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Yalkut Shimoni

YALKUT SHIMONI (usually referred to as "the Yalkut" of Simeon of Frankfurt) the best known and most comprehensive midrashic anthology, covering the whole Bible. Some scholars (S.J. Rapoport, etc.) claimed that its author and compiler was Simeon Kara, the father of Joseph Kara and a contemporary of Rashi, but A. Epstein showed that there is no basis for this view. He proved that the Simeon mentioned by Rashi is not the compiler of the Yalkut and attributed it to a Simeon ha-Darshan, who lived in the 13th century. Nothing is known of this Simeon, except for a reference by M. Prinz to a "Rabbenu Simeon, chief of the preachers of Frankfurt." The copyist of the Oxford manuscript of 1308, as well as the publishers in Salonika, simply refer to him as ha-darshan ("the preacher"), but Prinz's view that he came from Frankfurt is supported by the traditions of the Jews of that town. Zunz dated the Midrash to the 13th century based on the facts that Nathan b. Jehiel of Rome, Rashi, and other 12th-century scholars did not know the Yalkut, its use of sources which date at the earliest from the end of the 11th century (according to Zunz – including Exodus Rabbah, Numbers Rabbah, Midrash Avkir, Divrei ha-Yamim ha-Arokh, etc.) as well as the fact that Azariah dei *Rossi had a manuscript of it written in 1310. Not all of Zunz's arguments are valid. For example, Rapoport has shown that the Yalkut does not utilize Exodus Rabbah and Numbers Rabbah, but Zunz's view as to its date prevails, despite Gaster's claim that it was compiled in Spain in the 14th century. The attempt of Aptowitzer to predate it to the middle of the 12th century is not convincing. Nevertheless, the Yalkut began to circulate widely only at the end of the 15th century, becoming popular and relied on to such an extent that the study of its midrashic sources was neglected. The reason for its late circulation lies in the historical circumstances of those times. The copying of a work of such great volume as the Yalkut was difficult and the period was equally barren in creativity in other spheres. The first to mention the Yalkut was Isaac Abrabanel, and his son Samuel possessed a copy of part of the Yalkut to the prophets.

The aim of the compiler of the Yalkut was to assimilate the bulk of rabbinical sayings at his disposal, following the order of the verses of the Bible. It contains more than 10,000 statements in aggadah and halakhah, covering all the books of the Bible, most of its chapters, and including commentaries on a substantial part of individual verses. He collected material from more than 50 works (in halakhah and in aggadah) both early and late. The Yalkut is the only source for some of them, including Sifrei Zuta, Yelammedenu, Midrash Esfah, Midrash Avkir, Midrash Tadshe, Devarim Zuta, etc. The identification of these works was made possible in part by the author's custom of noting the source for his statement (in the manuscripts they are in the margin, in the first printed edition in the text, and in later printed editions again in the margin). These source-notes, however, are incomplete; in hundreds of places no reference is given and even in cases where they are, mistakes and corruptions have crept in, many of them in the late editions.

The variae lectiones of the Yalkut are of great importance, but great caution must be exercised in relying upon them, especially as regards the later editions, for three reasons: Sometimes the compiler based himself on faulty manuscripts; his method of assembling statements from various sources and combining them caused him at times to abridge and even alter them; and editors and printers used a free hand in altering passages according to their own views. Their tendency, in the words of M. Prinz in the introduction to his edition (Venice, 1566), was to straighten out the words "that were topsy turvy, first things last and last things first, omissions and additions, letters and words distorted and crossed out, partially obliterated and worked over," at times adding to the corrupt state of the text.

