Sifre

Sifre

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Sifre refers to either of two works of Midrash halakhah, or classical Jewish legal Biblical exegesis, based on the biblical books of Bamidbar
Bamidbar
Bamidbar is a Hebrew word, which is the fifth word of the Book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Torah...

 (Numbers) and Devarim
Devarim
Devarim is a Hebrew word, which is the second word of the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Torah . It means "Words".When used as a noun, Devarim might refer to:...

 (Deuteronomy).

The Talmudic-Era Sifre


The title "Sifre debe Rab" is used by R. Hananeel on Sheb. 37b, Alfasi on Pes. x., and 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...

 on Hos. ii. 1; it occurs likewise in Mak. 9b, where, as Berliner says in his edition of Rashi, p. 372, בספרא is an error for בספרי; comp. Aruk, s.v. ארבע). In regard to the reference in Sanh. 86a concerning the Sifre of R. Simeon, see Mekilta de-Rabbi Shim'on; the question has likewise been raised whether, in view of the well-known close relation that existed between the school of R. Simeon and that of R. Ishmael (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...

 59a; Zeb. 53b, 119b; Ḥul. 69b), the words וכלהו אליבא דר"ע apply to R. Simeon's Sifre in the same degree as to the other works mentioned in this Talmudic passage (Levy, Ueber Einige Fragmente aus der Mischnah des Abba Saul, p. 11, note 15).

The Present Sifre


Such questions, however, are unimportant in reference to the Sifre now extant; for this work is certainly not identical with the Talmudic Sifre; and, on closer investigation, it is found to be not a uniform work, but one composed of parts which did not originally belong together. Z. Frankel in his Darke ha-Mishnah (p. 319) drew attention to the difference between that portion of the Sifre which refers to Numbers
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 and that which refers to Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch...

, though, curiously enough, he misunderstood this difference and consequently arrived at false conclusions. D. Hoffmann has correctly defined the relation between the two in his Zur Einleitung in die Halachischen Midraschim. pp. 52 et seq.
The Sifre to Numbers is evidently a midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

 which originated in R. Simeon's school, and which has all the peculiarities and characteristics of such a work. It follows the same principles of exposition as does the Mekilta; the same group of 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...

 appears, and the same technical terms are employed (see Mekilta; to the examples there given may be added טעמו של דבר מגיד מפני מה, Num. viii., for which the Sifra
Sifra
Sifra is the Halakic midrash to Leviticus. It is frequently quoted in the Talmud, and the study of it followed that of the Mishnah, as appears from Tanḥuma, quoted in Or Zarua, i. 7b. Like Leviticus itself, the midrash is occasionally called "Torat Kohanim" , and in two passages also "Sifra debe...

 to Lev. xxi. 12 uses the expression להגיד מה גרם). There are also many material points of similarity with the Mekilta: thus Sifre 2 agrees literally with Mek., Mishpaṭim
Mishpatim
Mishpatim is the eighteenth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the sixth in the book of Exodus...

, 6; Sifre 65 with Mek., Bo
Bo
-People:*Bo , name origin, plus people with the name*Bo , name origin, plus people with the surname**Bo , Chinese family names*Bo people , extinct minority population in Southern China famous for hanging coffins...

, 5; Sifre 71 with ib. 15; Sifre 142 with ib. 5. The haggadic portions likewise contain many parallel passages (comp. the collation in D. Hoffmann, l.c. p. 54, though Sifre 64 and Mek., Beshallaḥ, 1 should not be included, since these two passages disagree on one point).

It is an especially noteworthy fact that the explanation in Sifre, Num. 7 of the law regarding a woman charged with adultery corresponds with a view expressed by R. Ishmael, and also with the prescribed halakah, according to which, one witness being sufficient to convict, the water-test is not necessary. The explanation given in the Sifre to Numbers
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 thus contradicts the explanation in 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...

