Midrash Aseret ha-Dibrot
Baraita of Rabbi Ishmael
—— Tannaitic ——
Midrash Aseret ha-Dibrot (Hebrew: מדרש עשרת הדיברות) or Midrash of the Ten Statements is one of the smaller midrashim which dates, according to A. Jellinek, from about the 10th century, and which is devoted entirely to the Feast of Weeks, being actually called in a Vatican library manuscript "a haggadah for Shabu'ot."
Goals of the Midrash
The author of the Midrash seeks to inculcate the doctrines of the Decalogue by citing pertinent tales of a moral and religious nature, and he employs, in addition to much material from unknown sources, many passages from treatises on the Creation, revelation, and similar topics, which he introduces with the phrase "ameru ḥakamim" (the sages say); he seldom cites his authorities. He writes in a lucid Hebrew style. The separate commandments are prefaced by a general introduction based on Ps. cvi. 2: "Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? who can shew forth all his praise?" This verse is explained, with reference to Pirḳe R. El. iii., as follows: "Even the angels are unable to recount His mighty acts; only faintly may be shown what He hath created and what shall come to pass, that the name of the King of all kings, the Holy One, blessed be He! may be praised and honored."
Sample of Contents
After a few sentences follows the aggadah of the strife of the letters, which contended with each other for the honor of forming the beginning of creation. The victor in this contest was the letter "bet," the initial of the word בראשית, while "alef" was comforted by the promise that with it, as the first letter of אנכי, the revelation of the Ten Commandments should begin (comp. the recension of the Midrash of the Alphabet in A. Jellinek, B. H. iii. 50 et seq.; Gen. R. i., ed. Theodor, p. 9).
The word אנכי is explained as a noṭariḳon and as Egyptian (comp. Shab. 105a; Pesiḳ. 109a). This section is followed by a mystic and cosmological discussion of the magnitude of the world, of the waters above and below the firmament, and of the seven heavens (comp. Seder Rabbah de-Bereshit in Wertheimer, Batte Midrashot, i. 9, 22 et seq.). The introduction then makes excursus on the modesty of Moses, which gained for him the honor of God's revelation of the Torah; on the preexistence of the Torah, and on God's invitation to the Gentiles to accept it, which they all refused; and on the pledges which God required of Israel to keep the Torah, these pledges being their children (comp. Cant. R. to Cant. i. 3).
In the discussion of the several commandments (דיבור ראשון, etc., to דיבור תשיעי, which are included in the editions of this midrash) only the first and sixth commandments, which have no story attached to them, are treated at any length in haggadic fashion. In the case of the other commandments, legends form the principal part of the discussion, and are arranged as follows:
- commandment ii., the mother and her seven children, the limping Jew;
- commandment iii., one who never swore;
- commandment iv., the pious man and the cow; Joseph, who kept holy the Sabbath-day, the emperor and R. Joshua b. Hananiah, Tinnius Rufus and Rabbi Akiba
- commandment v., three examples of the love of children, the child and the Book of Genesis
- commandment vii., the temptation of Mattithiah b. Ḥeresh, Rabbi Meïr and the wife of his host, Mattaniah's wife and death; the history of Saul, who by the help of Elijah was reunited with his wife after a long separation
- commandment viii., Solomon and the thief, the merchant and the thievish innkeeper;
- commandment ix., the son of the publican Baya.
Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography
- Zunz, G. V. pp. 142, 144;
- Jellinek, B. H. i., p. xviii.;
- text of the Midrash, ib. pp. 62-90;
- Benjacob, Oẓar ha-Sefarim, p. 301;
- Horowitz, Uralte Tosefta's, v. 66 et seq.;
- Wertheimer, Batte Midrashot, ii. 8, 26. On another recension of this midrash in the Ḥibbur ha-Ma'asiyyot, Verona, 1647, which contains a story on the honor due the Torah, as well as on a , and which is contained in a manuscript of historical miscellanies, comp. A. Epstein in Ha-Shaḥar, i. 67;
- Maḥzor Vitry, Introduction, p. 183.
- Winter and Wünsche's Die Jüdische Litteratur, i. 669 et seq., contains a translation of some fragments of another midrash to the Ten Commandments, attributed to Saadia Gaon (comp.
- Eisenstadter, Arabischer Midrasch zu den Zehn Geboten, Vienna, 1868; see also Weiss, Dor, iv. 152).