Tanḥuma Yelammedenu

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TANḤUMA YELAMMEDENU (תַּנְחוּמָא יַלַמְּדֵנוּ), a category of midrashic literature, including the following works: Tanḥuma (to the entire Pentateuch), extensive parts of Exodus Rabbah, Numbers Rabbah, Deuteronomy Rabbah and Pesiqta Rabbati. Many medieval quotations (often citing "Tanḥuma" or "Yelammedenu") and fragmentary manuscripts (many from the Cairo Genizah) of other partially preserved versions, testify to the diversity and popularity of this type of midrashic work.

Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu Midrash consists primarily of literary homilies to the triennial cycle of weekly biblical lections. Unlike structurally similar works such as Leviticus Rabbah and Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana, Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu Midrash has relatively little Aramaic, being written in late Rabbinic Hebrew though still employing many Greek and Latin loan-words. Another distinguishing feature is the special halakhic proem (often beginning with the expression yelammedenu rabbenu "Let our master teach us") which precedes the series of proems, each beginning with a different verse, with which each composite homily normally begins. Many passages are attributed to the renowned homilist, Rabbi Tanḥuma bar Abba, who was active during the second half of the fourth century in Palestine.

Earlier scholars made conflicting claims about the date and identity of the "early" Tanḥuma or Yelammedenu which was thought to be the "original" source of the all the surviving works of this type. Later research tends rather to distinguish relatively early traditions and sources within early, middle, and late redactional strata running through the various works. Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu literature is best regarded as a particular midrashic genre which began to crystallize toward the end of the Byzantine period in Palestine (5–7th century c.e.), but continued to evolve and spread throughout the Diaspora well into the middle ages, sometimes developing different recensions of a common text. For example, Tanḥuma (printed version, first published in Constantinople, 1520–22) seems to have undergone final redaction in geonic Babyonia. While Tanḥuma Buber (first published by Solomon Buber, Vilna 1875), which is considerably different in the books of Genesis and Exodus, seems to be a European (Italian-Ashkenazi) recension of similar midrashic material. We find a similar phenomenon with regard to Deuteronomy Rabbah, which survives in at least two different versions both of which belong to the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu category of midrashic literature. Deuteronomy Rabbah (regular or printed version) found in the printed editions of Midrash Rabbah, ms. Parma De Rossi 1240 and fragments, circulated primarily in France and Germany; it contains 27 literary homilies on the triennial cycle weekly lections of Deuteronomy. On the other hand, Deuteronomy Rabbah Liebermann (as published by Saul Liebermann) found in most manuscripts of Midrash Rabbah, contains alternate or additional midrashic material (the extent of which varies in different manuscripts) of the Tanḥuma-Yelammedenu type that circulated primarily in Spain and North Africa.

An English translation of Tanḥuma "Printed Version" was published by Samuel A. Berman: Midrash Tanhuma-Yelammedenu: An English Translation of Genesis and Exodus from the Printed Version of Tanhuma-Yelammedenu With an Introduction, Notes, and Indexes (1996), and an English translation of Tanḥuma Buber by J.T. Townsend, Midrash Tanhuma, vols. 1–3 (1989–2003). An English translation of the printed version of Devarim Rabbah was published by J. Rabbinowitz, in the Soncino edition of Midrash Rabbah (1939; reprinted 1961).


Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 108–16, 366–75; J. Mann, The Bible as Read and Preached in the Old Synagogue, 1 (1940); idem and I. Sonne, ibid., 2 (1966); E.H. Gruenhut, Sefer ha-Likkutim, 2 (19042); 6 pt. 2 (1903); L. Ginzberg, in: Ginzei Schechter, 1 (1928), 449–513; A. Epstein, in: Beit Talmud, 5 (1887), 7–23; M. Stein, in: Sefer ha-Yovel… Moshe Schorr (1935), 87–112; E.E. Urbach, in: Koveẓ al Yad, 16 pt. 1 (1966), 3–54; J. Theodor, in: mgwj, 35 (1886), 559ff.; 36 (1887), 35ff.; S.A. Wertheimer, Battei Midrashot, 1 (19502), 139–75; S. Lieberman, Midrash Devarim Rabbah (1940), index; G. Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, translated and edited by M. Bockmuehl (1995), 303–7, 333–35; M. Bregman, "Stratigraphic Analysis of a Selected Pericope from the Tanhuma-Yelammedenu Midrashim," in: Proceedings of the Tenth Congress of Jewish Studies, Division C, vol. i: Jewish Thought and Literature (1990), 117–124 (Heb.); idem, The Tanhuma-Yelammedenu LiteratureStudies in the Evolution of the Versions (2003) (Hebrew with English abstract).

[Marc Bregman (2nd ed.)]