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Pĕsikta dĕ-Rab Kahăna

R. Kahana's Compilation of Discourses for Sabbaths and Festal Days (JPS Classic Reissues)

Edited by William G. Braude; Forward by Yehiel E. Poupko

Publication Year: 2002

Long known only to scholars and specialists, Pesikta de-Rab Kahana is a masterpiece of midrashic literature. A collection of discourses for special Sabbaths and festival days compiled and organized during the fifth century, it was well known and studied from the end of that century until it disappeared sometime in the sixteenth century. From manuscripts discovered in 1868 and still others 100 years later, it was reborn. In 1975 JPS brought it to English readers through Braude and Kapstein's translation.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xxxi

The destiny of some great ancient books is mysteriously secured in the faith that at some point and in some way someone will come along and open the book and once again bring it to the world. When considering the massacre of the scholars, King Alexander Jannai is reported by the Talmud (Kiddushin 66a) to have asked, “But what...

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pp. xxxiii-ci

For a long time in Jewish history all interpretations of Scripture were handed down only by word of mouth, and it was not until the early centuries of the Common Era that Midrashim,1 as the interpretations came to be called, were written down. The earliest, arranged according to chapter and verse in Scripture, were in effect running commentaries on certain books of the Bible. Other Midrashim did...

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pp. 3-26

The Tabernacle is the visible sign of God’s having come back to His world. He had withdrawn from it because of men’s wicked deeds, beginning with Adam’s, but came back because of men’s good deeds beginning with Abraham’s and culminating in Moses’ (Sec. 1). In having Moses build the Tabernacle, God showed His respect for Israel as a people come of age with whom He would converse in the...

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pp. 27-49

Because of the merit of the Fathers, God gave Israel the joy of lifting their heads high again (Sec. 1). Then, too, as a result of Moses’ intercession in behalf of Israel—Moses who had been the target of Israel’s vile effrontery—God transmuted and purified the offensive “this” by which Israel had contemptuously designated Moses in the...

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pp. 50-76

Because Israel had let go both Torah and commandments at Rephidim, Amalek was able to launch upon Israel an attack (Sec. a) which Joshua, who sprang from the Tribe destined to destroy Esau’s brood, was called upon to resist (Sec. b). Still, Moses had to invoke the merits of the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs, as well as the merit of the rod upon which God’s seventy names were emblazoned, to sustain...

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pp. 77-115

Bringing forth out of the unclean that which is clean is a mysterious act which only God, the Unique One of the universe, can perform (Sec. 1). His concern with purity is so great that to avoid unseemly terms He speaks in a roundabout way. In His eyes slander is an impurity even more hateful than unseemly speaking. Therefore, in Saul’s generation, even though children were thoroughly versed in...

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pp. 116-163

According to R. Johanan, when the world was made, the orb of the sun was created to give light while the moon was created to enable Israel to determine thereby the incidence of New Moons and of New Years’ Days. R. Hanina [ben Hama], while agreeing that when the world was created, only the sun was intended to give light, maintains...

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pp. 164-184

Since God is merciful and man is cruel, if God were hungry, He would not ask cruel man to provide food for Him. In asking for animal sacrifices, He does not make inordinate demands, for it is not to satisfy hunger that He asks for sacrifices. If His angels require no food or drink, God certainly does not require them. If Moses required no...

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Piska 7

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pp. 185-204

Since only the Lord can know the exact instant of midnight, since only He can distinguish between the drop of sperm from which a first-born is conceived and the drop of sperm from which a subsequent offspring is conceived, Scripture says that At midnight THE LORD smote all the first-born (Exod. 12:29) (Secs. 1–2). Because Moses predicted...

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pp. 205-220

The Sages were about to suppress the Book of Ecclesiastes because they found in it ideas such as What profit hath a man of all his labor wherein he laboreth under the sun? (Eccles. 1:3), ideas which smacked of heresy. But they decided otherwise after probing more deeply into the meaning of the text....

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pp. 221-246

Discussion of the verse Thy righteousness is like the mighty mountains; Thy judgments are like the great deep: man and cattle Thou preservest, O Lord (Ps. 36:7) leads to the conclusion that God’s execution of justice—His reward of the righteous and His punishment of the wicked whether in this world or in the world-to-come—points to His...

