Pĕsiḳta dĕ-Raḇ Kahăna: R. Kahana's Compilation of Discourses for Sabbaths and Festal Days

Pĕsiḳta dĕ-Raḇ Kahăna: R. Kahana's Compilation of Discourses for Sabbaths and Festal Days

Pĕsiḳta dĕ-Raḇ Kahăna: R. Kahana's Compilation of Discourses for Sabbaths and Festal Days

Pĕsiḳta dĕ-Raḇ Kahăna: R. Kahana's Compilation of Discourses for Sabbaths and Festal Days

Synopsis

A JPS classic reissue of this great work of Midrash

Long known only to scholars and specialists, Pesikta de-Rab Kahana is a masterpiece of midrashic literature. A collection of discourses for special Sabbaths and festival days compiled and organized during the fifth century, it was well known and studied from the end of that century until it disappeared sometime in the sixteenth century. From manuscripts discovered in 1868 and still others 100 years later, it was reborn. In 1975 JPS brought it to English readers through Braude and Kapstein's translation.

Excerpt

The destiny of some great ancient books is mysteriously secured in the faith that at some point and in some way someone will come along and open the book and once again bring it to the world. When considering the massacre of the scholars, King Alexander Jannai is reported by the Talmud (Kiddushin 66a) to have asked, “But what will become of the Torah?” He was told, “Behold, it is rolled up and deposited in a corner. Whoever wants to study it, let him go and study it!” The Talmud reports that after the Sages were killed, the world was desolate until Simeon b. Shetah came and restored the Torah to its glory. For reasons that will forever remain a mystery, this seems also to be the fate of the Pĕsiḳta dĕ-Raḇ Kahăna.

In the introduction to his translation of the Pesikta that follows, Rabbi William G. (Gershon Zev) Braude tells the tale and the journey of this magnificent midrashic work. I summarize it now only to add the latest details to this drama. The Pĕsiḳta, as will be explained below, emerged in a time of deep crisis for the Jewish people. It remained well known and studied from the end of the fifth century until it disappeared sometime in the sixteenth century. In 1832 Leopold Zunz, without benefit of manuscript or text, brilliantly postulated its existence and its structure. This magisterial assertion was confirmed in 1868, when Solomon Buber published the Pĕsiḳta, based on four manuscripts that he had discovered. A new edition,

This essay is indebted to the learning and scholarship of Leopold Zunz, Shlomo
Buber, William Braude, Yosef Heinemann, Avigdor Shinan, and Yona Frankel.

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