Midrashic Imagination, The
Jewish Exegesis, Thought, and History
Publication Year: 1993
Published by: State University of New York Press
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One of the most compelling and characteristic features of Jewish creativity is its "midrashic imagination." Growing out of the earliest interpretations of the Bible, the genres of Midrash, as they developed in classical Judaism, extend genres found in the Bible itself. Thus just as the Bible is marked by legal, theological, legendary, historiographical, and rhetorical materials- which are variously, though not systematically, subject to clarifications...
PART I: Midrashic Henneneutics: Some Conceptual and Comparative Considerations
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1. Midrash and the "Midrashic Condition": Preliminary Considerations
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The study of Midrash has recently gained in academic attention, for it has dawned on the scholarly world that Midrash is not restricted to idiosyncratic, isolated, and even esoteric forms of rabbinic exegesis of Scripture. Indeed, scholars and literary critics have gradually realized that Midrash as a literary genre and form of interpretative expression is present in almost...
2. From Midrash to Mishnah: Theological Repercussions and Further Clarifications of "Chate'u Yisrael"
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In a previous book, I attempted to demonstrate that the midrashic form of scriptural commentary, in which exegesis is appended to and originally linked with a scriptural citation, predated the mishnaic form, which arranges laws topically without attendant scriptural references. Though this view that Midrash is more ancient than :Yfishnah was almost universally held in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when debate ensued concerning...
3. Midrashic versus Other Formsof Jewish Hermeneutics: Some Comparative Reflections
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Modem scholarship abounds in attempts to define and describe the nature of Midrash. Indeed, this evasive modus interpretandis fascinates both the younger generation of scholars of Judaic a-at least partially because of the affinity between the midrashic mode of interpretation and modern views of literary criticism-the literary critics. Recent trends in modern philosophy...
PART II: Ancient Midrash: Myth, History, and Parable
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4. "The Holy One Sits and Roars": Mythopoesis and the Midrashic Imagination
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Among the historical religions, classical Judaism is often characterized by its apparent break with mythology. Indeed, if one nostrum is widely accepted it is just this: that the foundation document of Judaism, the Hebrew Bible, reflects a primary rupture with the world of myth and mythmaking; and that this break has widened appreciably over the centuries. But such assessments are often based on self-serving assumptions and the restriction of...
5. The Rabbinic Parable and the Narrative of Interpretation
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Perhaps the most frustrating feature of Rabbinic literature is its reticence: how little it reveals of the story of its own making, about the situations and circumstances in which its texts originated. An exception to this general rule is the following, rather amusing narrative about one sage's use of the masha~ the generic term in Rabbinic literature for the fable and parable:...
Part III: Medieval Midrash and Exegis: The Many Ways of Peshat, Remez, and Sod
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6. The Nature and Distribution of Medieval Compilatory Commentaries in the Light of Rabbi Joseph Kara's Commentary on the Book of Job. *
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Compilation, gathering passages from existing works, removing them from their original context, and reassembling them around another subject, thus creating a new text, is a familiar phenomenon found in many literatures. Moreover, the phenomenon of textual interpretation using the method of compilation is also found in the history of exegesis and is widely...
7. Maimonides on the Covenant of Circumcision and the Unity of God
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M aimonides's explanation of the Mosaic commandments in the Guide of the Perplexed is best known for its claim that the many rituals concerned with sacrifices, the Temple, and purity and impurity were all legislated to counteract the idolatrous practices that prevailed among the nations in whose midst the ancient Israelites lived. I But for the very reason that Maimonides...
8. Beautiful Maiden Without Eyes: Peshat and Sod in Zoharic Hermeneutics
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Scholars who have discussed the hermeneutical posture of thirteenth-century Spanish Kabbalah in general and that of Zohar in particular have usually subscribed to the view that one controlling factors in kabbalistic exegesis is the distinction between the exoteric meaning, the peshat, or sensus litteralis, and the esoteric, that is, the mystical or kabbalistic interpretation...
9. Proverbs, Figures, and Riddles: The Dialogues of Love as a Hebrew Humanist Composition...
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The Dialogues of Love by Yehuda Abravanel has attracted more attention from historians of Jewish philosophy than its influence on later Jewish thought deserves. Written in the form of a literary dialogue between a man and a woman on the subject of love, the work promiscuously juxtaposes obscure and intricate cabalistic secrets with allegorical interpretations of classical myths...
PART IV: Myth, Midrash, and Exemplum in Medieval Historiography
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10. Can Medieval Storytelling Help Understanding Midrash? The. Story of Paltiel: A Preliminary Study on History and Midrash
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In Sefer Hasidim, the ethical "Volksbuch" of Hasidei Ashkenaz, the Jewish Pietists of Medieval Germany (eleventh-thirteenth centuries) l paragraph 545,2 we read the following text: I Shabbatai b. Abraham, called Zolgo [= Donnolo] the doctor[-] was exiled from my homeland, the city called Oria, by the Muslim host, on Monday, the 9th of Tammuz, 4085 A.M. in the Eleventh year of the 246th cycle. And then...
11. History, Story and Collective Memory: Narrativity in Early Ashkenazic Culture
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The problem of narrativity has yet to be addressed by students of medieval Jewish historiography.l Those who have studied that group of texts that "look like history"-my term for narratives about the past2-tend to fall into one of three categories depending on whether they are looking for "facts," literary genres and motifs, or the historical meaning of cultural symbols. The first group...
12. Sefer Yosippon: History and Midrash
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This chapter will argue two theses derived from its title: first, that the Book of Yosippon is a history in any definition of the term. Whether it is totally reliable for reconstructing the ancient history of Israel is anotller matter. The anonymous author of Yosippon produced an historical narrative that served the purpose of interpreting the past for his and subsequent generations. He...
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Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 1993