: The Revision of Rabbinic Traditions in Medieval Midrashim,” HTR 89, 2 (1996), 131–159, here 133: “...they contain few ideas not documented in classical rabbinic texts. The innovation of these Midrashim is in the use of narrative.” On novelistic tendencies in later midrashim, see David Stern, Parables in Midrash. Narrative and Exegesis in Rabbinic Literature (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991), 206–224. 2

AUTHORSHIP AND AUTHORITY

101

complex interplay with narrative traditions, virtues and values, and epistemologies tied to texts and figures of the distant and more recent past.4 For this purpose, I will interrogate three intriguing works usually culled together under the umbrella term “late Midrash.”5 The main discussion will be informed by Seder Eliyahu Zuta (SEZ) and Seder Eliyahu Rabba (SER), from the 9th or 10th centuries in Syro-Palestine, which form a sibling tradition oscillating between ethical and spiritual guidance books and homiletical, exegetical or narrative elements.6 As a first fruitful point of comparison shall serve Pirke (de-)Rabbi Eliezer (PRE), a work most probably also from Syro-Palestine in the 8th or 9th centuries, whose complex exegetical, ethical and epistemological discourse deploys several biblical ‘books’ or narration cycles as its structural scaffold, while also exploring themes that prevailed mostly in Second Temple traditions.7 A second comparative 4 As was the case with Moses or Enoch as has been shown by Hindy Najman,

Seconding Sinai: The Development of Mosaic Discourse in Second Temple Judaism (Leiden: Brill, 2003). See the wider discussion by Annette Y. Reed, “Pseudepigraphy, Authorship and the Reception of 'the Bible' in Late Antiquity,” in The Reception and Interpretation of the Bible in Late Antiquity (ed. L. DiTommaso and L. Turcescu; Leiden: Brill, 2008), 467–490, here: 474–480. 5 Cf. Stemberger, Introduction, 311–350. 6 The first edition, based on the only extant manuscript containing both parts (SER and SEZ) as well as several additional texts (so-called Pseudo-Seder Eliyahu Zuta and the Pirqe ha-yeridot) was produced by Meir Friedmann (Ish-Shalom), Seder Eliahu Rabba und Seder Eliahu Zuta (Tanna d’be Eliahu) (Wien, 1902). A rather loose English translation can be found in William G. Braude and Israel J. Kapstein, Tanna debe Eliyyahu: The Lore of the School of Elijah (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1981). For a study of SE’s thought, see Max Kadushin, The Theology of Seder Eliyahu (New York, 1932); a comprehensive summary provides the encyclopedic entry by Moshe Lavee, “Seder Eliyahu,” in Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, ed. Norman A. Stillman (Leiden: Brill Online, 2012). 7 On the text of PRE, see the English translation by Gerald Friedlander (ed.), Pirkê de Rabbi Eliezer (The Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer the Great) According to the Text of the Manuscript Belonging to Abraham Epstein of Vienna. 2nd

102

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perspective is provided by looking into the particular author-character in the “Alphabeta de-Ben Sira/Toledot Ben Sira” (ABS/TBS), a compound tradition possibly originating between the East (Babylonia) and North Africa in the 10th century or later. The work playfully intertwined biblical exegesis and narrations, ancient Wisdom literature (i.e. Sirach), Talmudic teachings, midrashic material as well as IndoPersian and Arabic narrative traditions (most prominently: Khalila wa-Dhimna).8

ed. (New York: Hermon Press, 1965). For German translations and commentaries, see Dagmar Börner-Klein, Pirke de-Rabbi Elieser: nach der Edition Venedig 1544 unter Berücksichtigung der Edition Warschau 1852 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2004); Ute Bohmeier, Exegetische Methodik in Pirke de-Rabbi Elieser, Kapitel 1–24: nach der Edition Venedig 1544, unter Berücksichtigung der Edition Warschau 1852 (Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang, 2008). The past twenty years have seen some major studies on PRE by Katharina Keim, Pirqei deRabbi Eliezer: Structure, Coherence, Intertextuality (Leiden: brill, 2017); Eliezer Treitl, Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer. Text, Redaction and a Sample Synopsis (Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Department of Talmud and Halakha/Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi, 2012); Rachel Adelman, The Return of the Repressed: Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer and the Pseudepigrapha (Leiden: Brill, 2009); Dina Stein, Maxims Magic Myth: A Folkloristic Perspective of Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer [Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2004); Steven Daniel Sacks, Midrash and Multiplicity (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2009). 8 Most versions of the work contain a narrated biography of the protagonist up to the age of seven, called the Toledot Ben Sira, and a collection of Aramaic proverbs called the Alphabeta de-Ben Sira. However, the lattr has shaped the usual name of the work as Alphabet of Ben Sira. On the ABS/TBS, see the edition of the two main textual variants by Eli Yassif, The Tales of Ben Sira in the Middle-Ages: A Critical Text and Literary Studies [Hebr.] (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1984). All excerpts from this tradition are based on the English translation by N. Bronzick, with D. Stern, M.J. Mirsky “The Alphabet of ben Sira,” in D. Stern and M. J. Mirsky, eds., Rabbinic Fantisies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 167–202. An annotated German translation with a comprehensive introductory discussion, can be found in Dagmar Boerner-Klein, Das Alphabet des Ben Sira, Hebräisch-deutsche Textausgabe mit einer Interpretation (Wiesbaden: Marixverlag, 2007).

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Those three texts, despite their salient peculiarities, share (also with other texts) various discursive features (e.g. thematic superstructures, introduction-like chapters, maxims or quotations as chapter headings, a ‘return’ to Hebrew, key concepts and trigger words) and literary strategies that make use of common rabbinic patterns (small forms like mashal, memra/maxime, lists, micro-exegesis) in order to create their very own thematic discourse.9 This article aims at demonstrating how a potent link between authorship, audience and authority worked on, at least, three different levels: a) The invention, construction, and deployment of an author-persona or an author-character. b) The convergence of authority and authorship through strategies of reference to what the texts’ authors and their implied audience might have thought of as “authoritative traditions.” c) Finally, these concepts of authorship and adaptations of known figures functioned within socio-historical contexts that allowed for new literary strategies that differed from,

9 For a discussion of those features in Seder Eliyahu and other later traditions,

see Lennart Lehmhaus, “Between Tradition and Innovation: Seder Eliyahu's Literary Strategies in the Context of Late Midrash,” in Approaches to Literary Readings of Ancient Jewish Writings (eds. K. Smeelik and K. Vermeulen; Leiden: Brill, 2013), 211–242; Jacob Elbaum,”Between Redaction and Rewriting”; idem, “The Meaning of Redemption in Tana debe Elijahu,” in ‘Open Thou Mine Eyes...’: Essays on Aggadah and Judaica Presented to Rabbi William G. Braude on his Eightieth Birthday and Dedicated to his Memory (eds. Herman J. Blumberg et.al.; Hoboken, New Jersey: Ktav, 1992), 303–332 [Hebrew]. Of importance for this discussion is the superordinate thematic arrangement that is based neither coherently on a biblical book (like the Midrashe Rabbah) nor strictly on a liturgical-homiletical context. Topical composition may be found also in the so-called rabbinic Wisdom traditions (Pirke Avot, Avot de-Rabbi Nathan [ANR], Derekh Eretz Rabba and Zuta [DER/DEZ], Kalla Rabbati).

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or even actively challenged known forms of midrashic or talmudic discourse. The following discussion shall help to shed light on how the popularity of certain figures, the reference to earlier traditions and a more flexible understanding of authorship was deployed by the post-Talmudic authors of these works in manifold, creative ways.

PRESENCE, VOICE, PERSPECTIVE, CHARACTER : APPROACHES TO AUTHORIAL STRATEGIES IN SCHOLARSHIP ON RABBINIC LITERATURE Similar to his approaches to the history of knowledge and science, Michel Foucault identified the author as a historical paradigm, albeit a very influential and persistent one, that was capable of channeling discursive chaos and fluidity in order to create a pattern, a narrative, and eventually order. In his influential essay on works of modern prose (especially the novel), Roland Barthes advocated the “death of the author” in order to free the text from the tyranny of biographical interpretation and from the limits of individual oeuvres.10 Quite in contrast to this idea of authorship but tellingly close to the ideal of these (post-) modern deliberations and the deconstruction of the historical author, classical rabbinic texts are commonly regarded as non-authorial, collective enterprises – sometimes understood as a wide-ranging intertextual universe of late ancient Jewish cultures. 11 Their obsession with named attributions, however, tells us much about a (general?) human craving for filling the void of contingency

Foucault, Michel, “What Is an Author,” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interview (ed. D. F. Bouchard; Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), 113–38; “The Death of the Author,” in Image / Music / Text (trans. Stephen Heath; New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 142– 148. 11 On the post-structuralist and post-modern notions of rabbinic literary activities, see Daniel Boyarin, Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990); David Stern, Midrash and Theory: Ancient Jewish Exegesis and Contemporary Literary Studies (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1996). 10

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with a speaking or writing subject.12 Still, despite some scholarly attempts to reconstruct biographies of certain sages based on the various quotations and mentions within exempla and anecdotes scattered throughout rabbinic traditions, those sages do not really qualify as authors.13 At times, one cannot even rely on the references as indicating authorship of the rabbis’ “own” teachings, since those attributions may differ across various traditions and function rather as “citation cipher”.14 In Consequence, Classical Talmudic and Midrashic traditions have been seen as a ‘mosaic’ of teachings or exegesis brought forth by an anonymous, collective and multilayered authorship, based on longer processes of production and transmission in a context of oral instruction.15 Still, various studies have compellingly shown that 12 Cf. Sean Burke, The

Death and Return of the Author: Criticism and Subjectivity in Barthes, Foucault and Derrida (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1992); Fotis Jannidis et al. (eds.), Rückkehr des Autors. Zur Erneuerung eines umstrittenen Begriffs (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1999). 13 Cf. Jacob Neusner, Eliezer ben Hyrcanus: The Tradition and the Man (Leiden: Brill, 1973); and the critique by William Scott Green, “What's in a Name?—The Problematic of Rabbinic 'Biography,” in Approaches to Ancient Judaism: Theory and Practice (ed. W.S. Green; Missoula: Scholars Press, 1977), 77–96. 14 On the different attributions and questions of historical and biographical reliability, see Jacob Neusner, “What Use Attributions? An Open Question in the Study of Rabbinic Literature,” in When Judaism and Christianity Began. Volume Two (eds. A.J. Avery-Peck, D. Harrington, and J. Neusner; Brill: Leiden, 2004), pp. 441–460. Alexander Samely, Forms of Rabbinic Literature and Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 101–103, sees those rabbinic quotations as rather impersonal, almost anti-authorial or anti-biographical discursive form that “points to a time prior to the text, to a history of rabbinic texts. But it does not actually tell that history. Thus, single statements are not connected to each other within a narrative or historical framework. Citations are never embedded into a rabbi’s biography; biographies do not exist” (p. 102). 15 Cf. Martin Jaffee, “Rabbinic Authorship as a Collective Enterprise,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature (eds. C.E. Fonrobert and M.S. Jaffee; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) 17–37; Steven D. Fraade, “Anonymity and Redaction in Legal Midrash: A

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rabbinic reference were based on fluid concepts of authorship and valued “creative attribution” as an important strategy to construct a collective but flexible rabbinic authorship. Instead of being a deliberate fraud, this referential tool safeguards the integration of teachings into a rabbinic chain of tradition and its authority (Torah le-moshe me-sinai). 16 By contrast, based on various indicators, such as coherence in style, language or concepts, scholars have often regarded post-talmudic midrashim as being the work of a single author, at times depicted negatively as an eclectic compiler. This approach, which is with some qualification still common, needs some qualifications.17 It seems Preliminary Probe,” in Melekhet Mahshevet: Studies in the Redaction and Development of Talmudic Literature (eds. Aaron Amit and Aharon Shemesh; Ramat-Gan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University Press, 2011), 9–29. On the collective and multilayered nature of early Arabic literature, see Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, “Multilayered Authorship in Arabic Anecdotal Literature,” in Concepts of Authorship in Pre-Modern Arabic Texts (eds. Lale Behzadi and Jaako Hämeen-Antilla; Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press, 2015), 167–188. See also Andreas Görke, “Authorship in the Sīra Literature,” in Concepts of Authorship (2015), 63–92, here 63f.: “the compilatory character of the literature mostly being made up of very small textual units of different origin (akhbār, sg. khabar), the formal requirements of the khabar, namely that the narrator is expected to remain absent from the narrative, the significance of the oral element in the transmission of texts, and the character of the sīra literature between history, salvation history and fiction, with high importance given to early authorities.” 16 See Marc Bregman, “Pseudepigraphy in Rabbinic Literature,” in Pseudepigraphic Perspectives: The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. E. G. Chazon et al. (Leiden: Brill, 1997), 27–41; Louis Jacobs, “Are there fictitious baraitot in the Babylonian Talmud?,”HUCA 42 (1971), 185–196; Sacha Stern, “The Concept of Authorship in the Babylonian Talmud,” JJS 46 (1995), 183–195; Sacha Stern, “Attribution and Authorship in the Babylonian Talmud,” JJS 45 (1994), 28–51. 17 Most recently, Gavin McDowell, The Sacred History in Late Antiquity: Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer and its Relationship to the Book of Jubilees and the Cave of Treasures (Doctoral Dissertation, Paris, EPHE, 2017), has renewed

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in place to doubt the assumptions of single-authorship based solely on stylistic or compositional aspects that might have been actually shared and (re)produced also by a group of authors (as is the case in Talmudic literature and most midrashic traditions). Such a critique should not result in a reintegration of the post-Talmudic text into so-called classical rabbinic literature, since such a classification would not do justice to the many subtle changes that set these traditions apart from earlier rabbinic works.18 Rather, one should study the ways through which those traditions cast their own net of references and, thus, craft a peculiar form of authorship or authorial presence, while making use of

the suggestion of a single author for PRE. Constanza Cordoni, “The Emergence of the Individual author(-image) in Late Rabbinic Literature,” in Narratology, Hermeneutics, and Midrash: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Narratives from the Late Antiquity through to Modern Times (eds. C. Cordoni and G. Langer; Göttingen: v&r, 2014), 225–250. Also see coherence in language, style and content in PRE and SE as indicative of single authorship (ibid., 242: “An analysis of the specific language and style, which is beyond the scope of this paper, would probably help in adducing sounder evidence of the work’s individual authorship”). However, she prefers to approach it from the perspective of an implied author “understood not anthropomorphically, but as text-as-a-whole, as literary program, as characteristic literary features that characterise the work,” (ibid., 236). As a consequence, her case studies on PRE and SE deal primarily with discursive content, thematic structures and literary strategies and hardly with authorial figures or personae, outside of the concept of implied authorship or diegetic perspective. 18 For the necessary critique of the single-authorship paradigm but also an argument of unbroken continuity of the form of attribution in PRE, see Sacks, Midrash and Multiplicity, 49–53, esp. 50 (“These scholars’ shifting of responsibility for PRE’s organizational merits an flaws from R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanos to an anonymous and deceptive geonic author thus represents the attempt to explain the problem of the texts by means of a single author.”), and 52 (“Without the feature of single authorship or biography, attribution in PRE does not differ from classical rabbinic literature in any way that we can measure or articulate unless we arbitrarily and unjustifiably assign the “birth of authorship in rabbinic literature to this very work.”).

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a rich body of biblical, so-called apocryphal and rabbinic elements within their dynamic projects of “tradition building”. 19 With a similar approach, albeit for an earlier period and a different body of traditions, namely Psalms and the ancient Ben Sira tradition(s), Eva Mroczek has recently stressed the more flexible and creative understandings of authorship and textual belonging in ancient Jewish traditions. Additionally fresh approaches in a recent study of the fame and image of the 4th century writer, ascetic and bishop Epiphanius, may help to tackle the question of authorship and authority. Andrew Jacob has suggested that the study of his authority – between hagiography and historiography – paired with “insights from the notions of celebrity may allow us a more fluid approach to a period in flux”.20 This refers to the formational period of early Christianity with its multiple ecclesiastical controversies and heresiological discourse – a time of similar cultural shifts and deeper transformations as they took place in the early Islamicate and Geonic period.

ME, MYSELF AND I: STAGING AUTHORIAL PRESENCE AND AUTHORITY IN SEDER ELIYAHU In Seder Eliyahu, and in a most condensed form in Seder Eliyahu Zuta, we find complimentary or mutually intensifying manifestations of an authorial voice, an author-figure or author-persona, and a complex net of references. First, throughout SE, one finds several instances in which an anonymous first-person voice (“I”) is speaking from the text. Sometimes, this voice appears in form of an oath-formula (me’id ani alai shamayim wa-aretz/‫ מעיד אני עלי שמים וארץ‬/“I call heaven and earth to witness”) that functions as a powerful and characteristic rhetorical tool. 21 In those passages, the oaths serve to illustrate and reinforce 19 Cf. ibid., 61. 20 Andrew Jacobs, Epiphanius

of Cyprus: A Cultural Biography of Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University Of California Press, 2016), 40. 21 This formula can be found throughout rabbinic texts early and late. It appears, however, in a condensed manner, only in SER and SEZ. Other instances of a bridging function, can be found in SEZ 3 (p. 175), and SEZ 15 (p. 197). Cf. also SER 5 (p. 26); SER 18 (p. 91), and PSEZ 18 (p.24f). While in SE

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central teachings of Seder Eliyahu’s discourse such as ethics, good deeds, adherence to certain rituals and basic knowledge of Torah. This pedagogical and instructive function of the formula, paired with an attribution to Eliyahu, is most obvious in SEZ 15 (p. 197): Abba Eliyahu, may he remembered for good and for a blessing, said: “I call heaven and earth to witness that any disciple of the wise who reads Scripture for the sake of Heaven and repeats Mishnah (i.e. studies) for the sake of Heaven, eats his portion, and benefits only from his own [portion] instead of from what belongs to the community – about him Scripture states: You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you (Psalm 128:2).

In other instances, the first-person voice turns directly to God by uttering intercessory blessings or prayers that focus on divine love and mercy, while also functioning as bridging devices between different parts of the discourse.22 Furthermore, the voice also addresses the

this oath-formula is uttered mostly by an anonymous voice; in most of the other rabbinic traditions, it occurs as part of the speech of a rabbinic sage or in dialogues between biblical characters. For examples of character speech, see MidrPs 137,2 (Jeremiah) or MidrProv 16,10 (Salomon). Only in SEZ 1, p. 169 (with a parallel in b. Yevamot 16a) this formula is used by R. Dossa ben Hyrkanos in his exchange with the sages. Throughout the rabbinic literature, including medieval collections like Leqah Tov or Yalqut Shim’oni, we find 46 instances of this formula. In SER and SEZ we find exactly the same number of appearances as in both Talmudim and all midrashim together (13) which underscores the rhetorical importance of this device in SE’s discourse. 22 The same function can be observed regarding the parable or mashal, as connectors or bridging devices within the discourse of SEZ. On prayer and benedictions in SEZ and other later midrashic works, see Lennart Lehmhaus, “Blessed be He – Benedictions, Prayers, and Narrative in the Garb of Late Midrashic Traditions,” in “It's Better to Hear the Rebuke of the Wise Than the Song of Fools” (Qoh 7:5), Proceedings of the Midrash Section, Society of Biblical Literature, Volume 6 (eds. R. Ulmer und W. D. Nelson; Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press 2015), 107–151.

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reader or audience directly, as in SER, chapter 17: “Oh my brothers and my people, listen to me!”23 Second, various first-person narratives amplify the presence of an author-persona. One outstanding feature of SE is its innovative use of a first-person narrator in several episodes of encounter that form SE’s literary backbone. These narratives depict instructive dialogues between a narrator and a great variety of interlocutors ranging from a Persian priest, the sages in the study house in Jerusalem, some “disciples of the wise” (talmidei hakhamim), rural folks, old men on the road, and women to sceptics and scoffers. In SEZ, however, those dialogue partners are predominantly non-rabbinic Jews from different educational, socio-cultural and regional backgrounds. I suggest that in SEZ those narratives of instructive dialogue promote a “minimal Judaism” open to all: basic knowledge of Scripture, the most important prayers and benedictions as well as moral behavior and piety. In a liminal setting border-crossing interaction with different non-rabbinic “others”, questions of Jewish and rabbinic identity are examined through the safety-screen of the narrative. 24 23 This is SER 17 (p. 86). For other examples of the narrator’s voice addressing

God, see SER (10) 11 (p. 53); SER 17 (p. 83). 24 A similar function of stereotyped figures in early Arabic literature is mentioned by Zoltán Szombathy, “Reluctant Authors: The Dilemma of Quoting Disapproved Content in Adab Works,” in Concepts of Authorship in Pre-Modern Arabic Texts (eds. Lale Behzadi and Jaako Hämeen-Antilla; Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press, 2015),189–214, here: 205: “The list includes vulgar commoners, effeminates, primitive country bumpkins of various origins (such as Kurds, Daylamites, Nabateans), uncouth Bedouin tribesmen, as well as such more or less fictitious persons […].” For a detailed study of the SEZ-narratives, see Lennart Lehmhaus, “`Were Not Understanding and Knowledge Given To You From Heaven?´ Minimal Judaism and the Unlearned “Other” in Seder Eliyahu Zuta,” JSQ 19,3 (2012), 230–258. These narratives certainly share structural features with other sage-stories like ma’assim or exempla and the Hellensitic chreia, while also resembling stories about sages and holy men in (Greek and Syriac) Christian and Muslim traditions. Cf. Catherine Hezser, “Die Verwendung der Hellenistischen Gattung Chrie im frühen Christentum und Judentum,” JSJ 27 (1996), 371–

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In the present study, however, I like to zero in on the personality of this first-person narrator who is of crucial importance for the emergence of the author-persona in the text. This character is ambiguous and oscillates between two major characterizations. First, he appears as a wandering teacher and preacher with broad rabbinic education who seems familiar with different regional or local traditions. Second, several accounts in the text seem to allude directly to the prophet Elijah as having authored these anecdotes or even the whole text.25 Various manuscripts make explicit reference to Eliyahu ha-navi by way of introducing the first-person narratives with such an attribution26: The prophet Elijah, may his memory be for good/ of blessed memory, said: Once I was travelling from place to place, when a man accosted me and greeted me. But he did not recognize me. He asked: “Rabbi, from what place are you?” And I replied: “I am from great Yavneh, from the city of sages and rabbis.”

