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Paulist Press

Hammer, Reuven: The Classic Midrash

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The classic midrash presented here is a collective work. Although presenting interpretations in the name of individual Sages, it has no one author: rather, it reflects the collective wisdom of the leaders of Pharisaic Judaism which later became Rabbinic Judaism. Each succeeding generation added its own layer and remained a part of the ongoing process. Multiple interpretations are presented. There is no one way of understanding the word of God. There are always new levels of meaning to be uncovered. Midrash is the enemy of fundamentalism. Simplistic, literalistic interpretation of a text is its death knell. Rather than closing the text, midrash opens it up and emphasizes the interaction between the reader and the text.

This volume presents and introduction to midrash in general and to these specific Tannaitic works, explaining the history and development of midrash as well as its methodology and message. It then offers translations of major sections of these works, with a commentary to each section and a running commentary to the text to help the reader understand the midrash, its background and its meaning.

No student of the Bible should read it without the insight of the classic Sages. No student of religion should neglect the insights of these masters of the spirit. No student of culture and literature should ignore the methods and the products embodied in these creations. No one concerned with the problems of being human in this day and age should ignore the answers to these problems, which are found in these classic works.