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Midrash ( Hebrew מדרשׁ midrāš , plural midrashim ) is the interpretation of religious texts in rabbinic Judaism .

Word meaning

The word "midrash" comes from the Hebrew verb darash (דרש), which generally means "to seek", but also has the meaning of "to seek God" or "to seek God's answer (to a current problem) in the scriptures". With Midrash , the process of is exegetical , related to the presence of disengagement meant scriptures, that first "research, study," then "design" and "teaching" (ie "theory," as distinguished from "doing", Hebrew Ma'aseh ). Midrash is understood to mean both the process of studying and its result, i.e. works of writing that contain interpretations of the Bible. Midrashim refer, among other things, to authoritative religious texts of the Tanakh and can be found in the Bible, the Talmud and in some texts of the Midrash literature . It can be in written or oral form. The darschan is the interpreter, the preacher or, derived from it, the admonisher. The Drascha , like Midrash itself, is an exposition of Scripture or a sermon. The conceptual demarcation to peschat , i.e. H. to the "simple", literal meaning of an expression is not always easy. Also a targum , i.e. H. a Bible translation, may contain passages that are interpreted in the sense of a midrash .

The first mention of bet midrash , "Lehrhaus", is found in Sir 51.23  EU .


The midrash is certainly an oral form of scriptural interpretation. However, the first written examples can already be found in the Bible itself. For example, the books of the Chronicle can be understood as Midrashim (Pl. Of Midrash) to the books Samuel and Kings .

The midrash acquired its greatest importance, however, in the time of rabbinic Judaism from the year 70 AD. The essential written evidence comes from this period. These are independent collections of texts that were created alongside the works of the Mishnah and the Talmud . The place of origin of the Midrashim is predominantly the land of Israel, the Babylonian Judaism contributed little to this genre.

to form

There are two main types of midrash. A clear demarcation is often difficult, however, so that mixed forms can be found:

Halachic midrashim

The Halacha is the interpretation of legal regulations in Judaism. Accordingly, halachic midrashim deal exclusively with texts from the Torah , in particular the biblical books from Exodus to Deuteronomy . Because of their origin in the Tannaitic period, the halachic midrashim are also called tannaitic midrashim.

The following works with a textual base from the Tannaitic period belong to the halachic midrashim (selection):

  • Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael (interpretations of the Book of Exodus, final editing after 250, first printing Constantinople 1515)
  • Sifra : Interpretations of the Book of Leviticus , probably written after 180; Sifra (סִפְרָא, Aramaic = "the book"); Lev. was the first book in the old Jewish school system with which the lessons began, also called Torat Kohanim (doctrine of the priests / priestly law) or also Sifra dewe (debe) Rab / book from the school of Rab, Halachic / Tannaitic midrash to Leviticus / Wajikra, the whole of Leviticus is annotated verse for verse, often even word for word (first print Konstantinopel 1523; Konkordanz B. Kosovsky, Otsar Leschon ha-Tannaim. Sifra, 4 vols., New York-Jerusalem 1967–1969); The time when Sifra was written is discussed in various ways (dated back to the 6th century), but the basic text is from the Tannaitic period
  • Sifre : Sifre Numeri (interpretations of the Book Numbers , probably created after 250); Sifre Deuteronomy (interpretations of the book of Deuteronomy): Sifre (aram. "The books") or Sifre dewe Raw ("books from the Raws school "), halachic (but large Haggadic parts) midrash to Numbers and Deuteronomy, probably from school Ishmaels (Sifre Num) or from the schools of Ishmaels and Akibas (Sifre Dtn); Sifre originally the name of all Tannaitic Pentateuch commentaries, since the Middle Ages the name of the commentaries on Num and Dtn; no uniform work, but different collections in a much worse state of delivery than Mechilta or Sifra, date of origin after 250 (?); Sifre not to be confused with Sifre Zutta ("the little Sifre", also: Sifre Suta or Sifre schel panim acherim ), halachic midrash to Bamidbar / Numbers, only fragmentary, possibly the oldest halachic midrash, going back to the extended circle of the school Rabbi Akibas