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pp. 247-265

Niggardliness in one’s household, in lending, and more especially in tithing leads eventually to a decrease of one’s possessions (Sec. 1). But faithfulness in tithing increases them (Sec. 2). Whatever exceptional gifts are given to a man—looks, voice, or produce—he should therewith honor the Lord (Sec. 3). Thus Israel are saved from Gehenna...

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pp. 266-297

When a man’s ways please the Lord, He may cause even the man’s enemies to give up life for his sake, or may have them make peace with him, as God did in Israel’s behalf when Pharaoh let them go out of Egypt (Sec. 1). After Israel’s departure, the Egyptians, who at one time ordered that every son of Israel be cast into the Nile River, were...

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pp. 298-334

Even as Israel was thus distinguished, so was Moses distinguished among the Prophets, every one of whom bluntly demanded that the Holy One meet Israel’s needs (Sec. 1). God’s willingness to meet Israel’s needs is so strong, that as a mother draws out her breast to suckle her child He drew out the Torah for Israel (Sec. 2). Still He...

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pp. 335-354

Cry aloud with thy voice, etc. (Isa. 10:30) is construed as an appeal to Israel: Instead of occupying yourselves with songs and chants to idols, cry aloud in words of Torah, words that are right and proper in your mouth. Else you will be forced to be wanderers (Sec. 1). Give up your obsession with idols, an obsession which may lead to your...

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pp. 355-365

In His reproach of Israel, God’s manner is mild and conciliatory (Sec. 1). If Israel were only to hearken to Him, their entire being would soon be saturated with God’s teaching (Sec. 2). Israel’s poverty is God’s means of getting Israel to repent. Indeed, God chose Jeremiah, a poor man from the country, knowing that he would reprimand Israel not...

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pp. 366-381

Even as God lamented the fall of Adam, so He lamented the fall of Jerusalem (Sec. 1), the city which, when touched by God’s hand, was left sitting solitary (Sec. 2). Like a king of flesh-and-blood in mourning, God hung sackcloth over the entrance of His house, extinguished the lamps, kept silent, turned the couches upside down, rent His purple...

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pp. 382-403

If Boaz’ words succeeded in comforting Ruth, then when God comes to comfort Jerusalem, saying Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people (Isa. 40:1), He will surely succeed (Sec. 1). He will speak to the heart of Jerusalem because the heart is the seat of all action (Sec. 2). Indeed, it was Jerusalem’s heart which inspired her misdeeds—misdeeds which...

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pp. 404-420

Because Israel’s anguish has gone on for so long, it appears to them that there is no chance of their reconciling or of their being reconciled with God and that God’s mercy has departed from them for ever. But God has not forgotten that He is merciful and gracious; nor has He forgotten that on six special occasions He chose to encamp in...

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pp. 421-429

The outcry O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? (Ps. 4:3) is first construed as David’s reproach to Doeg and Ahithophel and then as God’s reproach to the nations of the earth, for ultimately He was to vindicate David as well as the people of Israel (Sec. 1)....

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pp. 430-441

No fugitive from Israel could find comfort anywhere among the heathen nations. All of Israel’s neighbors encompassed her with hostility, a hostility for which Israel blamed God because He had commanded His people not to intermarry with heathen nations. Hence God said I will comfort you (Sec. 2) like the most compassionate of...

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pp. 442-451

Zion is the seventh in the number of notable mothers in Israel who were barren a long time before God blessed them with children. Like the others, Zion’s time will come: no longer barren, no longer uprooted from the Land, she will find peace....

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pp. 452-459

God and Israel together will give their light to Zion (Sec. 1). But the light which God and Israel are to give Zion will do no more than enhance the radiance of God’s own glory with which Zion was endowed from the beginning of creation (Sec. 2). When the union of Israel and Zion takes place, the Holy One will say to Zion, “Rise, give light, for...

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pp. 460-468

When Israel is quickened, God as well as all the earth’s inhabitants will rejoice (Sec. 1). Israel will not only rejoice in Israel’s deliverance but will also take delight in God and in His Torah. Thus Israel will both rejoice and give joy (Sec. 2). Israel’s greatest cause of joy, however, will be that God their King will have come back (Sec. 3)....