439; Michal Bar-Asher Siegal, “Shared Worlds: Rabbinic and Monastic Literature,” HTR 105,4 (2012), 423–456. 25 The possibility of such an allusion or attribution was – certainly with a different understanding of rabbinic literature in general – already mentioned by some early scholars of the Wissenschaft des Judentums. Cf. Julius Theodor, “Besprechungen (zu Friedmanns Edition des Seder Eliahu),” MGWJ 44,10 (1900), 550–561, here, 554: “in der Fiction des Prophet Elia”; Wilhelm Bacher, “Antikaräisches in einem jüngeren Midrasch,” MGWJ 23,6 (1874), 266–274, here 266: „als lehrend umherziehend gedachte[n] Prophet[en] Elia”. 26 This is evident in MSS Parma and Oxford. While the MS Vatican (ebr. 31) features no inquit-formula, the first-person narrative commences directly after a longer teaching introduced by “they said in the name of the school/house of Elijah the prophet,” and might be conceived, thus, as a continuation of this discourse.

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The dialogue narrated from a first-person person perspective, begins with the usual scene: the narrator is approached by someone while travelling on the road or visiting a certain place.27 This spatial setting is typical of the narrator who is rendered through those narratives as a wandering, liminal character with no fixed location, crossing geographical borders and sociocultural boundaries. The aspect of liminality accompanies also many of the rabbinic traditions on Elijah the prophet.28 In contrast to other stories, in which the narrator is questioned, challenged or even mocked by his opponents, the man in SEZ 1 pays him respect and identifies him as a rabbi. This identification is emphasized by the narrator’s statement about his origin from the mythical cradle of rabbinic Judaism in Tannaitic time (“from great Yavneh, from the city of sages and rabbis”). However, the narrator also indicates, that this man despite his respectful demeanor, had not really recognized him. This might imply that, while the attitude of a learned

27 While in many narratives these encounters happen literally but less specific

“on the way” (SEZ 1,2,14; SER 18, (22) 20), some other accounts portray the narrator as visiting a big city (SER 1), a (rabbinic) academy in Jerusalem (e.g. SER (14) 15, (15)16) or the house (and school) of a rabbinic scholar in Babylonia (SER 18). 28 Cf. Lindbeck, Elijah and the Rabbis, 74–94, who discusses Elijah’s role as connecting between human and divine realms and acting as a Hermes-like figure. Cf. also Adelman, Return of the Repressed, 185f. One anecdote in b. BM 114a-b depicts the liminality of the prophet whom Rabba bar Avuh met standing in a graveyard of non-Jews – most interestingly for SE’s discourse, Elijah in this story answers questions on how to deal with poor in a just way.

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teacher-preacher worked on him, the opponent was unable to fathom the prophetic dimension of this encounter.29 The narrative dialogues simulate direct personal interaction with some vivid, personal speech that lends greater authenticity to these encounters. Simultaneously, this peculiar framing facilitates the accessibility of Seder Eliyahu (Zuta)’s discursive program of a shared, ‘minimal Judaism’ promoted throughout the text: a certain level of education (and participation) in Torah, basic knowledge of the most common prayers and blessings for the liturgy and the domestic realm, and, most importantly, ethical conduct and inter-communal solidarity – all based on fear of heaven and the divine model of a merciful and loving God who welcomes even the most evil sinner.30 On the one hand, these ideas are exemplified through the teachings of the first-person narrator within those dialogue narratives. Their protagonist, on the other hand, does not only preach but also embodies the virtues of indulgence, kindness and patient instruction instead of admonition, thus, emulating the shining example of Moses and God that the text highlights repeatedly in different parts. I submit that the loose reference to ‘Eliyahu’ for the first-person narrator draws on the different elements in the complex biography and character of the biblical prophet and his after-life in Jewish traditions, even if Elijah is not explicitly presented as authoring neither the whole text, which nor the third-person narratives about him.31 First, On the usual identification of Elijah as a rabbinic master or ideal teacher, see Lindbeck, Elijah and the Rabbis, 57–72. 30 On the idea of a basic set of rituals, knowledge and rules for moral behavior and Seder Eliyahu’s strategy of promoting it, see Lehmhaus, “Minimal Judaism and the Unlearned ‘Other’”. Cf. also Dina Stein, “Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer and Seder Eliyahu: Preliminary remarks on poetics and fictional space in late Midrash (Hebrew),” Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature 24 (2011), 73– 92, who suggests a broader agenda appealing to broader groups of Jews for PRE (and SE). 31 These discourses can be found in SER 5, p. 22–23; SER 17, p. 87; SEZ 8, p. 185–186; SEZ 15, p. 199. The following discussion contends with the easy dismissal of such a link by Cordoni, “The emergence,” 232–233: “Moreover, a brief look at the depiction of the Prophet Elijah within Seder Eliyahu leaves 29

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various biblical episodes depict him as the epitome of the zealous prophet. He stood up against the king, the foreign deities and their prophets, and eventually against his own people. Even after he had to flee to hide in the mountains and in the desert, he insists on the stringent necessity of his zealousness.32 Second, in biblical texts (Malachi) and throughout different later traditions, Elijah, who never died but was taken away in a fiery whirlwind, is mentioned as a herald of messianic redemption who will bring reconciliation and a moral renewal.33 no doubt that the anonymous author of the work did not wish to be identified with this biblical character.[…] These narratives told in the third person contrast in content and style with a number of stories told in the first person by a narrative agent that can be considered as the authorial voice of a main narrator of Seder Eliyahu. Therefore, it could be argued that this is at least a clear intratextual indication that the empirical author of Seder Eliyahu did not intend his readers to identify him with the prophet Elijah, with his words, or with the Talmudic reception of the biblical character’s afterlife. The text manages to keep the biblical character Elijah and the rabbinic traditions around him separate from his authorial image within the text.” 32 On the zealous actions and the equation with Pinhas in non-biblical traditions, see Robert Hayward, Robert, “Phinehas – the same is Elijah: the origins of a Rabbinic tradition,” JJS 29,1 (1978), 22–34; Adelman, Return of the Repressed, 194–204; Keim, Pirqei, 124f. 33 Cf. Maleachi 3,23–24. For the Elijah as proclaiming redemption, see Sirach 48:10 and Matt 11:14; 17:10–12; John 1:21, 1:25; Tg. Ps-Jon on Num 25:12. Cf. Midrash Proverbs 19:21: “Rav Hunah said: The Messiah is called by seven names: ... and Elijah.” Other traditions stressed his role in the eschatological battle, sometimes accompanies by Enoch – another revenant. Cf. Chaim J. Milikowsky, “Trajectories of Return, Restoration and Redemption in Rabbinic Judaism: Elijah, the Messiah, the War of Gog and the World to Come,” in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish and Christian Perspectives (ed. James M. Scott; Leiden: Brill, 2001), 265– 280; and the Syriac, Greek and Coptic examples discussed in Gerard Rouwhorst, “The Biblical Stories about the Prophet Elijah in Early SyriacSpeaking Christianity,” in Religious Stories in Transformation: Conflict, Revision and Reception (ed. A. Houtman et al.; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2016), 165– 188; here: 174f and 181–184. For apocalyptic and ascetic aspects of Elijah in early Egyptian Christianity, see David Frankfurter, Elijah in Upper Egypt;

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Third, as an elaboration of his eschatological role and his liminal character as an eschatological revenant, rabbinic traditions portray Elijah as revealing himself (gilui Eliyahu) to rabbinic scholars and different others. In these encounters, the prophet solves exegetical problems, offers religious clarifications, but also reconciles between rivaling sages or heals the sick. Constructing a neat authorial affiliation, Seder Eliyahu weaves a closed-mesh net of allusions to all three aforementioned aspects or roles of Elijah throughout different passages that mutually enhance each other. SEZ 8 contrasts the dialogical reading of the Biblical account in 1 Kings 16–19 with the revelation of God’s “thirteen attributes of mercy” (Ex 33,19 and 34,6–7) to Moses – the prime example of solidarity with and intercession for a sinful people. However, the text’s retelling of Elijah’s epiphany at Mount Horeb depicts God as a patient dialogue partner, full of indulgence and kindness, who tries to convince his prophet in a very didactic way to pattern himself on God’s own model of mercy. This particular focus ties in well with SEZ’s agenda of instruction through dialogue and points to a change in attitude and of character between the biblical Elijah, his re-figuration in SEZ 8, and the alleged author-persona in the text – namely, Eliyahu.34 The protagonist as a wandering prophet, preacher and teacher, however, acts quite differently from the Biblical prophet. In fact, he focuses on indulgence, instruction and out-reach to broader circles, while promoting the ideas of mercy and solidarity, highly valued throughout Seder Eliyahu. Reading those first-person accounts together with the re-telling of the Horeb epiphany, suggests, in fact, that the revenant preacher-teacher Eliyahu in this text has undergone

the apocalypse of Elijah and early Egyptian Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993). 34 The early seeds of such a change from zealot to reconciler have been addressed by Bart J. Koet, “Elijah as Reconciler of Father and Son. From 1 Kings 16:34 and Malachi 3:22–24 to Ben Sira 48:1–11 and Luke 1:13–17,” in Rewriting Biblical History. Essays on Chronicles and Ben Sira in Honor of Pancratius C. Beentjes (ed. J. Corley and H. van Grol; Boston/Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011), 173–190.

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a change towards humility and forbearance, which the biblical prophet was still not receptive to accomplish.35 The reconciling momentum as well as the form of the dialogues in SE resemble, as mentioned, the popular, late antique sub-genre of “revelations/visitations of Elijah” (‫)גילוי אליהו‬.36 Frequently framed in broader Talmudic or Midrashic contexts, these narratives portray the prophet appearing to rabbis and other Jews in order to spur them on to study, to clarify halakhic conundrums, to give moral advice or to reveal (esoteric or eschatological) knowledge, and in few instances to perform healing or miracles.37 Thus, one may discern a certain similarity between the didactic impetus and the positive attitude of the narrator-character in Seder Eliyahu and the prophet Elijah in the giluitype stories. The first-person narrator in SE resembles the basic characteristics of the prophet in rabbinic traditions as described by Kristen H. Lindbeck: “Elijah thus appears as a teacher, an immortal Sage who is friend to the sages. […] Elijah’s words and actions are always positive.” […] “[…] Elijah is an ideal teacher for the Rabbis. […] he often

A very similar divine pedagogy is observed by Francesca P. Barone, “The Image of Prophet Elijah in Ps. Chrysostom, The Greek Homilies,” ARAM 20 (2008), 111–124, here 124: “Substantially, in fact, they (the homilies) treat a common subject: the love of God for men in comparison with zeal of the prophet Elijah, who is subjected to a process of learning philanthropy and mercy.” 36 Strikingly, the appearances of that specific story-type are mostly limited to the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmudim and in the midrash Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana (PRK). On this type, see Jacob Cohn, “Mystic experience and Elijahrevelations in talmudic times,” in Meyer Waxman Jubilee Volume (ed. Judah Rosenthal et al.; Jerusalem, 1966), 34–44. 37 In y. Terumot 40d/ y. Kilayim 32b, Elijah heals R. Yehudah ha-Nasi, after many years of painful toothache, disguised as R. Hiya, Rabbi’s competitor. Thus, the healing ends not only the torture of the R. Yehuda but also aims at reconciling between two rivaling sages. 35

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acts as an ideal teacher, displaying patience and dispensing encouragement […].“38

Strikingly, also the message of several Talmudic Elijah-anecdotes and the structure of the first-person narratives (challenge followed by patient instruction) as well as the overarching discourse in Seder Eliyahu appear quite similar: “Thus Elijah as teacher and adviser of the Rabbis reveals God to be an ideally accepting master and teacher, one who encourages rather than takes offense at students who challenge his authority—at least in certain matters.”39 In line with the dialogues in SEZ 1 and 14, various works (e.g. b. Ned 50a; b.Ta’an 22a) and most prominently the opening chapter of PRE 1 about Eliezer ben Hyrkanos’ scholarly initiation, depict Elijah as a motivator who encourages men to pursue their studies and follow the way of Torah and good deeds. In great similarity to the narrator in various first-person narratives (SER 15/16; SEZ 1,2,14) and in accordance with other central teachings (SEZ1/SEZ 5 on the communal solidarity, SEZ 13 on the “natural morality” of the am ha-aretz and the merits of the unlearned who participate only a bit in Torah/study), Elijah acts in several Talmudic passages (e.g. in b, BB 7a; b. Ket 61a and 105b; b. Mak 11a) as a moral teacher promoting mutual respect and solidarity between the sages and the unlearned.40 This ethical and pedagogical role of Elijah in rabbinic traditions facilitates the strong association of the prophet and the author-character of SE’s mainly ethical discourse with a clear penchant on righteousness and charity.41 Still, also his eschatological function seems to have been influential for this texts42 as it was in Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 43: Kristen H. Lindbeck, Elijah and the Rabbis. Story and Theology (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), XIX and 67–69. 39 Ibid., 70. 40 See ibid., 62–72, 96–105, 116–135. 41 For the strong link between Elijah and charity/righteousness, see Lindbeck, Elijah, 150–152. 42 PRE 33 weaves the biblical stories about Elijah (and the widow of Zarephat) and his successor Elisha (and the Shunnamite woman) bringing a dead child 38

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LENNART LEHMHAUS Rabbi Yehuda said: If Israel does not make teshuva (i.e. repent), they will not be redeemed. But Israel repents only due to (conditions of) distress, oppression, wandering, and out of lack of sustenance.43 And Israel will not commit to full repentance (lit. ‘Great Repentance’) until Elijah comes, {may he be remember for good}, as it says, “Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of the Lord. He shall reconcile [lit. turn the heart of] parents with children and children with their parents…” (Mal 3:23–24). Blessed are You, O Lord, Who desires repentance (5th blessing of the Amidah).44

While PRE features in chapter 43 a condensed discussion on repentance, the takes uses the ideal in various other places to foster its ethical discourse.45 Also in Seder Eliyahu, return/repentance (teshuva) – combined with ethics – forms a main pillar of its textual fabric. Examples of collective and individual sinfulness and accepted repentance underscore divine openness to and delight in teshuva, which is promoted as an always available option also in the first-person narratives (e.g. in SEZ 1/8/9/14). PRE 43 directly refers to the full and final repentance triggered by Elijah at the end of days. Whereas, Seder Eliyahu (especially SEZ), generally preferring ethics over eschatology, stresses the reconciling function of Elijah which is enacted by the first-

back to life together with their eschatological role and their actions as a “proof” of a future resurrection of the death. Cf. the analysis in Keim, Pirqei, 114f. 43 Cf. SEZ 5: This teaches […] that there is no better condition (mida tova) for Israel than poverty. […] No one acts merciful but because of poverty; no one practices charity/righteousness but only because of poverty, no one engages in acts of loving kindness (‫)גמילות חסדים‬, an no one fears Heaven but only because of poverty. 44 Translation based on Friedlander, Pirkê de Rabbi Eliezer, with my own slight amendments. 45 Keim, Pirqei, 131–133 mentions PRE 3, 10 15, 19,20 and 38 as key passages for this discourse on ethics, collective and individual repentance, mostly based on biblical examples (Adam, Cain, Joshua, King David) with the exception of Resh Laqish as a rabbinic case study.

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person author-character who instructs his interlocutors with teachings about divine forgiveness. Accordingly, it comes not with great surprise that the authors also sought to link the concluding chapter SEZ 15 with the figure of Elijah. Right before the final eschatological anecdote about Israel’s future greatness, another account focuses on a debate in the study house about the prophet Elijah’s lineage, which is of major importance for the eschatological scenario. Only the prophet himself can resolve this impassé by granting the discussants a “revelation of Elijah”.46 In line with the prophet’s reconciling function, two manuscripts of SEZ even end the whole text with the condensed teshuva-discussion in chapter SEZ 9 and place the prophetic verse about Elijah`s task prominently as the concluding statement: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Mal 3,23–24).”

PROPHETIC POETICS: REFERENCES AND ATTRIBUTIONS IN SEDER ELIYAHU The authors fostered also the ambiguity of authorship and affiliation of the Seder Eliyahu-traditions through specific strategies of reference and disguise that play with rabbinic conventions to the same degree as with allusion to the figure of Elijah. SEZ exhibits an almost total absence of attribution to named sages, while such attributions are typical for Talmudic literature and rabbinic Midrashim, even for most of the post-Talmudic works.47 While SER still features 25 named attributions, albeit in 30/31 long chapters, one can find only two such references throughout the 15 chapters of SEZ. One teaching in SEZ 4, attributed to R. Yishmael ben Eleazar, has a clear parallel in the Bavli (b. Shab 88a) and some later Resolving genealogical questions is one of the eschatological functions of Elijah according to m. Eduyot 8:6. The prophet’s answer is far from clear, since different manuscripts provide different names (i.e. Rachel vs. Leah). SER 18 (p. 97), however, also points to Rachel. On Elijah’s genealogy, its eschatological implications and the relation to Pinhas, see Adelman, Return of the Repressed, 193–206. 47 See the discussion and literature on rabbinic attributions above. 46

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midrashim (PRK, PesR, Midrash Mishle). SEZ 15 introduces a certain R. Yosse, a name that cannot be associated with any rabbinic sage in particular, as the transmitter of the concluding eschatological anecdote (ma’asseh) regarding Israel’s future return to greatness. Beside these named saying, the first chapter mentions several, famous Tannaitic rabbis (R. Dossa ben Hyrkanos, R. Yehoshua ben Hananya, R. Elazar ben Azarya; R. Aqiba) in a narrative passage with a close parallel in b. Yevamot 16a. Tellingly, this passage addresses the problem of reliability and authority of attributed and anonymous sayings. His three visitors question R. Dossa regarding a teaching that deviates from halakhic common sense but is, at least by some, apparently ascribed to him. Tellingly, the scholarly conversation concludes with a discussion about rules for accepting proselytes and R. Dossa explicitly mentions the advent of Elijah as a turning point towards greater inclusiveness – a central topic throughout SEZ’s discourse.48 To complicate the picture further, the passage featuring the Tannaitic sages as well as the eschatological anecdote ascribed to R. Yosse are both to be found in the first and last chapters (SEZ 1 and 15) of the text. Precisely these two chapters are linked via many doublets of whole passages that introduce key elements (ideas, concepts) and trigger words of the discourse to follow in chapters 2 to14. As such, they function as a framing device encircling the text with an introduction and conclusion that serve as a condensed summary or florilegium of its central theological or ethical ideas and the text’s specific terminology. In contrast to opinions in earlier scholarship, SE is not an anthological mosaic, a simple cut-and-paste of former traditions. In fact, we can describe it as a complex bricolage or an act of sampling in which quotation-markers serve rather as literary devices than providing a “bibliographic” reference. Moreover, this Talmudic passages functions within SEZ 1 as an introduction of several key terms and central topics of the whole work. When the scholars enter R. Dossa’s house, he reads two verses (Psalm 37:25; Psalm 34:11) regarding R. Elazar and R. Aqiba that refer to SEZ’s concept of the righteous (tzadiq) and the ideal of “seeking God” (dorshe ha-shem). Furthermore, during his answer to the sages, R. Dossa uses the oath formula “I call Heaven and Earth to witness” (‫)מעיד אני עלי שמים וארץ‬, which, as has been shown earlier in this essay, constitutes one of the central discursive elements for creating the authorial persona within the text. 48

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Instead of named attributions to rabbinic sages, in SEZ and to a lesser extent in SER, the general and anonymous reference to rabbinic teachings prevail. The two introduction-formulas – ‫( שנו חכמים‬the sages taught) and ‫( מיכן\מכאן אמרו‬From here/ hence it is said) – dominating SEZ usually refer in rabbinic works to early tannaitic traditions (Mishnah/ Tosefta/ Baraitot). Since there is no room for an exhaustive discussion of the deployment of these two quotation markers, some general observations regarding greater flexibility should suffice for the time being. A survey of all instances SEZ and SER clearly shows that both texts tend to reference with those formulas mostly Amoraic teachings or post-Talmudic and contemporary traditions, such as the Derekh Eretz Zuta (DEZ) and Rabba (DER), the later chapters of Pirqe Avot, and Avot de-Rabbi Nathan (ARN). Often we find even a self-referential usage of those quotation markers that instead of functioning merely as an editorial device, serves the mediation and legitimation of its own discourse. As such, they introduce teachings that originated as unique features in SER or SEZ.49 Moreover, the preference for anonymous, general attribution to a collective of sages further benefits from the high value and ultimate authority of the majority view/ consensus in rabbinic tradition (b.Yeb 42b; b.Ber 9a and b.Shab 46a). The named attribution of central ethical teachings to a certain “Abba Eliyahu” or to a “school/ house of Eliyahu” (‫)משום דבי אליהו‬50 functions as a camouflage for a complex mixture of rather late sources – from the Talmud, the ethical traditions (DE/PSEZ) and its sibling text SER. Moreover, the reference to a “schoolhouse of Eliyahu” does not only imitate similar references to a learned circle in rabbinic texts – like Such a move is also discernable in PRE (18/25), where original teachings about certain customs (e.g. qiddush/ circumcision) are introduced by the formula “ki-kan amru”. 50 This reference occurs three times in SEZ 1, while SEZ 15 (197) refers to a certain “Abba Eliyahu”. The straightforward identification of the narrator/ speaker in these dialogues as the prophet Elijah himself appears in the Sephardic group of manuscripts, i.e. MS Parmense 2785 (de Rossi 327) and MS Oxford, Bodleian Library, Mich 410 (Neubauer 937). 49

