The Midrash is the corpus of teachings on the Hebrew Bible derived from a method of biblical exegesis also known as midrash. This type of exegesis goes beyond the surface of the text and expounds upon events and people that are only briefly—if at all—mentioned in scripture, often creating an original, extra-biblical narrative. Items as seemingly insignificant as unnecessary words and textual anomalies can be the basis of midrashim (plural of midrash) that tell tales of biblical figures found nowhere in the Bible itself. Many midrashim are metaphorical and not to be taken literally, though some consider certain midrashim helpful in an esoteric understanding of scripture. Midrashim that deal with halakha (Jewish law) seek to explain the source of and reason behind religious laws in order to prove their authenticity. Midrashim dealing with Aggadah (non-legal elements of Judaism) cover a wide variety of topics and employ a much more liberal style of exposition than do halakhic midrashim.
The Midrash is an important part of Jewish culture as the stories that comprise it, while not accepted as scripture, have entered the realm of Jewish folklore and thus gained the weight of tradition. For example, one midrash speaks of the biblical Adam having a wife before Eve named Lilith, who refused to be subservient to him and fled the Garden of Eden, becoming a demon. The Midrash exemplifies the openness of Judaism to a diversity of interpretations and homiletic styles and, as such, characterizes rabbinic Judaism. The Midrash is also a valuable source of mysticism within the Jewish tradition, as many midrashim claim to convey mystical and esoteric teachings.
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