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Methods Of Early Rabbinic Biblical Exegesis

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Chapter Summary

This chapter investigates the use of Ishmael?s thirteen middot in the earliest midrashic collections?Sifra, Mekhilta deRabbi Ishmael, Sifré BaMidbar, and Sifré Devarim. It examines the occurrences of each middah in the various collections, their distribution among the four midrashim, and the sages to whom the use of these middot is attributed. With this information in hand, the chapter offers some suggestions about the reasons the list of middot was created, why the one prefixed to Sifra was attributed to R. Ishmael, and why it was prefixed to Sifra. Primarily, the chapter suggests that the list of Ishmael?s middot at the opening of Sifra is an Amoraic creation and that its purpose is not to set forth the list alone but to provide examples of how people should legitimately interpret the Torah in light of the realities of the fourth and fifth centuries.

Keywords: Mekhilta deRabbi Ishmael; middot; midrashim; Sifré BaMidbar; Sifré Devarim; Sifra



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