Mekhilta of Rabbi Shimon

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The Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon (Hebrew: מכילתא דרבי שמעון בר יוחאי) is a Halakic midrash on Exodus from the school of Rabbi Akiva, the "Rabbi Shimon" in question being Shimon bar Yochai. No midrash of this name is mentioned in Talmudic literature, but medieval authors refer to one which they call either "Mekhilta de-R. Simeon b. Yoḥai" or "Mekhilta Aḥrita de-R. Shimon", or simply "Mekhilta Aḥeret" ("another mekhilta*).

References by later writers[edit]

From this Mekhilta passages are cited, especially by Naḥmanides in his Pentateuchal commentary,[1] and by R. Todros ha-Levi in his works Sefer ha-Razim and Oẓar ha-Kabod.[2]

Until the early 1900s, aside from these quotations and some given by certain authors of the 16th century, as Elijah Mizraḥi in his commentary on Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch, R. Shem-Ṭob b. Abraham in his Migdal 'Oz to Maimonides' Yad, and R. Meïr ibn Gabbai in his Tola'at Ya'aḳob,[3] the only other extract of any length from the Mekhilta de-R. Shimon which was known was the one published by R. Isaac Elijah Landau from a manuscript of R. Abraham Halami, as an appendix to his edition of the Mekhilta.[4]

There were, therefore, various erroneous opinions regarding this lost work. Zunz[5] considered it as a kabbalistic work ascribed to R. Simeon b. Yoḥai. M. H. Landauer[6] identified it with the Mekhilta de-R. Yishmael, while J. Perles[7] held that the medieval authors applied the name "Mekhilta de-R. Shim'on" merely to his maxims which were included in the Mekhilta de-R. Yishmael, since separate sentences could be called "mekhilta". M. Friedmann was the first to maintain, in his introduction to the Mekhilta of R. Ismael[8] that, in addition to R. Ishmael's work, there was a halakic midrash to Exodus by R. Simeon, which was called the "Mekhilta de-R. Shim'on," and that this Mekhilta formed part of the Sifre mentioned in the Talmud Bavli.[9]

This assumption of Friedmann's was subsequently confirmed by the publication of a geonic responsum,[10] where a baraita from the Sifre de-Be Rab to Exodus is quoted, which is the same passage as that cited by Naḥmanides from the Mekhilta de-R. Shimon b. Yoḥai, in his commentary on Exodus 22:12. This extract designates the work of R. Ishmael as the "Mekhilta of Palestine," in contradistinction to R. Simeon b. Yoḥai's midrash. It is clear, therefore, that the Mekhilta of R. Simeon was implied in the title Sifre de-Be Rab;[11] and it is mentioned in the Midrash Tehillim[12] under the Hebrew name Middot R. Shim'on b. Yoḥai.

It is possible also that Simeon himself intended to refer to his midrash in his saying: "Learn my middot".[13] The Judean sources, the Yerushalmi and the haggadic midrashim, introduce baraitot from this Mekhilta with the phrase, "Teni R. Shim'on" = "R. Simeon has taught".[14] The phrase "Tena de-Be R. Shim'on" is extremely rare, however, in the Talmud Bavli, where this midrash ranks as one of the "Sifre de-Be Rab".[15] Many sentences of R. Simeon are quoted there in the name of his son Eleazar, so that Hoffmann has very plausibly concluded[16] that Eleazar edited his father's midrash.

Current status[edit]

The Mekhilta de-R. Shim'on had disappeared, but some extracts from it were preserved in the collection known as Midrash ha-Gadol, as Israel Lewy first pointed out.[17] These fragments were collected by David Zvi Hoffmann and published under the title Mechilta des R. Simon b. Jochai in the Hebrew monthly Ha-Peles.[18]

This Mekhilta compiled from the Midrash ha-Gadol preserves abundant material from the earliest Scriptural commentaries, quoting, for instance, a sentence from the Doreshe Reshumot on Exodus 21:12[19] which is found nowhere else. It contains also much from post-Talmudic literature,[20] for the collector and redactor of the Midrash ha-Gadol had a peculiar way of dressing sentences of such medieval authorities as Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Aruk, and Maimonides in midrashic garb and presenting them as ancient maxims.[21]

A critical version, using newly discovered fragments of texts, was later published by Yaakov Nahum Epstein and his student Ezra Zion Melamed.

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography[edit]

  • M. Friedmann, introduction to his edition of the Mekhilta, pp. 51-73, Vienna, 1870;
  • David Zvi Hoffmann, Einleitung in die Halachischen Midraschim, pp. 45-51, Berlin, 1887;
  • Israel Lewy, Ein Wort über die Mechilta des R. Simon, Breslau, 1889.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "article name needed". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

  • ^ On Gen. 49:31; Ex. 14:19, 21:3, 22:12; Lev. 23:24
  • ^ MSS. in the Königliche Hofund Staatsbibliothek, Munich; comp. M. H. Landauer in Orient, Lit. 1845, vi. 182 et seq.
  • ^ p. 63b, Cracow, 1570
  • ^ Vilna, 1844
  • ^ G. V. p. 419, note a
  • ^ l.c.
  • ^ in Monatsschrift, 1858, pp. 145 et seq.
  • ^ pp. 54 et seq., Vienna, 1870
  • ^ Sanh. 86a; Ber. 47b; Meg. 28b; Ḳid. 49a; Sheb. 41b; Ḥag. 3a
  • ^ A. Harkavy, Teshubot ha-Ge'onim, p. 107, No. 229, Berlin, 1888
  • ^ Compare David Zvi Hoffmann, Einleitung in die Halachischen Midraschim, p. 46
  • ^ ed. S. Buber, Wilna, 1891, p. 252 (comp. Buber's note there)
  • ^ Giṭ. 67a
  • ^ Compare Friedmann, introduction to his edition of the Mekhilta, pp. 55 et seq.; Hoffmann, l.c. p. 48
  • ^ Hoffmann, l.c. p. 50
  • ^ l.c. p. 51
  • ^ Ein Wort über die Mechilta des R. Simon
  • ^ Volumes 1 to 4, passim
  • ^ Ha-Peles, iii. 258
  • ^ Compare Hoffmann, l.c. p. 387, note 19
  • ^ Compare S. Schechter, Introduction to Midrash ha-Gadol, p. 13, Cambridge, 1902