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pp. 469-485

True, the twenty-fifth day of Elul carries the distinction of being the first day of the creation of the world—the creation of the physical world, that is—but it is the sixth day of creation falling on the first day of Tishri, New Year’s Day, the day Adam and Eve were created and judged, that carries the distinction of beginning the spiritual history...

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pp. 486-515

As voiced by Hosea, God’s plea to Israel to repent is both a shofar of warning and an appeal to seek God and live (Sec. 1). Even as one is always free to immerse himself in the sea, so the man who seeks repentance is free to repent at any time in any place. The Lord—Israel’s pool of hope—is always nearby to cleanse repentant Israel...

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pp. 516-522

Moses acknowledged the truth of all God told him, except for one thing—God’s patience in punishing a man who sins. In the end, however, Moses admitted the need for God’s patience with the man who sins and His forbearance in punishing the sinner only a little at a time (Sec. 1). In His exercise of patience God lifts out from the pan of iniquities...

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pp. 523-547

The death of Aaron’s two sons points up the fate which befalls all kinds of people—the good, the bad, and the indifferent (Sec. 1). Indeed, everywhere grief is mingled with joy. Thus a young man, as illustrated by a story, may die on the day he is to be wed. Even God’s joy in the beneficence which He bestowed upon the generation of the flood and...

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pp. 548-566

Instruction in Torah is more precious than silver. Thus, while collectors of charity who put pressure upon people for contributions they cannot afford will, according to Scripture, be punished, collectors of money in behalf of instructors in Bible and Mishnah are free to collect as much as they are able. As to compensation for teaching even...

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pp. 567-593

Jews are grateful for what God gives them, in contrast to the heathen who, when He gives them ease, are likely to blaspheme and revile Him just the same. Moreover, the heathen observe holidays riotously, while Jews observe them peacefully. It is because of their exemplary conduct that after the seven days of Sukkot Jews are given an additional day, the...

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pp. 594-614

1. wherewith Moses blessed (Deut. 33:1).1 Let our teacher instruct us: If he who stands before the ark as reader for the congregation2 makes a mistake [in his reading of the Tefillah3], what is to be done? Our Masters taught as follows: When he who stands before the ark as reader for the congregation makes a mistake, a new reader takes his...

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pp. 615-632

1. R. Hinena bar Papa—some say R. Simla’i—commented as follows: In the time-to-come, the Holy One will bring out a Scroll of Torah, hold it to His bosom, and say, “Whosoever has occupied himself with a Scroll such as this, let him come and get his reward.” At these words all the peoples of the world will come together in a motley...

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pp. 633-638

2. Better is a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king (Eccles. 4:13). R. Nathan said: The words A poor and wise child stand for the Inclination to good.1 And why is the Inclination to good called child? Because the Inclination to good, [in contrast to the Inclination to evil, does not come into being until the children of men reach the age of...

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pp. 639-641

1. Tithe, and then thou shalt again tithe all the increase of thy field (Deut. 14:22). “All kinds of provender, except water or salt, may be purchased with second-tithe money”2 (Er 3:1). [Why not water or salt]? Because it was with these two staples that two earlier generations provoked God —the generation of the flood by saying that rain did not come from...

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pp. 642-648

1. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings, that announceth peace (Isa. 52:7). These words are to be considered in the light of what Solomon, king of Israel, was inspired by the holy spirit to say, Thy tablets because they offer all kinds of instruction are as beautiful as precious ornaments1 (Song 1:9), a verse which...

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pp. 649-654

1. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall rejoice in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of victory (Isa. 61:10). What comes directly before the verse that begins the lesson? Their seed shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all that see them shall acknowledge them, that...

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pp. 655-658

1. Seek ye the Lord while He may be found (Isa. 55:6), [said Isaiah]. And David said: Seek ye the Lord and His strength (Ps. 105:4). What did he have in mind in going on to say in the same verse Seek His face evermore (ibid.)? To teach you that the Holy One, may His name be blessed, is at times seen and at times not seen, at times listens to prayer...


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pp. 659-668


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pp. 669-679


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pp. 680-706

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pp. 707-717

The Rabbis and scholars whose commentary and activity makes up the bulk of the Pesikta de-Rab Kahana are known as Tannaim and Amoraim; they flourished between the first and the fifth centuries of the Common Era (C.E.)....


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pp. 718-784


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pp. 785-795

E-ISBN-13: 9780827610095
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827606791

Publication Year: 2002

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