 31a and in Sifre, Deut. 188. The view expressed in 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...

 is curious: it cites (Soṭah 2a and 31b) the explanation of the Sifre to Numbers, and adds thereto: ואמר רחמנא תרי לית בה אלא חד והיא לא נתפשה אסורה, whereas the deduction should read to the contrary, תרי לית בה אלא חד היתה שותה. 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...

, which evidently does not know R. Ishmael's view, tries to interpret the baraita
Baraita
Baraita designates a tradition in the Jewish oral law not incorporated in the Mishnah. "Baraita" thus refers to teachings "outside" of the six orders of the Mishnah...

 in the sense of the prescribed halakah. But the baraita must in fact be interpreted in the opposite sense, namely, as following the view of R. Ishmael, who, because עד always implies "two," as appears from Yer. Soṭah 20d, demands also in the case of a woman charged with adultery two witnesses of the alleged crime.

The passage introduced by the phrase סתם ספרי (Sifre 161) likewise echoes R. Ishmael's views; and the same is true of Sifre 21 as compared with Sifre 7. The beginning of Sifre 7 appears to be, strangely enough, an anonymous halakah expressing the opposite opinion (comp. Yer. 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...

 16b), though this also may at need be harmonized with R. Ishmael's view. Sifre 39 likewise follows R. Ishmael's view, according to Ḥul. 49a. These and other less cogent reasons seem to indicate that the Sifre to Numbers
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 originated in R. Ishmael's school, though this does not exclude the assumption that the editor in addition borrowed much from R. Simeon's midrash (comp. D. Hoffmann, l.c. p. 54) and other less-known midrashim.

Authorities Quoted


Among 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...

 appearing in the Sifre to Numbers are:
  • R. Ishmael and his pupils R. Josiah and R. Jonathan
  • R. Nathan
  • Abba Hanan (citing R. Eliezer)
  • R. Eliezer
  • R. Akiba and his pupils R. Simeon and R. Judah
  • Less frequently, R. Meïr and R. Jose
  • Rebbi also is often mentioned here, as in other midrashic works
  • R. Judah b. Bathyra (Betera), who, as D. Hoffmann says, is more frequently mentioned in midrashic works from R. Ishmael's school than in any others.
  • A sentence of the amora Samuel b. Naḥmani is quoted once (No. 73).

Interpolations


The Sifre to Deuteronomy is of an entirely different nature. The main portion (Nos. 53-303), halakic in character, is preceded and followed by haggadic parts, and it has all the characteristics of a midrash from the school of R. Akiba. The principles underlying the exposition are the same as those in Sifra
Sifra
Sifra is the Halakic midrash to Leviticus. It is frequently quoted in the Talmud, and the study of it followed that of the Mishnah, as appears from Tanḥuma, quoted in Or Zarua, i. 7b. Like Leviticus itself, the midrash is occasionally called "Torat Kohanim" , and in two passages also "Sifra debe...

. The term "mufneh" in the application of the principle "gezerah shawah" occurs only once, and is to be regarded as a later addition. The technical terms are largely the same in both midrashim, different terms being found only here and there in the Sifre. Moreover, the group of 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...

 is different from that of the Mekilta. Those frequently mentioned in the latter, namely, R. Josiah, R. Jonathan, R. Nathan, and R. Isaac, are mentioned rarely in the Sifre; and even then their names are evidently later additions. Many passages quoted as being anonymous correspond with R. Akiba's views: e.g., Deut. 270 with Yeb. 52b; ib. 95 with Sanh. 45b; ib. 269 with Yer. Giṭ. 49b; ib. 280 with Yer. Sanh. 21c.

Similarly, some halakic differences between the Sifre and the Mekilta may be pointed out: Sifre, Deut. 123 differs from Mek., Mishpaṭim
Mishpatim
Mishpatim is the eighteenth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the sixth in the book of Exodus...

