Deuteronomy Rabbah

views updated


DEUTERONOMY RABBAH , aggadic Midrash on the Book of Deuteronomy.


In medieval literature the work was also referred to as Haggadat Elleh Ha-Devarim Rabbah and Devarim Rabbati, the designation "Rabbah" being used to distinguish it from Deuteronomy Zuta (see *Genesis Rabbah; *Ruth Rabbah).


Deuteronomy Rabbah is a homiletic Midrash (*Derash). The printed version is divided into 11 sections according to the weekly pentateuchal readings, but the division is in fact into 27 homilies, according to the triennial cycle of the reading of the Torah customary in Ereẓ Israel in earlier times. Deuteronomy Rabbah is a characteristically *Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu type of Midrash, even more so than those homilies on the Book of Deuteronomy contained in the printed editions of the Tanḥuma and in that of S. Buber (see below). Each homily is introduced by a halakhic question characteristic of the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu type of Midrash and begins with the formula: Halakhah adam me-Yisrael… Kakh shanu ḥakhamim – "What is the halakhah for a man of Israel … thus our sages taught …" (here halakhah is used instead of the moreusual Yelammedenu rabbenu, "Let our master teach us," of this type of Midrash). This is followed by a homily incorporating both halakhah and aggadah, the transition from halakhah to aggadah being introduced by the term: זה שאמר הכתוב ("This is what Scripture says"). Most of the homilies conclude with a message of consolation or redemption. The numerous transitions in lengthy homilies on the same subject are introduced by the formula davar aḥer … "another version…."

Different Versions

In 1895 S. Buber published from the Munich manuscript of Deuteronomy Rabbah, written in 1295, those homilies on the portion of Devarim which differ from the printed version, as well as addenda to the section Niẓẓavim (this manuscript omits the sections Va-Etḥannan and Va-Yelekh to the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, whereas all the remainder is identical with the printed version). A few years later a complete manuscript of Deuteronomy Rabbah in the possession of A. Epstein was found to be almost identical with the Munich manuscript and to contain homilies on Va-Etḥannan and Va-Yelekh different from those in the printed versions, addenda to Ekev, and homilies on Ha'azinu and Ve-Zot ha-Berakhah identical with those in the Tanḥuma Midrashim. In 1940 S. Lieberman published the Oxford manuscript of Deuteronomy Rabbah, which is similar to the Epstein manuscript, except for additional homilies from the Tanḥuma Midrashim on Va-Etḥannan. Manuscripts, therefore, contain homilies on Devarim, Va-Etḥannan, and Va-Yelekh different from those printed, as well as additional ones on Ekev and Niẓẓavim. This version is likewise mainly a homiletic Midrash of the Tanḥuma Yelammedenu type, although several of its homilies have no halakhic introduction, and, even in those having halakhic introductions, they begin directly with the question without any terminus technicus, whereas the answer begins with כך שנו רבותינו ("Thus did our masters teach"). The aggadic proems are not all, as in the printed Tanḥuma Midrashim, anonymous; some begin with the name of an amora. In structure, language, and composition, the printed version of Deuteronomy Rabbah is a homogeneous Midrash. The same cannot be said for the manuscripts which contain a composition of several versions. It is certainly not a complete entity in itself. There were apparently extant several versions of the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu Midrashim on the Book of Deuteronomy. One of these is that found in the printed edition as well as Buber's editions of Tanḥuma, another is the printed edition of Deuteronomy Rabbah, while several manuscripts of the latter work quote homilies on Devarim, Va-Etḥannan, and Va-Yelekh, and also additions to Ekev and Niẓẓavim, from another edition (C) of the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu Midrashim, with homilies on Ha'azinu and Ve-Zot ha-Berakhah taken from the Tanḥuma Midrashim version (a). The version (C) of Deuteronomy Rabbah in the above-mentioned manuscripts was apparently known in the Middle Ages only to Spanish scholars (the first to cite it was Naḥmanides) and the manuscripts on which the printed version is based (b) only to the scholars of France and Germany (first being cited by Moses b. Jacob of Coucy). There were apparently manuscripts extant which contained further addenda from the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu Midrashim, for medieval scholars sometimes quote statements in the name of Deuteronomy Rabbah which are not found in any existing version. On the other hand, they sometimes cite passages in the name of the Tanḥuma or Yelammedenu which are contained in one of the editions of Deuteronomy Rabbah.


The language of the two versions of Deuteronomy Rabbah is rabbinic Hebrew combined with Galilean Aramaic and containing a liberal sprinkling of Greek words.


Both versions of Deuteronomy Rabbah drew upon tannaitic literature, the Jerusalem Talmud, Genesis Rabbah, and Leviticus Rabbah (the printed version also apparently drew upon Lamentations Rabbah). The redaction of the material is characteristic of that of the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu Midrashim. None of the sages mentioned in the work lived later than the fourth century c.e. Although certain homilies in the manuscripts are typical of earlier times, there seem also to be allusions to anti-Karaite polemics, which would date the final redaction of even the earliest (c) version as not earlier than 800 c.e. Likewise, homilies in the printed version, which draw upon Midrash Petirat Moshe and are typical of the period after the Muslim conquest, were apparently redacted in the ninth century c.e. To the same century also belong the combinations found in the manuscripts. The earliest manuscript upon which the printed version is based was copied in the 13th century.


H.L. Strack, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (1931), 214; Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 122–3; S. Lieberman, Midrash Devarim Rabbah (19652), iii–xxiii. add. bibliography: M. Rabinowitz, in: Sinai 100 2 (1987), 731–736; M.B. Lerner, in: Te'udah xi (Hebrew) (1996), 107–145.

[Moshe David Herr]