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Tanna debe R. Yishmael or Tanna debe Shmuel. In fact, it also indicates a link to the prophet Elijah himself, especially in the augmented form: “They said in the name of the school/house of Elijah the prophet (‫ ”)משום דבי אליהו הנביא‬or “in the name of Eliyahu ha-navi they said (‫”)אמרו משום אליהו הנביא‬. This formula is unique to SEZ 1, the framing chapter, where it introduces key concepts of the text’s ethical agenda: fear of God, humbleness and humility, respect towards all humans, love of Torah (study), charity and righteousness. Other manuscripts deploy the phrase: “Eliyahu, may he be remembered for good, said (‫”) אמ' אליהו זכור לטוב‬.51 This formula, sometimes with an added “the prophet”, is a standard reference to the prophet Elijah in daily prayers or blessings (birkat ha-mazon), while also appearing as a designator in gilui-Eliyahu narratives.52 In a similar way, the reference in SEZ 15 to “Abba Eliyahu remembered for good and of blessed memory ( ‫אמר אבא אליהו זכור‬ ‫( ”)לטוב וזכור לברכה‬in MS Vatican ebr. 31)53 can be understood simultaneously as referring to a certain sage of old or pointing to Elijah the prophet. The second identification is facilitated by several other rabbinic traditions, such as bSanh113a-b; PesR 32; KallaR 4,31 that know this specific designation for the biblical prophet in various contexts.54 MS Parma 2785/ de Rossi 327, SEZ 1 (third teaching): “They said in the name of Eliyahu the prophet (‫)אמרו משום אליהו הנביא‬.” In contrast, the MS Oxford of the same passage prefers the anonymous attribution: “They said/one said (‫)אמרו‬.” MS Parma 2785/ de Rossi 327, SEZ 12 (155b, third line) reads: “Eliyahu, may he be remembered for good, said (‫;)אמ' אליהו זכור לטוב‬ also MS Oxford Mich 410?910/ Neubauer 937 13 (89a, middle section) has: “Eliyahu, may he be remembered for good, said (‫)אמר אליהו ז''ל‬.” 52 For a medieval “revelation of Elijah” story using this designation, see Ephraim Karnafogel, “Peering Through the Lattices”: Mystical, Magical, and Pietistic Dimensions in the Tosafist Period (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000), esp. 164f. 53 Cf. MS Oxf. and MS Parma: “Eliyahu, may he be remembered for good/ of blessed memory, said (‫”)אמר אליהו ז''ל‬. 54 Only KallaR 4,31 uses this name to attribute a teaching, while the two other texts refer to the prophet by that name within anecdotes or ma’assim. One can also note the reference to “Abba Eliyahu” in the title of the teaching of a 51

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The link to Eliyahu, or to the prophet Elijah is corroborated by the slightly differing titles of this text during its transmission history. The longer SER-part is called in the only extant manuscript (MS. Vatican) either “Eliyahu Rabba” or “Midrash Eliyahu Rabba”, while the SEZ-part is referred to as “Seder Eliyahu Zuta” in MSS Vatican and Parma. Two other para-textual elements to be found in the Talmud and linked to each other further support such prophetic poetics. One element is certainly the titles: first, Seder Eliyahu, is referred to in the print version and in most other sources by the designator Tanna debe Eliyahu. This designation can be found also as a reference to a “school/house of Eliyahu” in some Talmudic passages and several later midrashic works that introduced teachings with “tanna debe Eliyahu/ it was taught in the school/house of Elijah” (TDE).55 Seder Eliyahu is mentioned as a title of a work also in a narrative in Bavli b. Ketuboth 105b–106a about Elijah’s visitations to Rav Anan. This legend purports that the prophet taught the text to the Talmudic sage who in the tradition of visionary scribes (Ezekiel, Ezra, Baruch) wrote it down as a Seder Eliyahu Raba and Seder Eliyahu Zuta. Accordingly, the two-partite structure was due to a moral slip of R. Aanan who took a present in his capacity a judge, after which the prophet ceased to visit and teach him. Only after he had fasted and repented, he was able to finish the Zuta-part.

priest among the Beta Israel in Ethopia. Cf. Lisbeth S. Fried, Ezra and the Law in History and Tradition (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2014). 55 This formula occurs in b. Pes.94b and 112a; b. Meg.28b; b. Qidd.80b; b. Sanh.92a and 97a; b. AZ 5b and 9a; b. Tam.32b; b. Nid. 73a. The same attribution is found also in some later traditions, such as Midrash Qohelet Zuta, Midrash Psalms, and Pitron Torah. Bereshit Rabba 54,4 uses the phrase Teni Eliyahu for a teaching not to be found in any version of SE known to us today, while the reference to Eliyahu in Bamidbar Rabba 4,20 has a parallel in SER (13) 14, p. 65f.

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While it seems rather unlikely that the Talmud provides a reliable report of the emergence of our text56, the legend could have formed a source of origin in another way. A passage in SEZ 2 elaborates on the same base verse from 2 Kings 4:42 used in bKet 106a by the litigant as a legitimation of his gift: A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said (2 Kings 4:42) But was Elisha a priest, since there was no sanctuary, no altar and no High Priest? [No]. [However,] Elisha was a prophet. And the disciples of the wise sat before him in Dotan and in Samaria. Hence they said (mi-kann amru): Everyone who will affiliate oneself to the sages or to their disciples – Scripture gives him credit as if he had offered a sacrifice of first fruit and thereby fulfilled the will of his Father in Heaven.

In SEZ 2 the discourse changes from an offering to a rabbi (R. Anan) in lieu of a priest, which may serve simultaneously as a bribe, to an emphasis on true, mutual solidarity with the sages who in in turn welcome everyone to (basic) learning or participation in the rabbinic way of life through material support. This allusion to the b. Ketubot passage about R. Anan and Elijah must be more than coincidence. I submit that both the TDE-teachings in the Bavli as well as the anecdote about the Seder Eliyahu Rabba and Zuta served the authors as a hook in rabbinic tradition to which the text could be attached and from which it gained basic authority. While the Talmudic narrative serves as a backstory for the prophetic origin of Seder Eliyahu, it is the later work that breathes life into this brief Talmudic account through its Cf. Friedman, Seder Eliahu, Hebrew Introduction, who presents a list of all gilui-Eliyahu stories, and Braude/Kapstein, Tanna debe Eliyyahu, 10, who accept this story as a trustworthy (historical) account of the text’s origin. On the motif or generic group of Elijah ceasing or refusing to visit someone, see Lindbeck, Elijah and the Rabbis, 96–104, who discussed the R. Anan episode. 56

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very discourse – such a strategy of playing with a prae-text can be observed also in PRE.57 Such a neat referential net must have had some impact on an audience familiar with this Talmudic account and the Jewish Elijah-traditions, as we will explore in the following section.

CONTEXTS FOR THE EMERGENCE OF ELIYAHU AS AN AUTHORIAL FIGURE In this section, I will explore some of the broader ramifications of the authorial presence of Eliyahu/Elijah in Seder Eliyahu in its wider context(s). First, one may take into account the, already partly discussed, expanding intertextual universe of (Late) Antiquity for traditions about Elijah, be it in his eschatological function or in a variety of roles as the protagonist of the rabbinic genre of “revelations of Elijah the prophet”.58 It is also striking that Eliyahu plays an important role in both opening narratives about the birth or emergence of the authorcharacter in ABS/TBS and PRE. As we will see in the following, Elijah reveals himself to the parents of the prophet Jeremiah, the grandfather and father of the protagonist Ben Sira, in order to provide the answer to the riddles used by the witty boy to evade his birth. On should assume here a certain familiarity of authors and audience with the prophet’s role of solving difficult questions in the gilui-type stories and his link to circumcision rituals in broader circles that would have 57 Cf. Keim, Pirqei, 148: “The niche which PRE exploited in the existing rab-

binic narrative was the fact that in the famous story of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus’s discourse in the school of Yoḥanan ben Zakkai, the content of the discourse is never given. PRE’s strategy only makes sense if the story was already well known, and this seems to have been the case. Three versions of it are extant in rabbinic literature: the first in BerR 41(42).1, and the other two in ARN (A6 and B13).” 58 On the expansion in Second Temple and rabbinic traditions, see Daphna Arbel, “Elijah Lore and the Enoch Metatron Narrative in 3 Enoch,” ARAM 20 (2008), 59–76; Brenda J. Shaver, The Prophet Elijah in the Literature of the Second Temple Period: The Growth of a Tradition (Doctoral Dissertation, Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago, 2001); Lindbeck, Elijah and the Rabbis.

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made the comic dimension of this particular prophetic visitation work. In PRE 1, we find the following passage after a disheartening conversation between R. Eliezer and his father about the former’s wish to study Torah: He fasted two weeks not tasting anything, until Elijah [the prophet], may he be remembered for good, appeared to him and spoke to him: “Son of Hyrkanos! Why do you weep?” He (Eliezer) replied to him: “Because I desire to learn Torah.” [Elijah] said to him: “If you desire to learn Torah get yourself up to Jerusalem to Rabban Jochanan ben Zakkai!”

Tellingly, besides giving R. Eliezer a little push and bearing his decision to study Torah, Elijah’s revelation brings about no deeper knowledge, as it is common in other “gilui Eliyahu” narratives.59 Second, this expansion of biography and functions of the biblical prophet in different traditions, made him more accessible for rabbinic and unlearned Jews, either. This bridging function is already obvious in the Talmudic Elijah-narratives that often depict interaction with common people, Jews and rabbis in need, or promote solidarity between the learned and unlearned. The prophet Elijah, already augmented with his Talmudic image, increasingly “colonized” new texts and contexts – namely ritual, prayer or liturgy, and related midrashic discourse. In various Jewish communities in early medieval time, Elijah the prophet was given a seat of honor in the ceremony of circumcision (brit milah) and he was invoked as a guardian against demonic forces that may harm the infant. It fits the picture of SE’s discourse, to assume that Elijah “entered the rituals through the practice of common Jews and his presence was then explained and justified in various ways by the learned elite”.60 PRE 29 would represent such an etiological narrative grounding. This text turns Elijah’s zealousness against his own people, which is judged negatively throughout rabbinic sources as a shortcoming to the prophetic ideal of intercession, into something 59 However, encouragement of rabbis and common people to study, to prac-

tice mitzvoth or to behave ethically is one of the core-tasks of the Talmudic Elijah. Cf. Lindbeck, Elijah and the Rabbis, 58f, 67. 60 Ibid., 159.

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positive and lasting. The authors understood his eschatological role as the “guardian of the covenant” (mal’akh ha-brit) literally as a “guardian of circumcision” (brith milah). As a penance for his zeal, God appoints Elijah eternally as a witness of the ritual that safeguards the continuance of Jewish life and Israel’s commitment to the covenant. 61 Among the daily blessings that are of crucial importance for SE’s “minimal Judaism,” the birkat ha-mazon (one of the basic prayers promoted in SEZ 2) makes explicit mention of the hope for messianic redemption and Elijah’s role therein: “May the Merciful One send us Elijah the prophet, may he be remembered for good, and let him bring us good tidings, deliverance, and consolation.” Moreover, various piyyutim and the zemirot for the end of Shabbat in the liturgy of the synagogue invoke the messianic role of the prophet Elijah, as do the allusions to him during the domestic Havdalah ritual.62 Third, this attribution to Elijah might have had further socio-religious and discursive functions in the “shared discourse” between different Jewish communities and non-Jews. In so-called proto-Karaite circles Elijah the prophet played a major role in their messianic expectations, which included a king messiah and a priestly or prophetic messiah. Elijah was also considered to be the “teacher of righteousness” (moreh tzedek), who will lead the people from the wilderness of nations to repentance and final redemption. This concept, which is partly mirrored in rabbinic tradition, could have served as a discursive connector between rabbinic and (proto-/ pre-)Karaite recipients of Seder Eliyahu’s teachings concerning repentance and moral behavior. 63 61 Cf.

Adelman, Return of the Repressed, 185–208. The link created between Elijah and the circumcision in PRE 29 was later included into the Siddur for the Brit Mila ceremony. In addition, several centuries later (but cf. ExR 18,12), Elijah was connected to the domestic rituals on the eve of Pessach when an extra cup for the prophet was poured and the door opened to welcome the harbinger of messianic salvation. Cf. Lindbeck, Elijah and the Rabbis, 159–162. 62 Cf. Lindbeck, Elijah, 152–154; Adelman, Return of the Repressed, 185f. 63 Cf. Yoram Erder, “The Mourners of Zion: The Karaites in Jerusalem in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries,” in Karaite Judaism: A Guide to Its History

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Moreover, one should examine further Elijah the prophet in his role as a key figure in the religious mindset of many Greek, Byzantine, Syriac-Christian or early Muslim traditions. In those texts, the biblical prophet was portrayed as the epitome of a religious zealot and an archetype of a martyr, while others revered his esoteric and eschatological roles as a heavenly or messianic messenger, or they adopted him as the ideal of a monk or ascetic. In a more accessible context, namely the healing sanctuaries and incubation sites of Late Antiquity, one finds These many different areas of Elijah’s deployment clearly show that he was a known typological figure available for cultural negotiations and borrowing.64

TOIL, TORAH AND TITLE ROLE – AUTHORIAL PRESENCE IN P IRKE DE-RABBI ELIEZER The construction of an author-character works differently in Pirke Rabbi Eliezer, a midrash almost contemporary with the Seder Eliyahu and Literary Sources, ed. MeiraPolliack (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 213–235, esp. 219f. und in weiteren liturgischen Kontexten (Benediktionen nach der Haftara-Lesung und dem Tischgebet/ Havdala-Zeremonie) eine wichtige Rolle inne, die ihn als eine im Alltag zugängliche und greifbare religiöse Figur für viele Juden erscheinen ließen. Diese Hintergründe werden umfassend beschrieben bei Adelman, Return, 185–206 und Oberhänsli-Widmer, “Elija als Pate des Bundes, oder die Dynamik rabbinischer Rezeption,” in: Kontexte der Schrift (ed. Gabriella Gelardini; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2005), 126–137. 64 Those different approaches, were aptly discussed in a special volume of the journal ARAM 20 (2008) focusing on the reception of Elijah-traditions from antiquity to contemporary cults of saint in Morocco. On the lively Elijah traditions in late antique Christian communities, see Rivka Nir, “John the Baptist in the Image of Elijah – Aspects of a Christian Tradition,” Cathedra 139 (2011), 55–78; Stephen A. Kaufman, Jacob of Sarug’s Homilies on Elijah (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2009); Barone, “The Image of Prophet Elijah in Ps. Chrysostom”. Rouwhorst, “Stories of Elijah,” shows that for Syriac authors, Elijah also served as a model for an ascetic, monastic, and pious way of life. Dynamic interactions on the level of culture, architecture and iconography between Jewish synagogues and Christian churches are described by Lucy Wadeson, “Chariots of fire: Elijah and the zodiac in synagogue floor mosaics of Late Antique Palestine,” ARAM 20 (2008), 1–41.

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traditions. A major signpost to an implied or imagined authorial figure is already provided in the title of this work (Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer), most probably based on the first attributed teaching in PRE, chapter 3. Besides the titles, the introductory chapters also help to establish the central role of R. Eliezer for the whole work.65 According to Dina Stein, Katharina Keim and others, Eliezer ben Hyrcanos’ Bildungsroman, “Coming of Wisdom” or rise to fame story in PRE serves as an introduction to a text, in which the authority, or rather reputation of this particular sage throughout post-Tannaitic, rabbinic tradition is deployed for inserting its own discourse. Dina Stein has ably shown how the first three chapters of PRE function on two intertwined levels. First, these chapters (re-)tell the intellectual biography of its purported author character: R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanos. The narrative recounts how Eliezer suffered hardships before becoming a student of Torah in Jerusalem. Finally, this career is crowned with success when R. Eliezer is vaunted an unsurpassed sage of his generation. His greatness is recognized even by his own father who initially came to Jerualem to disinherit his son due to his choice of Torah(study) over the family’s agricultural business. But the father quickly changes his mind when he witnesses his sons’s supremacy regarding Torah and his students and admirers. Second, those chapters familiarize the reader with PRE’s specific language or style, and particularly with its hermeneutics and epistemology, briefly summarized as follows: since the world was created by and is maintained through Torah, all knowledge about the world can be derived from or should be related to Torah.66 In contrast to the first-person episodes in SE or the fanciful pedigree of the protagonist in ABS/TBS, the authorial character in Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer (PRE) operates rather in the background – except for the first two chapters about R. Eliezer’s heritage, his initiation into and his triumph within the world of rabbinic learning. While R. Eliezer is not explicitly mentioned as the author of the following texts, Treitl, Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, 22–26, states that the first two chapters, which have a parallel in ARNb 13, might have been a later addition. Still, in almost all manuscripts, even in rather early witnesses, those introductory parts are organically blended (through phraseology and terminology) with the discourse to follow. 66 Cf. Stein, Maxims, Magic, Myth, 115–168. 65

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the third-person narrative enriches this scholar’s biography and the whole text by zooming in on its authorial figure. For, after this opening biography, the bridging introduction of PRE 3 – “R. Eliezer opened his discourse (‫ – ”)פתח‬might imply that the text as a whole should be conceived as Eliezer ben Hyrcanus’ learned discourse in the study house of his teacher, R. Yohanan ben Zakkai. Katharina Keim pointed out that R. Eliezer also functions as the central anchor for the work’s inner-rabbinic referentiality. Throughout the work, “he is the most quoted authority, and these references might be taken as reminders that he is saying the text,” since those attributions accompany often teaching at “strategic points such as at the beginning of discourses.”67 Still, his voice mixes with other quoted rabbis and somehow fades slowly away the further the text progresses from the introductory chapters. Strikingly, both PRE and Seder Eliyahu display a focus on Tannaitic sages while building their web of references within their discourse. Finally, R. Eliezer’s name appears in most titles of the work in the course of its transmission. Consequently, his intimate connection with the text as an outstanding authority is approved by Geonic period scholars like Pirqoi ben Baoi or Rav Natronai Gaon who mention this work. The correspondence between the framing through the title, the biographical narrative about Eliezer’s rise to scholarly greatness, and a host of central teachings attributed to R. Eliezer forms a loose net of authorial presence. But why R. Eliezer? Several answers to this question are possible. Rachel Adelman and Katharina Keim suggest that the authors relied on R. Eliezer, depicted throughout rabbinic texts as a guardian of tradition, but also brings innovation, because he seems to embody their agenda of deploying various traditions to introduce new concepts, customs, halakhah and even scientific knowledge. The author(s)’ choice of R. Eliezer’s story as the main intertextual link provided a suitable ‘niche’ for anchoring PRE deeply within rabbinic traditions. However, Keim labels the reference to R. Eliezer as an outsider and ‘lone voice’ as a possible ‘serendipity’.68 Combining both discussions, I would speculate that the choice of R. Eliezer – the greatest scholar of his generation but also a liminal 67 Keim, Pirqei, 48. 68 Adelman, Return

of the Repressed, 25–33; Keim, Pirqei, 145–164, esp. 149.

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figure and free-thinker – is deliberate and might reflect the self-understanding of the author(s) and of the discursive endeavor of PRE as a text that is filled with tradition like a “plastered cistern” (Avot 2:8), while gushing forth with new ideas like a “well-spring” (PRE 2).

WITTY WISDOM OR TRULY WISE – THE AUTHOR AS CHARACTER IN THE A LPABETA DE-BEN SIRA/ TOLDOT BEN SIRA In contrast to PRE, the medieval stories of Ben Sira (ABS/TBS) feature a strong fictional author-character who remains in the spotlight throughout the whole text.69 The plot introduces a witty toddler as its protagonist who has to find his way to real wisdom through many trials and tribulations. The initial “birth of a hero”-story recounts Ben Sira’s miraculous pedigree, to be discussed below, and stresses his prodigious character. After only seven months of pregnancy, the boy emerges fully equipped with speech, teeth and knowledge,70 providing biblical proof texts to legitimate his incestuous heritage: “Ben Sira said: ‘My mother, There is nothing new under the sun (Qohelet 1:9). For the daughters of Lot also became pregnant through their father according to a divine plan and because of

69 From the evidence of the manuscripts, one cannot deduce with certainty if

this work is the fruit of one author or if there has been a group of people within Geonic Judaism who produced these traditions. Cf. Yassif, The tales, 188–90. 70 This setting might seem against the foil of other narratives about fully developed infants. For instance, Greek traditions relate that Kleo had been pregnant for five years, before coming to the healing sanctuary of Asklepios. After her therapy there, she gave birth to a son who could immediately wash himself and walked away with his mother. The extraordinary birth is a common trope in biblical (e.g. Moses) and other ancient myths. On the “typical legend,” see the classical study by Otto Rank, The Myth of the Birth of the Hero – A Psychological Exploration of Myth. Expanded and Updated Edition (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004). However, Tobias S. Lachs, ”The Alphabet of Ben Sira. A Study in Folk-literature,” Graetz Annual of Jewish Studies 2 (1973), 9–-28, assumed a polemic intention of the ABS’s authors who aimed at the infancy stories about Jesus in Christian traditions.

