Sifra

Sifra

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Encyclopedia
Sifra is the Halakic midrash to Leviticus
Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible, and the third of five books of the Torah ....

. It is frequently quoted in the Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

, and the study of it followed that of the Mishnah
Mishnah
The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...

, as appears from Tanḥuma
Tanhuma
Midrash Tanhuma is the name given to three different collections of Pentateuch haggadot; two are extant, while the third is known only through citations. These midrashim, although bearing the name of R. Tanḥuma, must not be regarded as having been written or edited by him...

, quoted in Or Zarua, i. 7b. Like Leviticus
Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible, and the third of five books of the Torah ....

 itself, the midrash is occasionally called "Torat Kohanim" (Ḳid. 33a; Sanh. 103b; Cant. R. vi. 8), and in two passages also "Sifra debe Rab" (Ber.
Berakhot (Talmud)
Berachot is the first tractate of Seder Zeraim, a collection of the Mishnah that primarily deals with laws relating to plants and farming...

 11b, 18b). According to Leḳaḥ Ṭob (section צו), this latter title was applied originally to the third book of the Pentateuch because Leviticus was the first book studied in the elementary school, and it was subsequently extended to the midrash; but this explanation is contradicted by analogous expressions such as "Sifre debe Rab" and, in a broader sense, "ketubot debe Rab" (Yer. Ket. 26c) and "teḳi'ata debe Rab" (Yer. Ab. Zarah 39c).

Authorship


It is true, Maimonides
Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

, in the introduction to his Yad ha-Ḥazaḳah, and others, quoted by Friedmann, in the introduction to his edition of the Mekilta (p. xxvi., Vienna, 1870), have declared that the title "Sifra debe Rab" indicates Rab
Abba Arika
Abba Arika was a Jewish Talmudist who lived in Babylonia, known as an amora of the 3rd century who established at Sura the systematic study of the rabbinic traditions, which, using the Mishnah as text, led to the compilation of the Talmud...

 as the author of the Sifra; and this opinion I.H. Weiss, in the introduction to his Sifra edition (p. iv.), attempts to support. His proofs are not conclusive, however; neither, it must be confessed, are the opposing arguments of Friedmann (l.c. pp. xvi. et seq.), who tries to show that the expression "Sifra debe Rab" does not refer to the midrash under discussion.
The question as to authorship has been correctly answered by Malbim
Malbim
Meïr Leibush ben Jehiel Michel Weiser , better known by the acronym Malbim , was a rabbi, Hebrew grammar master, and Bible commentator....

, who proves in the introduction to his Sifra edition that R. Ḥiyya was the redactor of the Sifra. There are no less than 39 passages in Yerushalmi
Yerushalmi
Yerushalmi may refer to:* Jerusalem Talmud * Meurav Yerushalmi * Targum Yerushalmi* Targum Pseudo-Jonathan * Jerusalemite- Family name :* Aharon Yerushalmi...

 and the midrashim in which expositions found also in the Sifra are quoted in the name of R. Ḥiyya (comp. the list in D. Hoffmann, Zur Einleitung die Halachischen Midraschim, p. 22, to which Yer. Shab. 2d and Ket. 28d must be added, according to Levy in Ein Wort, etc., p. 1, note 1); and the fact that no tannaim
Tannaim
The Tannaim were the Rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah, from approximately 70-200 CE. The period of the Tannaim, also referred to as the Mishnaic period, lasted about 130 years...

 subsequent to Rebbi are mentioned in the Sifra supports the view that the book was composed during the time of that scholar. The omission from the Sifra of some interpretations of Leviticus
Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible, and the third of five books of the Torah ....

 which are elsewhere quoted in the name of R. Ḥiyya cannot be taken as proving the contrary (comp. the list in Hoffmann, l.c. p. 24, and Yoma
Yoma
Yoma is the fifth tractate of Seder Moed of the Mishnah and of the Talmud. It is concerned mainly with the laws of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, on which Jews atone for their sins from the previous year...

