Page 19 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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BARTH / MIDRASHIC ENTERPRISE
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Midrash (H arv ard University, 1980). It is time fo r sim ilar studies
o f the p roem and for a re-evaluation o f Jo se p h H e inem ann ’s still
basic discussions o f the “ literary serm on .” T h e need for such a
re-evaluation is implicit in Richard Sarason ’s recent p ro g ramm a ­
tic article “Tow ard a New A gendum for the study o f Rabbinic
M idrashic L i tera tu re .” Sara son u rges a multi-perspective a p ­
p roach , “a kind o f ‘phenom eno logical’ analysis . . . which would
be in form ed by questions out o f literary criticism, history o f
religions and cultural an th ropo logy (p. 62 ) .” However, it is un ­
likely that analytic tools from such diverse disciplines could be
b ro u g h t to b e a r s im u l tan e o u s ly , and in fa c t may lead to
m ethodologies so contrad ictory that the p u rpo se s , p leasu re , and
play o f this literature are obscured . In the long run we will
probably discover more from the Rabbis’ own methodologies,
literary fo rm s and ideas o f what they were abou t than from the
imposition o f ou r mind sets, academ ic concerns and p re fe rred
hypotheses upon their writings.
TEXTS, AIDS AND TRANSLATIONS
While questions abound on how we should app roach this litera­
ture, it is clear that scholars o f m idrash are constantly hindred by
the lack o f adequate tools and aids. Th is includes first-rate ed i­
tions o f m idrash ic works: T h e collections which Bub er and
F riedm ann published have to be redone. Inexpen sive photo­
o ffse t has made their ed itions available again , but is not the
answer. It is nothing less than astound ing that there is no coord i­
nated e f fo r t in the Jew ish world to publish anew every document
in this crucial area o f Rabbinic literature. Th is is in contrast to the
literature o f the Church Fathers , contemporaries o f the Rabbis,
whose writings in Greek , Latin , Syriac, A rabic and Ethiopic con­
tinue to app ea r , in some cases in the second or third modern
edition with translations into Eu ropean languages . Clearly there
is need fo r international coord ination simply to know what p ro j­
ects have been and are undertaken . While the p roduction o f such
editions is the painstaking and private work o f individual schol­
ars, it would be he lpful to reach agreem en t on such simple issues
as how a prin ted p age o f m idrash should look, based on ou r
presen t and rather advanced knowledge o f the form s o f the
literature.
T h e list o f texts is long , bu t not endless, and the following