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Mekhilta of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Mekhilta of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Hebrew: מכילתא דרבי שמעון בר יוחאי, Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai) is a Halakic midrash on Exodus from the school of Rabbi Akiva, attributed to Shimon bar Yochai. No midrash of this name is mentioned in Talmudic literature, but medieval authors refer to one which they call either "Mekhilta de-R. Simeon b. Yohai" or "Mekhilta Ahrita de-R. Shimon", or simply "Mekhilta Akheret" ("another mekhilta").

References by later writers

Passages from this Mekhilta are cited in later works, especially by Nahmanides in his Pentateuchal commentary,[1] and by R. Todros ha-Levi in his works Sefer ha-Razim and Otzar ha-Kabod.[2]

Until the early 1900s, aside from these quotations and some given by certain authors of the 16th century (such as Elijah Mizrahi in his Sefer ha-Mizrachi, R. Shem-Ṭob b. Abraham in his Migdal Oz, and R. Meir ibn Gabbai in his Tola'at Ya'akov[3]), the only known extract of any length from Mekhilta de-R. Shimon was the one published by R. Isaac Elijah Landau from a manuscript of R. Abraham Halami, as an appendix to his edition of the Mekhilta.[4]

There were, therefore, various erroneous opinions regarding this lost work. Zunz[5] considered it as a kabbalistic work ascribed to R. Shimon bar Yochai. M. H. Landauer[6] identified it with the Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael, while J. Perles[7] held that the medieval authors applied the name "Mekhilta de-R. Shimon" merely to his maxims which were included in the Mekhilta de-R. Yishmael, since separate sentences could be called "mekhilta". M. Friedmann was the first to maintain[8] that, in addition to R. Ishmael's work, there was a halakhic midrash to Exodus by R. Shimon, which was called the "Mekhilta de-R. Shimon," and that this Mekhilta formed part of the Sifre mentioned in the Talmud Bavli.[9]

This assumption of Friedmann's was subsequently confirmed by the publication of a geonic responsum,[10] where a baraita from the Sifre de-Bei Rav to Exodus is quoted, which is the same passage as that cited by Nahmanides from the Mekhilta de-R. Shimon b. Yochai, in his commentary on Exodus 22:12. This extract designates the work of R. Ishmael as the "Mekhilta of Palestine," in contradistinction to R. Shimon b. Yochai's midrash. It is clear, therefore, that the Mekhilta of R. Shimon was implied in the title Sifre de-Bei Rav;[11] and it is mentioned in the Midrash Tehillim[12] under the Hebrew name Middot R. Shimon b. Yohai.

It is possible also that Shimon himself intended to refer to his midrash in his saying: "Learn my middot".[13] The Judean sources, the Yerushalmi and the aggadic midrashim, introduce baraitot from this Mekhilta with the phrase, "Teni R. Shimon" = "R. Shimon has taught".[14] The phrase "Tana de-Bei R. Shimon" is extremely rare, however, in the Talmud Bavli, where this midrash ranks as one of the "Sifre de-Bei Rav".[15] Many sentences of R. Shimon are quoted there in the name of his son Eleazar, so that Hoffmann has very plausibly concluded[16] that Eleazar edited his father's midrash.

Current status

The Mekhilta de-R. Shim'on had disappeared, but some extracts from it were preserved in the collection known as Midrash haGadol, as Israel Lewy first pointed out.[17] These fragments were collected by David Zvi Hoffmann and published under the title Mechilta des R. Simon b. Jochai.[18]

This Mekhilta compiled from Midrash haGadol preserves abundant material from the earliest Scriptural commentaries, quoting, for instance, a sentence from the Doreshei Reshumot on Exodus 21:12[19] which is found nowhere else. It contains also much from post-Talmudic literature,[20] for the collector and redactor of the Midrash haGadol had a peculiar way of dressing sentences of such medieval authorities as Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Arukh, and Maimonides in midrashic garb and presenting them as ancient maxims.[21]

A critical version, using newly discovered fragments of texts, was later published by Yaakov Nahum Epstein and his student Ezra Zion Melamed.

English editions

  • Nelson, David (2006), Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai: Translated into English, with Critical Introduction and Annotation, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.


  1. ^ On Genesis 49:31; Exodus 14:19, 21:3, 22:12; Leviticus 23:24
  2. ^ MSS. in the Königliche Hofund Staatsbibliothek, Munich; comp. M. H. Landauer in Orient, Lit. 1845, vi. 182 et seq.
  3. ^ p. 63b, Cracow, 1570
  4. ^ Vilna, 1844
  5. ^ G. V. p. 419, note a
  6. ^ l.c.
  7. ^ in Monatsschrift, 1858, pp. 145 et seq.
  8. ^ In his introduction to the Mekhilta of R. Ismael, Vienna, 1870, pp. 54 et seq.
  9. ^ Sanhedrin 86a; Berachot 47b; Megillah 28b; Kiddushin 49a; Shevuot 41b; Hagigah 3a
  10. ^ A. Harkavy, Teshubot ha-Ge'onim, p. 107, No. 229, Berlin, 1888
  11. ^ Compare David Zvi Hoffmann, Einleitung in die Halachischen Midraschim, p. 46
  12. ^ ed. S. Buber, Wilna, 1891, p. 252 (comp. Buber's note there)
  13. ^ Gittin 67a
  14. ^ Compare Friedmann, introduction to his edition of the Mekhilta, pp. 55 et seq.; Hoffmann, l.c. p. 48
  15. ^ Hoffmann, l.c. p. 50
  16. ^ l.c. p. 51
  17. ^ Ein Wort über die Mechilta des R. Simon
  18. ^ In the Hebrew monthly Ha-Peles, Volumes 1 to 4, passim
  19. ^ Ha-Peles, iii. 258
  20. ^ Compare Hoffmann, l.c. p. 387, note 19
  21. ^ Compare S. Schechter, Introduction to Midrash ha-Gadol, p. 13, Cambridge, 1902

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography

  • M. Friedmann, introduction to his edition of the Mekhilta, pp. 51-73, Vienna, 1870;
  • David Zvi Hoffmann, Einleitung in die Halachischen Midraschim, pp. 45-51, Berlin, 1887;
  • Israel Lewy, Ein Wort über die Mechilta des R. Simon, Breslau, 1889.

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "article name needed". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

This page was last edited on 23 May 2019, at 22:07
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