, 1; ib. 122 from Mek., Mishpaṭim, 2, which latter reproduces R. Ishmael's view (comp. D. Hoffmann, l.c. pp. 68, 69). All these points indicate that the Sifre to Deuteronomy originated in R. Akiba's school; and, as several anonymous passages may be cited to express the views of R. Simeon, this midrash may with a fair degree of certainty be ascribed to him. Such anonymous passages are found in Sifre 72-74, several sections of which Mak. 17a identifies as R. Simeon's interpretations. The same appears to be the case in Sifre 94, compared with Sanh. 112a; ib. 103 with Ḳid. 57a; ib. 121 with Sanh. 46b. Sifre 166, and perhaps also 165, likewise correspond with R. Simeon's views (comp. Ḥul. 136b; Tosef., Ḥul. ix. 2, x. 1); while in Sifre 303 the explanation of לא בערתי ממנו בטמא, and the omission of בכורים, also imply an agreement therewith (comp. Yeb. 73b and Bik. ii. 2).

Used in the Talmud


There are, however, some exceptions to the rule; e.g., Sifre 110 compared with ib. 281 and B. M. 115a; ib. 219 with Sanh. 45b (the last-cited passage, however, may also be so interpreted as to harmonize with R. Simeon's opinion). Sifre 230 likewise contradicts R. Simeon's view, according to Kil. vii. 7. But, since it has not been claimed that the Sifre to Deuteronomy represents R. Simeon's midrash in its original form, these few exceptions prove nothing. The editor certainly drew upon other midrashic works besides R. Simeon's midrash, especially upon that of R. Ishmael, as appears from a comparison with Mekilta to Deuteronomy (see D. Hoffmann in Hildesheimer-Jubelschrift, p. 91), as well as from the fact that several passages introduced by תנא [דבי] ר"י occur in the Sifre (e.g., 71 and 75 compared with Yeb. 73; ib. 229 with Shab. 32a; ib. 237 with Yer. Ket. 28c).

Sifre 107, however, by no means corresponds with the passage תני ר"י in Yer. 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...

 20c (Hoffmann, Zur Einleitung, etc., p. 67), but expresses just the opposite view. Sifre, Deut. 171, s.v. ד"א, corresponds perhaps with Meg. 25a, s.v. תנא דבי ר"י ; and Sifre 104 with the view of R. Ishmael in Mek., Mishpaṭim
Mishpatim
Mishpatim is the eighteenth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the sixth in the book of Exodus...

, 201, according to the correct reading of Yalḳuṭ
Yalkut
There are several rabbinical works that bear the title "Yalkut" :*Yalkut Yosef*Yalkut Shimoni*Yalkut Makiri*Yalkut Reuveni...

, which has ר"י instead of ר"ש. It thus appears that the editor introduces the midrashim from R. Ishmael's midrash with the phrase ד"א. D. Hoffmann (l.c. p. 70) concludes from Pes. 68a and 71a that the editors of the Babylonian Talmud possessed the Sifre in another edition than the present one, which he takes to be a Palestinian edition. But the former passage indicates merely that the Amoraim occasionally had not memorized the baraitot perfectly, an instance of inaccuracy with regard to the Sifre being evident in Ḥul. 74a (comp. Tos. ad loc., s.v. להאי).

It may be said in general of the Sifre to Numbers and also of that to Deuteronomy that they are defective in many passages, and that the Amoraim probably possessed more trustworthy copies (comp. D. Hoffmann, l.c. pp. 53, 68). Even 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...

 and the Leḳaḥ Ṭob quote from the Sifre passages which are no longer extant (comp. Grätz Jubelschrift, p. 4, notes 5, 7-10). While the middle, halakic portion of the Sifre to Deutronomy belongs to Akiba
Akiba
Akiba may refer to:*Akiba-kei, a Japanese slang term*Tadatoshi Akiba , mayor of Hiroshima* Akiba, a subgenus of protozoa in the genus LeucocytozoonIn entertainment:* Akiba , a 2006 Japanese film...