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The newborn also deploys Wisdom traditions (Qohelet) to shame his mother and to demand costly nutrition instead of her breastmilk. This prelude already marks him as a Wunderkind from the start and prefigures his future developments in what might be termed a medieval Bildungsroman. In his instructive dialogues with a teacher of young children – displaying a firework of proverbs and Wisdom teaching – due to his lack of practical experience, he still seems often more witty than wise. Only in his increasingly confrontational dialogue with the archenemy of the Jews, King Nebuchadnezzar, Ben Sira succeeds to turn his coming-of-age into a “coming of wisdom” as well. The broad erudition and reverence for Wisdom traditions of the text’s author(s) is embodied in the protagonist’s actions and teachings and in a plot combining discussions of true wisdom and its usefulness with a sequence of quests and changes. In addition to thorough knowledge of biblical and rabbinic teachings, Ben Sira is versatile in rabbinic hermeneutics, Talmudic dialectics and philosophical thinking.71 Moreover, the riddles and stories touch upon different fields of knowledge such as biology, geography, zoology, astrology, or healing. Finally, narratives and stylistic features, like the `stories within a story´-series (emboxed/ Russian-doll-stories) or animal tales inspired by popular

On the strategies of intertextual critique, see Dagmar Boerner-Klein, “Transforming Rabbinic Exegesis into Folktale,” Trumah 15 (2005), 139–148; eadem, “Narrative Kritik der rabbinischen Bibelauslegung im Alphabet des Ben Sira,” in Literatur im Dialog (ed. Susanne Plietzsch; Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 2007), 99–125; eadem, “Tell me who I am – Reading the Alphabet of Ben Sira,” in Literary Construction of Identity in Ancient World (ed. Hanna Liss, Manfred Oeming; Winona Lake, Indiana, 2010), 135–144; Lennart Lehmhaus, “’Es ist mancher scharfsinnig, aber ein Schalk und kann die Sache drehen, wie er es haben will´ (Sirach 19,22). Intertextuelle Kritik rabbinischer Quellenarbeit im Alphabet des Ben Sira,” in Literatur im Dialog (ed. Susanne Plietzsch; Zürich: Theologischer Verlag, 2007), 127–163. 71

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traditions like Kalilah wa-Dimna, reflect the acquaintance with the authors’ cultural surroundings. 72 In the Alphabeta de-Ben Sira, this colorful fictional author-character is equipped with a multi-layered authority of combined heritage and referentiality.73 In the birth story, often and maybe too narrowly understood as a carnivalesque and vulgar parody, the protagonist Ben Sira is introduced not only as a child-prodigy with Solomonic wisdom, but also as the son and the grandson of the biblical prophet Jeremiah, all at once:74 But the boy opened his mouth and said to his mother: “Why are you embarrassed by what people say? I am Ben Sira, the son of Sira.” “What kind of fellow is this Sira?” asked his mother. “Jeremiah,” replied the boy. “he is called Sira because he is the officer over all officers, and he is destined to give a cup to all officers and kings (cf. Jer. 25.17). If you compute them, the numerical values of the letters in Ben Sira and in Jeremiah, they are equal (i.e., 271).” A detailed analysis of ABS’s transfer and adaptation of literary motifs, plots, figures and structural similarities (Russian-doll-principle of Khalila wa-Dimna) from Indian, Persian and Arabic traditions can be found in Yassif, The Tales. Cf. also I. Lévi, „La Nativité de Ben Sira,” REJ 29 (1894), 197– 205. Indeed, it also constitutes an apt elaboration of the cultural and literary conventions in its surrounding Muslim-Arabic culture as attested by the frequent use of animal narratives in Al-Jahiz’Kitab al-Hayyawan and similar works. Cf. James E. Montgomery, Al-Jahiz: In praise of books (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), esp. 13–14. 73 This was observed in passing by Boerner-Klein, Das Alphabet des ben Sira, XVII-XXI. 74This constellation comes to happen through the impregnation of the prophet Jeremiah’s daughter in the bathhouse by/ through the semen of her father who was forced to masturbation by some men he rebuked for sodomy/ sporting with each other. A possible background for this sharp and ironic depiction might be found in the Bavli in b. Chagiga 15b, which presents an account about conception in the bathhouse via “artificial” or indirect insemination within a halakhic discussion on virginity and marriage. For the characterization of this narrative as vulgar, see Joseph Dan, „Ben Sira, Alphabet of,” in Encyclopedia Judaica. Vol. 3 (Jerusalem: Keter, 1974), 548–549; on parodic elements, see David Stern, “The `Alphabet of Ben Sira´ and the early history of parody in Jewish literature,” in The Idea of Biblical Interpretation (eds. H. Najman and J.H. Newman; Leiden: Brill, 2004), 423–448. 72

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LENNART LEHMHAUS […] Then his mother said: “Now, I do not wonder anymore about this very thing, but rather I wonder how you can say all these things?” Ben Sira responded: “My mother, don’t be astonished. For my father Jeremiah did the same. When his mother was about to give birth, the boy opened his mouth from within his mother’s womb and said: `I won’t come out until you tell me my name!” Thus, his father and mother said: “Come out and we will give you the name Abraham!” He replied: “This is not my name!” […] He continued to say “This is not my name” until they had listed all names of the previous generations, until Eliyahu (the prophet Elijah), of blessed memory, came to his help and said: “Your name shall be Jeremiah!” immediately he responded: “This shall be my name forever (Exodus 3:15).” As he came out speaking, so did I. As he came out of his mother’s womb with a name, so did I (cf. Jer 1.5). As he came out based on a prophecy, so did I (cf. Jer 1:4–5).

This narrative develops a double prophetic backstory for the newborn protagonist. Ben Sira shares not only the same numerical value in Gematria with Jeremiah, but also the two infants were born with fully fledged speech and intellect challenging their parents right away. Conspicuously, Jeremiah’s opposition to be born is overcome only by the prophet Elijah – in a comic take on the gilui Eliyahu-type of stories – who eventually discloses the right name of the baby boy to his parents.75 75 On the prophetic self-conception and later image of Yehoshua ben Sira, see

Benjamin G. Wright, “Conflicted Boundaries: Ben Sira, Sage and Seer,” in Congress Volume Helsinki 2010 (ed. Matti Nissinen; Leiden: Brill, 2012), 229– 53. Jeremiah is part of the prophetic cluster on the continuum between zealousness, repentance and mercy in SEZ 8–9. On Jeremiah as a figure with an open biography in very diverse ancient and later traditions, see Hindy Najman and Konrad Schmid (eds.), Jeremiah’s Scriptures. Production, Reception, Interaction, and Transformation (Leiden: Brill, 2016); Kipp Davis, The Cave 4 Apocryphon of Jeremiah and the Qumran Jeremianic Traditions (Brill: Leiden, 2014); Alex Jassen, “The Rabbinic Construction of Jeremiah’s Lineage,” in Texts and Contexts of Jeremiah: The Exegesis of Jeremiah 1 and 10 in Light of Text and Reception History (eds. K. Finsterbusch and A. Lange;

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The text adds a second layer through numerous references to and quotations (or paraphrases) from Wisdom literature in general, and the so-called apocryphal tradition of Sirach, which is the so-called Book of Ben Sira, in particular. Obviously, a direct connection between both traditions is established through the names of their respective authors or protagonists (Ben Sira).76 While rabbinic literature knows and approves the ancient Ben Sira traditions, scholars have noticed a tendency to reference these wisdom teachings rather in the style of quoting a rabbi (Bar Sira said) in Palestinian traditions and an increased scripturalization (so it has been written in the Book of Ben Sira) in the Bavli.77 In the medieval ABS/TBS this reference is simultaneously emphasized and blurred: neither to the Wisdom teacher and scribe of old nor to a “rabbinized” Sirach, but from the mouth of a witty child are the earlier Sirach quotations uttered. The close relation to Wisdom traditions is elaborated in the exchange of alphabetical proverbs between the toddler and the teacher, which functions not only to depict one stage in the intellectual development of the cunning protagonist. At this he acts as described in Sirach 19:11 like a fool, nasty and dismissive towards the teacher and not living up to the ideal of the wise man: tempered (Sirach 31:12–29), Leuven: Peeters, 2016), 3–20. Jason Kalman, “If Jeremiah Wrote it, it Must Be OK: On the Attribution of Lamentations to Jeremiah in Early Rabbinic Texts,” Acta Theologica 29:2 (2009), 31–53. 76 The two main variants bear two different titles with a strong reference though. The Ashkenazi version is titled Sefer Ben Sira (The Book of Ben Sira), while the Italian or Sephardic version is named Otiyot u-Meshalot shel Ben Sira (Letters and Parables/Proverbs of Ben Sira). Cf. Yassif, The Tales, 4. 77 Jenny R. Labendz, “The Book of Ben Sira in Rabbinic Literature,” AJS Review 30,2 (2006), 347–392, stresses the polemical aspects of the Palestinian rabbinization of Ben Sira, while Teresa Ann Ellis, “Negotiating the Boundaries of Tradition: The Rehabilitation of the book of Ben Sira (Sirach) in B. Sanhedrin 100B,” in Sacra Scriptura: How “Non-Canonical” Texts Functioned in Early Judaism and Early Christianity (eds. James H. Charlesworth et al.; London: T&T Clark, 2014), 46–63, argues for a rehabilitation of Sirach as a biblical book or of scriptural status in the Bavli.

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discreet (Sirach 19:7–12), generous and kind (Sirach 4:1–10; 29:8–13). Moreover, through this dialogue, the author(s) of ABS/TBS criticized in detail the extremely selective Talmudic adaptations of the ancient Sirach in b. Sanhedrin 100b and elsewhere. On the one hand, single verses (and teachings from Pirqe Avot and the Talmud), taken out of their contexts, are arbitrarily used for different rhetoric purposes.78 Such decontextualized, vulgar, and often misogynist quotations are contrasted, on the other hand, with teachings from Wisdom Literature and Pirqei Avot that are mainly concerned with fear of God and ethical behavior.79 Thus, the Toldot ben Sira demonstrate that many Wisdom teachings, if rightly interpreted and translated into good 78 Concerning rabbinic knowledge of Sirach and the rabbi`s accuracy in citing

it, cf. Benjamin G. Wright, “B. Sanhedrin 110b and rabbinic knowledge of Ben Sira,” in Treasures of Wisdom – studies in Ben Sira and the book of Wisdom (ed. N. Calduch-Benages and J. Vermeleyen; Leuven: University Press, 1999), 41–50; David S. Levene, “Theology and Non-Theology in the Rabbinic Ben Sira,” in Ben Sira's God (ed. Renate Egger-Wenzel; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2002) 305–320; Jonas C. Greenfield, “Ben Sira 42.9–10 and its Talmudic paraphrase,” in Tribute To Geza Vermes: Essays On Jewish And Christian Literature And History (ed. Philip R. Davies; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990), 167–173; and most recently Mroczek, The Literary Imagination, 110–112, here 111: “it appears that the variability of these citations and pseudocitations reflects a far more complex relationship between rabbinic communities and Ben Sira as a character and as a textual tradition. This relationship depends on the kind of access to and knowledge of the text at different times and places, the continuing development and rearrangement of the text in anthological compilations, and the “notoriety” of the figure of Ben Sira as a sage and teacher in rabbinic circles.” 79 On the misogynist dimension, see Tal Ilan, “`Wickedness comes from Women´ (Ben Sira 42:13). Ben Sira`s Misogyny and its reception by the Babylonian Talmud,” in Integrating Women into Second Temple History (ed. T. Ilan; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1999), 155–172; Claudia V. Camp, “Understanding a Patriarchy: Women in Second Century Jerusalem Through the Eyes of Ben Sira,” in “Women like this”: new perspectives on Jewish women in the Greco-Roman world (ed. A. Jill-Levine; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991), 1– 39; W.C. Trenchard, Ben Sira`s view of women: a literary analysis, Chico (Calif.) 1982.

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deeds, are invaluable and of crucial importance for Jewish learning and practice. By contrast, the text passes criticism on atomistic and contextless excerpts or wisdom teachings taken literally as practical advice, without any further reflection.80 Finally, the text ties in with numerous Talmudic discussions and presents Ben Sira on eye-level with (or even excelling) some of the great sages, as in the TBS-version of a petiḥah: Who does great things without limit and wonders without number (Job :19). If it is said: Who does great things without limit, why does Scripture also say and wonders without number? How did the sages explain Who does great things without limit – this refers to all [normally born] creatures in the world. [But] and wonders without number, refers to those three who were born without their mothers having intercourse: And these were: Rav Zeira (‫ ;)!זירא‬Rav Pappa, and Ben Sira (!). […] And how did their mothers give birth to them without having slept with a man? It is said that they went to the bathhouse and Jewish semen entered into their womb, and they conceived and gave birth.

While Ben Sira and Rav Zira bear assonant names that might be also a hint to the shared way of unnatural conception81 and another scholar Cf. Lehmhaus, “Intertextuelle Kritik rabbinischer Quellenarbeit im Alphabet des Ben Sira,” above n. 71. For the existence of such anthologies based on selected teachings form Sirach in the same period as the production of ABS took place, see Claudia V. Camp, “Honor, Shame, and the Hermeneutics of Ben Sira’s MS C,” in Wisdom, You Are My Sister: Studies in Honor of Roland E. Murphy, O.Carm., on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (ed. Michael L. Barré; Washington: DC: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1997), 157–71. I suppose further that this reading of bT Sanh. 100b might be understood as a critique of the Geonic educational system, which was probably focused on the Talmud and was less concerned with the study of the Bible itself or other Scripture-related works in rabbinic literature. Cf. Robert Brody, The Geonim of Babylonia and the shaping of medieval Jewish culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 300f. 81 The names Sira and especially Zeira (‫)זירא‬, are somehow assonant (and, in the Yerushalmi spelling as ‫ זעירא‬even homographic) with the Hebrew word zera/‫ זרע‬for “semen/seed” upon which this passage focuses. 80

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(R. Pappa), the text’s list of the sages’s achievements and traits seems not to work to their advantage. This indirect form of critique via narratives and references is in line with a general strategy of ABS/TBS to question inner-rabbinic arguments and the authority and status automatically conferred to the sages via their belonging to a “guild” instead of being substantiated by their intellectual or religious greatness. Finally, I will turn to a very brief discussion of the authors’ choice of Ben Sira as the author character and protagonist of the TBS/ABS. In her seminal study, Eva Mroczek has argued that, though often understood as the first Jewish book with a named, historical author, “Ben Sira signifies neither an author nor a book, but an exemplary sagely character, or a looser generic tradition of pedagogical lore.” The rather broad affiliation of Ben Sira to Wisdom or proverbial sayings and the ‘open book’ character of the work may help to explain ABS’s strategy to blend quotations of what is known to modern readers as the ancient text of Sirach with sayings from Proverbs, Qohelet or Pirqe Avot. Alterations, expansions or adaptations took place in texts with an ethical, homiletical or liturgical focus as well as in poetry. 82 This general tendency of linking Ben Sira to a broader sapiential tradition is not only discernible through the references but is made explicit. At the end of version A and B, an index or table of contents lists all subjects of the preceding 22 questions and is introduced by: “these are the 22 questions that Nebuchadnezzar asked Salomon who is identified as Ben Sira.” The identification of the wise king, imagined as the author of Qohelet and other Wisdom texts, and Ben Sira attests for the dynamic, intertwined biography or afterlife of these Scriptural figures.83 Recently, Bemjamin Wright has pointed out that the high quality of manuscript of Hebrew Ben Sira, the specific Bible-like quotations (‫שנאמר‬/‫ )דכתיב‬in the Bavli, and some comments by Sa’adya Gaon may indicate that some Jews in the Geonic period – maybe in Persia or Iraq, the most probable place of origin of the Toldot-part – likely regarded those traditions as Scripture. In fact, Ben Sira “was very Mroczek, The Literary Imagination, 16; cf. the broader discussion on Ben Sira, ibid., 86–113. 83 Cf. Börner-Klein, Das Alphabet, 154. 82

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much “alive” during these centuries and […] this character had found stories that made him and his book productive in a variety of settings for early medieval Jewry.”84 As in the case of Eliyahu and R. Eliezer, one should notice that the liminality and ambiguity of the ancient authorial figure of Yehoshua Ben Sira, within Jewish and especially rabbinic traditions, made him available as a type or character for various purposes. Orr refers to this blurred affiliation as follows: “his status of insider-outsider, belonging yet not belonging, appreciated yet also rejected and in a sense a legendary figure, with no clear details of his person. It seems that a figure fitting such description is enough of an ‘insider’ to appeal to an educated Jewish audience. At the same time, being not completely accepted or acceptable, he can be expected to express some outrageous, or at least irregular ideas.”85

Similar to both other texts (SE/PRE), Ben Sira’s perspective of the “betwixt and between” may also hint at the agenda of the author(s) of the Alphabet. It seems that they sought to reintegrate Sirach, labelled in some rabbinic texts as a heretical, forbidden “external book,” into other wisdom traditions, but without elevating it to the status of Scripture and prophecy. Such a move, paired with the openness towards various sources of knowledge and a emphasis on Jewish identity, would have been understandable in the cultural milieu of the early Islamicate period with its penchant for ethics, decency and sophistication in the broader cultural concept of adab, while the instructive, edifying and entertaining nature of ABS/TBS are similar to the literary genre of adab.

84 Benjamin Wright, “A Character in Search of a Story: The Reception of Ben

Sira in Early Medieval Judaism,” in Wisdom Poured Out Like Water’: Studies in Jewish and Christian Antiquity in Honor of Gabriele Boccaccini (eds. J. Harold Ellens et al.; Berlin: De Gruyter), 2018, 378–396, here: 396. 85 Gili Orr, The medieval Alpha Beta deBen Sira I (‘Rishona’): A parody on Rabbinic literature or a Midrashic commentary on ancient proverbs? (Unpublished M.A. Thesis, Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam, 2009), esp. 13–14.

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AUTHORSHIP/AUTHORITY: COMPARATIVE STRATEGIES OF STAGING, TRADITION -BUILDING AND EMBEDDING IN THE CONTEXT OF THE EARLY ISLAMICATE AND GEONIC PERIOD Rina Drory and others have emphasized how authorial models and genres (e.g., authored tractate/ḥibbur) within the Islamicate world had a reviving impact especially on Karaite writers who then inspired Geonic Rabbanite works (Sa’adya, Shmu’el ben Hofni Gaon, etc.), while classical rabbinic texts were facing a “cultural deadlock.” Taking these findings in a slightly different direction, I will suggest in this final part that the authorial poetics in those three texts at hand can be (partly) understood by looking at their cultural surroundings.86 The previous discussion has shown that these three Geonic works display creative shifts and innovative approaches, while sharing strategies of constructing authorial presence, authorization and authentication that rest on at least two main pillars.87 (a) The creation of a complex author-character, “hero” or protagonist is deeply intertwined with (b) linking the works’ original teachings in the intertextual continuum of Jewish tradition by using multi-layered references

The following discussion will remain brief and fragmentary, since such comparative aspects deserve a much more substantial study. Seder Eliyahu’s and other later midrashim’s relation to literary models and discursive or cultural developments in their Geonic, early Islamicate milieu is discussed in the preliminary study Lennart Lehmhaus, “`Hidden transcripts´ in Late Midrash made Visible. Hermeneutical and Literary Processes of borrowing in a Multi-Cultural Context,” in Exegetical Crossroads–Understanding Scripture in Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the Premodern Orient (eds. G. Tamer et al.; Berlin: De Gruyter 2017),199–242. 87 For the inclusion of pseudo-authors, narrators or protagonist as a strategy to deflect historical authorship in Arabic texts, see Szombathy, “Reluctant Authors,” 204: “[…] a remarkably widespread literary technique, namely pseudo-quotations from fictitious or real personages. This conventional feature of Arabic literature could be used to turn a primary text into a quotation and thereby to remove part of the responsibility for it. Of course, fictitious narrators and protagonists are a conspicuous feature of Arabic literary texts, and it is only one of their many functions that they allow the author to symbolically disown the text. 86

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that (partly) correspond to earlier rabbinic terminology but exhibit a new tendency – from markers of layers to anchors for their own discourse. In contrast to later, medieval treatises, one finds neither a direct and clear attribution to a personal and historical author nor an individual introduction or preface relating directly to the authors’ lives or their backgrounds – although the text exhibit different introductory parts and framing elements.88 Still, what can be observed in our texts is the change from a polyphonic concert of rabbinic voices into a single, personal or authorial voice. Instead of attributing traditions mainly or solely through para-texts (e.g., titles Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai etc.). Moreover, PRE, SE and ABS introduce protagonists or author-characters (i.e., Eliezer ben Hyrcanos/ Elijah/ Ben-Sira) within the text itself. By providing biographical backstories or combining attributions with first-person accounts, they evoke an impression of authorship similar to later medieval tractates. This resembles several narrative traditions of the Qussas and in various works of Adab literature, in which the author also occupied rather ambiguous roles – as a literary or rhetoric persona or even as a fictional character (‘actant’) within a narrative.89 Strikingly, Sa’adya Gaon deployed different author-figures or literary personae in the introduction to his Sefer ha-Egron, a text normally read as an For the introductory (and concluding) chapters as precursors of the later tractate literature, see Lehmhaus, “Between Tradition and Innovation,” 225f; idem, “Hidden Transcripts,” 231–233. On the authorial function of the prologue or introduction in Arabic works, see Bilal Orfali, “The Art of the Muqaddima in the Works of Abū Man ālibī (d. 429/1039),” in The Weaving of Words: approaches to classical Arabic prose (eds. Lale. Behzadi and V. Behmardi; Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2009), 181–202. 89 Cf. the discussion of ideas about authorship and fiction in early Arabic literature in Robert G. Hoyland, “History, fiction and authorship in the first centuries of Islam,” in Writing and Representation in Medieval Islam (ed. Julia Bray; London: Routledge, 2006), 16–46. On authors as protagonist within the text, see Letizia Osti, “The author as protagonist: Biographical markers in historical narratives,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 45 (2018), 239–275. 88

