Shemot Rabbah (The Great Exodus) is the midrash to the book of Shemot, containing in the printed editions 52 parashiyyot. It is not uniform in its composition. Thus, the Hebrew name of the Book of Exodus is Shemot, meaning “Names,” for through the events Midrash Tehilim Likutei Sichot, vol. the children of Israel out of Egypt”. (Shemot ). “Under the apple tree I roused Your love” (Shir Hashirim ). The. Midrash in Yalkut Shimoni () states.
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1±6 SHEMOT them twice likens them to the stars, is midrashic. SHEMOT. NJPS These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to. In the Hebrew Bible the Book of Exodus is called sefer Shemot (“names”), .. According to midrash (Shemot Rabbah ), as a very young lad Moses was once. This week's parashah, Shemot, begins the saga of the enslavement of the . usually seen by the Rabbis of the Talmud and the Midrash as a divine punishment.
On the other hand, Bregman suggests an 11th-century date for ER I, on the grounds that ER I uses midrashic materials derived from the school of Moshe ha-Darshan, who lived in the 11th century Bregman, Tanhuma-Yelammedenu, Bregman also argues that, where material from ER I is found both in Tanhuma and in the Babylonian Talmud, ER I tends to follow the Talmudic version, thus indicating a later date for the composition of ER I that is, the 11th century when the Babylonian Talmud had exerted deinitive inluence in the land of Israel Bregman, Tanhuma-Yelammedenu, The earliest author who knows ER as a completed work is R.
Azriel of Gerona in the early 13th century, and then through Azriel Nahmanides in his commentary on the Torah ca. But one cannot assume that the inal compilation was not made until this time; the 10th or 11th century is very plausible for the completed ER see the cautionary comments of Saul Liebermann on dating works by their irst named appearance Saul Liebermann, Midrash Debarim Rabbah [2nd ed.
Wahrmann, ], 21—22 [Hebrew]. Stories of Moses in Midrash 9 modest elaboration. In other instances, Moses is described in terms that show signiicant developments in rabbinic thought. This is particularly true of the depiction of Moses as a Torah scholar. This is a characteristic of Moses that was prominent in some early Greco-Roman sources, and though it was not emphasized by MRI, it reappears as a major motif in ER.
The stories about Moses in ER clearly illustrate how narrative expansions on biblical char- acters can address contemporary concerns and insights. At the same time, many of these stories also relect thoughtful readings of the biblical text. Moses is said to be 12 years old when he was taken from the house of his father ER 5. One explanation of the need for the burning bush is that Moses did not want to cease from his work when God irst began speaking with him ER 2.
Moses spoke in an inappropriate way to God in Exod 4: Moses argues with God about his calling ER 6. Yavneh, , vols. In translating into English, we have generally followed S. Lehrman, Midrash Rabbah: Exodus 3rd ed. Soncino, , although we have occasionally reworded the translation based on the Hebrew in view of the speciic context of our discussion. As one might expect, these chronological observations arise from the treatment of speciic verses in the exegetical part of ER that is, ER I.
ER II has nothing to say on these matters. In MRI, vayassa, ch.
There is disagreement between sages in ER 3. In ER 6. Other passage where Moses talks back to God include ER 3. While the ambassador was on his way, the people of the province publicly ofended the king, and the news of their ofense reached the king before the ambassador did. As a consequence, when the ambassador arrived he was immediately punished for what his people had done.
Moses was able to ascend the moun- tain of the Lord Ps Moses is wise to care for the bones of Joseph ER The attributes of Moses are also explained through Ps The rebuke of Exod ER At ER The conclusion of the parable is not given in ER, presumably because it was readily available in another source known to the compilers of ER.
But the sense of the ending is clear enough from the context. Some of these attributes are applied to Aaron as well; for example, Aaron is peace, based on Mal 2: The meekness of Moses is grounded in the biblical text at Num Moses in the biblical text does occasionally become angry Exod For example, God was not pleased at Moses for breaking the tablets, until Moses explained his reasoning: Stories of Moses in Midrash 11 that God irst revealed himself to Moses in a quiet and persuasive way so as not to alarm him ER 3.
