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Sifre Zuta Numbers (SZN)

SIFRE ZUTA NUMBERS (szn)

SIFRE ZUTA NUMBERS (szn ) is a midrash halakhah of the school of R. Akiva. The Aramaic word "zuta" means "small," paralleling the name "Sifre Rabbati [the large Sifre]" given to Sifrei Numbers (sn) by several of the Rishonim. The Genizah remains of szn, however, do not attest to the limited scope of this midrash as compared to sn, and this name may possibly attest to its rarity. Other names for this midrash are "Sifre,"Zute," Sifre Yerushalmi," "Sifrei shel Panim Aḥerot," Mekhilta," "Makhalah," and others. The exact extent of szn has not been determined, but, like sn, it clearly opened with the exposition of the first halakhah in Num. 5:2 (as is demonstrated from the list of books discovered in a Cambridge Genizah fragment), skipped the expositions of the verses in Num. 31:25–35:8 (as in the Genizah fragment) just like sn, and as a general rule included midrashim on the same verses that are expounded in sn. In any event, no conclusions can be drawn, based on the chance non-preservation of relevant quotations, that certain passages or Torah portions were not the subject of exposition in szn. This midrash was originally divided into several large subunits, each of which encompassed several topics. The large units, whose scope and names are not known to us, were divided into numbered "parashot."

Zunz was the first scholar to collect material about the Rishonim who brought citations from SZN and about the different names of this midrash, and following him, Brüll and other scholars thoroughly discussed the midrash. Schechter successfully identified and published a Genizah fragment consisting of two leaves from szn, on the Torah portions of Matot and Mas'ai. At the same time B. Koenigsberger began to reconstruct the midrash in orderly fashion, but he was able to publish only two booklets, from the portion of Bamidbar to that of Beha'alotekha. The first reconstruction of szn as a whole was made by Horovitz, initially with notes in German, and afterwards in Hebrew, with an independent apparatus of textual variants and an extensive commentary, that included references to the parallels. The second edition, published in Leipzig in 1917 together with Horovitz's edition of sn, also includes an introduction that describes the unique nature of the midrash.

Horovitz based his reconstruction primarily on the explicit quotations of "Zute" in Yalkut Shimoni, the passages in Midrash ha-Gadol that he asserted were copied from szn, a Genizah fragment published by Schechter, quotations that were incorporated in Num. Rabbah on Naso, and other citations in the literature of the rishonim. After the appearance of the Horovitz edition, Epstein published a fragment of five leaves from szn on the passage of the red heifer that he identified in material that had been sent to him from St. Petersburg. Also published were a small number of new citations from szn found in the literature of the Rishonim, to which we may add several new quotations. The Horovitz edition may also be emended in accordance with ms. Oxford 2637 of Yalkut Shimoni, the manuscripts of Midrash ha-Gadol on Numbers, and the manuscripts and the editio princeps of Num. Rabbah. On the other hand, one should eliminate from the Horovitz edition a relatively large number of passages that were included on the basis of Midrash ha-Gadol, but that did not, in fact, originate in szn, rather in other books, including sn, ms, the Mishnah, Avot de-Rabbi Natan, the two Talmuds, Tanhuma, Mishnat R. Eliezer, Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, and the original additions made by the author of Midrash ha-Gadol himself.

szn is the subject of two traditional commentaries (Jaskowicz and Garbus) and of modern studies written by three major scholars, Epstein, Albeck, and Lieberman, who devoted an entire book to this midrash. Although szn is a Midrash from the school of R. Akiva, it is distinguished from the classic Midrashim of this school in a number of ways. It makes use of a relatively large number of unique terms, mentions the names of several Tannaim who do not appear elsewhere, possesses a style that is at times absent from the other sources, and uses rhetorical and poetical language, includes a large quantity of halakhot undocumented in other sources and otherwise unknown disagreements of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai, and consistently quotes a mishnaic source that does not correspond to the extant Mishnah. The scholars have also noted that Rabbi's name is absent from this work. Lieberman drew this distinction into sharper focus by noting that the halakhot of R. Judah ha-Nasi and those of R. Nathan appear in szn, but without attribution. Lieberman additionally indicated "clear allusions" against the Patriarchate in the expositions of szn. In light of all the above, Lieberman concluded that the redactor of szn was in conflict with the Patriarchate of R. Judah ha-Nasi, did not acknowledge the superior authority of the latter's Mishnah, and intentionally refrained from mentioning his name and that of R. Nathan, who was the son of the Exilarch, and thus "fined" both leaders, the *nasi in the land of Israel, and the exilarch in Babylonia. It should be noted that the allusions against the court of the nasi found by Lieberman are not unambiguous. Nor is the omission of R. Nathan from SZN unique to this midrash; on the contrary, this feature is characteristic of all the midrashim of the school of R. Akiva.

