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Baltasar Gracian


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Midrash and Mishnah

by Jacob Zallel Lauterbach

Excerpt:

2 As the difference is only in form, it is not surprising to find that very many of the Halakot are cast in both forms. Very often the same Halakot which are found in the halakic Midrashim together with their scriptural proofs are also found in the Mishnah and Tosefta without scriptural proofs as independent Halakot.

to them by Ezra (Neh. 8 and 10. 30). The Book of the Law, therefore, as read and interpreted by Ezra, was for them the only authority they were bound to follow. Whatever was not given in the book, they were not bound to accept. All the religious practices and the timehonoured customs and even the traditional laws, if there were such, had to receive the sanction of the written Law in order to be absolutely binding upon the people. This means, that the practices, customs, &c., had to be recognized as implied in the written Law or contained in its fuller meaning. The teachers, therefore, interpreted the written Law so as to include in it or derive from it all those customs and practices. Thus, the teachings of the Halakah (for all such rules, customs, practices, and traditional laws constituted the Halakah) had to be represented as an interpretation or an exposition of the written Law. This, as we have seen above, means, to be given in Midrash-form. It is expressly stated of Ezra that he explained and interpreted the Torah to the people, and that he set his heart to search (Wii>) the meaning of the Law, to interpret it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgements (Ezra 7. 10). We learn from this, that Ezra taught only the Book of the Law with such interpretations as he could give to it. His successors, the Soferim, who were the earliest teachers of the Halakah, did the same. They gave all their teachings merely as interpretations to the Book of the Law. Indeed, the very name Soferim was given to them because it characterized their manner of teaching. This name D'lSlD is derived from nao 'the Book'. It means * Bookmen', and it designated a class of people who occupied themselves with the Book of the Law, who interpreted it and who based all their teachings upon this book exclu

sively (Frankel, Hodegetica in Mischnam, p. 3, and Weiss, Dor, I, p. 47).

For a long period this Midrash-form was the only form used in teaching the Halakah. This is confirmed by reliable traditions reported to us in Rabbinic literature. One such report is contained in the following passage in the Pal. Talmud (Moed katan III, 7, 83*):

mm Tiyi JToi>n row Va Ion n'prn ?oan Toi>n inrs

way iux Hwk-o -ion run xin 'dv 'n n^

'Who is to be considered a scholar? Hezekiah says, One who has studied the Halakot as an addition to and in connexion with the Torah.3 Said to him R. Jose, What you say was [correct] in former times, but in our day, even [if one has studied merely detached] Halakot, [he is to be regarded as a scholar].' Here it is plainly stated that in earlier times (roitwa) the only form of teaching Halakot

* The term 11J71 means 'addition ', as, for instance, in the phrase: "Iiyi rniiTl 'Is it necessary to mention the custom in Judea as an addition to the law indicated in the Scriptures?' (b. Kiddushin 6 a). It is also found in the plural form, nniVl 'additions' (b. Erubin 83 a). The expression mm "njfl here means, therefore, as an addition to the Torah, i. e. to teach the Halakot not independently but as additions to the passages in the Torah from which they are derived. In almost the same sense it is also interpreted by the commentator Pne Mosheh, ad loc.

It should also be noticed that in b. Kiddushin 49a Hezekiah says that to be called a student (rOtt?) it is enough if one has studied merely detached Halakot. This, however, does not contradict his saying in our passage in the p. Talmud. For D3n TD?n is a scholar of a higher degree of learning. From b. Megillah 26 b it is evident that the student called n31'J' is not as advanced as the scholar called D2D TDjTI . To be considered a scholar, such as is designated by the name D3H "VD/n , Hezekiah tells us, one must study the Halakot in the Midrash-form. For even after the Mishnah-form had become popular, the Midrash was considered the proper form to be used by advanced scholars. See Guttmann, Zur Einleitung in die Halakah, Budapest, 1909, p. 20.


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