Aggadic Midrashim

Rabbinic Judaism calls non-legal interpretations Aggada (also: Haggada ). Aggadic Midrashim (accordingly: Haggadic Midrashim ) deal with the narrative parts of the Bible and are also referred to as homiletic . The most important works of this genre (collective name for all these partly completely different works: Midrash rabba , "the great Midrash" ) are:

  • Bereschit Rabba / Genesis Rabba / GenRabba (also: Bereschit de Rabbi Oschaja / Baraita de Bereschit Rabba ): Interpretation midrash to the Book of Genesis , contains many later additions (especially the interpretations of the Jacob's blessing ), originated in the 5th century; not to be confused with the medieval midrash compilation Bereschit Rabbati, which probably dates from the 11th century
  • Wajjiqra Rabba / Leviticus Rabba / LevRabba (also: Haggadat Wajjiqra / Haggada de-Wajjiqra etc.): Homily midrash for the Book of Leviticus , written in the land of Israel , contains a large collection of proverbs, the oldest homiletic midrash, consisting of 37 sermons, the follow the three-year reading cycle customary in Israel's synagogues, written in the 5th century, first printed in Constantinople in 1512
  • Echa Rabbati / Lamentations Rabba / KlglRabba / Echa Rabbati [Ekha Rabbati] (also: Megillat echa, Megillat echa rabba, Midrash Threni, Aggadat Ekha [Rabbati], Megillat Ekha [Arukh], Midrash Qinot, Midrash Ekha): Commentary on the book Lamentations , created in the 5th century, final editing in the 7th century; contains 5 chapters like the biblical script and collects numerous traditions and legends about the two Jewish uprisings against Rome; also depiction of the martyrdom of the seven " Maccabean brothers".
  • the Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana / Pessikta de Raw Kahana / PRK (also: Pesiqta for short [Pesiqta: "section", "decision"]): Palestinian collection of sermons on various scriptures (from Torah or the Prophets), here on various feast days and “Excellent Sabbaths”, named after Rabbi Kahana (not the author, but the one named at the beginning), who lived in the 3rd or 4th century; the oldest collection of its kind, created after 300, most likely around the middle of the 5th century; PRK closely related to LevRabba (five parashes in common)
  • Pesiqta Rabbati / PesR (also: Pesiqta gedola, Pesiqta rabbeta): "Miscellaneous", Palestinian collection of homilies on various scriptures (various Jewish festivals and "excellent" Sabbaths), called the "great" because they have a greater number of homilies than the Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana contains; many parts of the text stock are much older, no uniform work, originated after 500.


  • Tanchuma or Jelammedenu (Jelamdenu) : popular homily midrash and group of such midrash for the entire Pentateuch that originated in Palestine after the 8th century and was not part of the Midrash Rabba group; the name Tanchuma comes from the Amorae Tanchuma bar Abba (Palestinian rabbine towards the end of the 4th century), because several homilies begin: "This is how Rabbi Tanchuma bar Abba introduced"; Jelammedenu is the name of the Midrash after the halachic introductory formula Jelammedenu rabbenu , "let our master teach us"; There are divergent text traditions, in whose tradition DtnRabba also belongs as well as parts of ExRabba, NumRabba and parts of the PesR (Pesiqta Rabbati)


  • EE Hallewy: Midrash Rabba. Eight volumes. Tel Aviv 1956–1963.
  • Mose Arieh Mirkin: Midrash Rabba. Eleven volumes. Yavnah, Tel Aviv 1956-1967.


  • Harry Freedman, Maurice Simon (Ed.): Midrash Rabba. Translated into English. Ten volumes. Soncino, London 1939.

See also

Literature (selection)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. M. Elser, S. Ewald, G. Murrer (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Religions. Weltbild, Augsburg 1990, p. 236