According to ER 2. In a culture that emphasized the authority of the teacher, it was important to emphasize that Moses himself was a kind and compassionate authority igure. Moses as Torah Scholar The clearest example where the portrayal of Moses in ER relects a develop- ment in rabbinic thought beyond the time of MRI is found in the depiction of Moses as a scholar of Torah.
MRI had presented Moses as a Torah scholar in relatively simple, albeit distinctively rabbinic ways. ER places greater emphasis on this aspect of Moses, and in doing so it shows how the theol- ogy of Torah and Torah study had evolved from the tannaitic period to late antiquity and the Middle Ages. There are numerous aggadot involving Moses in ER that express the rabbinic ideology of Torah, many of which originated after the redaction of MRI and relect more developed ideas and practices.
Moses learned Torah directly from the mouth of the Almighty ER Deut 8: In response to the question of Job Similarly, it is deduced from Deut See ER 2. The aggadic tradition in ER Aha in Tanhuma beshallah, 18 and simply to R. Hiyya the Great in Tanhuma B beshallah, 4. A clear expression of this idea occurs at ER 2.
Aba b. Kahana said that he whose name is repeated will inherit both worlds. In order to explain and justify this interpreta- be taken at face value.
See M. Mielziner, Introduction to the Talmud 3rd ed. New York: Bloch, , — See ER 3. The biblical texts under discussion are Exod 4: ER does not see in these verses any suggestion of the divinization of Moses but rather explains the God- Moses-Aaron relationship on the analogy of the text-preacher-speaker dynamic of the Jewish synagogue see Elbogen, Jewish Liturgy, Michael S.
Berger, Rabbinic Authority Oxford: Oxford University Press, , 59— This handling of repetition stems from the midrashic concern that no details in the text be seen as unnecessary or superluous.
Stories of Moses in Midrash 13 tion, the Midrash relates the irst half of Isa The idea that Torah ofers rewards both in this life and in the life to come goes back at least to the period of Tractate Avot. Jacob Neusner gives three examples of how Judaism in the late 4th century developed in response to the political triumph of Christianity: As can be seen in Talmud Yerushalmi Peah 2: This idea is explained in ER Mal 3: A plausible date for Avot would be the middle of the 3rd century a.
Neusner, In- troduction, Avot 6: The study house of Shem and Eber is mentioned often in rabbinic literature, for example, Gen. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan at Gen See also b. Jacob Neusner, The Formation of Judaism: In Retrospect and Prospect Atlanta: Scholars Press, , 98— Even the question a pupil asks his teacher God told Moses at that time.
After he had learnt it from God, God told him to teach it to Israel. Moses said: Shall I write it down for them? Only the Bible will I give them in writing, but the Mish- nah, Talmud, and Aggadah I will give them orally, so that when the idolaters come and enslave them, my people will remain distinct from them.
This theology of the Dual Torah—Written and Oral—ascribes to rabbinic commentary, discussion, and application of the biblical text the same divine origin as is recognized for the scriptural Torah.
The major thrust of the text, however, is clearly focused on external pressures.
When the idolaters lit. But why is it only the Oral Torah that can This understanding of the verse obviously difers from most modern translations. Based on But the aggadah at The prophets and the biblical sages to come also received their teaching at Sinai ER Tanhuma, Yitro, Stories of Moses in Midrash 15 serve this function? And why does this concept become important in the 4th century?
God made his covenant at Sinai with Israel on the basis of both Written Torah and Oral Torah, and both are essential for identifying the true Israel. The belief that rabbinic teaching was in harmony with Scripture certainly goes back to the period of MRI and before cf.
In ER as in other midrashim presenting this myth, the revelatory status of both Written and Oral Torah is airmed by claiming that both were revealed to Moses at Sinai.
