Thursday, February 7, 2008

  Part of a series of articles on Jews and Judaism
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Rabbinic literature, in the broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of Judaism's rabbinic writing/s throughout history. However, the term often used is an exact translation of the Hebrew term Sifrut Hazal (ספרות חז"ל; "Literature [of our] Sages, [of] blessed memory"), where the latter usually refers specifically to literature from the Talmudic era. The latter, more specific, sense is how the term is normally used in medieval and modern rabbinic writing (where Hazal normally refers only to the sages of the Talmudic era), and in contemporary academic writing (where "rabbinic literature" refers to Talmud, Midrash, and related writings, but hardly ever to later texts, such as those from the medieval and modern periods). The term meforshim, or parshanim, is also used in modern-day yeshivas (Talmudical academies), denoting the "rabbinical commentaries" of the "commentators".
This article discusses rabbinic literature in both senses. It begins with the classic rabbinic literature of the Talmudic era (Sifrut Hazal), and then adds a broad survey of rabbinic writing from later periods.

Mishnaic literature
Midrash (pl. Midrashim) is a Hebrew word referring to a method of reading details into, or out of, a Biblical text. The term midrash also can refer to a compilation of Midrashic teachings, in the form of legal, exegetical, homiletical, or narrative writing, often configured as a commentary on the Bible or Mishnah. There are a large number of "classical" Midrashic works spanning a period from Mishnaic to Geonic times, often showing evidence of having been worked and reworked from earlier materials, and frequently coming to us in multiple variants. A compact list of these works [based on (Holtz 1984)] is given below; a more thorough annotated list can be found under Midrash. The timeline below must be approximate because many of these works were composed over a long span of time, borrowing and collating material from earlier versions; their histories are therefore somewhat uncertain and the subject of scholarly debate. In the table, "n.e." designates that the work in question is not extant except in secondary references.
Tannaitic period (till 200 CE)
Mekhilta Mekilta le-Sefer Devarim (n.e.) Sifra Sifre
Alphabet of Akiba ben Joseph (?) Seder Olam Rabbah
400–650 CE
Genesis Rabbah Lamentations Rabbah
Leviticus Rabbah Pesikta de-Rav Kahana Midrash Tanhuma
Seder Olam Zutta
650–900 CE
Midrash Proverbs Ecclesiastes Rabbah
Deuteronomy Rabbah Pesikta Rabbati Avot of Rabbi Natan
Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer Tanna Devei Eliyahu
900–1000 CE
Midrash Psalms Exodus Rabbah Ruth Zuta Lamentations Zuta
Midrash Aggadah of Moses ha-Darshan Midrash Tadshe
Sefer ha-Yashar
Yalkut Shimoni Midrash ha-Gadol Ein Yaakov Numbers Rabbah

The Midrash

Later works by category

Main article: Halakha Major codes of Jewish law

Jewish thought and ethics

  • Philo
    Isaac Israeli
    Emunot v'Dayyot
    Guide to the Perplexed
    Bachya ibn Pakuda
    Sefer Ikkarim
    Wars of the Lord
    Or Adonai

    • Etz ha-Hayim
      Sefer ha-Bahir
      Pardes Rimonim
      The works of Hasidic Judaism

      • Likutei Amarim
        Jewish ethics and the Mussar Movement

        • Mesillat Yesharim
          Shaarei Teshuva
          Orchot Tzaddikim
          Sefer Chasidim Jewish philosophy

          The Siddur and Jewish liturgy
          Piyyutim (Classical Jewish poetry) Later works by historical period
          The Geonim are the rabbis of Sura and Pumbeditha, in Babylon (650 - 1250) :

          She'iltoth of Acha'i [Gaon]
          Halachoth Gedoloth
          Emunoth ve-Deoth (Saadia Gaon)
          The Siddur by Amram Gaon
          Responsa Works of the Geonim
          The Rishonim are the rabbis of the early medieval period (1000 - 1550)

          The commentaries on the Torah, such as those by Rashi, Abraham ibn Ezra and Nahmanides.
          Commentaries on the Talmud, principally by Rashi, his grandson Samuel ben Meir and Nissim of Gerona.
          Talmudic novellae (chiddushim) by Tosafists, Nahmanides, Nissim of Geronda, Solomon ben Aderet (RaShBA), Yomtov ben Ashbili (Ritva)
          Works of halakha (Asher ben Yechiel, Mordechai ben Hillel)
          Codices by Maimonides and Jacob ben Asher, and finally Shulkhan Arukh
          Responsa, e.g. by Solomon ben Aderet (RaShBA)
          Kabbalistic works (such as the Zohar)
          Philosophical works (Maimonides, Gersonides, Nahmanides)
          Ethical works (Bahya ibn Paquda, Jonah of Gerona) Works of the Rishonim (the "early" rabbinical commentators)
          The Acharonim are the rabbis from 1550 to the present day.

