Midrash Ha-Gadol

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MIDRASH HA-GADOL (Heb. מִדְרַשׁ הַגָּדוֹל), a 13th-century rabbinic work on the Pentateuch, emanating from Yemen and consisting mainly of excerpts of older rabbinic texts of the talmudic period. The Midrash is anonymous, but it is now certain that it was written by a native of Aden, David b. Amram *Adani. Adani writes in clear, limpid Hebrew prose, introducing each weekly portion with a proem in rhymed verse. His work is of importance not only because of the author's original contributions to the literature of halakhah and aggadah, but also because of the multitude of extracts which he incorporates from ancient tannaitic Midrashim either unknown, or only partially known, from other sources. Thus, for instance, the Midrash ha-Gadol has enabled scholars to reconstruct large portions of the lost *Mekhilta of R. Simeon b. Yoḥai, the *Sifrei Zuta, and the Mekhilta of R. Ishmael on Deuteronomy. In addition, the Midrash ha-Gadol is valuable for the accuracy of its quotations from known sources, such as the Talmud and the Midrashim. Its readings have made it possible to correct the texts of older works which have survived in garbled form. The Midrash ha-Gadol is also notable for its contribution to the study of the code of *Maimonides, as it preserves many sources available to Maimonides but otherwise unknown. Not only does Adani frequently quote the code on which the Yemenites largely, if not exclusively, base their religious rulings, but his work enables students to reconstruct the older authorities on whom Maimonides had based his rulings. As a result, many difficulties which had puzzled students of Maimonides over the generations have been solved. The Midrash ha-Gadol first came to the notice of European scholars in the 19th century. The text was brought to Europe in manuscript in 1878 and sold to the Royal Library in Berlin by M.W. Shapira, whose name is associated with the alleged forgery known as the *Shapira fragments. Since then, other manuscripts have been acquired by the major libraries in the western world. Solomon Schechter in his edition of the Avot de-Rabbi Nathan (1887) was the first to make extensive use of this Midrash and he edited the first part (on Genesis) in 1902. Different parts of the Midrash have been edited by other scholars: Exodus by D.W. Hoffmann (1913–21), Leviticus by Nahum E. Rabinowitz (1932), and Numbers by Solomon Fisch (partial edition, 1940; reissued in complete form with Hebrew commentary and introduction, 2 vols., 1957–63). Genesis and Exodus were re-edited by M. Margulies (*Margalioth; 1947, 1956), and Numbers by Z.M. Rabinowitz (1967). There exist two Yemenite commentaries on the Midrash, one titled Segullat Yisrael ("The Treasure of Israel"), dated 5440 (i.e., 1680) by R. Israel b. Solomon ha-Kohen, containing only a few interpretations and these of only slight value, and the other (anon.), the Sefer ha-Margalit ("Book of the Pearl"), containing explanations in Hebrew and Arabic of difficult words. The Midrash ha-Gadol is still a standard work of rabbinic homily for the Yemenite community and circulates widely in manuscript.


J. Riqueti, Ḥokhmat ha-Mishkan (Mantua, 1676), 5, 6, 13; S.A. Poznański, in: hhy, 3 (1886), 1–22; S. Schechter, Avot de-Rabbi Nathan (1887), introd.; D.Z. Hoffman (ed.), Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai (1905); idem, Midrash Tanna'im, 2 vols. (1908–09); S. Liebermann, Midreshei Teiman (1940); S. Fisch, Midrash ha-Gadol (1940), 1–136; M. Kasher, Ha-Rambam ve-ha-Mekhilta de-Rashbi (1943), introd.; M. Margulies, Midrash ha-Gadol, Shemot (1956), 5–15; Y.L. Nahum, Mi-Ẓefunot Yehudei Teiman (1962), 181–205; Y. Ratzaby, in: Tarbiz, 34 (1965), 263–71; Z.M. Rabinowitz, Midrash ha-Gadol, Ba-Midbar (1967), 5–16.

[Solomon Fisch]