Moses Ha-Darshan

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MOSES HA-DARSHAN (11th century), scholar and aggadist of Narbonne. Moses was the teacher of *Nathan b. Jehiel of Rome, who quotes him in the Arukh, sometimes anonymously.Jacob *Tam in Sefer ha-Yashar (part of responsa ed. by F. Rosenthal (1898), 189f. no. 46:4) considers him, together with his brother Levi, and Joseph *Bonfils, among the early leaders of French Jewry. Moses is chiefly renowned for his contribution to midrashic literature. Rashi in his commentaries on Scripture, especially on the Pentateuch, frequently quotes from Moses ha-Darshan's Yesod, which was apparently a book of scriptural expositions, consisting chiefly of the exegesis of words and midrashic sayings. It is not known whether the work also embraced the rest of the Bible. For many years the Genesis Rabbah by Moses ha-Darshan, frequently quoted by Raymond *Martini in his polemic work Pugio Fidei, constituted a unique problem. No book of that name was known to scholars in previous centuries. Isaac *Abrabanel, for one, stated in his Yeshu'ot Meshiḥo that he did not know of such a book and suspected it to be a forgery. Only recently has it become evident that the early authorities did indeed know a midrashic anthology by Moses ha-Darshan, or at least one emanating from his school, and that this extensive anthology was the basis of the Midrash called *Genesis Rabbati, which was apparently adapted and abridged from the work of Moses. In this Midrash, Moses based himself entirely upon *Genesis Rabbah, but drew upon his vast store of knowledge and remarkable creative ability to develop and enlarge the central ideas of the source by comparing them with other verses and passages, and connecting them with homilies occurring elsewhere. Moses made abundant use of the Mishnah, the Talmud (chiefly the Babylonian), the Midrashei Rabbah and Tanḥuma, the Pesikta, Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, and others.

There is ground for the suggestion that the portions Ba-Midbar and Naso in *Numbers Rabbah, as well as the midrashic anthology called Midrash Aggadah (ed. by S. Buber, 1894), largely emanate from the bet-midrash of Moses ha-Darshan. One unique characteristic of Moses' midrashic work is his use of the aggadot embedded in the *Apocrypha, such as Jubilees, Enoch, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, and others, of which he possessed an improved Hebrew text. He also drew upon the collected Midrashim of his predecessors compiled from the Apocryphal literature, particularly from Midrash Tadshe (see Smaller *Midrashim) which, with its proem, was ascribed by Moses to the tanna, *Phinehas b. Jair. Some wish to ascribe to Moses several other extant minor Midrashim, on the basis of their similarity to his known work. In addition to citation in Rashi and Nathan b. Jehiel, the work was extensively quoted by Tobiah b. Eliezer in his midrashic collection, *Lekah Tov; Menaḥem b. Solomon, in his anthology, Sekhel Tov; and, very much later by Abraham *Saba in his Ẓeror ha-Mor.


A. Epstein, Mi-Kadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim, 1 (1887), i–xiv; idem, Moshe ha-Darshan mi-Narbonah (1891); Kitvei R. Avraham Epstein, 1 (1950), 215–44; S. Lieberman, Sheki'in (1939), 52ff.; Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 144f.; S. Buber (ed.), Midrash Aggadah, 1 (1894), introd.; Ḥ. Albeck (ed.), Bereshit Rabbati (1940), introd. 1–36.

[Israel Moses Ta-Shma]