          Important Torah commentaries include Keli Yakar (Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz), Ohr ha-Chayim by Chayim ben-Attar, the commentary of Samson Raphael Hirsch, and the commentary of Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin.
          Important works of Talmudic novellae include: Pnei Yehoshua, Hafla'ah, Sha'agath Aryei
          Responsa, e.g. by Moses Sofer, Moshe Feinstein
          Works of halakha and codices e.g. Mishnah Berurah by Yisrael Meir Kagan and the Aruch ha-Shulchan by Yechiel Michel Epstein
          Ethical and philosophical works: Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Yisrael Meir Kagan and the Mussar Movement
          Hasidic works (Kedushath Levi, Sefath Emmeth, Shem mi-Shemuel)
          Philosophical/metaphysical works (the works of the Maharal of Prague, Moshe Chaim Luzzatto and Nefesh ha-Chayim by Chaim of Volozhin)
          Mystical works
          Historical works, e.g. Shem ha-Gedolim by Chaim Joseph David Azulai. Works of the Acharonim (the "later" rabbinical commentators)
          Meforshim is a Hebrew word meaning "(classical rabbinical) commentators" (or roughly meaning "exegetes"), and is used as a substitute for the correct word perushim which means "commentaries". In Judaism this term refers to commentaries by the commentators on the Torah (five books of Moses), Tanakh, the Mishnah, the Talmud, responsa, even the siddur (Jewish prayerbook), and more.

          Classic Torah and/or Talmud commentaries have been written by the following individuals:
          Classical Talmudic commentaries were written by Rashi. After Rashi the Tosafot were written, which was an omnibus commentary on the Talmud by the disciples and descendants of Rashi; this commentary was based on discussions done in the rabbinic academies of Germany and France.


          • Saadia Gaon, 10th century Babylon

            • Rashi (Shlomo Yitzchaki), 12th century France
              Abraham ibn Ezra
              Nahmanides (Moshe ben Nahman)
              Samuel ben Meir, the Rashbam, 12th century France
              Rabbi Levi ben Gershom (known as Ralbag or Gersonides)
              David ben Joseph Kimhi, the Radak, 13th century France
              Joseph ben Isaac, the Bekhor Shor, 12th century France
              Nissim ben Reuben Gerondi, the RaN, 14th century Spain
              Isaac ben Judah Abravanel (1437-1508)
              Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno, 16th century Italy

              • The Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, 18th century Lithuania
                The Malbim, Meir Lob ben Jehiel Michael Classic Torah and Talmud commentaries
                Modern Torah commentaries which have received wide acclaim in the Jewish community include:


                • Haemek Davar by Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin
                  The Chofetz Chaim
                  Torah Temimah of Baruch ha-Levi Epstein
                  Kerem HaTzvi, by Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Ferber
                  Sefat Emet (Lips of Truth), Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Ger, 19th century Europe
                  The "Pentateuch and Haftaras" by Joseph H. Hertz
                  The Torah commentary of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch
                  Nechama Leibowitz, a noted woman scholar
                  Ha-Ketav veha-Kabbalah by Rabbi Yaakov Zwi Meckelenburg
                  The Soncino Books of the Bible
                  Conservative Judaism:

                  • The five volume JPS Commentary on the Torah by Nahum M. Sarna, Baruch A. Levine, Jacob Milgrom and Jeffrey H. Tigay
                    Etz Hayim: A Torah Commentary by David L. Lieber, Harold Kushner and Chaim Potok Modern Torah commentaries
                    Modern Siddur commentaries have been written by:

                    Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan HaCohen, The Chofetz Chaim's Siddur
                    Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Hirsch Siddur, Feldheim
                    Abraham Isaac Kook, Olat Reyia
                    The Authorised Daily Prayer Book with commentary by Joseph H. Hertz
                    Elie Munk, The World of Prayer, Elie Munk
                    Nosson Scherman, The Artscroll Siddur, Mesorah Publications
                    Reuven Hammer, Or Hadash, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
                    My Peoples Prayer Book, Jewish Lights Publishing, written by a team of non-Orthodox rabbis and Talmud scholars. Modern Siddur commentaries

                    The Traditional Jewish Bookshelf
                    Torah databases (electronic versions of traditional Jewish texts)
                    Moses in rabbinic literature
                    List of rabbis
                    List of Jewish Prayers and Blessings
                    Table of books of Judeo-Christian Scripture See also

                    Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts, Barry W. Holtz, (Summit Books)
                    Introduction to Rabbinic Literature Jacob Neusner, (Anchor Bible Reference Library/Doubleday)
                    Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, H. L. Strack and G. Stemberger, (Fortress Press)
                    The Literature of the Sages: Oral Torah, Halakha, Mishnah, Tosefta, Talmud, External Tractates, Shemuel Safrai and Peter J. (Tomsan Fortress, 1987) General

                    Mechon Mamre
                    Halacha Brura and Birur Halacha Institute
                    The Electronic Torah Warehouse
                    Primary Sources @ Ben Gurion University
                    Young Israel library

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