Page 14 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
however, in light o f the debt that the m odern study o f m idrash
owes to their work.
Late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century m onog raph s on
the form o f the sermon were primarily based on B u b e r ’s edition
o f thePesikta de-Rav Kahana (Lyck, 1868). T h a t publication itse lf
was rem arkab le in con firm ing with newly found m anuscript m a­
terial Zunz’ earlier hypothetical reconstruction o f a m idrash col­
lection which had d isap pe a red from Jew ish life fo r five centuries.
T o this day, footnotes in nearly every scholarly article on m idrash
re fer to the editions o f Bub er and F riedm ann , and provide the
reward o f literary immortality which is the scho lar ’s com pen sa­
tion.
My pu rpo se in this article is twofold: to survey some recent
trends and contributions to the study o f m idrash , and to sugge st
several projects necessary to fu tu re research . T h e volume o f
contemporary scholarly literature on areas connected to this field
is very large . A Selected B ib ligraphy has been p rov ided o f books
and articles in the English langu age which are representative o f
scholarly work in the field and which will lead the interested
reader to the wealth o f add itional material in Hebrew , French
and German .
FIELD OF MIDRASH
In the contemporary context, the m idrashic en terp rise re p re ­
sents an academ ic discipline search ing fo r identity and clarifying
its requ ired and app rop r ia te tasks. Th e e ffo r t to de fine m idrash
as a field is difficult because o f the problem o f boundaries and
perspectives. I f the question, what is a m idrash , could be an ­
swered with finality, then clarity might be reached on the object o f
study and methodologies to be employed. For Jew s who confron t
such questions for the first time, the issue seem s ab su rd . In the
popu lar mind m idrash is still equated with aggadot (legends),
maasiyyot (exempla) or meshalim (parables). It is also derash (scrip­
tural interpretation), and it is mostly entertaining ; talmud , how­
ever, is halakhah (law) and is serious. In reality, the Babylonian
and Palestinian T a lm u d s and the collections o f m idrash contain
all these features . Th e sign ificant area o f distinction is not aggadah
or halakhah but organization and purpose . Add ison Wright’s d e ­
scription o f m idrash as “a literature about a literature” in his too