Tanna de-Vei Eliyahu

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TANNA DE-VEI ELIYAHU or Seder Eliyahu (Aram. תַּנָּא דְבֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ or Heb. סֵדֶר אֵלִיָּהוּ), a midrashic work. Unlike all the other Midrashim it does not consist of a compilation or collection of individual homilies but is a uniform work stamped with a character of its own. The work, which is characterized by original expressions and rhetorical constructions couched in poetic and even flowery language, is distinguished by its didactic moral aim: the author deals with the divine precepts and the reasons for them, and the importance of knowledge of Torah, prayer, and repentance. He is especially concerned with the ethical and religious values which are enshrined in the Bible and in the trials and lives of the patriarchs.

The problem of the date and place of composition of Seder Eliyahu has not yet been resolved. It has been variously dated almost anywhere between the third and tenth centuries. S.J. *Rapoport suggested the tenth century, on the basis of three considerations: the number of its chapters does not tally with that given by the Arukh, which he believed to be the Tanna de-Vei Eliyahu mentioned a number of times in the Talmud (e.g., Ket. 106a; from the collection of geonic responsa published by S. Assaf, it is now clear that the Arukh quoted Natronai Gaon, who lived in the ninth century); some of the quotations in the Talmud from the Tanna de-Vei Eliyahu are not found in the present work; and the dates given in the work (chap. 2, p. 6; chap. 7, p. 37; chap. 29, p. 163) indicate the tenth century. While Zunz agreed with Rapoport, M. Friedmann refuted two of his arguments; proving that the original number of chapters in the manuscripts conforms to that mentioned in the Arukh and maintaining rightly that the dates were altered by later copyists. However, he conceded the third point and held that the Tanna de-Vei Eliyahu of the Talmud is distinct from the present work. In his view, in its original form it dates from the third century but contains late additions. Despite the determined attempt of Margalioth to prove that the two works are identical and the fact that the nine passages from the Tanna de-Vei Eliyahu cited in the Babylonian Talmud do in fact occur in the present work, an examination of the sources of the Midrash as a whole makes it clear beyond question that it utilizes both the Babylonian Talmud and Midrashim which are later than it (Urbach, see bibl.). The other proofs which Margalioth puts forward as indicating an early date (in his view, the first half of the third century) – the names of the scholars mentioned, all of whom are tannaim, as well as the expressions used, which he believes are all tannaitic – are not decisive. As the author often omits to mention the name of the sage who delivered the homily, it is therefore possible that he gave only the names of the most famous of the tannaim to whom he ascribes his statements. Margalioth's conclusions with regard to expressions are also far from irrefutable (Urbach).

Similarly all attempts to infer the date from the historical references are inconclusive. Mann and Epstein fix its date at the end of the amoraic era (Epstein is of the opinion that it was arranged then.) Aptowitzer fixes the date of its composition as the ninth century. All that can be stated with certainty is that the Midrash was compiled before the ninth century (Albeck), and that Natronai Gaon refers to the present work and not, as Rapoport and Zunz thought, to the talmudic.

Eliyahu is the speaker in the work but there is no suggestion of a pseudepigrapha, nor should it be inferred that its author is a certain Abba Eliyahu. The name is mentioned only in chapter 15 of Seder Eliyahu Zuta and this chapter is a later addition by a copyist. The author relates that he came from Jabneh, that he resided in Jerusalem, and that he wandered in Babylon. He disputes with a fire worshiper and with those who accept the Bible but not the Mishnah (whether he was referring to Christians or to Karaites is a disputed point). His halakhic conclusions, which contain interesting deviations from accepted halakhah, constitute a problem on their own, but in general his halakhah approximates to that of Ereẓ Israel.

The work is in two sections: Seder Eliyahu Rabbah and Seder Eliyahu Zuta, and the original parts of the second appear to be by the same author as the first. There are a number of editions: Venice, 1598; Prague, 1676–77 with Samuel Heida's commentaries Zikkukin de-Nura and Bi'urin de-Esha, according to which there were many other editions; Vienna, 1901 with introduction and notes by M. Friedmann, from a Rome manuscript of 1073; Tanna de-Vei Eliyahu Zuta (19 chapters) edited by H.M. Horowitz from a Parma manuscript and published in part 2 of Beit Eked ha-Aggadot; appendixes to Seder Eliyahu Zuta, being three chapters of Derekh Ereẓ and seven of Pirkei de-R. Eliezer (Vienna, 1904) by M. Friedmann; and Likkutei Seder Eliyahu Zuta from a *Genizah manuscript, published by L. Ginsberg in Ginzei Schechter part 1, 238–45.


M. Friedmann (Ish-Shalom) (ed.), Seder Eliyahu Rabbah ve-Seder Eliyahu Zuta (1904), introd.; Zunz-Al-beck, Derashot, 55–57, 292–98; J. Mann, in: huca, 4 (1927), 249–51, 302–10; M. Kadushin, The Theology of Seder Eliahu (1932); V. Aptowitzer, in: Jewish Studies in Memory of G.A. Kohut (1935), 5–39; Epstein, Mishnah, 762–4, 1302f.; M. Margalioth, in: Sefer Assaf (1953), 370–90; R.J.Z. Werblowsky, in: jjs, 6 (1955), 201–11; E.E. Urbach, in: Leshonenu, 21 (1957), 183–97; S.K. Mirsky, in: Shanah be-Shanah 5725 (1964), 215–22.

[Jacob Elbaum]