Pesikta Rabbati

Not to be confused with Pesikta de-Rav Kahana.

Pesikta Rabbati or P'siqta Rabbita (Hebrew: פסיקתא רבתי) is a collection of Aggadic Midrash (homilies) on the Pentateuchal and prophetic lessons, the special Sabbaths, etc. It was composed around 845 CE and probably called "rabbati" (the larger) to distinguish it from the earlier Pesiḳta.

In common with the latter it has five entire pisḳot—No. 15 ("Ha-Ḥodesh"), No. 16 ("Korbani Laḥmi"), No. 17 ("Wayeḥi ba-Ḥazi"), No. 18 ("Omer"), No. 33 ("Aniyyah So'arah"), and the larger part of No. 14 ("Para"), but otherwise it is very different from the Pesiḳta, being in every respect like the Tanḥuma midrashim.

Friedmann's 1880 edition

In 1880 Friedmann edited a version of the Pesikta Rabbati[1] which contains, in forty-seven numbers, about fifty-one homilies, part of which are combinations of smaller ones; seven or eight of these homilies belong to Ḥanukkah, and about seven each to the Feast of Weeks and New-Year, while the older Pesiḳta contains one each for Ḥanukkah and the Feast of Weeks and two for New-Year.

Pesiḳta Rabbati contains also homilies to lessons which are not paralleled in the Pesiḳta. There are also various differences between these two Pesiḳtot in regard to the feast-day lessons and the lessons for the Sabbaths of mourning and of comforting. The works are entirely different in content, with the exception of the above-mentioned Nos. 15-18, the part of No. 14, and some few minor parallels. The Pesiḳta contains no halakhic exordiums or proems by R. Tanḥuma. But in the Pesiḳta Rabbati there are not less than twenty-eight homilies with such exordiums having the formula "Yelammedenu Rabbenu," followed by proems with the statement "kak pataḥ R. Tanḥuma"; two homilies, Nos. 38 and 45, the first of which is probably defective, have the Yelammedenu without proems with "kak pataḥ," etc.

Some of the homilies have more than one proem by R. Tanḥuma. The pisḳot taken from the Pesiḳta have of course no Yelammedenu or Tanḥuma proems; the first part of pisḳah No. 14, which does not belong to the Pesiḳta, has at the beginning two halakic introductions and one proem of R. Tanḥuma. Homilies Nos. 20-24, which together form a midrash to the Decalogue, are without these introductions and proems. Only three of the homilies for the Sabbaths of mourning and comforting have such passages, namely, Nos. 29, 31, 33; but they are prefixed to those homilies, beginning with No. 38 (except No. 46, which is of foreign origin), which have the superscription "Midrash Harninu"—a name used to designate the homilies for New-Year and the Feast of Tabernacles which the old authors found in the Pesiḳta Rabbati.

The present edition of the Pesiḳta Rabbati, which ends with the homily for the Day of Atonement, is doubtless defective; the older Pesiḳta has also various homilies for Sukkot, Shemini Aẓeret, and the Feast of the Torah. Some of the homilies also, as Nos. 19, 27, 38, 39, 45, are defective. Pesiḳta Rabbati therefore appears to be a combination of various parts, the homilies, perhaps, being added later. It is said above that No. 46 is a foreign addition; here Ps. xc. 1 is interpreted as an acrostic למשה (ascribed to Moses), and there is also a passage from the Midrash Konen; other passages also may have been added, as the passage in No. 20, which is elsewhere quoted in the name of the "Pirḳe Hekalot" and of "Ma'aseh Bereshit" (comp. also Adolf Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrash, i. 58). No. 36 was considered doubtful on account of its contents; No. 26 is peculiar, referring not to a Scripture passage but to a verse or a parable composed by the author. The diction and style are very fine in many passages. In the beginning of the first homily, which shows the characteristics of the "genuine" portions of the Pesiḳta Rabbati, in the proems of R. Tanḥuma following the halakic exordium, the year 845 is indicated as the date of composition of the work; there are no grounds for regarding the date as a gloss.

In the appendix to the Friedmann edition four homilies are printed from a manuscript, Nos. 1 and 2 of which have yelammedenus and proems. The midrash referred to here is a later, shorter midrash for the feast-days, designated as "New Pesiḳta," and frequently drawing upon the Pesiḳta Rabbati; it has been published by Jellinek in "Bet ha-Midrash," vi. 36-70.


  1. Pesikta Rabbati, M. Friedmann (ed), Vienna, 1880.


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