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authentic authorial treatise par excellence. According to Rina Drory, however, the Arabic version features a persona of a learned (Arabic) philosopher and grammarian speaking to an urban, academic audience of fellow scholars (closer to the protagonists in PRE and ABS). By contrast, in the Hebrew text, this authorial figure adopts the cultural pose “of a leader” or “a Bible-type prophet who seeks to awaken the Jewish nation and to restore it to righteous ways by means of a prodigious program of reviving the Hebrew language” – an authortype and agenda more familiar to Seder Eliyahu (Zuta).90 For all three traditions at hand, we may be able to draw connections between the narrative appearances of the respective authorial figure and the prominent Arabic literary motif and educational ideal that combines wandering and instruction in the “journey in quest of knowledge” (riḥla fi talab al-‘ilm).91 In the Toldot Ben Sira, one finds two stages of such a pursuit of knowledge that might be considered as 90 Drory, Models

and Contact. On the emergence of this genre, see Juynboll, Muslim Tradition, 66–70, who argues for a rather late beginning of this practice (around 750) as an actual exchange between different centers of learning that comprised collection regionally diverse ahādīth (traditions about the prophet). Various sayings support the redemptive power of such a quest. Cf. Monique Bernards, “Talab al-'ilm amongst the linguists of Arabic during the 'Abbasid period,” in Abbasid Studies IV. Occasional papers of the School of Abbasid Studies (ed. James E. Montgomery; Leuven: Peeters, 2004), 33–46. For the literary motif and genre, see Roxanne L. Euben, Journeys to the Other Shore: Muslim and Western Travelers in Search of Knowledge (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006). The practice as well as the motif of scholarly travel, can be found in nuce already in various Talmudic anecdotes depicting rabbis visiting households and schools of their colleagues or travelling between Palestine and Babylonia (sometimes as official emissaries). Local variations of teachings, lore and custom play a central role in these stories Cf. Catherine Hezser, Jewish Travel in Antiquity (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), esp. 227–234 and 311–364; Ead., The Social Structure of the Rabbinic Movement in Roman Palestine (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997), 157–184 and 228–239; Stuart S. Miller, Sages and Commoners in Late Antique ʼEreẓ Israel: A Philological Inquiry Into Local Traditions in Talmud Yerushalmi (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), esp. 446–466. 91

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reflecting this specific trope blended with the sub-genre of learned riddles and contests of wisdom. 92 First, the toddler leaves his mother to become a student – but, in fact, rather a contender – of the teacher of young children.93 Second, the journey of the protagonist to the court of Nebuchadnezzar who threatens his life turns him to a strategic and wise use of his abundant knowledge. The witty child, however, is also reminiscent of the picaresque hero, another famous type in Arabic literature, who later became a stock-character in the maqama-genre. A “journey in quest of knowledge” figures also prominently in the opening narrative in PRE about R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanos’ becoming a rabbinic student. Overcoming socio-economic and emotional hardships, he makes his way to Jerusalem where he studies in order to become one of the greatest scholars of his generation. As already mentioned, Seder Eliyahu’s first-person narratives depict movement between different localities, social, educational and religious realms – from the academy in Jerusalem to a lock-up in the great city of Babylon, from rural roads and fields to urban markets or rabbinic households. While the encounters function primarily to convey knowledge of SE’s key ideas, they also provide an open but still framed sphere for 92 It is most likely not a coincidence that Ben Sira’s action at the court of Neb-

uchadnezzar resemble the trials of Daniel in Babylon, another popular prophetic-scribal figure with a rich pseudepigraphic afterlife. Cf. Lornezi DiTommaso, The Book of Daniel and the Apocryphal Daniel Literature (Leiden: Brill, 2005). Moreover, the questions belong to the genre of learned riddles and contests of Wisdom as in Exodus 7 (Moses and Aaron vs. Pharaoh’s magicians) or the confrontation between Jewish-rabbinic and Greek-Hellenistic wisdom in Talmudic and midrashic texts (e.g. b. Bekh 8b, b. Tamid 32a). Cf. Eli Yassif, “Pseudo Ben Sira and the ‘Wisdom Questions’ Traditions in the Middle Ages,” Fabula 23, 1/2 (1982), 48–63. 93 On the details of the exchange with the teacher, see Lehmhaus, “Intertextuelle Kritik rabbinischer Quellenarbeit im Alphabet des Ben Sira,” (above, n. 71). Cf. also Antonella Ghersetti, ““Like the Wick of the Lamp, Like the Silkworm They Are”: Stupid Schoolteachers in Classical Arabic Literary Sources,” Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies (2010), 75–100, for a discussion of the cliché about the stupidity of teachers of young children in Arabic culture contemporary to the production of ABS/TBS.

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contest and examination of one’s own cultural or ideological identity. Moreover, the protagonist’s attitude as a patient instructor in those dialogues resembles the qāṣṣ (pl. quṣṣāṣ), a public storyteller, teacher and preacher, who taught righteous conduct by way of admonition.94 This also implies that the quest for knowledge in Seder Eliyahu is not focusing on academic study but it seems to point to a basic, less institutionalized and decentralized form of small scale learning which was available in all Jewish communities throughout the early Islamicate world and beyond.95 In all cases, this literary strategy entails a sophisticated play with authorship and authority. Although all three texts explicitly refer to great biblical, Scriptural or rabbinic figures of the past – cultural heroes so to say – I have difficulties to label them ‘pseudepigraphy’ as it has been used in previous scholarship to (negatively) characterize several Second Temple traditions, post-Talmudic apocalyptic texts and some of the later midrashim. For early Jewish traditions, Eva Mroczek contends that instead of Roland Barthes’ “death of the author” one may find a more positive substitute, namely the (eternal) “effusive and overflowing ‘life of the writer’” through the fluid transmission and diffusion of those texts for which they serve as patrons (like David for On the qass interacting with learned and unlearned people, see Kristen Stilt, Islamic Law in Action: Authority, Discretion, and Everyday Experiences in Mamluk Egypt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), here 81: “the storyteller (qass) must only mention that which average people (`amma) can understand and relate to, such as encouraging prayer, fasting, and paying zakat.” On the quisas (genre) and the figure of the qass, see Hoyland, “History, fiction and authorship,” 23–24, and most recently Lyall R. Armstrong, The Quṣṣāṣ of Early Islam (Leiden: Brill, 2017). The relevance of the qass for Seder Eliyahu is discussed in Lehmhaus, “Hidden Transcripts,” 226–227. 95 On the new approach to Talmud Torah (the rabbinic way of study) in Seder Eliyahu, see Adiel Kadari, “Talmud Torah in Seder Eliyahu –The Ideological Doctrine in its Socio-historical Context,” [Hebrew], Daat 50–52 (2003), 35–59; idem, “Torah Study, Mysticism and Eschatology: “God’s Hall of Study” in the Later Midrash,” [Hebrew], Tarbiz 73 (2004), 181–195; Lehmhaus, “‘Minimal Judaism’.” 94

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a broader Psalm-traditions) and via stories that develop their character.96 In the Geonic period traditions under discussion, we may discern a slightly different focus. Neither R. Eliezer, the toddler Ben Sira nor Eliyahu are primarily associated with scribal activity or writing. Instead, all those authorial figures come to life not only through their teachings but as a leading figure or character they also become narrative actors within (parts) of the plot or the broader discourse. This strategy in combination with a complex net of references fulfills an important function of elaborating cultural identity and facilitating an expansion of tradition that incorporates historical, eschatological, scientific or ethical material. 97 Moreover, one does not have to pitch an authorial voice or implied author as a purely organizational principle of a discourse that also cites other voices (i.e. named attributions) against a more visible pseudo-author, author-character or persona, since both strategies may conspire together.98 Most interestingly, both PRE and Seder Eliyahu Zuta clearly focus their references on the most famous sages of the earliest rabbinic traditions – the Tannaim – among them such luminaries as R. Aqiva, R, Yishmael, R. Eliezer, R. Yohanan and others. Thereby, they produce what I like to call Tannaitic “celebrity.” This group of rabbinic super-sages was deeply enmeshed in aggadic traditions well known to a broader audience, while belonging to a ‘golden age’ distant enough not to be associated with the contemporary academic Talmudic milieu. Katharina Keim has contextualized this production of a rabbinic “Heilsgeschichte” within the wake of Geonic historiography of the Talmudic era (with Sherira etc.), rabbinic ‘canonicity’, and a raised attentiveness of living in a post-Tamuldic era. 99 96 Mroczek, Literary

Imagination, 85.

97 Cf. Reed, “Pseudepigrahy,” 485–487.

Cf. Behzadi, “Introduction,” 18: “The act of embedding the author’s voice in a polyphonic concert can be understood as an act of self-defense against any possible reproach which could emerge with the claim that the author lacks authority, as additional voices, if carefully chosen, increase the level of authority of both the work and the author.” 99 Keim, Pirqei, 145–147. Cf. also Simcha M. Gross, Empire and Neighbors: Babylonian Jewish Identity in its Local and Imperial Context (PhD Diss., 98

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Only the sophisticated intertwinement of a biography or afterlife of a great rabbinic, Wisdom-related or prophetic-biblical figure as protagonists and author-personae with numerous allusions to Tannaitic sages and well-known Talmudic traditions lent some increased importance to those texts in the eyes and ears of their audience. Thereby the texts inscribe themselves into the older discourse of biblical and rabbinic tradition while creatively inserting their very own, new discourses. Except for PRE, the virtual absence or indirect ways of classical, named attribution and other characteristic features of earlier Talmudic-Midrashic literature might indicate, at the same time, deliberate strategies of disguise and dissociation from a learned, elite Geonic milieu.100 In SEZ, for instance, one finds no single exegetical sequence with davar acher teachings. Moreover, the texts also differ from the complex dialectic discussions in the Talmudic “art of disagreement”101 featuring variant opinions of several named Sages. In all three examples, the choice of Hebrew for their discourse might reflect such a tendency on the side of the authors.102 This would possibly have opened

Yale University, 2017), who suggests that Babylonian Jewish historiographic writings should be seen as carefully crafted responses to their authors’ contemporaneous contexts and needs. 100 Cf. Kadari, “Talmud Torah,” Lehmhaus, “Between Tradition and Innovation,” 238–242. For similar strategies of authorial camouflage, see Behzadi, “Introduction,” 17: “Here, we encounter double or multiple hermeneutic layers, multiple hidden authors, and authors in disguise. This ‘polyphony’ is characterized by a diversity of genres. Different types of prose and verse are mixed and collected from various sources. The references are given by means of empty isnāds and similar statements that are used as a stylistic device instead of a reliable verification.” 101 Cf. Sergei Dolgopolsky, What Is Talmud? The Art of Disagreement (New York: Fordham University Press, 2009); Steven Fraade, “Rabbinic Polysemy And Pluralism Revisited: Between Praxis And Thematization,” AJS Review 31:1 (2007), 1–40. 102 Sacks, Midrash and Multiplicity, 82–87; Lehmhaus, “Between Tradition and Innovation,” 230–236; idem, “’Hidden Transcripts’,” 213–218.

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these texts for multiple audiences and made them more comprehensible or accessible for non-rabbinic Jews.103 I suggest that the specific strategies and forms of authorship in later midrashim are strongly connected to socio-historical transformations in the texts’ broader cultural context. This holds true for a recently more explored inner-rabbinic plurality, and also for a great variety of para- or non-rabbinic groups like Scripturalists, Masoretes or Jewish esoteric circles (Hekhalot) within a more permeable society.104

On discursive strategies to convey theological ideas and the contours of Christian confessionalism in an accessible way to all members of the community, mostly unlearned or semi-learned “simple believers,” see Jack Tannous, The Making of the Medieval Middle East: Religion, Society, and Simple Believers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018), esp. 46–81 and 431–490. 104 Among Jews, Christians and Muslims, we find different schools of thought and many ascetic or messianic movements as well as hybrid groups linked through cooperation, cooption and competition. Cf. Steven Wasserstrom, Between Muslim and Jew: The Problem of Symbiosis Under Early Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); Fred Astren, “Islamic context of medieval Karaism,” in Karaite Judaism: A Guide to Its History and Literary Sources (ed. M. Polliack; Leiden Brill, 2003), 145–177; Michael P. Penn, Envisioning Islam: Syriac Christians and the Early Muslim World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015); Sean Anthony, “Chiliastic Ideology and Nativist Rebellion in the Early ʿAbbāsid Period: Sunbādh and the Jāmāsp-Nāmah,” JAOS 132, 4 (2012), 641–655; Yoram Erder, “The Doctrine of Abu ’Isa al- Isfahani and Its Sources,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 20 (1996), 162–199. For the inner-Jewish developments, see Rustow, Heresy and the Politics of Community; eadem, “Laity versus Leadership in Eleventh-Century Jerusalem: Karaites, Rabbanites, and the Affair of the Ban on the Mount of Olives,” in Rabbinic Culture and Its Critics (ed. Daniel Frank and Matt Goldish; Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2008), 195–248; eadem, “Karaites Real and Imagined: Three Cases of Jewish Heresy,” Past & Present 197,1 (2007), 35–74; Frederick E. Greenspahn, “Sadducees and Karaites: The Rhetoric of Jewish Sectarianism,” JSQ 18, 1 (2011), 91–105; Meira Polliack, “Rethinking Karaism: Between Judaism and Islam,” AJS Review 30,1 (2006), 67–93. 103

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Furthermore, these strategies of multilayered authentication fit well the cultural milieu of the early Islamicate world in which authenticity and a reliable and verifiable chain of tradition or transmission figured prominently as in the concept of Isnad, Christian commentaries and also in rabbinic tradition (shalshelet ha-kabbalah/ Torat Moshe me-Sinai). Functions of authorship and authority for scholars, saints and bishops in Early Christianity have been identified by Peter Brown and many after him as a central feature of Late Antiquity. The author played also a central role in Arabic literature and other Islamicate traditions – as the creative mind behind a certain text, and even more, as possibly fictitious but still conceivable point of reference and authority – a source for specific ideas, concepts and stories.105 Such authenticity of tradents/ transmitters (isnad) and the historical reliability of reported accounts were of crucial importance, most obviously in the religious-historical genres like hadith and khabar/ akhbar. Scholars admit, however, that not all authors were always meticulous and sincere in their attributions.106 It seems that this period witnessed an increasing awareness for the closer (rabbinic) and more distant (biblical/apocryphal) past and authors sought to trade on the popularity of prominent Jewish figures 105 Cf. Lale Behzadi, “Introduction: The Concept of Polyphony and the Au-

thor’s Voice,” in Concepts of Authorship in Pre-Modern Arabic Texts (eds. Lale Behzadi and Jaako Hämeen-Antilla; Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press, 2015), 9–22. 106 G.H.A. Juynboll, Muslim tradition: Studies in chronology, provenance and authorship of early ḥadῑth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 5–9, argued that the importance of providing a chain of tradition (isnad) was itself part of the development of those genres. Consequently, it seems implausible that authentic chains of transmission already spread neither in the generation of the prophet’s companions nor in that of their immediate successors, Often the names of well-known historical personalities were chosen but more frequently the names of fictitious persons were offered to fill in gaps in isnads which were as yet far from perfect. He also describes the possibility that the by-name of a famous transmitter indicating location or heritage served to disguise various other transmitters from the same period and region.

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and their cultural functions that answered to pressing question of the time: messianic hopes, ethics, a newly awakened interest in Wisdom, education, knowledge and the centrality of Scripture. The texts’ twotiered strategy of implementing a persona or an author-character and deploying well-chosen references to earlier traditions was not solely a pseudepigraphic resort to the authority of ancient cultural heroes but also a creative advancement of their stories and therefore an elaboration of tradition. Within a period of recently unified but culturally and regionally more diverse Jewish communities, such a move reflects the efforts and abilities to create and participate in “shared discursive spaces,” as well as connecting with others by referring to figures and traditions as “vehicles of cultural memory and cohesion” that were well known to a broader audience. 107 These endeavours to explore new forms of authorship based on great figures of the past combined with referential anchors in and critique of previous traditions may be part of their transformative role within a more diverse period of early Islamicate, Talmudic Jewish culture in the making.

Cf. Leo Braudy, The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 15. Celebrities, thus, function in various social networks and contexts and help to negotiate various cultural wants, longings, and anxieties. 107

RETROSPECTION AS AN EXEGETICAL DEVISE IN RASHBAM’S TORAH COMMENTARY JONATHAN JACOBS INTRODUCTION Rabbi Samuel ben Meir (Rashbam, 1080–1160 approx.) propelled the usage of intra-biblical exegesis to its height. His Torah commentary is replete with quotes of verses which assist him in interpreting Scripture based on other biblical sources. This method is employed in most of his Torah commentaries, and Rashbam utilized this tool more than any other commentator in his era. The use of verses from all areas of Scripture as exegetical tools reflects Rashbam’s approach whereby Scripture should be understood from within itself, without external aids.1 * This is an amended and updated version of an article that first appeared in Hebrew in: Iggud – Selected Essays in Jewish Studies, vol. 1, Jerusalem 2008, pp. 125–142. I would like to acknowledge the generous support of Beit Shalom, Kyoto, Japan, in preparing this research. All quotations from Rashbam’s commentary derive from Rosin’s edition – Rashbam, Perush ha-Torah, D. Rosin (ed.), (Breslau, 1882), unless otherwise stated. The English rendering of the commentary is based on Lockshin’s edition, with modifications as deemed appropriate for the present paper. 1 Rashbam followed in the footsteps of his colleague R. Joseph Kara who declared this in his commentary to I Sam. 1:17. Regarding R. Joseph Kara’s methodology on this topic, see Rabbi Joseph Kara’s Commentary on Job, Moshe M. Ahrend (ed.), (Jerusalem, 1988), 63–67 (Heb). Regarding Rashbam’s methodology on this topic, see Moshe Greenberg, “The Relation

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Despite the central role intra-biblical exegesis plays in Rashbam’s commentaries, it appears that until recently, appropriate attention has not been devoted to this component of his exegesis. In recent years, I have devoted several studies to this important issue.2

between the Commentaries of Rashi and Rashbam on the Torah”, Isaac Leo Seeligmann Volume – Essays on the Bible and the Ancient World, ii, A. Rofe and Y. Zakovitch (eds.), (Jerusalem, 1983), 566 (Heb); Moshe M. Ahrend, “The Concept ‘Peshuto Shellamiqra’ in the Making”, The Bible in the Light of its Interpreters – Sarah Kamin Memorial Volume, S. Japhet (ed.), (Jerusalem, 1994), 248 (Heb); Morris Bernard Berger, The Torah Commentary of Rabi Samuel Ben Meir, diss. (Harvard University, 1982) 22–33; Morris Bernard Berger, “Rashbam’s attitude toward Midrash”, “Open Thou Mine Eyes…” Essays on Aggadah and Judaica Presented to Rabbi William Gerar. Braude, H.J. Blumberg, B. Braude, B. H. Mehlman (eds.), (New Jersey, 1992), 22. 2 The present article was preceded by three articles which were devoted to the study of the three categories of cited verses: Jonathan Jacobs, “‘Extrapolating One Word from Another’ – Rashbam as an Interpreter of the Bible on its Own Terms”, Shnaton – an Annual for Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies 17 (2007), 215–231 (Heb); Jonathan Jacobs, “Inner-Biblical Exegesis in the Commentary of Rashbam on the Bible – Rashbam’s Terminology in Referring to a Cited Verse”, REJ 168 (2009), 463–480; Jonathan Jacobs, “‘Scripture Interprets Itself’ in Rashbam’s Torah Commentary.” In From Creation to Redemption: Progressive Approaches to Midrash. Proceedings of the Midrash Section, Society of Biblical Literature, Vol. 7, edited by David Nelson and Rivka Ulmer (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2017), pp. 57-83. The first article presented the two former categories and the differences between them. The second article presented the methodological terminology employed by Rashbam with regard to the various categories. The third article presented the third category. Another article dealt with unique phenomena relating to the third category: Jonathan Jacobs, “The ‘Principle of Anticipation’ in Rashbam’s Commentary on the Torah”, Studies in Bible and Exegesis, Vol. 8, Presented to Elazar Touitou, S. Vargon, A. Frisch, M. Rachimi (eds.), (Jerusalem, 2008), 451–479 (Heb). And another article which dealt with intra-biblical exegesis in Rashbam’s commentary on Ecclesiastes: Jonathan Jacobs, “InnerBiblical Exegesis in Rashbam’s Commentary on Qohelet”, It’s Better to Hear the Rebuke of the Wise Than the Song of Fools (Qoh 7:5): Proceedings of the

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The verses cited by Rashbam can be classified into three categories. For convenience, we will refer to the verse Rashbam is dealing with as “the verse in question” and the additional verse cited by Rashbam will be referred to as “the cited verse”.

