Midrash History

The Midrashim are ancient rabbinic texts in which Rabbis works through the texts of the Torah to create connections between both different parts of the texts and between the text and real life in order to explore religious questions that appear in every-day life. There are two types of Midrash, Midrash Halacha, and Midrash Aggadah. The Midrash Halacha focus on topics relating to law and religious practices and the Midrash Aggadah focus on interpreting the stories in the Torah and through this exploring theological and practical religious questions and creating parables and lessons.

The Midrash Aggadah are texts that were compiled mostly between 200 and 1000 AD. We choose to look at these texts because we decided to focus on specific verses in the Torah and how they are connected to others by the rabbinic writers. We also looked at a couple of Midrash Halacha because we were also interested in looking at the more legal and practical side of what happens in these verses.

Midrash are still being written today and their long history is a fascinating story in itself. Today a lot of effort is put into translating the midrash and digitizing the translations in databases such as sefaria.org to make them more accessible to the public.

Thesis/Research Question

In this research project, we focused on marking up different passages from midrashim that comment on the verses that we chose with the goal of marking up the different types of references and structures that appear. We did this in order to perform an analysis of trends that appear within a selection of midrash by comparing Midrash Aggada and Hallacha.


In the analysis of ancient texts one of the primary challenges is that of translation. Especially since nobody in our group can read modern Hebrew, much less ancient rabbinic Hebrew, this was one of the first challenges that we ran into. With translations of texts, especially religious and philosophical texts, it is often hard to match up the English translation to what the original language actually means. As a result, a different translation of a word might be used that could alter the meaning of a passage completely. The translation might also prove difficult with some names and titles as well as certain references and idioms that only make sense in the original language.

In order to prevent confusion with different translations of the verses and midrash that we used, we decided to use the translations that are available on sefaria.org which all use the same translation for the actual text they are commenting on.


Once we defined our research area we all decided to choose a story or passage from the Torah that we personally were interested in analyzing. Through meetings with Dr. Adam Shear in the Religious Studies department we concluded that it would be best that we pick stories/passage with different focuses and in different sections of the Torah. For this reason, we picked passages from the book of Genesis, Hebrews, and the Psalms. Once we picked our passages and roughly 10-13 Midrashim passages for the verses we each marked up our texts individually associating our xml with the schema that Samantha created.

In our markup, we focused on marking up references (e.g. reference to other biblical verses, rabbi names, different names for God, important items, etc.), quotes and quotations, speeches, and literal Hebrew text with its translations.

Midrash Tellim

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