From Tradition to Commentary

Torah and Its Interpretation in the Midrash Sifre to Deuteronomy

By Steven D. Fraade

Subjects: Jewish Studies, History
Series: SUNY series in Judaica: Hermeneutics, Mysticism, and Religion
Paperback : 9780791404966, 365 pages, January 1991
Hardcover : 9780791404959, 365 pages, February 1991

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Table of contents

Note on the Textual Basis of the Translations

1. Introduction: The Turn to Commentary

2. Re-Presenting Revelation

Sifre Texts and Commentary


The Lord Came from Sinai (§343)
Lover, Indeed, of the People(s) (§344)
The Heritage of the Congregation of Jacob (§345)
He Encompassed Him and Instructed Him (§313)



3. The Early Rabbinic Sage and His Torah in the Text of the Sifre

Sifre Texts and Commentary


Ask Your Elders and They Will Tell You (§310)
That I Command You Today (§41)
Or the Magistrate in Charge at the Time (§§152-153)
They Shall Teach Your Statutes to Jacob (§351)
Serving Him with All Your Heart (§41)
Holding Fast to Him (§49)
You Shall Hold a Day of Assembly (§135)
May My Discourse Come Down as Rain (§306)
When the Heads of the People Are Gathered (§346)
I Will Appoint Them as Your Heads (§13)
If, Then, You Carefully Keep (§48)
Take to Heart All the Words (§335)



4. Polyphony and Plot: Torah as Song as Covenantal Witness

The Song of Moses (Deut. 32)
Sifre Text (§306) and Commentary






Fragmentary Targum
1 Enoch
2 Baruch






Bibliographic References


Primary Sources
Secondary Sources


Index of Primary Sources

Index of Names and Subjects


This book examines Torah and its interpretation both as a recurring theme in the early rabbinic commentary and as the very practice of the commentary. It studies the phenomenon of ancient rabbinic scriptural commentary in relation to the perspectives of literary and historical criticisms and their complex intersection. The author discusses extensively the nature of ancient commentary, comparing and contrasting it with the antecedents in the pesharim of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the allegorical commentaries of Philo of Alexandria. He develops a model for a dynamic understanding of the literary structure and sociohistorical function of early rabbinic commentary, and then applies this model to the Sifre — to the oldest extant running commentary to Deuteronomy and one of the oldest rabbinic collections of exegesis.

Fraade examines the commentary's representation of revelation and its reception at Mt. Sinai, with particular attention to its fractured refiguration and interrelation of Scripture, tradition, and history. He discusses the commentary's discursive empowering of the class of sages in their collective self-understanding as Israel's authorized teachers, leaders, legislators, and judges. The author also probes the tension between Torah and nature as witnesses to Israel's covenant with God.

Steven D. Fraade is Mark Taper Professor of the History of Judaism at Yale University.