REFERENCES CITED AS SUPPORT The most common usage of the citation is in instances where the interpretation of the verse in question stands on its own, and the cited verse supports his commentary but does not introduce any previously unknown details. The cited verse is easier to understand than the verse in question, and thus supports the explanation. In such instances, the cited verse is not directly related to the verse in question from a content or topical perspective, but merely presents an identical phenomenon or interpretation. In most cases of this type, Rashbam preceded the cited verse with the words “‫( ”כמו‬like) or “‫( ”כדכתיב‬as it is written). This category includes over five hundred cases. For example, Rashbam’s commentary on Genesis 25:22 reads: ’‫ כדכתיב ‘לדרש את ה‬,‫ אל הנביאים שבאותן הימים‬- ’‫לדרש את ה‬ ‫( וכתיב ‘כי יבא אלי העם לדרש את ה’’ )שמ’ יח‬8 ‫מאתו’ )מל”א כב‬ .(15 Lidrosh – to inquire of the Lord: From the prophets of those days, as in the phrase (I Kings 22:8) ‘lidrosh et yhwh me’oto – through whom we can inquire of the Lord’, and the phrase (Ex. 18:15), ‘lidrosh et yhwh’ – [the people come to me] to inquire of the Lord.

Rashbam explained that Rebecca sought out God by means of a prophet, despite the fact that this is not mentioned explicitly in the text. This interpretation stands even in the absence of support from the verses cited from I Kings and Exodus, and there is no connection between the content of the verse in question and the cited verses. The purpose of the cited verses is to demonstrate additional instances in

Midrash Section, Society of Biblical Literature, Vol. 6, W. D. Nelson and R. Ulmer (eds.), (New Jersey, 2015), 167–188.

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which seeking out God is accomplished through prophets, and in this way, it supports the interpretation of the verse in question.3

REFERENCES FOR THE PURPOSE OF APPLYING THE COMMENTARY

In these cases as well, the commentary stands on its own, and the cited verse is not connected topically with the verse in question. However, Rashbam’s goal was not to provide support for the present interpretation; it was to apply his novel interpretation of the verse in question, and his novel interpretation of the verse in question is applied to the cited verse as well. In this category, Rashbam usually prefaced the cited verse with the word: “‫( ”וכן‬and also). This category includes about ninety cases. For example, Rashbam’s commentary on Num. 18:19: ‫ וכן ‘לדוד ולזרעו ברית מלח’ )דה”ב‬.‫ נראה לי לשון קיום‬- ‫ברית מלח‬ ’‫ אבל ‘לא תשבית מלח ברית אלהיך’ )וי‬.‫( כי פתרונם לפי עניינם‬5 ‫יג‬ .‫ ברית קיום ועומד לדורות‬,‫ ברית מלח‬.‫( מדבר ]ב[מלח ממש‬13 ‫ב‬ A covenant of ‘salt’ (berit melah): It appears to me [that ‘salt’ here] means ‘lasting’. So one should also interpret the verse (II Chr. 13:5) “gave David kingship-to him and his sons-by a covenant of ‘salt’ [i.e. by an everlasting covenant]. One must interpret [the word ‘salt’ in] those verses in a contextually appropriate manner. But [the word ‘salt’ in the verse] (Lev. 2:13) ‘do not omit the ‘salt’ of your covenant with God’ means salt, literally. A covenant of salt means a covenant that continues and lasts over the generations.

In most cases, Rashbam used a cited verse to explain difficult words and phrases. Rashbam wrote of this category: “ ‫ כשישגה‬.‫דרך קצרה יש לנו להורות לפני תועי בינה ללמוד תיבה מחברתה‬ ‫המדקדק בדקדוק תיבה אחת]…[ ידמה לה תיבות ה פ ש ו ט ו ת ל ו ודומות‬ ,”‫לאותה תיבה וממנה יבין משפט התיבה אשר ישגה לעמוד על אמיתתה‬ “There is a quick way of instructing the misguided as to how [the meaning] of one word may be extrapolated from [that of] another. When one examines the precise grammar of one word… there will be other words that are forms of it and similar to it, and from this one can understand the meaning of the word whose essence he is trying to grasp”. Dayyaqut MeRabbenu Shemuel [Ben Meir (Rashbam)], Ronela Merdler (ed.), (Jerusalem 1999), 18 (Heb). 3

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The words “berit melah” in the cited verse are just as difficult to understand as in the verse in question. Rashbam took advantage of the opportunity whereby he presented his novel interpretation of the phrase “berit melah” in the verse in question and applies the same interpretation to the cited verse from II Chronicles as well.

REFERENCES SERVING AS PROOF FOR THE INTERPRETATION As opposed to the first two paragraphs, which presented cases where no topical connection exists between the verse in question and the cited verse, many cases exist in which there is a topical connection between the two verses. In such instances, Rashbam’s commentary on the verse in question does not stand on its own, and the cited verse sheds light on the verse in question and does not merely support it; at times, it even proves Rashbam’s interpretation. Another interesting category of verses cited by Rashbam are those in which the cited verse adds new factual information that was previously unknown. This information sheds light on events or details that were described in the verse in question, thereby aiding in its interpretation. In the opinion of Rashbam, it would have been impossible to understand the verse in question without the cited verse. The current article is devoted to these instances, and these verses will be referred to as “retrospective verses”. 4 b. Retrospective verses in Rashbam’s commentary on the Torah

First, it is necessary to clarify the difference between verses used according to the principle of anticipation5 and retrospective verses. The principle of anticipation was defined by Rashbam himself, in his commentary on Genesis 1:1:

I am using this modern term to describe the present category of classical interpretation, despite the risk of anachronism. The justification for this will be described below, when I demonstrate that the verses I am discussing meet the criteria used in modern research on retrospection. On dealing with the danger of anachronism, accompanied by the recommendation to take the risk in any event, see Meir Weiss, Scriptures in Their Own Light: Collected Essays (Jerusalem, 1987), 333–334 (Heb). 5 For anticipatory verses in Rashbam’s commentary see Jacobs, “Principle of Anticipation”. 4

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JONATHAN JACOBS ‫שרגיל להקדים ולפרש דבר שאין צריך בשביל דבר הנזכר לפניו‬ ‫במקום אחר… ואילו לא פורש תחילה… לא היינו יודעין… שלא תתמה‬ .(‫ א‬,‫)בר’ א‬ Follows the scriptural pattern of regularly anticipating and explaining some matter which, though unnecessary to the immediate context, serves the purpose of the elucidating some matter to be mentioned further on, and another passage… we would not have understood …so that one would not be surprised (Gen. 1:1).

Verses of anticipation meet three criteria: 1. “Regularly anticipating and explaining some matter… unnecessary to the immediate context – The anticipatory verse is superfluous, it does not add anything in its present context. 2. “We would not have understood” – The later verse is difficult and without the anticipatory verse we would have difficulty understanding it. 3. “Not be surprised” – The anticipatory verse sheds light on the later verse. There are also three criteria for characterizing retrospective verses, and the relationship created between verses: 1. The earlier verse is difficult. 2. The later verse provides a new, previously unknown piece of factual information. 3. The new factual point sheds light on events or details described in the anticipated verse and resolves the difficulty. According to the principle of anticipation, the anticipatory verse sheds light on the later verse. The opposite is the case for retrospective verses: the later (cited) verse is the one that sheds light on the prior verse.6 The following examples meet all of the criteria for retrospective verses. Note that according to the principle of anticipation the distance between anticipatory verses and the later verses can be very great, at times even in different books. By contrast, for retrospective verses the distance between the 6

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1. In Genesis 20:7, God says to Abimelech King of Gerar: “Therefore, restore the man’s wife–since he is a prophet, he will intercede for you– to save your life. If you fail to restore her, know that you shall die, you and all that are yours”. This statement raises the question: in verse 3, God told Abimelech, “You are to die because of the woman that you have taken, for she is a married woman”. If, as verse 3 seems to say, the problem is simply that he took a woman who is someone else’s wife, it ought to be sufficient for him to return her, and thereby not die on her accord. Why then does Abraham need to pray for Abimelech? Rashbam writes: ‫ שהרי היה צריך רחמים ככתוב לפנינו כי עצור עצר‬- ‫ויתפלל בעדך‬ .’‫ה‬ Veyitpallel – He will intercede for you: Abimelech needed prayer, as it is written (Gen. 20:18), “The Lord has closed fast every womb…”

The cited verse (20:18) reveals a new, previously unknown detail, that God had closed “every womb”; all of Abimelech’s wives were ailing and could not give birth. The cited verse sheds new light on the need for Abraham to pray on behalf of Abimelech. While returning Sarah to Abraham resolved the threat to Abimelech himself, the righteous man’s prayers were necessary in order to heal his wives.7 Without the new information provided by the cited verse, Rashbam would not have considered resolving the problem in this manner. 2. In Genesis 24:10 there is an expression that requires explication: “Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and set out, taking with him all the bounty of his master; and he made his way to Aramnaharaim, to the city of Nahor”. It is difficult to understand what is verse in question and the cited verse is small; only in rare instances are they in different chapters. At the end of this article, I shall explain why Rashbam made the effort to explicate the principle of anticipation but did not define a principle for retrospective verses. 7 The retrospection in this verse was noted by Frank Polak, Biblical Narrative: Aspects of Art and Design (Jerusalem 1994) 156–157 (Heb), but without mentioning Rashbam.

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meant by the “bounty of his master”. What did the servant take, other than 20 camels? Rashbam explains: ‫ הוא שנאמר‬,‫ האנשים החשובים של בית אברהם‬- ‫וכל טוב אדוניו‬ .‫לפנינו והאנשים אשר עמו‬ Vekhol tuv adonov means “the important men of Abraham’s household”. Thus it is written below (vs. 54) “the men with him.”

The cited verse (24:54) reveals new, previously unknown information, that additional people had accompanied Abraham’s servant.8 The cited verse specifies what, other than ten camels, Abraham’s servant took with him thereby clarifying the difficult expression. Here, too, it should be stressed that without the cited verse Rashbam would not have invented new details that do not appear in Scripture in order to resolve difficulty in the verse in question.9

Truth be told, this detail was previously revealed in verse 32. Hizkuni here notes, in the name “there are those who interpret”, that verse 53 sheds light on verse 10. According to this reading, “the bounty” relates to the objects of gold and silver, and the presents, thereby adopting the retrospective principle used in Rashbam’s commentary. Instead of finding a solution for the problem in verse 54 he finds it in verse 53. 9 On Rashbam’s commentary on this verse, Lockshin wrote that according to Rashbam, Scripture does not reveal new details after the narrative present, see Martin I. Lockshin, Rabbi Samuel Ben Meir’s Commentary on Genesis, an Annotated Translation (Lewiston, 1989) 112 n. 1, 418–421. This contention is the opposite of my claim in this article, and therefore requires a response. According to Lockshin, the words “bounty of his master” reveal in advance the information that will later be stated, so Scripture does not actually provide any new information in the second case. To prove his case, Lockshin refers readers to Rashbam’s comments on Ex. 18:2 and Num. 12:8. Harris also accepts Lockshin’s findings. Robert Harris, The Literary Hermeneutic of Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency, Ph.D. diss. (Jewish Theological Seminary, 1997) 188–189. Regarding the present verse, (Gen. 14:11) it is difficult to accept Lockshin’s claim. It seems that Rashbam thinks that the later, cited verse explicates the meaning of the prior verse in question, as he states explicitly, “as was stated previously”, and not the reverse as Lockshin claims. 8

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3. Genesis 26 describes the complex relationship between Isaac and Abimelech king Gerar and his shepherds. In verses 20–21, the servants In my opinion, Lockshin’s understating of the commentary on Exodus 18:2 is a result of not distinguishing between anticipatory verses and retrospective ones. Rashbam there is concerned with interpreting “after she had been sent home”. First, he proposes understanding the difficult verse to mean “after Moses sent Zipporah back to Midian from Egypt”. (There is no need to understand Rashbam as saying “af al pi – despite” as Rosen added of his own accord, and Lockshin followed in his footsteps). Rashbam rejects this interpretation because, in his opinion, there is no anticipatory verse to clarify the later, difficult verse. Indeed, there is no prior verse stating that Moses sent Zipporah and her sons back from Egypt to Midian. Therefore, Rashbam preferred the second interpretation, “later he sent a dowry”, meaning that only now, after hearing all that God had done for Moses did Jethro send a dowry to his son-in-law. Based on the preference for the second interpretation, Lockshin accurately states that Rashbam does not think that Scripture would reveal previously unstated details. In my opinion, the very fact that Rashbam proposes the first interpretation without using the introductory phrase “there are those who interpret” (as in the second interpretation) but rather as gives it as his original proposal, proves that he indeed thought that it is possible that the biblical story is providing new, previously unknown information. The example given above demonstrates that Rashbam did indeed see some verses as providing additional and previously unknown information. Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish between the principle of anticipation and the principle of retrospection. Regarding the principle of anticipation, Rashbam claimed that understanding the later, difficult verse requires the light shed by the anticipatory verse. This claim does not contradict the possibility that for verses of another type, e.g., retrospective verses. the later verses are not difficult and shed light on problematic earlier verses. Elsewhere, I have shown that Rashbam originally provided only one interpretation. Jonathan Jacobs, “Later Addenda to Rashbam’s Commentary on the Torah”, Tarbiz 76 (2007), 460–461 (Heb). Lockshin himself considers the verse “because of the Cushite woman he had married” (Num. 12:1) a statement as post facto anticipation, meaning that he does acknowledge that Rashbam understands Scripture as adding new, previously unknown details (ibid., page 420). Be that as it may, this instance is not relevant to the current article, because it is not a later verse that resolves a problem in an earlier one.

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JONATHAN JACOBS

of Isaac dig two wells; in both cases shepherds from Gerar argue with Isaac’s shepherds. As a result of the dispute, Isaac moves to another location and digs a third well: “He moved from there and dug yet another well, and they did not quarrel over it” (26:22). In the next verse (26:23) Isaac again moves: “From there he went up to Beer-sheba”. Therefore the question is asked why did Isaac move again even after separating from the shepherds of Gerar,10 and it is explicitly stated that there was no dispute regarding the third well? Rashbam writes: ‫ שכן מוכיח שאמר לו‬,‫ כי היה מתיירא מהם‬- ‫ויעל משם באר שבע‬ .‫ נמצא שהיה מתיירא‬,‫הק’ אל תירא כי אתך אני‬ Vayya’al: because he was afraid of the Philistines. God’s statement (vs. 24), “Fear not for I am with you,” proves that he had been afraid.

The cited verse (26:24) reveals a previously unknown detail: Isaac still feared the shepherds of Gerar, despite the distance between them. The cited verse sheds light on Isaac’s behavior, and explains why he moved again. In this case, the cited verse is adjacent to the verse in question and immediately resolves the question that arises when reading the verse. Moreover, the new information relates to Isaac’s emotional state and not to physical facts, as in the previous examples. Without the cited verse, Rashbam would not have independently suggested that Isaac remained fearful, and therefore continued wandering. Only the new information that appears in the cited verse makes this interpretation possible. 4. In describing the encounter between Joseph and his brothers (Gen. 42:8), it is written, “For though Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him”. The question is how did the brothers not recognize their own blood brother? Rashbam proposes three explanations for this difficulty: ‫ ועוד שראוהו‬.‫ כי בא עתה לפניהם בחתימת זקן‬,‫'והם לא הכירוהו‬ ‫ וגם מן הקול לא היו מכירים אותו‬.‫מושל בכל המלכות בבגדי מלכות‬ .’‫כי על ידי מתורגמן היה מדבר עמהם כדכ’ כי המליץ בינותם‬ Vehem – They did not recognize him: Because he had a full beard. Furthermore, they saw him as the ruler of the entire kingdom 10 See Rashbam’s commentary on verse 22.

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wearing royal clothing. And also could not recognize him by his voice because he spoke to them through an interpreter, as it is written (Gen. 42:23) “for there was an interpreter between him and them.”

The first explanation given by Rashbam (following the Midrash and Rashi) is that Joseph’s external appearance had changed. The second comment is based on the fact that Joseph’s current status and dress could well have misled the brothers, who would not have imagined that Pharaoh’s viceroy in regal robes was their lost brother. But Rashbam remains concerned about how the brothers did not recognize Joseph’s voice. The cited verse (42:23) reveals a new and previously unknown detail, that Joseph did not speak directly with the brothers. Rather they communicated through an interpreter, and that prevented the brothers from identifying him.11 5. After the Israelites brought the gold rings to Aaron, it is written “This he took from them and cast in a mold, and made it into a molten calf.” (Ex. 32:4). In Rashbam’s opinion, Aaron collected the gold in a garment: “and cast” means gathered, “in a mold” means “a garment”. 12 However it is not clear how this action created the calf. Rashbam comments: ‫ וקשר את כולם בבגד עד שעשו‬,‫הזהב לקח מיד כל אחד וקיבץ אותו‬ ‫ והשליכו‬,‫ ועשו בו צורת עגל‬,‫דפוס של חמר ושל שעוה כדרך המתיכין‬ ’‫ כדכתיב ‘ואשליכהו באש ויצא העגל הזה‬,‫הזהב בתוכו ונעשה עגל‬ .(‫ כד‬,‫)שמ’ לב‬ He took the gold from each of them, gathered it all together and wrapped it up in some cloth, [to keep it there] while they prepared a mold made out of bitumen and wax, the way smelters do. They fashioned this mold into the shape of a calf. They poured the gold into the mold and the gold took on the shape of a calf, as

11 According to Hizkuni, verse 23 also sheds light on verse 8, but he emphasizes

that Joseph spoke Egyptian so that even if the brothers heard him they would not have recognized his voice speaking a foreign language. However, Rashbam seems to think that the brothers did not hear Joseph’s voice at all. 12 Similar to the first explanation proposed by Rashi.

162

JONATHAN JACOBS it is written (vs. 24), “I poured it into the fire and this calf was thus completed”.

The cited verse adds previously unknown information that the gold was thrown into a fire. The cited verse resolves the difficulty in the verse in question, and the process by which the calf was made is clarified. Scholars of Rashbam have classified the next two examples, taken from the book of Deuteronomy, as belonging to the principle of anticipation. However, I will demonstrate below that they are in fact retrospective, not anticipatory. 6. Deuteronomy 3:11 states, “Only King Og of Bashan was left of the remaining Rephaim. His bedstead, an iron bedstead, is now in Rabbah of the Ammonites; it is nine cubits long and four cubits wide, by the standard cubit!” On this Rashbam writes: ‫ לכך אמר לו הק’ אל תירא אותו‬,’‫כי רק עוג מלך הבשן וגו‬ Only Og: That is why God told him [=Moses] (v.2), “do not fear him.”

Rashbam’s comments here refer to the latter verse, rather than the former. The earlier verse (3:2) quotes God’s words to Moses before the encounter with Og King of Bashan “But the Lord said to me: Do not fear him, for I am delivering him and all his men and his country into your power”. It seems that Rashbam is asking why God said “Do not fear him” only before the war against Og, and not before the earlier war against Sihon (Deut. 2:31)?13 The later verse reveals details about Og that were not previously known, namely that even when Og was small, he needed a bed was made of iron, an indication that he is truly a cause for concern. The Rashi (on Deut. 3:2) stated this question explicitly: “Was there no need to say ‘Do not fear him’ regarding Sihon” gives a homiletical answer. Lockshin proposes two possibilities for this understanding of Rashbam, see Martin I. Lockshin, Rashbam’s Commentary on Deuteronomy: An Annotated Translation (Broun, 2004), 45 n. 59, but only the latter is reasonable because of Rashbam’s internal reference to verse 2. 13

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later verse casts new light on God’s words to Moses, “Do not fear him”. Clearly Rashbam would not have invented these details if they had not been made explicit in the later verse. This is the only instance in which Rashbam’s words refer to the later verse and not to the earlier one. Likely it is this fact that caused Touitou to identify this comment as an instance of the principle of anticipation. 14 However, considering the connection between the two verses reveals that the latter sheds light on the former, which is harder to understand. With the help of verse 11, we are able to resolve the difficulty in verse 2; according to the principle of anticipation, the former verse resolves a difficulty in the latter one. Therefore, it seems that this is an example of a retrospective verse rather than an anticipatory one. 7. At the end of the same chapter (Deuteronomy 3:29) it says, “Meanwhile we stayed on in the valley near Beth-peor”. The question is, what makes it is necessary to emphasize that the valley is near (lit. facing) Beth-peor? Rashbam writes: ‫ וממה שראיתם כאן‬,‫ונשב בגיא עד עתה מול בית פעור בערבות מואב‬ ‫ כמו שמפרש והולך עיניכם הראות את אשר עשה‬,‫יש לכם ללמוד‬ ’‫בבעל פעור ואתם הדבקים וגו‬ We have stayed on in the valley: until now opposite Beth-peor, in the plains of Moab. And you should be able to learn from the things that you saw here, as the text continues to explain (4:3–4), you saw with your own eyes what the Lord did that Beth-Peor… And you who held fast to the Lord your God are all alive today.”

