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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q3.25 TOC Q3.27 >

Question 3.26:
What are the main Halakhic Midrashim?

Answer:

Mekhilta. The Mekhilta is an important commentary on Exodus. It is essential to note that there are two separate versions of this midrash collection. One is "Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael" and the other is "Mekhilta de Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai". The former is the one that most Jews use today, but the latter is the text that was used by many medieval Jewish authorities. While the latter (ben Yohai) text was popularly circulated in manuscript form from the 11th to 16th centuries, it was lost for all practical purposes until it was rediscovered and printed in the 19th century.

Sifra. A comprehensive halakhic commentary on Vayikra (Leviticus), which works through all of Leviticus verse by verse. References in the Talmud to the Sifra are ambiguous; It is uncertain whether the texts mentioned in the Talmud are to an earlier version of our Sifra, or to the sources that the Sifra also drew upon. However, we do know that the references to the Sifra from the time of the Geonim and after are to the text that is extant today. The core of this text developed in the mid-3rd century as a critique and commentary of the Mishnah, although subsequent additions and editing went on for some time afterwards.

Midrash Tannaim (also known as Mekhilta on Deuteronomy). This was a Halakhic midrash on Deuteronomy, of which only fragments exist today. Only portions of it can be reconstructed from quotes in other extant works, including Genizah fragments.


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