 4a; Ḥul. 141b; Levy, l.c.); nor does the fact that Ḥiyya himself is mentioned in the Sifra offer any difficulty. Indeed, as Hoffmann shows (l.c. p. 25), in the three passages in which it can with certainty be said that the reference is to R. Ḥiyya, namely, Wayiḳra, Nedabah, v. 5, vi. 3, and Meẓora', ii. 10, Ḥiyya himself, in referring to preceding interpretations, indicates that he is the editor.

It is perhaps doubtful whether Hoffmann is correct in comparing the above-mentioned passages, or the final remark of R. Joshua in Ḳinnim, with Mid. ii. 5. But even if Hoffmann's view does not seem acceptable, it is not necessary to infer that Rab was the editor of the Sifra; for he may merely have added the passages in question, just as he seems to have made an addition to Sifra xii. 2, following Niddah
Niddah
Niddah is a Hebrew term describing a woman during menstruation, or a woman who has menstruated and not yet completed the associated requirement of immersion in a mikveh ....

 24b (comp. Weiss in Sifra ad. loc.; also A. Epstein [Mi-Ḳadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim, p. 53, note 1], who holds that in some passages Rab is meant by "aḥerim" and "we-yesh omerim"). Nor is Ḥiyya's authorship controverted by various contradictions presented by individual passages in the Sifra as compared with the Tosefta
Tosefta
The Tosefta is a compilation of the Jewish oral law from the period of the Mishnah.-Overview:...

, which latter also is ascribed to him; e.g., Sifra, Ḳedoshim, vi. 8, compared with Tosef., Mak. iv. 14 (see below).

If it be assumed that Ḥiyya is the author, the title "Sifra debe Rab" is to be explained as indicating that Sifra was among the midrashim which were accepted by Rab's school and which thereby came into general use. The name is differently explained by Hoffmann (l.c. pp. 12 et seq.), who, on the basis of Ḥul. 66a and in conformity with Rashi
Rashi
Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

 ad loc., takes "be Rab" to mean "school" in general, and who accordingly differentiates between "Tanna debe Rab" and "Tanna debe R. Ishmael," i.e., between the midrashim of R. Akiba's school, which, being decisive for the Halakah, were generally studied, and those of R. Ishmael's school, which were not intended for general use, though they were studied by some and were consulted occasionally, as was the case with other midrash collections which are quoted only rarely. Hoffmann himself admits, however, that the expression "de-bet Rab" in Yerushalmi
Yerushalmi
Yerushalmi may refer to:* Jerusalem Talmud * Meurav Yerushalmi * Targum Yerushalmi* Targum Pseudo-Jonathan * Jerusalemite- Family name :* Aharon Yerushalmi...

 certainly indicates Rab's school; so that it is in any case doubtful whether a different usage is to be assumed in the case of Babli
Babli
Babli is a khala zambura. The Bhabli project is a controversial reservoir project being constructed by Maharashtra across the river Godavari, disputed by Andhra Pradesh...

.

As regards the sources of Sifra, it is said in the well-known passage Sanh. 86a (which must be compared with Er.
Moed
Moed is the second Order of the Mishnah, the first written recording of the Oral Torah of the Jewish people . Of the six orders of the Mishna, Moed is the third shortest. The order of Moed consists of 12 tractates:# Shabbat: or Shabbath deals with the 39 prohibitions of "work" on the Shabbat...

 96b and the parallel passages mentioned there), "Setam Sifra R. Yehudah." That the Sifra belongs to R. Akiba's school, as the above-mentioned passage in Sanhedrin indicates, is shown by the principles of exposition contained in the Sifra; e.g., that where the same expression occurs in two different laws the phrase need not be "mufneh" (pleonastic) in one of them in order to permit of its being used for "gezerah shawah" (argument from analogy); the double use of the expression being explained in accordance with the principles of "ribbui u-mi'uṭ" and "kelal uperaṭ." Certain peculiarities of phraseology are likewise noteworthy: יכול replaces שומע אני or אקרא, the phrases usually found in the Mekilta (once, in Sanh. 4b, a passage beginning אקרא אני is cited as coming from the Sifra, while as a matter of fact the Sifra [Tazria', ii. 2] has יכול); comp. further הא כיצד, וכי איזה מדה מרובה, ואם נפשך לומר, וכי מאין יצאת מכלל שנאמר, וכי מאין באת; and for further details see D. Hoffmann, l.c. p. 31.