The cited verse (Deuteronomy 4:3) reveals new information about Beth-peor: “You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did in the matter of Baal-peor, that the Lord your God wiped out from among you every person who followed Baal-peor”. Thus the reader learns that this is the place where the Israelites sinned and were severely

Elazar Touitou, Exegesis in Perpetual Motion: Studies in the Pentateuchal Commentary of Rabbi Samuel Ben Meir (Ramat Gan, 2003), 157 (Heb). 14

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JONATHAN JACOBS

punished; Moses has positioned them here, in Beth-peor, to teach them a lesson.15 According to Touitou and Lockshin,16 this statement by Rashbam follows the principle of anticipation. However, this is another case in which the latter verse casts light on the former. It is verse 4:3 that illuminates 3:29 and not the reverse. This is explicit in Rashbam’s statement, “as the text continues to explain”. Therefore, this commentary belongs to the category of retrospection rather than anticipation. In all of the above examples, it is Rashbam’s opinion that the cited verses add completely new information that was previously unknown, and that this information sheds light on the more problematic, earlier verses.17 15 It

should be emphasized that this information is only new within the context of Deuteronomy, because the story of the sin at Beth-peor was already told in Numbers (25:1–9). It is likely that Rashbam believes that most of the people listening to Moses’s speech were not aware of the events at Beth-peor, and that the cited verse adds to their understanding of their location “facing Beth-peor”. 16 Touitou, Exegesis, 157; Lockshin, Rashbam Deuteronomy, 50 n. 4. Also Jacobs, “Principle of Anticipation”, where I follow them and relate to this as a case of anticipation. 17 In only one place does Rashbam relate to the principle, “there is neither early nor late in the Torah”. In his commentary on Leviticus 10:1–3 when he comments on Moses’s words to Aaron after the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, “Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord meant when He said: Through those near to Me I show Myself holy, And gain glory before all the people’” (Lev. 10:3). This instance is superficially similar to those described above because Rashbam uses a cited verse in order to clarify the difficult verse in question. However, it seems necessary to differentiate this case from the others for two reasons. First, the verse in this case does not present new, previously unknown narrative information about the story. Rather Rashbam uses a legal-hakakhic interpretation that is not directly related to the verse in question in order to explicate Moses’s words. Second, the distance between the verse in question and the cited verse is very great (11 chapters) unlike the accepted practice in the other examples, in which the verse in question and the cited verse are adjacent to each other. Apparently, the statement, “‘This is what the Lord meant when He said” is the constraint forcing Rashbam to

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The following examples are slightly different. In these cases Rashbam sites verses that do not add completely new information, but rather present an alternative description of the events described in the previous verses: 8. Genesis 24:22–23 describes the servant’s reaction to Rebecca’s action. The difficulty with this description is the order in which the servant’s actions are reported. How could he have given jewelry to the girl before asking about her identity and family connections?18 Rashbam writes: ,‫ נתן לה‬,‫ יש לומר שאחר ששאל לה בת מי את‬,‫ויקח האיש נזם זהב‬ ‫ אלא שלא להפסיק סדר דבריו‬.‫כמו שכת’ לפנינו בסיפור דבריו‬ .‫ לכן הקדים מעשה נתינתו שנתן לה‬,‫ותשובת דבריה‬ Vayiqqah – The man took the gold nose ring: It should be understood that only after asking her (in vs. 23), “whose daughter are you?” Did he give them to her. The [chronologically correct] order event is so recorded in his [viz. the servant’s] retelling of the story (vs. 47). However so as not to interrupt the order of his words in her answers the text [here told the story out of order and] moved the account of what he gave her forward.

seek the cited verse. He understood that Moses is quoting something already spoken by God, as Rashbam wrote, “Thus God told me”. Rashbam found the source of God’s words only in a later chapter, and this seems to be the reason behind his one-time usage of the principle “there is neither early nor late in the Torah.” It remains to be investigated why Rashbam uses this principle only once in his commentary, unlike other commentators including Rashi, Ibn Ezra and Nachmanides, who use this principle frequently in their commentaries. For more on these commentators’ use of this principle, see Isaac B. Gottlieb, Order in the Bible: The Arrangement of the Torah in Rabbinic and Medieval Jewish Commentary (Jerusalem, 2009) (Heb). 18 Rashi also relates to this question. In his opinion the description in verses 22–23 is correct and changed the order in when speaking to Rebecca’s family in order to convince his listeners (see his commentary on vs. 23:47). It is reasonable to assume that Rashbam here is expressing opposition to Rashi’s commentary.

166

JONATHAN JACOBS

In Rashbam’s opinion, the order of the actions was actually reversed. The servant did inquire about her family first, and only then give her the jewelry. Scripture changed the description of events for literary considerations related to the structure of the section.19 To support his interpretation Rashbam brings the cited verse (24:47) which recounts the events in what, he believes, was their original order. Here again, I think Rashbam would not have offered an interpretation of this type without the explicit statement in the cited verse. 9. The dialogue between Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 42 is difficult. In verse 9 Joseph says to his brothers “You are spies, you have come to see the land in its nakedness”. And after the brothers respond in verse 10–11 Joseph repeats his claim in the same words “No, you have come to see the land in its nakedness!” (verse 12). The question is, what does Joseph’s additional statement add to his previous words? Rashbam writes: ‫ איך לא‬,‫ שאם כן‬,‫ויאמר אליהם לא כי ערות הארץ באתם לראות‬ ‫ ולדעת אם בנימין קיים‬.‫ כלומר אצלו‬,‫נשאר אחד מכם את אביכם‬ ‫ וכן‬.’‫ והם השיבו שנים עשר עבדיך )אחים( אנחנו וגו‬.‫אמר להם כן‬ .(‫ ז‬,‫כתוב לפנינו שאול שאל לנו האיש ולמולדתנו )בר’ מב‬ Vayyo’mer – No, you have come to see the weak points of the land: If indeed you are brothers, how is it that not of you remained ‘et – i.e. ‘with’ – your father?” He said this to them in order to find out whether Benjamin was still alive. To this they answered, “we your servants were twelve brothers.” So it is written below (43.7), “The man asked about us and our family.”

The brothers words to their father in the cited verse (Genesis 43:7) present their own difficulty, since the brothers are quoting something that did not appear in previous chapters: “They replied, “But the man kept asking about us and our family, saying, ‘Is your father still living? Have you another brother?’ And we answered him accordingly. How were we to know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother here’?” These Touitou, Exegesis, 162–164 points out other Examples of differences between descriptions given in biblical stories and reality that, according to Rashbam, are the result of literary considerations related to the structure of the section. 19

RASHBAM’S TORAH COMMENTARY

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two problems, the question of what Joseph’s second statement adds to his first and when Joseph said things quoted by the brothers led Rashbam to propose an extremely interesting interpretation, which is supported by details given in the cited verse, and includes them as part of Joseph’s words in the verse in question. In his opinion, the cited verse gives details about what Joseph said in the verse in question, making it clear that Joseph had asked additional questions that are not explicitly stated in chapter 42. This fact sheds new light on the dialogue between Joseph and his brothers, and resolves the difficulty about what Joseph second statement added to the first. This is the only instance in which I think it likely that Rashbam could have proposed this interpretation without the support of the cited verse, because the brothers response to Joseph’s question “And they replied, “We your servants were twelve brothers, sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more’,”(42:13) is also clear, strong support for Rashbam’s explanation. It is likely that the brothers’ response was the catalyst that caused Rashbam to interpret Joseph’s question as he did, with the cited verse simply serving as supporting evidence. 10. At the beginning of a long dialogue between God and Moses (Ex. 3) there are two difficult verses “But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?” And He said, “I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain” (Ex. 3:11–12). It is necessary to understand both the claim that Moses is making and how God responds to those claims. Rashbam’s commentary on these verses is extensive, and I quote only those sections relevant to the current discussion. He makes two claims, first: ‫מי אנכי כי אלך אל פרעה… וכי ראוי אני ליכנס בחצר המלך איש נכרי‬ ?‫כמוני‬ Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh… Is a foreigner like me worthy to enter the king’s court?

Second: ‫ואיזה דבר המתקבל אומר לו שעל ידי אותו הדיבור אוציאם ממצרים‬ ?‫ברשות פרעה‬

168

JONATHAN JACOBS What acceptable thing could I say to him to lead to my taking them out of Egypt with his permission?

According to Rashbam, God’s response to the second claim is: ‫ועל מה שאתה אומר… באיזה טענה שאומר לפרעה ישמע אלי‬ ‫ בהוציאך את העם ממצרים אני מצוה לך עכשו שתעבדו את‬,‫להוציאם‬ ‫ כי לזבוח‬,‫ וטענה זו תוכל לומר‬,‫האלהים על ההר הזה ותקריבו עולות‬ ‫ לבסוף מפרש ושמעו‬,‫ ואע”פ כן שכאן לא פירש‬.‫לאלהים יניחם ללכת‬ ‫לקלך ובאת אתה וזקני ישראל אל מלך מצרים וגו’ ועתה נלכה נא דרך‬ .‫שלשת ימים במדבר ונזבחה‬ As for that which you said, “…What claim that I say to Pharaoh will he listen to me and free them?” – When you free the people from Egypt, I command you now that you should worship God at this mountain and offer sacrifices. This is the claim that you should make, for he will let them go to sacrifice to God. Even though it is not spelled out clearly here, below (vs. 18) it clarifies, “They will listen to you; and you shall go with the elders of Israel to the king of Egypt [and say]… ‘Now therefore let us go a distance of three days into the wilderness to sacrifice’.”

Rashbam is aware that his explanation is lacking in the book, and therefore he relies on the verse quoted later in the dialogue, in which God again tells Moses what he should to say Pharaoh in order to convince him to release the Israelites from Egypt. The new details revealed in the cited verse shed, in Rashbam’s opinion, new light on the difficult initial verses. In this case, Rashbam clearly defines the methodology he used: “Even though it is not spelled out clearly here, below it clarifies”. The examples I have considered up to this point belong to the literary principle scholars refer to as “repetition structure” in biblical stories.20 Meir Weiss points out the relationship between the 20 On repetition structure in biblical stories, see for example Weiss, Scriptures,

324–328;Meir Sternberg, “Repetition Structure in Biblical Narrative: Strategies of Informational Redundancy”, Hasifrut 25 (1977), 109–150 ; Hoffman Yair, “Between Conventionality and Strategy: On Repetition in Biblical Narrative”, Hasifrut 28 (1979), 89–99 (Heb); Robert Alter, The Art of the

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repetition structure principle and retrospection, and gives two examples.21 However the solution proposed by Rashbam, based on the tension between the different reports in the repetition structure differs from that proposed by modern research. Rashbam attempts to harmonize the differing data, using the later information given in the cited verses to shed new light on the earlier verse in a way that also resolves a difficulty present in the previous verses.22 We have seen several examples in which the retrospective verse reveals totally new and previously unknown information, and several in which the later verses provide an alternative description for events described earlier. As noted in the above presentation, the common denominator of all of these cases (with one possible exception) is that Rashbam would not have proposed explaining the earlier verses as he does without the new information given in the later, cited verse. This new information is integrated into Rashbam’s general exegetical technique of using Scripture to explain itself without external assistance. There is, therefore, a special category of commentaries in which Rashbam reveals new information in the cited verse, information that casts light on the problem raised by the earlier verse. Was Rashbam aware of this phenomenon? Did he consider these verses a unique group representing a literary type? Or perhaps this is a random

Biblical Narrative (New York, 1981), 88–113 ; Shamai Gelander, Art and Idea in Biblical Narrative (Tel Aviv, 1997), 95–131 (Heb). 21 See Weiss (ibid.), who did not use the term “repetition structure,” which Sternberg (ibid.) coined only after his work was published. See also, Polak, Biblical Narrative, 167–168. 22 Rashbam’s general attitude towards pericopes with a repetition structure requires further study. One example ought to be the repetition in Genesis 34:10, comparing what Shechem and Hamor say to the brothers and their words to the townspeople. Rashbam notes the contradiction and his solution there is more similar to the one offered by modern research, not harmonizing but rather maintaining each description in its own right for literary reasons. He also comments on contradiction in how the narrative text describes Pharaoh’s dream and how Pharaoh himself explains it, see Rashbam on Genesis 41:21.

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JONATHAN JACOBS

collection of examples, without representing a specific intention of the commentator? c. Literary and exegetical considerations in Rashbam’s commentary on the Bible

In recent years scholars have pointed out literary phenomena in Scripture that were identified and developed by medieval commentators in northern France.23 Some studies have focused specifically on the literary aspects of Rashbam’s commentary on the Bible.24 Rashbam’s approach and the current state of research was aptly described by Sara Japhet: A surprising characteristic of Rashbam’s exegesis is the attention he pays to literary aspects of the text being explicated. This trait has been the subject of only limited scholarly attention, and only a few issues related to this field have been discussed, e.g. use of the phrase ‫– דרך המקרא‬the way of Scripture, and Rashbam’s striving to interpret the text according to its peshat–simple meaning… It seems that only in our generation, when the literary aspects of ancient texts… is increasingly taking its central place in textual research, is it gradually becoming common knowledge. Consequently, some attention is also paid to the contribution that classic Jewish commentators made to this field. There is no doubt the

23 See for example, regarding Rabbi Joseph Kara: Ahrend, Kara

on Job, 13–15, 54–63; Gershon Brin, Studies in the Biblical Exegesis of R. Joseph Qara (Israel, 1990) 63–79 (Heb); regarding Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency, see Harris, The Literary Hermeneutic, 126–301. For Rashbam’s awareness of the literary aspects of Scripture, please see the next footnote. 24 See for example Berger, The Torah Commentary, 76–89.; Touitou, Exegesis, 128–132, 146–158; The Commentary of Rashbam on Qoheleth, edited and translated by Sara Japhet and Robert Salters (Jerusalem, 1985), 39–44 (Heb); Sara Japhet, The Commentary of Rashbam on the Book of Job (Jerusalem, 2000) 160–208 (Heb); Martin Lockshin, “Rashbam as Literary Exegete”, With Reverence For the Word: Medieval Scriptural Exegesis in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (Oxford, 2003), 83–91.

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first and foremost among these, who led the way for those who followed, was Rashbam.25

The literary aspects revealed by scholars studying Rashbam’s commentaries include: the principle of anticipation, parallel phrases in general and stepped parallels in particular, delineating the boundaries of the unit, the internal structure of a literary unit, the relationships between literary units, the use of quotations and rhetorical questions. However, I have not found any references to the possibility that Rashbam was aware of the principle of retrospection. The principle of retrospection is one of the literary principle used by the biblical author. Biblical narration is generally committed to an orderly, chronological telling of the tale.26 However, there are more than a few instances in which it deviates from the order of natural time and delays telling about earlier events. The biblical stories that deviate from natural chronology can be divided into two main categories: 1. Sometimes, a past event is revealed during the story, in the midst of narrating current events. For example, when Ammonites attack the people of Israel, who are unable to recruit a leader to lead the war, the Bible goes back in time to describe the past of Jephthah the Gileadite (Jud. 11:1–3).27 2. In other cases, an additional detail is revealed not while describing events in the narrative present, but only after the story is completed. For example, the sale of Joseph (Genesis 37) ends without any mention of Joseph’s response. Only much later does Bible revealed that Joseph did indeed react to a sale (Gen. 42:21).28

25 Japhet, Rashbam

on Job, 160–161; see also Touitou, Exegesis, 132.

26 Yairah Amit, Reading Biblical Stories (Jerusalem, 2000) 111 (Heb); Shimeon

Bar-Efrat, The Art of the Biblical Story (Israel, 1979) 173 (Heb). 27 See Bar-Efrat, The Art, 180–181. All of the examples presented by Bar-Efrat are in this category. 28 See Shlomith Rimon Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics (Tel Aviv, 1984) 50 (Heb); Concerning the example from the story of Joseph, see

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JONATHAN JACOBS

Each of these categories can be divided into many additional subcategories.29 The aforementioned examples from Rashbam’s commentary fit the definition of the principle of retrospection formulated by modern scholars. In each case, Rashbam notes new details or information that were unknown when the story occurred, which are known only to later readers. The question is whether Rashbam uses this principle from a place of literary awareness, exegetical awareness or did he, perhaps, remain unaware? It is difficult to answer this question unequivocally. We have not found any explicit definition of the principle of retrospection in Nachmanides on Genesis 42:21; Weiss, Scriptures, 330–331; Polak, Biblical Narrative, 173–174. 29 See for example: Weiss, Scriptures, 312–334; Bar-Efrat, The Art, 180–188; Polak, Biblical Narrative, 154, 165–191; Amit, Reading Biblical Stories, 114– 115; David A. Glatt, Chronological Displacement in Biblical and Related Literatures (Atlanta, 1993). This phenomenon is familiar in Mesopotamian literature, see Glatt (op cit.), pp. 10–54; in Homeric poetry, see for example Weiss (ibid.), p. 314; and in modern literature, for example, Rimon Kenan, Narrative Fiction, 50–54. The Rabbis were aware of the importance of time and the chronological order of events in a story. Scholars who have discussed this aspect were concerned primarily with chronological order in rabbinic stories, see for example Jonah Frankel, The Aggadic Narrative: Harmony of Form and Contact (Tel Aviv, 2001), 139–173 (Heb). However, there are also examples in which the rabbis relate to the chronological order of biblical stories. In rabbinic language this phenomenon is called “there is neither early nor late in the Torah,” or “the words of Torah are poor in one place and rich in another”. It should be emphasized that “there is neither early nor late in the Torah” as a phenomenon in rabbinic literature is not necessarily related to the retrospective principle. In most cases, the rabbis use this principle for entire pericope, and not for a detail that is revealed after its time. In other cases, the rabbis change the internal order of segments within the verse and justify this with “there is neither early nor late in the Torah”, a usage that is also unrelated to the retrospective principle. For the development of this expression in rabbinic literature see Jonah Frankel, Midrash and Aggadah (Tel Aviv, 1996) 176–178. For Rashbam’s use of “there is neither early nor late in the Torah in the Torah, see footnote 17, above.

RASHBAM’S TORAH COMMENTARY

173

Rashbam’s writings. This differs from his practice regarding other literary devices/phenomena, which he calls “the ways of Scripture”.30 This fact could lead us to the assumption that Rashbam was not aware of the phenomenon, and that these might be a random collection of commentaries without any particular intention. However, there are several reasons why we should not accept this assumption: first is the cumulative evidence presented above, the significant number of commentaries with fixed, shared characteristics: an earlier verse that is difficult, the cited verse that reveals new information and resolves the difficulty in the earlier verse. Secondly, although Rashbam does not give this phenomenon a general name, he does use specific, repetitive terminology in all of these instances,: “ ‫–ככתוב לפנינו‬As it is written below” (Gen. 20:7), “ ‫הוא שנאמר‬ ‫–לפנינו‬Thus it is written below” (Gen. 24:10); “‫–כמו שכתוב לפנינו‬So is recorded below” (Gen. 24:22); “ ‫–וכן כתוב לפנינו‬Thus it is written below” (Gen. 42:12); “‫–שכן מוכיח‬which proves” (Gen. 26:23); “ ‫ואע”פ‬ ‫ לבסוף מפרש‬,‫–כן שכאן לא פירש‬Even though it is not spelled out clearly here, below it clarifies (Ex. 3:11–12); “‫–כמו שמפרש והולך‬As the text continues to explain” (Deut. 3:29). This terminology seems to be evidence that Rashbam had a conscious, fixed methodology. Moreover, in the commentary of Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency, one of the leading lights of the peshat school of northern France and a student of Rashbam,31 the principle of retrospection is clearly defined and used explicitly. In the introduction to an article on the phenomena of retrospection in biblical stories, Meir Weiss32 presents two cases in which Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency demonstrates that retrospection is “the way of Scripture”: ‫הרבה דברים במקרא שלא הגידם הכתוב תחילה ולפי דרכו מלמדך‬ ‫ והטעם לפי שלא רצה להפסיק שיטתו על כך ולא בא לו מקום‬.‫אותם‬

30 See for example Berger, The Torah Commentary, 76–89;Touitou, Exegesis,

134–146. This is especially true regarding the principle of anticipation, as noted above, and to a certain to the principle of retrospection. 31 See for example Jewish Bible Exegesis: An Introduction, Moshe Greenberg (ed.) (Jerusalem, 1983), 82 (Heb); Harris, The Literary Hermeneutic, 82-111. 32 Weiss, Scriptures, 315.

174

JONATHAN JACOBS ‫ בהתייחסות‬,‫ ב‬,‫ )ר’ אליעזר מבלגנצי על יש’ כ‬.…‫ ושק יורם יוכיח‬.‫לכך‬ .(‫ ל‬,‫למל”ב ו‬ There are many points that Scripture does not state in advance, but rather teaches them to you in its own way. The reason for this being that it did not want to stop its method, and therefore did not find it appropriate place…and the sack-cloth of Yoram proves this. (Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency, on Is. 20:2, relating to 2 Kings 6:30). ‫ והרבה‬,‫…אבל הסופר שייר דבר זה על מה שאמרו לו מה זאת עשית‬ .(‫ י‬,‫שיטות כזו במקרא )ר’ אליעזר מבלגנצי על יונה א‬ …But the author assumed this on the basis of their statement to him “what did you do” and there are many methods like this in Scripture (Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency on Jonah 1:10).

Based on this evidence Robert Harris concluded that Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency considered retrospection a common literary tool in the Bible, and if we had his complete commentary we would find it applied in many additional instances.33 Because Rashbam’s student gave a clear literary definition of retrospection, and implemented it several times, it is reasonable to assume that the principle of retrospection was discussed in school of Rashbam, among his students and perhaps even in his presence. An additional detail casts further light on the issue. There is a difference between “standard” retrospective verses in the Bible and the group of retrospective verses used by Rashbam in the commentaries quoted above. In all of the above-mentioned cases, Rashbam use the new details to resolve an exegetical difficulty regarding the verse in question. This criterion does not apply to most of the retrospective verses in the Bible. For example, the verse that describes Joseph’s reaction at the time of his sale (Genesis 42:21) is a classic retrospective verse, but it does not do anything to resolve a specific problem in a prior verse.34 Therefore, it seems to me that Rashbam was indeed aware of the principle of retrospection; not as a literary device, but rather as an

33 Harris, The

Literary Hermeneutic, 186–190

34 Therefore, Rashbam does not relate to it as a retrospective verse in his com-

mentary, unlike others, for example Nahmanides; see footnote 28.