's school, the haggadic portions preceding and following it seem to come from works of R. Ishmael's school. This appears clearly in the first part, which shows many formal and material similarities with the Mekilta. In regard to the latter portion, it may be said that Sifre, Deut. 344 reproduces R. Ishmael's view on the question at issue (comp. B. Ḳ. 113a). As for the halakic midrash, it may be said that, in contradistinction to the haggadic part, the collector used, aside from R. Ishmael's midrash, that of R. Simeon (comp. Sifre 28 with Lev. R. i.; ib. 37 with Gen. R. lxxxv.; ib. 40 with Lev. R. xxxv.; ib. 47 with Gen. R. xii.; ib. 336 with Gen. R. lxxxii.; ib. 313 with Tan., ed. S. Buber, p. 72).

The final redaction of the Sifre must have been undertaken in the time of the Amoraim, since some of them, e.g., Rabbai Bannai and [Rabbi Jose ben Ḥanina, are mentioned therein. Both the Sifre to Numbers and that to Deuteronomy are divided into sections. The earliest extant edition of the Sifre is that of 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. Other editions are: Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

, 1789; Sulzbach
Sulzbach
- Germany :* Sulzbach-Rosenberg, a town in the district Amberg-Sulzbach, Bavaria* Sulzbach, Saarland, a town in the district of Saarbrücken, Saarland* Sulzbach, Hesse, a municipality in the Main-Taunus-Kreis, Hesse...

, 1802; with commentary by David Pardo
David Pardo
David Pardo was an 18th century Italian rabbi who lived for some time in Sarajevo and Jerusalem. Among other things, he authored a commentary on the Sifra on Leviticus....

, Salonica, 1804; with commentary by Abraham Lichtstein (זרא אברהם), part i., Dyhernfurth, 1811; part ii., Radwill, 1820; ed. Friedmann, Vienna, 1864. A translation of the Sifre is found in Biagio Ugolini, Thesaurus, vol. xv.

Quotation by Raymundus Martini


The Christian polemicist Raymundus Martini in the 13th century claimed in his Pugio Fidei that Sifre contained the following passage, which is however not present in any modern copy http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.vi.iv.html:

Go and learn the merit of Messiah the King, and the reward of the righteous from the first Adam, on whom was laid only one commandment of a prohibitive character, and he transgressed it. See how many deaths were appointed on him, and on his generations, and on the generations of his generations to the end of all generations. But which attribute is the greater - the attribute of goodness or the attribute of punishment (retribution)? He answered, the attribute of goodness is the greater, and the attribute of punishment the less. And Messiah the King, who was chastened and suffered for the transgressors, as it is said, “He was wounded for our transgressions,” and so on, how much more shall he justify (make righteous, by his merit) all generations; and this is what is meant when it is written, “And Jehovah made to meet upon him the sin of us all."

Modern translations


A modern English translation is that of Jacob Neusner
Jacob Neusner
Jacob Neusner is an American academic scholar of Judaism who lives in Rhinebeck, New York.-Biography:Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Neusner was educated at Harvard University, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America , the University of Oxford, and Columbia University.Neusner is often celebrated...

, Sifre to Numbers (1986) and Sifre to Deuteronomy (1987).

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography

  • Blau, in Steinschneider Festschrift, pp. 21–40;
  • A. Epstein, Mi-Ḳadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim, pp. 50–56;
  • Z. Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, pp. 309 et seq.;
  • A. Geiger, Urschrift, pp. 434–450;
  • idem, Jüd. Zeit. 1866, pp. 96–126;
  • D. Hoffmann, Zur Einleitung in die Halachischen Midraschim, pp. 51 et seq., 66 et seq.;
  • Pick, in Stade's Zeitschrift, 1886, pp. 101–121;
  • I.H. Weiss, Zur Geschichte der Jüdischen Tradition.

External links

  • Jewish Encyclopedia article on SIFRE, 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.