This theme had been important for Jewish authors in the Greco-Roman period, but it received only slight attention in MRI. The sages of ER relect deeply on the signiicance of what Moses did for Israel by pleading to God on their behalf, even as they struggle to explain through nu- merous analogies how such a thing could have been possible at all.
As ER According to ER As noted by Neusner Formation of Judaism, —7 , rabbinic writings from this period tended to reply to such challenges without dignifying the opposition with an explicit response. See MRI, pisha, ch. ER even distinguishes God from his anger against Israel. Accord- ing to ER In one instance, the phrase from Ps The breaking of the tablets is also compared to a situation in which a king sent his agent to deliver a docu- ment of engagement to a woman, but when he arrived the woman had already committed adultery, and so he destroyed the document to keep the woman from facing judgment as a married person ER In ER Moses replies that because God has granted to him, as a scholar, the right to absolve vows cf.
As a result, God stands before Moses, while Moses sits as an elder, and Moses absolves God of his vow made at Exod In each of these analogies, Moses intercedes for Israel before God, but for each analogy—the court scene, the verdict desk, the engagement, and the vow—the activity of Moses is seen in a slightly diferent light.
Stories of Moses in Midrash 17 which God responds that Israel has now worshiped the golden calf Exod Again, Moses calls to mind the young men of Israel who sacriiced to the Lord Exod Moses can be even cleverer than this. When God suggests that he will make a great nation out of Moses Exod Moses therefore takes on himself full responsibility for observing the Torah, together with all of the righteous ER ER paints Moses as bold in argument with God in trying to win mercy for Israel.
But the main question we wish to ask is why does this theme, nearly absent from MRI, appear so prominent in ER? What would have been the main point of interest in these stories for Jews in late antiquity or for those who compiled ER in the 10th or 11th century? Just as with the myth of the Dual Torah, it is probable that Jewish interactions with the broader Christian world raised concerns that were partly addressed through these aggadic expansions to the character of Moses.
We noted above that the Greco-Roman interest in Moses as intercessor likely had roots in the animosity sometimes expressed toward Judaism in that cultural context. This is not to suggest that every aggadic development must be rooted in speciic historical experiences, or that only historical experiences related to Christianized society af- fected rabbinic thought. Carol Bakhos Ishmael on the Border: Cazelles; Tournai: Moses in ER is a heroic igure: He is, of course, an extraordinary igure in the biblical text e.
Conclusion In general terms, it is certainly true that rabbinic midrash represents both textual interpretation and the expression of rabbinic values. But not every midrashic document balances these concerns in the same way. In some works, like Sifra or Genesis Rabbah, there is an abundance of detailed tex- tual interpretation, and the ideological dimension of midrash is bound up formally with biblical exegesis.
ER does contain contextual exegesis in the most basic sense, such as when it describes the Kalmin, The Sage in Jewish Society, 98— Leonard B. Syracuse University Press, , 84— Ben- Sasson; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, , —7. Is there any way in which the stories about Moses in ER can be seen as biblical interpretation? One way to understand the interpretive dimension of these stories is to consider some features that midrash shares in common with other forms of interpretation.
In many kinds of textual interpretation, a primary task for the interpreter is to clarify diiculties in the text. Likewise with midrash, the exegetical dimension is partly grounded in the fact that many midrashic interpretations originate out of problems in Scripture, such as discrepancies or unexpected grammatical forms. As David Stern observes, a midrash may give multiple interpretations for the same passage precisely because it is responding to a textual problem for which multiple solutions emerged out of the exegetical conversation.
The various aggadot in ER on this topic attempt to explain, in essence, what happened in those exchanges between God and Moses. Perhaps a distinction should be made between God and his wrath. The inclusion of multiple stories relects the fact that many diferent solutions were proposed for this dilemma. Within the context of ER, it is not one single view that resolves the diiculty but a multiplicity of views intersecting one another. Another feature that midrash shares in common with other forms of interpretation is the necessary interface between the text and its inter- preter.
All commentary to some extent represents a dialogue between text and reader. Arthur A. Scribners, , See the insightful discussion in Donald E.