Sources


Traces of R. Judah's influence are less evident. The fact that the views expressed in some "seṭamot" may be proved to agree with R. Judah's views has little significance; e.g., Sifra, Aḥare, 5, beginning, compared with Men. 27b; ib. Ḳedoshim, viii. 1, with Yeb. 46a (where R. Simeon furthermore seems to have read ר"י in the Sifre
Sifre
Sifre refers to either of two works of Midrash halakhah, or classical Jewish legal Biblical exegesis, based on the biblical books of Bamidbar and Devarim .- The Talmudic-Era Sifre :The title "Sifre debe Rab" is used by R. Hananeel on Sheb. 37b, Alfasi on Pes...

) and Ḳedoshim, vii. 3, with Tosef., Ḳid. i. 4. Such seṭamot may be opposed by others that contradict R. Judah's views; e.g., Sifra, Neg. ii. 1, compared with R. Judah in Neg. ii. 1; Sifra, Neg. x. 8, compared with R. Judah, Neg. x. 10; comp. also Tos. Niddah 28b, s.v. הא מזכר.

All this, however, is no reason for attacking the above-mentioned assumption that the Sifra in its principal parts is a midrash of R. Judah's. D. Hoffmann remarks (l.c. p. 26) not incorrectly that Sifra, Nedabah, iv. 12 agrees with the views of R. Eliezer (Men. 26a), whose decision R. Judah frequently accepts as handed down by his own father, R. Ila'i, a pupil of R. Eliezer (comp. Men. 18a and Yoma
Yoma
Yoma is the fifth tractate of Seder Moed of the Mishnah and of the Talmud. It is concerned mainly with the laws of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, on which Jews atone for their sins from the previous year...

 39a et passim). Similarly, Sifra, Emor
Emor
Emor is the 31st weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the eighth in the book of Leviticus. It constitutes Jews in the Diaspora generally read it in late April or early May...

, xvii. 4 et seq. agrees with R. Eliezer's view (Suk. 43a). Aside from R. Judah's midrash, R. Ḥiyya may have used also R. Simeon's midrash (comp. Hoffmann, l.c. p. 27), although some of the passages mentioned there (as, e.g., the comparison of Sifra, Nedabah, vi. 9 with Sifre, Deut. 78; Sifra, Nega'im, i. 9-10 with Sifre, Deut. 218; Sifra, Beḥuḳḳotai, viii. 2 with Sifre, Deut. 124) seem to prove little. More doubtful is the relation to R. Ishmael's midrash; and in this connection must be considered the question whether the citation of certain explanations of Leviticus introduced by the formula תנא דבי ר"י and actually found in Sifra is not in part due to confusion (comp. Hoffmann, l.c.; Levy, l.c. p. 28, note 2, and the interesting remark from Azulai quoted there).

Additions by R. Ishmael's School


But to R. Ishmael's school undoubtedly belong the later additions to "'Arayot," which, according to Ḥag. i. 1 and Yer. 1b, were not publicly taught in R. Akiba's school; i.e., Aḥare, xiii. 3-15; Ḳedoshim, ix. 1-7, xi. 14 (ed. I.H. Weiss), and finally, of course, the so-called Baraita de-Rabbi Yishma'el (beginning). The so-called "Mekilta de-Millu'im" or "Aggadat Millu'im" to Lev. viii. 1-10 is similarly to be distinguished from the remainder of the Sifra. It exists in two recensions, of which the second, covering mishnayot 14-16 and 29-end, is cited by Rashi
Rashi
Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

 as "Baraita ha-Nosefet 'al Torat Kohanim she-Lanu." The tannaim
Tannaim
The Tannaim were the Rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah, from approximately 70-200 CE. The period of the Tannaim, also referred to as the Mishnaic period, lasted about 130 years...

 quoted most frequently in Sifra are R. Akiba and his pupils, also R. Eliezer, R. Ishmael, R. Jose ha-Gelili, Rebbi, and less often R. Jose bar Judah, R. Eleazar bar R. Simeon, and R. Simeon b. Eleazar.