It is also noteworthy that the material in the lengthy aggadic sections of szn fundamentally resembles the parallel material in sn, albeit usually with slightly more detail. On rare occasions the aggadic material contains traces of the singular terms and central rabbis characteristic of the halakhic portion of this midrash, and the consistent approach of the aggadic material in a number of topics in szn noticeably differs from the approach set forth in the parallel material in sn.

The exceptional character of szn has challenged scholars to determine the identity of its final redactor. Epstein was the first to conclude that R. Hiyya redacted szn in Sepphoris, to which Albeck objected, leading Epstein to change his view, albeit for other reasons, and to attribute the final ordering of szn in Sepphoris to Bar Kappara. Lieberman discussed this at length, once again, and, based on other considerations, determined that although Bar Kappara redacted szn, he did so in Lydda, and not in Sepphoris. But then after all this scholarly activity, a basalt lintel was uncovered in Dabura in the Golan, bearing the inscription: "This is the beit midrash of Rabbi Eliezer ha-Kappar." The entire issue accordingly requires re-examination, and it seems that only the discovery of new passages from this midrash, and from other midrashim that were redacted by this school, will likely advance the study of such issues.

Translation

D. Borner-Klein, Der Midrasch Sifre Zuta (Stuttgart 2002).

bibliography:

Ch. Albeck, Untersuchungen ueber die Halakischen Midraschim (1927), 148–51; idem. "Zu den neueren Ausgaben halachischer Midraschim," in: mgws, 75 (1931), 404–10; D. Borner-Klein, Der Midrasch Sifre Zuta (2002); N. Brull, "Der kleine Sifre," in: Jubelschrift zum siebzigsten geburstage des Prof. Dr. H. Graetz (1887), 179–93; J.N. Epstein, Introduction to the Mishnahic Text (Heb., 1948), 739–46; idem, "Mechilta and Sifre in the Works of Maimonides," in: Tarbiz, 6 (1935), 343–82 (Heb.); idem, Prolegomena ad Litteras Tannaiticas (Heb., 1957), 741–46; idem, "A Rejoinder," in: Tarbiz, 3 (1932), 232–36 (Hebr.); idem, "Sifrei Zutta Parshat Parah," in: Tarbiz, 1 (1930), 46–78 (Heb.); E.Z. Garbus, Sifre Zuta al Bamidbar … in Perush Sapire Efrayim (Heb., 1949); H.S. Horovitz (ed.), Siphre zutta (Heb., 1917); idem, Der Sifre Zutta (1910); J.Z. Jaskowicz, Sifre Zuta al Sefer Bamidbar (Heb., 1929); M. Kahana, The Genizah Fragments of the Halakhic Midrashim, I (Heb., 2005), 214–26; idem, "Halakhic Midrash Collections," in: The Literature of the Sages, 3b, Amsterdam 2006; idem, Manuscripts of the Halakhic Midrashim: An Annotated Catalogue (Heb., 1995), 95–96; idem, M.I. Kahana, Sifre Zuta on Deuteronomy (Heb., 2002), 38, 42–68; B. Koenigsberger, Sifre Zuta, vol. 1 (1984); 2 (1907); S. Lieberman, Siphre Zutta: The Midrash of Lydda (Heb., 1968); D. Orman, "Jewish Inscriptions from Dabura in the Golan," in: Tarbiz, 40 (1971), 399–408 (Heb.); S. Schechter, "Fragment of Sifre Zuta," in: jqr, 6 (1894), 656–63; L. Zunz, Die gottesdientlichen Vorträge der Juden historisch entwickelt (1892; Heb. ed. Ch. Albeck, 19743), 267.

[Menahem I. Kahana (2nd ed.)]

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