Genesis Rabbati

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GENESIS RABBATI (Heb. בְּרֵאשִׁית רַבָּתִּי), a Midrash on the Book of Genesis usually ascribed to *Moses ha-Darshan of Narbonne (first half of 11th century). The Midrash was published from the only extant manuscript by Ḥ. Albeck (Jerusalem, 1940). However *Raymond Martini in his Pugio Fidei included many excerpts from "Genesis Rabbah of Moses ha-Darshan," which he termed "The large Genesis Rabbah," calling the well-known *Genesis Rabbah "The Minor [or short] Genesis Rabbah." The relationship between these extracts and Genesis Rabbati has been a subject of dispute among scholars. Zunz, whose sole knowledge of it was derived from S.J. Rapoport, assumed that the quotations found in Martini's work had been extended and given the name Genesis Rabbati. In this way he explained the differences between Genesis Rabbati and the fragments in the Pugio Fidei. S. Buber argued that Genesis Rabbati should not be ascribed to Moses ha-Darshan on the specious ground that he could not find in it certain quotations from Moses ha-Darshan cited by Rashi, the tosafot, and Abrabanel in his Yeshu'ot Meshiḥo. Epstein held that Genesis Rabbati is an abridged form of "the large Genesis Rabbah" mentioned in the Pugio Fidei, finding support for his view in the very fact that many of the quotations cited by Martini in the name of Moses ha-Darshan do not occur in Genesis Rabbati. He came to the conclusion that in fact "the large Genesis Rabbah" was not the work of Moses ha-Darshan, but of an anthologist who used some of Moses' work. Ḥ. Albeck accepted the view of Epstein concerning the relationship between Genesis Rabbati and "the large Genesis Rabbah." He reinforced his view by a comparison between the Midrash Aggadah published by Buber (which is based upon the Midrash of Moses ha-Darshan) and with Numbers Rabbah to the portions Ba-Midbar and Naso (chapters 1–15), which is also based, as he succeeded in proving, upon the Midrash of Moses ha-Darshan (an opinion already expressed by S.D. Luzzatto in his notes to Numbers Rabbah).

Genesis Rabbati is based upon the classical sources of the halakhah, viz., the two Talmuds, the targumim, Sefer Yeẓirah, and all the known Midrashim, but reveals an especially wide knowledge of variant readings in the Midrashim. In the main, however, it is based upon Genesis Rabbah (of which it also gives variant readings). The unique quality of Genesis Rabbati lies in its quotations from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, and particularly from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, quoting it either directly or from the Midrash Tadshe, which is to a considerable extent dependent upon these works. Epstein even maintains that Midrash Tadshe is the work of Moses ha-Darshan. Quotations from the latter are mostly cited in the name of *Phinehas b. Jair to whom the Midrash Tadshe is attributed because of its opening words. Similarly, in quoting from other Midrashim which were attributed to definite authors, Epstein attributes such statements to their presumed author. Genesis Rabbati does not quote its sources verbatim but adapts them (as is the case with the other Midrashim based upon the Midrash of Moses ha-Darshan). Moses was accustomed to combine sources, to change one source in order to equate it with another, to explain one by means of the other, etc. He also added his own explanations and made great use of *gematria. His treatment of the sources and his additions, while having a precedent in the early Midrashim, clearly indicate his desire to create a new Midrash which would however reflect the biblical exegesis of the rabbis of the Midrash, and this aim is equally evident in the additions. The importance of this Midrash lies not only in its quoting of the sources but also in its biblical exegesis and in its exposition of the Ashkenazi *piyyut which came into being at about this time. There are no clear proofs of the direct use of Genesis Rabbati by authors of this period, though certain references by authors to Genesis Rabbah, which do not occur there, may refer in fact to Genesis Rabbati.


A. Epstein, R. Moshe ha-Darshan mi-Narbona (1891); Ḥ. Albeck, Midrash Bereshit Rabbati (1940), introduction. add. bibliography: Y. Ta-Shma, Rabbi Moshe ha-Darshan ve-ha-Sifrut ha-Ḥitẓonit (2001); S. Yahalom, in: Peamim, 94–95 (2003), 135–58.

[Jacob Elbaum]