The Present Text


The Sifra was divided, according to an old arrangement, into 9 "dibburim" and 80 "parashiyyot" or smaller sections (Halakot Gedolot, end; Num. R. xviii.; Ḳid. 33a can not be cited in proof, because R. Simeon b. Rebbi can hardly have taught Ḥiyya
Hiyya
The name Hiyya may refer to several rabbis mentioned in the Talmud:*Rabbi Hiyya, of the transitional period between the Tannaitic and Amoraic periods.*Rabbi Hiyya bar Abba, an Amora of the Land of Israel, and uncle of Abba Arika ....

's Sifra). As it exists today it is divided into 14 larger sections and again into smaller peraḳim, parashiyyot, and mishnayot. As the commentators point out, it varies frequently from the Sifra which the Talmudic authors knew (comp. Sifra, Emor, xiii. 1 and Men. 77b; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, ii. 5 and Ḥul. 137a; Sifra, Ḥobah, xiii. 6 and B. Ḳ. 104b); furthermore, entire passages known to the authors of Babli
Babli
Babli is a khala zambura. The Bhabli project is a controversial reservoir project being constructed by Maharashtra across the river Godavari, disputed by Andhra Pradesh...

, as, e.g., Yoma
Yoma
Yoma is the fifth tractate of Seder Moed of the Mishnah and of the Talmud. It is concerned mainly with the laws of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, on which Jews atone for their sins from the previous year...

 41a, are missing in the present Sifra, and, on the other hand, there are probably passages in the present Sifra which were not known to Babli (comp. D. Hoffmann, l.c. pp. 33, 35).

The Sifra frequently agrees with the Judean rather than with the Babylonian tradition; e.g., Sifra, Nedabah, xii. 2 (comp. Men. 57b); ib. xiv. 6 (comp. Ḥul. 49b); Sifra, Emor, ix. 8 (comp. Ḥul. 101b); and Tosef., Sheḳ. i. 7 likewise agrees with the Sifra. In the few cases where the agreement is with Babli
Babli
Babli is a khala zambura. The Bhabli project is a controversial reservoir project being constructed by Maharashtra across the river Godavari, disputed by Andhra Pradesh...

 (Sifra, Emor, vii. 2 as compared with Men. 73b; similarly Tosef., Ker. ii. 16) it must not be assumed that the text of the Sifra was emended in agreement with Babli, but that it represents the original version; e.g., in Sifra, Ḳedoshim, viii. 1 מאתכם is not a later emendation for מאתן according to Yeb. 47a, as I.H. Weiss (ad loc.) assumes, but represents rather the original reading. Babli
Babli
Babli is a khala zambura. The Bhabli project is a controversial reservoir project being constructed by Maharashtra across the river Godavari, disputed by Andhra Pradesh...

, as compared with Yerushalmi
Yerushalmi
Yerushalmi may refer to:* Jerusalem Talmud * Meurav Yerushalmi * Targum Yerushalmi* Targum Pseudo-Jonathan * Jerusalemite- Family name :* Aharon Yerushalmi...

, cites Sifra less accurately, sometimes abbreviating and sometimes amplifying it; e.g., Ḳid. 57b, which is the amplification of Sifra, Nedabah, xvii. 8; Sheb. 26b, which is a shortened (and therefore unintelligible) version of Sifra, Ḥobah, ix. 2; and Zeb. 93b, which is to be compared with Sifra, Ẓaw, vi. 6. Babli occasionally makes use, in reference to the Sifra, of the rule "mi she-shanah zu lo shanah zu" (i.e., the assigning of different parts of one halakah to different authorities), as in Sheb. 13a, Soṭah
Sotah
Sotah deals with the ritual of the Sotah - the woman suspected of adultery as described and prescribed in the Book of Numbers in...