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175

exegetical one. Even if Rashbam does not think that this is a literary phenomenon, he does use it as an exegetical device. To further clarify this point, I shall attempt to sharpen the distinction between a literary and exegetical devices. It is necessary to distinguish between two expressions that Rashbam uses frequently, that are indeed different. When Rashbam uses the expression “the way of Scripture”, it points to the biblical narrator’s awareness of literary techniques. When Rashbam uses these words to describe a usage, he means to say that narrator himself was aware of a particular literary device, and used it methodically. Conversely, when Rashbam uses the phrase “way of the world” it indicates an exegetical method that is not necessarily derived from Scripture’s own consciousness, but rather from the commentator’s awareness of the biblical world. It seems that Rashbam believes that retrospection does not require the narrator’s awareness of the phenomenon. To my mind, we cannot unequivocally determine if Rashbam thought that the biblical narrator was aware of retrospection as a literary phenomenon. However, it is reasonable to assume that Rashbam pointed it out to his students. and used in his commentary in those instances where required for exegetical reasons. At a later stage, his student Rabbi Eliezer of Beaugency, who was familiar with both the written and oral commentaries of his teacher, developed it into a comprehensive literary phenomenon in the Bible.35 Still, we may ask: Did not Rashbam define both literary and exegetical phenomena, as we have seen above? If so, why did he not specifically define retrospection? It is likely that Rashbam perceived retrospection as phenomenon but did not consider it specific enough to deserve an independent definition. By way of comparison, the principle of anticipation is very innovative in stating that Scripture provides details that are irrelevant in their original location in order to resolve future problems. Because this 35 Harris determined that the roots of Rabbi Eliezer’s literary distinctions can

be found in the commentaries of exegetes in northern France who preceded him, see Harris, The Literary Hermeneutic, 158 n. 7. Later, Harris claims that Rabbi Joseph Kara pointed to the phenomenon of retrospection without defining it explicitly, while Rabbi Eliezer defined it as a general literary phenomena, see op cit. p. 163. I want to make a similar claim regarding Rabbi Eliezer’s relationship with Rashbam’s commentary on the Torah.

176

JONATHAN JACOBS

is novel and unique, it requires a detailed definition. It is likely that Rashbam considered the opposite phenomenon, later verses that clarify previous ones, is simpler and does not require special definition. Another possibility can be derived by taking a larger view of Rashbam’s attitude towards the third group of cited verses that I defined above, in which the verse cited proves Rashbam’s interpretation of the cited verse. This group includes hundreds of examples, including some using verses of retrospection. It may be that Rashbam considered this a general, common phenomenon that is sufficiently routine to not require definition, and therefore he did not define retrospection specifically.36 In conclusion, whether there is a conscious theory of exegesis hidden behind Rashbam’s commentary on the Torah or not, this article has shown that he did use the principle of retrospection as an exegetical device in his commentary on the Torah. This insight adds an additional layer to our understanding of Rashbam’s commentary, enabling us to recognize it as a com comprehensive, careful-considered and elegantly-built work.

We should not be surprised that Rashbam was not interested in the question why the Torah acted in this way and “revealed” new information on later verses. This question also did not concern Rashbam when he considered other principles such as the principle of anticipation and those verses that he calls “the way of Scripture”. 36

A NECESSARY YOD: HOW MASORAH AND MIDRASH HELPED TO CLARIFY THE CANON ROBERT VANHOFF My focus here is a cluster of masoretic and midrashic lore associated with the word ‫ רישון‬rishon in Job 8:8, spelled with a yod rather than the expected aleph. It is found in a short utterance made by Bildad the Shuchite, in his first attempt to instruct his suffering friend. ki she’al na ledor rishon... “Ask now, concerning the ancient generation...” I will address this topic in two parts. Part one will survey a select chronological history of employment of the phrase ki she’al na ledor rishon up through the 16th century, drawing evidence first from manuscript and later from printed text. I will include observations concerning the apparent relationship between the masoretic and midrashic worlds that cite it, giving specific attention to whether the spelling of the word rishon is even addressed. In Part two I will attempt a “redescription” of this history and relationship, gleaning from Jonathan Z. Smith’s conception of a canon as a list the closure of which is continually reasserted by clever hermeneutes, albeit through ever more ingenious extensions.1 We will find our verse—more specifically our word rishon—to become the site of an ever-so-slight expansion of accepted canon.

Jonathan Z. Smith, “Sacred Persistence: Toward a Redescription of Canon,” in Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 36–52. 1

177

178

JONATHAN JACOBS

H ISTORY OF EMPLOYMENT No fragment of the passage in Job 8:8 has been identified from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Before the 10th century, we have no record of any rabbinic interest. Indeed, no ancient Jewish writers, even from the Second Temple period, were moved to even cite it. The only mention in all of late Antiquity I have been able to find is from a 5th century Pelagian-controversy sparring partner of Augustine of Hippo. In his Exposition of the Book of Job, Bishop Julian Eclanum set forth three different interpretations of the verse, each attending to the immediate context of Bildad’s possible motivations for saying these words to Job.2 But in terms of Talmudim and midrashim, nothing.3

DAMASCUS PENTATEUCH It seems the first mention of Job 8:8 in the universe of extant Jewish texts is found, strangely enough, not in a commentary on Job, but in the masorah note of a 9th-10th century Torah manuscript known popularly as the Damascus Pentateuch.4 At Exodus 12:2, above the word rishon, we find a masoretic circule corresponding to marginal comments. Our scribe provides three separate notes, which together define a simple and precise masoretic list. The dotted letter chet to the right means rishon occurs eight times in all of Tanakh, and to the left we see a short hand note meaning leit battorah “nowhere else in the Torah.”5 Notes such as these are called masorah qetanah. The third note, a much fuller masorah gedolah, unpacks the qetanah for the

Manlio Simonetti and Conti, Marco, eds., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Volume VI, Job (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 46. 3 Using the digital Bar-Ilan Online Responsa Project tool: https://www.responsa.co.il 4 Ms. Heb. 2°5702, The National Library, Jerusalem, Israel, p. 125/466. http://web.nli.org.il/sites/NLI/Hebrew/digitallibrary/pages/viewer.aspx? presentorid=MANUSCRIPTS&docid=PNX_MANUSCRIPTS00004320 4–1#|FL12950930 5 Translations from Hebrew and Aramaic are the author’s. The standard text for an overview of the Tiberian Masoretic tradition and its key Aramaic terminology is Israel Yeivin, Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah, trans. E. J. Revell (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1980). 2

RASHBAM’S TORAH COMMENTARY

179

reader at the bottom of the page, listing a siman, or catch-phrase, for each of the eight verses.

Figure 1. Detail of Exodus 12:2 and masorah qetanah from the Damascus Pentateuch

Figure 2. Detail of masorah gedolah for Exodus 12:2

Last in the list of simanim, we read ki sh’al na ledor, betareih katv(in) rishon (“they write rishon (with yod) in its place”). The masoretic notes preserved here in the margins of the Damascus Pentateuch communicate a cluster of key points. In all of Scripture, there are only eight occurrences of the word rishon without preposition or article. Of this list of eight, only one instance is in the Torah (here in Ex 12), and another one of the eight is, according to received scribal custom, spelled differently than the rest.6

Two additional points are in order here. The second century BCE manuscript of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll, 1QIsa-a) uses rishon (with yod) as standard spelling, and 4Q57’s text of Isaiah spells rishon with aleph followed by a yod. Additionally, by the 10th century we know that Ben Sira was not part of the Jewish canon, at least as imagined by the masoretes. From the Cairo Geniza fragments we see that rishon, with the aleph, appears at least twice in Ben Sira (Manuscript B, 4r:11 and 14r:10). In both of these cases, one could say that this “list of 8” functions to reassert the border of the official Tanakh. Simply on the basis of this list, 1QIsa-a and Ben Sira are disqualified; 1QIsa-a from being “official Isaiah,” and Ben Sira from being in the canon. 6

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JONATHAN JACOBS

“T HE T AJ,” OR ALEPPO CODEX The next document in our history of Job 8:8 is perhaps the most famous Hebrew Bible manuscript of all, Keter Aram Tzova, the Aleppo Codex.7 I share the standard presupposition that Aharon ben Asher, proud heir to a several-generation Tiberian family chain of scribal tradition, personally wrote both the niqqudot and the masorah notes to this Bible around the year 930. Sadly, due to anti-Jewish violence in 1947, the Keter is damaged. Most of the Torah is missing, along with several other books from the Ketuvim.8 So we cannot look to Exodus 12 to read Ben Asher’s note. But quite happily, we can look to the Keter for something the Damascus Pentateuch cannot offer, the book of Job itself, which is very nicely preserved.

Figure 3. Aleppo Codex, detail of Job 8:8

As we would expect of a proper masoretic production of Job, we find rishon, spelled with a yod. The qetanah here states what we already learned: ‫ל כת כן‬, short-hand for leit katvin ken “nowhere else do they write it thus.” But there is more. In the top margin we find a much larger note.

7 http://aleppocodex.org/ 8 The amazing history of the Keter is captured in Matti Friedman, The Aleppo

Codex (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012).

RASHBAM’S TORAH COMMENTARY

181

Figure 4. Aleppo Codex, detail of masorah gedolah at Job 8:8 Ask, now, of the ancient generation—There are none like it in Scripture, lacking. And why? For the ancient/first generation, all the commandments that are in the Torah had not been completed, and it was lacking many commandments. Therefore, it is unique in the Scripture, for the commandments were not completed except at the hand of Moses our Lord.

As one may see, Ben Asher goes well beyond the simple accounting found in the Damascus Pentateuch. He has actually anchored a curious rationale for the unique spelling of rishon, not as an exegesis of Bildad’s immediate discussion with Job, but as an index to the broad course of Israelite history, dividing time into pre- and post-Mosaic eras, separating a time that was lacking mitzvot from a time where all mitzvot had finally been given through Moshe Adoneinu. And if we allow Ben Asher the belief that Moses himself wrote Job, as affirmed in the appendix within this very codex, then it was Moses himself who had put this yod here in the first place.9 In no way has Ben Asher gone against the tradition we find preserved in the Damascus Torah’s masorah. On the contrary, it is his starting point. The master scribe from Tiberius lends security to the future of this hapax within the canon (rishon with a yod) by supplying additional, what I call midrashic, weight to this unique and apparently very necessary yod. And given the rarity of finding any such midrash within the body of masorah, this instance is all the more remarkable. 9 D. S. Loewinger, “The Aleppo Codex and the Ben Asher Tradition,” Textus

1 (1960), 90–91. Regarding the now-missing appendix to the Keter, see Yosef Ofer, “M.D. Cassuto’s Notes on the Aleppo Codex,” Sefunot – Studies and Sources on the History of Jewish Communities in the East, NS vol. 4, no .19 (Jerusalem: 1989), 277–344 (in Hebrew).

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JONATHAN JACOBS

RABBINIC COMMENTATORS We now turn to individual rabbinic commentaries. Rashi, quite often informed on matters of masoretic tradition, makes no comment here concerning the yod. Neither do Rashbam, Yosef Kara, or Ramban, though each of these offers simple exegesis of Bildad’s imperative that Job seek wisdom from prior generations. The peculiar spelling of rishon, however, does not attract any attention.10 Ibn Ezra (1089–1167) comments, nimtza yod bimeqomo “a yod is found in the aleph’s place.”11 Another 12th century grammarian, Moshe Qimhi, puts it slightly differently. “hayyod tachat aleph.”12 Yet in another place Qimhi ventures a bit further—though not as far as Ben Asher—providing an interpretation set within Israelite history: “This is the generation of Noah, for those rishonim met their demise in the days of the flood.”13 Still, many Bible and Job commentators either did not know this tradition or it simply failed to bear sufficient weight to be deemed authoritative. In manuscripts of commentaries and grammatical works spanning from 11th to the 15th centuries, we find the rishon of Job 8:8 cited with an aleph. Surprisingly, this particular masorah had yet to fully permeate the Bible consciousness of the larger world of Jewish commentators.14

10 A Karaite grammatical text from 11th century Jerusalem cites Job 8:8, using

the standard ‫ ראשון‬spelling. See Geoffrey Kahn, María Ángeles Gallego, and Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, The Karaite Tradition of Hebrew Grammatical Thought in its Classical Form, Volume I (Brill, 2003), 285. 11 Tzachot (composed 1145). Printed edition used: Berlin (1769) accessed http://www.hebrewbooks.org/ 12 Diqduq HaMeaneh. Citations of Qimhi, and comments of all parshanim addressed here, were obtained through the University of Bar Ilan’s “miqr’aot gedolot” project under Dr. Menachem Cohen. https://www.mgketer.org/ 13 Perush MaMeaneh 14 Images taken from Bodleian library, at https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ In addition to these images see also a 15th c. copy of Ramban’s commentary on Job, Bodleian MS. Marsh 54, f. 19v.

RASHBAM’S TORAH COMMENTARY

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Figure 5. Detail of Yosef Kara’s commentary on Job, Bodleian MS. Oppenheim 34, f.285v (13th c.)

Figure 6. Detail of unknown commentary on Job, Bodleian MS. Huntington 268, f.103v (13th c.)

Figure 7. Detail of Zechariah ben Isaac Gracian’s commentary on Job, Bodleian MS. Canonici Or. 54, f. 44v (14th c.)

SECOND RABBINIC BIBLE With the Second Rabbinic Bible in 1524, the tradition we learned from the Damascus Pentateuch is finally set in print and mass produced. Just as with the Damascus Pentateuch, a gedolah note provided at Exodus 12 contains the full list, with special mention of Job 8:8. And if we look up Job 8, we find the printed qetanah to say “nowhere else lacking the aleph.” But in neither place is any midrashic explanation given. Though this new Miqr’aot Gedolot might only feature the dry masoretic statistics pertaining to rishon, there are two other noteworthy engagements with our verse in the 16th century; one from a mystic in Safed, the other a Tanḥuma Yelammedenu manuscript containing a midrash not found in earlier versions.

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MOSHE ALSHEIK (1508–93) First Safed. In his commentary on Job, Moshe Alsheik writes, “Please inquire of past generations—they are the elders of the generation before you. The aleph is lacking from rishon. Why? Because it is not the start of the prior generation that endures, but only its remnant. Therefore, rishon lacks the aleph because of the absence of the first ones of the generation—for they are gone, and it is hinted with aleph because it is first.”15 Alsheik notices that the expected aleph is not present and wants to explain why. We will recall that six hundred years prior, Aharon ben Asher insisted that this was because the giving of mitzvot was not completed except through Moshe. But for Alsheik, the missing aleph points to what was lost from the generation immediately prior to that of Job, or that of the reader. In Alsheik’s own case, perhaps he imagined that the mystics gathering in Safed for religious revival after the expulsion from Spain could receive living tradition only from those who endured the trauma, from survivors who transmitted Spanish kabbalah.16

T ANḤUMA YELAMMEDENU There is a 16th century manuscript of Tanḥuma Yelammedenu from northern Italy which, at the end of parashat Re’eh, contains a midrash not found in any earlier extant manuscript of this or any other rabbinic genre.17 It reads: 15 Alsheik’s

commentary on Job, accessed via Bar Ilan Online Responsa Project, https://www.responsa.co.il/ 16 Gershom Scholem linked the spiritual revival in Safed directly to the Expulsion from Spain. “[T]he small town of Safed, in Upper Galilee, became about forty years after the exodus from Spain the center of the new Kabbaistic movement.” Gershom Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, Second Edition (New York: Schocken Books, 1995), 251. See also Solomon Schechter, “Safed in the 16th Century,” in Studies in Judaism, Second Series (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1908), 202–285. 17 Oxford Bodleian Ms. Huntington 74, printed in Buber’s 1885 edition. I give the date and location as identified by Marc Bregman (private communication, 2018); The National Library of Israel has tagged the manuscript to 14th c. Spain. This midrash is not found in the Koshtedina/Constantinople (1520), Venice (1545), or Manatoba (1563) editions.

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You shall surely tithe ... (Deut 14:22) Said Moses, “Master of the world, from where do we learn they take a tithe?” Said to him the Holy blessed One, “She’al na ledor rishon, Please inquire of past generations and consider things searched out by their fathers, etc... will they not instruct you and tell you?” “How?” “Adam, Seth, Enosh... (1 Chron 1:1) From Adam until Noah, ten generations, and I took my tithe; and from Noah until Abraham, ten generations, and I took my tithe, that is Abraham. And thus it is written, will they not instruct you and tell you to take one from (every) ten.”

At first glance, we see no explicit mention of the unexpected yod in rishon, nothing about the missing aleph. Yet I believe our masorah note to be foundational to this midrash. The Tanḥuma Yelammedenu literature is full of creative midrash on Hebrew letters. Yod in particular is taken to mean “ten” in numerous places. For example, the yod which Moses adds to Hoshea’s name, thus creating Yehoshua, points to the ten tribes of the northern kingdom, and also to the ten spies with the evil report; in another place it hints at the ten commandments or to ten trials for Yitzhaq. And the yod in the name Yaakov (Jacob) points to his promise to tithe.18 With the strong masoretic tradition of the unique spelling rishon, and the imaginative explanations concerning the missing aleph, combined with the long Tanḥuma Yelammedenu tradition concerning the meaningfulness of a yod, even a tithe, it is not a stretch to understand the connection made by our anonymous midrashist. The “one taken from ten” is the aleph taken from rishon, leaving the yod. Qimhi had already identified the dor rishon with the generation of Noah. That Noah was the tenth from Adam was observed by Philo, and Abraham the tenth from the flood by Pseudo-Eupolemos.19 My claim is that our writer was not only steeped in the style of Tanḥuma 18 Shelach, Ch 6 (Warsaw; Buber Ch. 9); Korach Ch 12 (Warsaw). 19 Philo, 1

Gen. 87 and Josephus, Ant. 1:79; Pseudo Eupolemos, 17:3.

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Yelammedenu, but was also well aware of the masoretic notes concerning Job 8:8. What better way to demonstrate exegetical genius than to interpret the Torah through the employment of an obscure passage from Job cited nowhere else in the entire rabbinic corpus of antiquity! I am not suggesting that Ben Asher “read” the Damascus Pentateuch, nor that Ibn Ezra or Qimhi “read” the Aleppo Codex, nor that Alsheik or the composer of this Tanḥuma Yelammedenu supplement “read” Bomberg’s Rabbinic Bible, though each of these scenarios would not have been completely impossible. What I hope to have shown is that once a particular thread of masoretic tradition achieved a critical mass of authority, it became for future generations an unalterable foundation upon which various midrashim and interpretations could and would be constructed. As Jonathan Z. Smith writes in his classic essay “Sacred Persistence: Toward a Redescription of Canon,” Where there is a canon, it is possible to predict the necessary occurrence of a hermeneute, of an interpreter whose task it is continually to extend the domain of the closed canon over everything that is known or everything that exists without altering the canon in the process. It is with the canon and its hermeneute that we encounter the necessary obsession with exegetical totalization.20

As with the bulk of J.Z. Smith’s work, his description here has proved helpful in the subsequent academic study of theological texts and traditions. For the historian of religion, Smith argues, “[C]anon is best seen as one form of a basic cultural process of limitation and of overcoming that limitation through ingenuity.”21 This template maps well onto our survey of Job 8:8’s employment history. The masorah fixed the limitation by the 9th century, and only then did subsequent interpreters learn and have fun with it. Through their various assertions concerning the meaning of the yod, or the missing aleph, they not only extended this masorah’s authority, but they ensured its place in Jewish textual history.

20 Smith, “Sacred Persistence,” 48. 21 ibid. p. 52.

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I believe we can express Smith’s point here in rabbinic terms. Mishnah Avot 3:13 attributes a saying to Rabbi Akiva: Masoret seyag lattorah... “Masoret is a fence for the Torah.” Though it is not clear that this proverb originally referred to the masorah’s role in the preservation of sacred scripture, we know from 10th and 11th century Bible manuscripts that the phrase was certainly understood this way among copyists. In a poem in the appendix of the famous Leningrad Codex, we read how God bequeathed the Torah bemmasorot asher hem seyag lattorah, “...with masorot, which are a fence for the Torah.”22

Figure 8. Detail of Job 8:8 in Torah Haftarot umegillot, British Library Ms. 9403, f. 204r (12th-13th c, Ashkenazi). Note the two scribal corrections: aleph scratched out with yod (written above), and vav of dor scratched out.23

If we take the masorah of the rishon-with-a-yod which we have investigated here as a kind of seyag lattorah—an authoritative list governing a tiny detail to ensure proper text reproduction—then what of the various ingenious exegetical moves that reinforce this masorah? And what of the enduring scribal training whereby a beautiful manuscript such as BL Ms. 9403 (Fig. 8) would receive such gentle, yet obligatory correction? In this case we can reformulate the tradition. Instead of masoret seyag lattorah, we can think of the kind of midrash explored herein as a guard for masoretic tradition and say, midrash seyag lammasorah.

22 MS Evr I B 19a (the famous “Leningrad Codex”), p. 480.

The spelling of dor in Job 8:8 has its own unstable history, yet to my knowledge there has been no midrashic significance attributed to it. 23