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Midrashic Units in the Mishnah

Database of Midrashic Units in the Mishnah: Explanation

In this database I discuss every passage in the Mishnah where Scripture is explicitly quoted, and some where Scripture is merely alluded to. Each interpretation is explained in all its aspects, identifying the techniques (or "resources") which come together to create the complete hermeneutic operation. There are about 800 passages in the Mishnah which are explained in this way. I have revised for publication on this website all tractates except mAvot. Avot will be published at a later time. All Mishnaic passages (including Avot) are already listed with their relevant techniques of interpretation in a preliminary overview forming Appendix II of my book Rabbinic Interpretation of Scripture in the Mishnah (pp. 419-431). However, the full description contained in the database here published differs in many details from that contained in the preliminary survey of Appendix II. It is the result of a process of systematic revision of all entries of the database (which I started in 1992) since the completion of the text of the book more than two years ago. This full Database takes the place of the incomplete Database which was available from this website until 29 September 2003 (up to mGittin). It provides small revisions and improved presentation for all entries, including the ones that were already available from that earlier website version.

The following information is available for each Mishnaic passage which quotes Bible, and many of the ones that allude to Bible:

1. Text Reference
This is the Mishnaic reference, in the format: mBer 1:1. Where necessary, the numbered mishnah is further subdivided so that each hermeneutic operation with the same mishnah-number receives a Roman numeral, thus: mBer 9:8 I (9). The figure in brackets indicates the total number of interpretations contained in this mishnah (in this case, nine). Occasionally, a reference with this format is followed by one or more numbers in square brackets, e.g. mBer 1:5 I(2) [13]. This indicates that the passage in question constitutes one of the illustrations used in my Rabbinic Interpretation of Scripture in the Mishnah to demonstrate a certain technique of interpretation; the number itself shows at which point in the book the passage is discussed (all illustrations in the book are sequentially numbered in this way, from 1 to 142).

2. Biblical Reference
This is the biblical reference of the verse quoted or alluded to (abbreviations Gen., Ex., Lev., Num., Deut., etc.); where I quote the English translation of the (new) Jewish Publication Society version, I mark it as JPS (Tanakh. A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text, Philadelphia/New York/Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society, 1985). Where I make reference to Brown-Driver-Brigg's Hebrew dictionary, it is abbreviated as BDB (F. Brown, S. R. Driver, C. A. Briggs, W. Gesenius, Hebrew and English Lexicon, reprint Peadbody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1979)

3. Rabbi
Here I give the name of the Rabbi to whom the interpretation is ascribed, if not anonymous ("anon").

4. Text
A translation of the relevant Mishnaic text into English is provided; this translation is in a number of cases based on the text of ms Kaufmann (facsimile Beer); where only printed editions have been used, the Mishnah text contained in Qafih's Hebrew translation of Maimonides' Commentary on the Mishnah has normally been compared (Mishnah 'im perush Rabbenu Mosheh ben Maimon, 3 vols., translated from the Arabic by Y. Qafih, Jerusalem: Mossad Ha-Rav Kook, 1967).

5. Analysis
This, the core part of the database, is a step-by-step explanation of the interpretation according to the principles and the terminology explained in my book Rabbinic Interpretation of Scripture in the Mishnah (pp. 399-418). The c. 140 general definitions of techniques of interpretations listed as Appendix I of that book are based on my experiences in providing such individual analyses of the hermeneutic techniques used in individual Mishnaic passages. The entry for each passage does not repeat that general definition of each relevant technique, but contains an applied formulation tailored to the specific Mishnaic treatment of Bible under discussion. Where relevant I make reference to Mishnaic commentaries and modern secondary literature. I endeavour to give full bibliographical details for the first occurrence of each of the works cited; a complete bibliography is available in my Rabbinic Interpretation of Scripture in the Mishnah, pp. 436-456.

6. Code
A shorthand "coded profile" is provided for each Mishnaic passage which shows at a glance all aspects of the interpretation: this coded characterization makes direct comparison between passages easy; thus, all interpretations in the database which treat the biblical infinitive absolute by identifying two separate topics for it will have the code "R7.2" (abbreviated from "Redundancy7.2"). The entries of the step-by-step explanation given in field 5 are prefixed by the relevant code, so that there is a clear one-to-one relationship between the explanation and the coded profile.

This web-based Database is based on the original version which I began to create in 1992 using the software HyperCard on the MacIntosh. My HyperCard version contains further fields of information, among them the rabbinic hermeneutic terminology and the biblical Lemma (both of them in Hebrew script). I am exploring how the complete information contained in this HyperCard version, which is also fully searchable, can be made available on the internet at a later stage. Suggestions welcome - please fill in the feedback form.

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