Westminster John Knox, , — Steven Fraade, From Tradition to Commentary: SUNY, , Indi- ana University Press, , 11— The stories in ER depicting Moses as a teacher relect these dimensions of the biblical text.
Likewise, the biblical connection between Torah obedience and life e. In some sense, we can see in the narrative expansions to Moses in ER the rabbinic version of a dialogue that always takes place when readers interpret texts. What rabbinic midrash does with Scripture represents its own distinctive combination of perspectives and procedures. Considering ER in particular, even if we are able to see an exegetical dimension to the inven- tion of stories about Moses, the obvious fact remains that there are many other ways of interpreting a text that are more straightforward.
In addition to noting how ER is like other forms of interpretation, one must also point out what is distinctive. The most striking feature about the midrashic interpretation of Moses found in ER is the pervasive anachronism.
The authors of ER felt complete freedom to portray Moses as if he were a rabbinic sage of their own day living out the narrative of Exodus. Rabbinic midrash was of course not the only form of creative historiography in the ancient world that described its characters in anachronistic terms.
In classical Greek and Latin literature, authors of epic and drama regularly made their heroes serve as mouth- pieces for their own values or philosophical ideas.
If this is true for texts in general, it is certainly true for biblical narrative, which is often abrupt, leaves much unexpressed, and invites interpretation through its complex characters; cf. The Repre- sentation of Reality in Western Literature trans.
Willard Trask; Princeton: Princeton University Press, , 1— Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus Louisville: We then witness the great scene at the burning bush where God summons him to lead his people to freedom. Moses hesitates four times until God becomes angry and Moses knows he has no other choice. This is a classic account of the childhood of a hero.
But this is only the surface. The Torah is a deep and subtle book, and it does not always deliver its message on the surface. Just beneath is another and far more remarkable story, not about a hero but about six heroines, six courageous women without whom there would not have been a Moses. First is Jocheved, wife of Amram and mother of the three people who were to become the great leaders of the Israelites: Miriam, Aaron and Moses himself.
It was Yocheved who, at the height of Egyptian persecution, had the courage to have a child, hide him for three months, and then devise a plan to give him a chance of being rescued. We know all too little of Yocheved. In her first appearance in the Torah she is unnamed.
Yet, reading the narrative, we are left in no doubt about her bravery and resourcefulness. Not by accident did her children all become leaders. The biblical text paints a portrait of the young Miriam as a figure of unusual fearlessness and presence of mind. Rabbinic tradition went further. In a remarkable midrash, we read of how the young Miriam confronted her father Amram and persuaded him to change his mind.
Hearing of the decree that every male Israelite baby would be drowned in the river, Amram led the Israelites in divorcing their wives so that there would be no more children. He had logic on his side. Could it be right to bring children into the world if there were a fifty per cent chance that they would be killed at birth?
Yet Miriam, so the tradition goes, remonstrated with him. His affects only the boys; yours affects all. His deprives children of life in this world; yours will deprive them of life even in the world to come. Summoned and accused of disobedience, they outwitted Pharaoh by constructing an ingenious cover story: the Hebrew women, they said, are vigorous and give birth before we arrive.
They escaped punishment and saved lives. There are instructions that should not be obeyed. Its true origin, though, lay thousands of years earlier in the actions of two women, Shifra and Puah. Through their understated courage they earned a high place among the moral heroes of history, teaching us the primacy of conscience over conformity, the law of justice over the law of the land.
The daughter of a Midianite priest, she was nonetheless determined to accompany Moses on his mission to Egypt, despite the fact that she had no reason to risk her life on such a hazardous venture. The impression we have of her is of a figure of monumental determination who, at a crucial moment, has a better sense than Moses himself of what God requires. It was she who had the courage to rescue an Israelite child and bring it up as her own in the very palace where her father was plotting the destruction of the Israelite people.
Could we imagine a daughter of Hitler, or Eichmann, or Stalin, doing the same?