 16a, but unnecessarily, since it is possible to harmonize the apparently conflicting sentences and thereby show that they may be assigned to the same authority.

Many errors have crept into the text through the practice of repeating one and the same midrash in similar passages; e.g., Sifra to v. 3 and xxii. 5 (comp. Weiss, Einleitung, etc., p. v., note 1, though the passage quoted by Weiss does not belong here; comp. Giṭ. 49b); לשנא אחרינא is found in Sifra, Nega'im, ii. 10.

Editions


The Sifra is usually still cited according to the Weiss edition of 1862.

The editions of the Sifra are as follows: Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, 1545; with commentary by RABaD, Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, 1552; with Ḳorban Aharon, Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, 1609; with the same commentary, Dessau
Dessau
Dessau is a town in Germany on the junction of the rivers Mulde and Elbe, in the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt. Since 1 July 2007, it is part of the merged town Dessau-Roßlau. Population of Dessau proper: 77,973 .-Geography:...

, 1742; with commentary by J.L. Rapoport, Wilna, 1845; with commentary by Judah Jehiel, Lemberg, 1848; with commentary by Malbim
Malbim
Meïr Leibush ben Jehiel Michel Weiser , better known by the acronym Malbim , was a rabbi, Hebrew grammar master, and Bible commentator....

, Bucharest
Bucharest
Bucharest is the capital municipality, cultural, industrial, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, at , and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița River....

, 1860; with commentary by RABaD and Massoret ha-Talmud by I. H. Weiss, Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, 1862 (Reprint New York: Om Publishing Company 1946); with commentary by Samson of Sens and notes by MaHRID, Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

, 1866. A Latin translation is given in Biagio Ugolini, Thesaurus, xiv.
  • Sifra: An Analytical Translation I-III. Translated by Jacob Neusner. Atlanta: Scholars Press 1988.
  • Sifra d'vei rav. Edited by Meir Friedmann (Meir Ish Shalom). Breslau 1915.
  • Sifra on Leviticus, with traditional commentaries and variant readings. Edited by Abraham Shoshanah. Cleveland and Jerusalem 1991 onwards.
  • Sifra on Leviticus I-V. Edited by Louis Finkelstein. New York: JTS 1983-1991.
  • Sifra or Torat Kohanim. Edited by Finkelstein, Louis and Morris Lutzki . New York: JTS, 1956. (Facsimile edition of Codex Assemani 66 of the Vatican Library)
  • Torat Kohanim. Edited and commented by Malbim (Meir Loeb b. Yehiel Michael), Bucharest 1860.

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography

  • A. Epstein, Mi-Ḳadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim, pp. 50–56;
  • Z. Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, pp. 307 et seq.;
  • idem, in Monatsschrift, 1854, pp. 387–397, 453-461;
  • A. Geiger, Jüd. Zeit. xi. 50-60;
  • D. Hoffmann, Zur Einleitung in die Halachischen Midraschim, pp. 20 et seq.;
  • Joël, Notizen zum Buche Daniel: Etwas über die Bücher Sifra und Sifre, Breslau, 1873;
  • I.H. Weiss, Gesch. der Jüdischen Tradition, ii. 231 et seq.;
  • Zunz
    Zunz
    Zunz, Zuntz is a Yiddish surname: , Belgian pharmacologist* Leopold Zunz , German Reform rabbi* Gerhard Jack Zunz , British civil engineer- Zuntz :* Nathan Zuntz , German physiologist...

    , G. V. pp. 49 et seq.

External links

  • Jewish Encyclopedia article on Sifra, by Wilhelm Bacher
    Wilhelm Bacher
    Wilhelm Bacher was a Jewish Hungarian scholar, rabbi, Orientalist and linguist, born in Liptó-Szent-Miklós, Hungary to the Hebrew writer Simon Bacher. Wilhelm was himself an incredibly prolific writer, authoring or co-authoring approximately 750 works in an unfortunately short life...

     and S. Horovitz.