The Midrashic Imagination

Jewish Exegesis, Thought, and History

Edited by Michael Fishbane

Subjects: Jewish Mysticism
Paperback : 9780791415221, 296 pages, July 1993
Hardcover : 9780791415214, 296 pages, July 1993

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Table of contents

Michael Fishbane

Part I. Midrashic Hermeneutics: Some Conceptual and Comparative Considerations

1. Midrash and the "Midrashic Condition": Preliminary Considerations
Ithamar Gruenwald · Tel Aviv University

2. From Midrash to Mishnah:

Theological Repercussions and Further Clarifications of "Chate'u Yisrael"
David Weiss Halivni · Columbia University

3. Midrashic versus Other Forms of Jewish Hermeneutics:
Some Comparative Reflections
Moshe Idel · The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Part II. Ancient Midrash: Myth, History, and Parable

4. "The Holy One Sits and Roars":
Mythopoesis and the Midrashic Imagination
Michael Fishbane · The University of Chicago

5. The Rabbinic Parable and the Narrative of Interpretation
David Stern · University of Pennsylvania

Part III. Medieval Midrash and Exegesis:

The Many Ways of Peshat, Remez, and Sod

6. The Nature and Distribution of Medieval Compilatory Commentaries in the Light of Rabbi Joseph Kara's Commentary on the Book of Job
Sara Japhet · The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

7. Maimonides on the Covenant of Circumcision and the Unity of God
Josef Stern · The University of Chicago

8. Beautiful Maiden Without Eyes: Peshat and Sod in Zoharic Hermeneutics
Elliot R. Wolfson · New York University

9. Proverbs, Figures, and Riddles:
The Dialogues of Love as a Hebrew Humanist Composition
Arthur M. Lesley · Baltimore Hebrew University

Part IV. Myth, Midrash, and Exemplum in Medieval Historiography

10. Can Medieval Storytelling Help Understanding Midrash? The Story of Paltiel: A Preliminary Study on History and Midrash
Robert Bonfil · The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

11. History, Story and Collective Memory:
Narrativity in Early Ashkenazic Culture
Ivan G. Marcus · The Jewish Theological Seminary of America

12. Sefer Yosippon: History and Midrash
Steven Bowman · University of Cincinnati



This innovative and original book examines the broad range of Jewish interpretation from antiquity through the medieval and renaissance periods. Its primary focus is on Midrash and midrashic creativity, including the entire range of nonlegal interpretations of the Bible. Considering Midrash as a literary and cultural form, the book explores aspects of classical Midrash from various angles including mythmaking and parables. The relationship between this exoteric mode and more esoteric forms in late antiquity is also examined. This work also focuses on some of the major genres of medieval biblical exegesis: plain sense, allegory, and mystical.

Michael Fishbane is Nathan Cummings Professor of Jewish Studies at The Univeristy of Chicago. He has written many works including Text and Texture, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel, and The Garments of Torah.


"Written by some of the most outstanding scholars of Jewish Studies, this book sheds light on the dominant cognitive mode of Judaism. Through the Midrashic process Jewish scholars molded Jewish consciousness, responded to historical crises, created legal and theological norms, and shaped Jewish culture. The book offers a sophisticated analysis of textuality in Judaism: the interpretation of sacred texts explains both the traditionalist nature of Judaism as well as its elasticity. Going beyond contemporary literary approaches to Midrash, these essays offer a very balanced analysis of the dialectical interplay between textual interpretation and historical context. It is an important collection that could become standard reference work in the field of Jewish Studies. " — Hava Tirosh-Rothschild, Indiana University