The New International Encyclopædia/Midrash

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MID'RASH (Heb., from dārash, to seek, search). The general name given to the exposition of the Old Testament which, for about 1,500 years after the Exile, formed the centre of all mental activity both in and out of the schools, among the Jews. The prohibitions and ordinances contained in the Pentateuchal codes were specified and particularized according to certain hermeneutical rules, and further surrounded by traditional ordinances and inhibitions. This division of Midrash is represented by the Halacha (q.v.), the binding authoritative. civil, and religous law as laid down in the Talmud. Another branch of the Midrash, however, is the Haggada (q.v.), a kind of free poetical homiletics, on the whole body of the Old Testament, and the term Midrash without further specification generally refers to this branch of rabbinical literature. The chief collections of this part of the Midrash are Midrash Rabba or Midrash haggadol (on the Pentateuch and the five scrolls), and Pesikta to various sections of the Bible. A complete German translation of the Midrash Rabba was begim by August Wünsche in 1880. Besides this there are Midrashim to the separate books of the Pentateuch, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Consult: Steinschneider, Jewish Literature (London, 1857); Chenery, “Legends from the Midrash,” in Löwy, Miscellanies of Hebrew Literature (ib., 1877); Abrahams, Jewish Literature, c. iv. (Philadelphia, 1899).