Many paragraphs in the Yalkut are numbered and are commonly designated remazim ("allusions") by the author, though he sometimes employs the term siman ("sign") and in a number of places erekh ("topic"). The total number of these remazim is 966 (963 in the Salonika edition) for the Pentateuch and 1,085 for the other books of the Bible. The method followed in numbering the remazim is puzzling: the author does not number each quotation, and although there are numbers covering a few lines dealing with a single dictum (Isaiah 444 has 3 lines) there are also some of exceptional length containing numerous statements extending to several columns (cf. Deut. 938). There are remazim which cover the commentary to two successive paragraphs and some even to two successive books. Zunz regarded this numbering as arbitrary, but it seems probable that it served an internal need of the book itself, its purpose being not to divide the work into sections, but to indicate those statements to which he intended to refer in some other part of his work. In fact, in the Oxford manuscript and in the Salonika edition, the number is placed by the side of the particular statement to be referred to elsewhere and not at the beginning of the section (this explanation was put forward by H.Z. Finkel of Jerusalem, and cf. D. Hyman, in: Hadorom, 12 (1960), 144–7 and Mekorot Yalkut Shimoni (1965), 6–7). In addition to these remazim, in various books there is an added division whose nature is not always clear. From the indications in the first edition, it is clear that the author follows the order of books of the Bible given in the Talmud (BB 14b), placing Jeremiah and Ezekiel before Isaiah. In the printed editions the accepted order has been followed, and in consequence the printers, at the beginning of the commentary to Isaiah, quoted the relevant passage from Bava Batra, "the sages have taught that the order of the prophets is Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekial, Isaiah, the Twelve," and explaining that this accounts for the order in the numbering of the remazim. From the Venice edition (1566) onward the numbering is also corrupt.

The numbering of the Psalms in the Yalkut differs from the traditional one. The anthologist notes the number at the beginnings of each Psalm and only gives 147. This division was customary in the amoraic period, and the author apparently took it from the Midrash to Psalms which interpreted the verse (Ps. 22:4) "Yet thou art holy, O Thou that art enthroned upon the praises of Israel" (i.e., Jacob) to mean that "the 147 Psalms in the Book of Psalms correspond to the 147 years of Jacob." This division appears only in the Salonika edition and was subsequently blurred. The chief printed editions of the Yalkut Shimoni are Salonika editions, Prophets and Hagiographa (1521) and Pentateuch (1526). To this edition a kunteres aḥaron (addendum) was added (at the end of part 1) containing 256 remazim from the aggadot of the Jerusalem Talmud, with deviations from the present order of the tractates and 55 remazim from the Midrash Yelammedenu on the Pentateuch to all of which cross-references occur in the main work. This addendum was omitted from all subsequent editions. Since then the Yalkut has been published frequently but many errors have crept into it. For accurate reading one can rely only on the Salonika edition, which was published from manuscripts, and on the manuscripts available today in the libraries of Oxford, Vienna, Parma, and Hamburg, although they are mostly fragmentary and even in their totality do not cover all the books of the Bible. A. Epstein, in dealing with the differences between the Salonika and Venice editions, proved that the editor of the Venice edition, Meir Prinz, used the printed Salonika edition as the basis of his edition, although he made many changes to it at his discretion, and this impaired it. Hyman, in his Mekorot Yalkut Shimoni to the Prophets and Hagiographa, gives the sources of the Yalkut in accordance with the manuscripts and first editions and adds his own sources. He also gives the passages, including several long and important ones, which occur in the first edition and in the manuscripts but were excluded from the later editions by the censor.


Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 146–9, 443–7; A. Epstein, in: Ha-Ḥoker, 1 (1891), 85–93, 129–37; idem, in: Ha-Eshkol, 4 (1902) 273–5; 6 (1909), 183–210; idem, Mi-Kadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim (1957; = vol. 2 of his Kitvei), 278–327, 351–4; idem, in: REJ, 26 (1893) 75–82; M. Gaster, The Exempla of the Rabbis (1924), Eng. pt. 21–39; E.Z. Melamed, Midreshei Halakhah shel ha-Tanna'im be-Talmud Bavli (1943), 68–70; D. Hyman, in: Hadorom, 12 (1960), 144–7; idem, Mekorot Yalkut Shimoni (1965), introd; S. Abramson, in: Sinai, 52 (1963), 146.

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