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Title: Commentary on Midrash Rabba in the sixteenth-century : the Or ha-Sekhel of Abraham ben Asher
Author: Williams, Benjamin James
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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The Or ha-Sekhel of Abraham ben Asher (Venice, 1567) is of great importance in the history of the study of midrash because it is the first book in which Genesis Rabba was accompanied by commentaries, one spuriously attributed to Rashi and the other written by Abraham ben Asher himself. The composition of a commentary on a midrash was something of a novelty in the mid-16th-century; immediate precedents are hard to identify. Yet, several such commentaries and a large number of prints of Midrash Rabba were published at this time, suggesting that the status of this ‘anthology of midrashim’ was undergoing a period of transition. The need for a correct text and the explanation of obscure vocabulary was foremost in the minds of interpreters such as Issachar Berman of Poland. However, the increasing importance of midrash in the sermons of the Iberian immigrants to the Ottoman Empire also inspired the composition of more discursive commentaries. The homiletic nature of Abraham ben Asher’s expositions suggests that they should be seen in this context. His incorporation of an earlier commentary falsely attributed to Rashi into the Or ha-Sekhel might be understood as an effort to ground his innovative presentation of Genesis Rabba as a text requiring thorough study and the guidance of learned commentators in the work of Rashi himself. Understanding the way Abraham ben Asher has compiled these texts in the Or ha-Sekhel sheds new light on the pervasive interest in midrash in the 16th-century and the outpouring of commentaries on Midrash Rabba at this time.
Supervisor: Weinberg, Joanna Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Judaism ; Hebrew ; Biblical studies ; Midrash