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Midrash Proverbs or Aggadat Proverbs

MIDRASH PROVERBS or AGGADAT PROVERBS (Heb. מִדְרַשׁ מִשְׁלֵי; cf. Arukh, S.V. nakad 3), Midrash on the Book of Proverbs, also frequently but wrongly referred to as Midrash Shoḥer Tov. The Midrash is distinguished by an exegetical style demonstrated both in the choice of its contents and the manner in which they are quoted. The compiler selected passages which largely explained the texts of Proverbs according to the literal meaning, and very frequently reworded them. As a result several of the characteristics of the early Midrash disappear and the exegetical method prevails. There are few proems, introductory words are rare, the few statements depend upon abstruse allusions, and the discussions in general are brief. A departure from the method of the early Midrashim is further conspicuous in two respects: in the formulation of disputes, and in the ascription of dicta to early scholars. The sources of the Midrash are the Mishnah, Tosefta, Mekhilta, and Sifrei. A phenomenon worthy of mention is the compiler's use of Heikhalot literature (to which Zunz drew attention; see *Merkabah Mysticism). The editor also made use of amoraic Midrashim, Genesis Rabbah, Leviticus Rabbah, Pesiktade-Rav Kahana, Songs Rabbah, and Ecclesiastes Rabbah, and he also knew the two versions of Avot de-Rabbi Nathan. He had no acquaintance with the Jerusalem Talmud, although there are numerous quotations from the Babylonian Talmud. From this, Buber concluded that it was compiled in Babylon, and not in Italy as claimed by Zunz, and conjectured from this and the quotations from it in geonic works of the eighth century, that it was edited after the final editing of the Babylonian Talmud. Although the quotations in the geonic writings are doubtful (Albeck) it is nevertheless certain that it cannot be as late as the end of the geonic period, despite the contrary view of Zunz.

The Midrash in its present state is incomplete. Parts of sections and whole sections are missing. The last third is particularly fragmentary, though the discussion of the last chapter (31) is given in detail. More Midrashim to this chapter are extant, namely Midrash Eshet Ḥayil (in S.A. Wertheimer, Battei Midrashot, 2 (19532), 146–50); Midrash Eshet Ḥayil in the Midrash ha-Gadol to Genesis (ed. by M. Margulies (1947), 368–74); and L. Ginsberg published a fragment from a new edition of Midrash Proverbs (Ginzei Schechter, 1 (1928), 163–8). These apparently reflect different editions of the Midrash. Another version of the Midrash Eshet Ḥayil, which was collated in 1512 by Moses b. Joseph Albiladah of Yemen, is based upon ancient sources, and shows affinities in some details with the Ginsberg version (published in J.L. Nahum, Mi-Ẓefunot Yehudei Teiman (1962), 209–22). The most important printed editions of the Midrash are Constantinople, 1517, Venice, 1547, and Prague, 1613. Subsequently the printers relied chiefly upon the Prague edition, which relied upon the Venice edition (whose reading is doubtful, as Buber has shown), and added to it the glosses, Ot Emet, of Meir b. Samuel Benveniste. In 1893 S. Buber published a new edition of great value based upon three manuscripts, as well as the Constantinople edition. Additional manuscripts of the Midrash are now available.


Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 133, 412f.; S. Buber (ed.), Midrash Mishlei (1893), introd.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.