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Pesikta Rabbati


PESIKTA RABBATI (Aram. פְּסִיקְתָּא רַבָּתִי), a medieval Midrash on the festivals of the year. It has been printed several times, and a critical edition, with introduction, commentary, and indices was published by M. Friedman (Ish-Shalom) in 1880. Further fragments were published by S.A. Wertheimer (in Battei Midrashot, 1 (1950), 260–4), and L. Ginzberg (in Ginzei Schechter, 1 (1928), 172–81; all future references are to Friedman's edition). The word pesikta means "section," and this Midrash consists of a series of separate sections, on the pentateuchal and prophetic lessons of festivals, unlike most other Midreshei Aggadah (e.g., some of the Rabbot) which are continuous commentaries to the Bible. It is called Rabbati ("the greater") probably in contrast to the earlier *Pesikta (de-Rav Kahana).

In Friedman's edition, the Pesikta Rabbati consists of some 47 sections, but considerably more homilies, as some sections consist of (parts of) several homilies (e.g., section 10). Seven or eight sections deal with *Ḥanukkah (2–8 or 9); sections 10–15 (or 16) with the Sabbaths preceding *Passover; 17–18 with Passover itself; 20–24 are a Midrash on the Ten Commandments (*Shavuot); 26–37 deal with the Sabbaths of mourning and comforting and the Ninth of *Av; while 38–48, bearing the superscription "Midrash Harninu," deal with *Rosh Ha-Shanah and the *Day of Atonement. Thus this Midrash spans the year from the Day of Atonement, omitting only *Sukkot. Probably, in its original form, the Midrash covered the full year, but now the end has been lost.

It has five entire sections in common with the earlier Pesikta (15–18 and 33, and also part of 14), but otherwise is totally different both in style and structure. Thus, while the Pesikta de-Rav Kahana has no halakhic passages, no fewer than 28 homilies of the Pesikta Rabbati have halakhic exordia, many (1–14, 39–45, 47) beginning with the formula *"Yelammedenu" "Rabbenu," followed by proems beginning "Kakh patah R. Tanḥuma." This demonstrates clearly the Pesikta Rabbati's relationship to the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu literature. Furthermore, it has been shown that the formula "Kakh pataḥ R. Tanḥuma" does not mean that what follows is a statement by R. Tanḥuma, but merely that this passage is taken from the Tanḥuma (Yelammedenu).

So far it has been discovered that two major sources are represented in the Pesikta Rabbati: (1) the Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, and (2) the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu. Sections 20–24, which Ha-*Meiri calls Midrash Mattan Torah ("the Midrash on the giving of the Torah"), differ in style and structure from the rest of this work, and seem to form one unit. The proem in section 20 is strikingly individual in both its style and content. This work emerges, then, as a composite one, a compilation whose main body of source material is from the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu.

In the first homily, one of the Yelammedenu sections, 845 is indicated as the date of the composition of the work. (The other date there – 1219 – is clearly the gloss of a later reader or copyist, perhaps *Eleazar of Worms, who made much use of this Midrash.) However, since this work is considered a composite one, possibly reflecting several periods of editing, this date is evidence only for the composition of the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu stratum. The source material is all Palestinian, and though the precise date and place of compilation have not yet been fixed with certainty, modern scholarly opinion tends to view the Pesikta Rabbati as a Palestinian work of the sixth or seventh century.

The complete English translation of the Pesikta Rabbati by Braude (1968) takes into account, inter alia, the readings of Ms. Parma 1240 (completed in the year 1270) and Ms. Casanata 3324 (of the 17th century).


W.S. Braude, Pesikta Rabbati (1968), translation and introduction; L. Prys, Die Jeremias Homilie Pesikta Rabbati (1966); idem, in: jqr, 52 (1961/62), 264–72; idem, in: paajr, 30 (1962), 1–35; B.J. Bamberger, in: huca, 15 (1940), 427–8; V. Aptowitzer, ibid., 8–9 (1931–32), 383–410; Mann, Egypt, 1 (1920), 48; Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 117–21, 376–89.

[Daniel Sperber]

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