Title Verses Midrashim Studied (primary in bold)
Story of Sarah Genesis 17:15-19 Bereishit Rabbah, Ein Yaakov, Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer
Binding of Isaac Genesis 22:1-19 Bereishit Rabbah, Sefer HaYashar, Tanchuma
The Earth is the Lord's Psalm 24:1-10 Ein Yaakov, Tanchuma

Why These Stories?

Sam's Story:

I chose to focus on Sarah because she was the first matriarch of the Jewish people and I find her role as the converter of women particularly compelling. I am particularly interested in her transformation from Sarai, "my princess", to Sarah, a princess for all humanity. There is great power in a name as per Ecclesiastes 7:1, "A good name is better than fragrant oil," and I wanted to explore how the Midrash developed that idea.

Ben's Story:

I chose the story of the Binding of Isaac because, seeing as at face value it involves God commanding the sacrifice of an innocent human child, it is fraught with ethical questions of interest to philosophy students like myself. I wanted to see how the authors of the Midrashim answered these questions, if they did at all, and come to my own conclusions regarding the adequacy and rationality of their answers.

Thyra's Story:

I chose to focus on Psalm 24 because that has always been one of my favorite psalms. As a very musically inclined person, I have always felt more drawn to the psalms and out of all of them this psalm sounds very triumphant and is really fun to read.

Why These Midrashim?

Sam’s Midrashim:

I primarily used the Bereishit Rabbah but also used some portions of the Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer as well as one each from the Ein Yaakov Glick edition and the Midrash Tanchuma.

I chose to focus on the Bereishit Rabbah, or Genesis Rabbah, because it is the Midrash most centered on the book of Genesis, which is where my verses come from. I assumed that the book that spoke primarily of Genesis would contain the most allusions to Sarah.

Several themes recurred throughout the midrashim: Sarai becoming Sarah, Sarah and Hagar having disputes, Sarah becoming fertile, and Abraham becoming the leader of a people, as well as women’s roles and the alphabet.

Ben's Midrashim:

I chose my Midrashim because they all attempted to make some sense of the problematic features of the story of the Binding of Isaac. Tanchuma offered justifications based on the prospect of God's showing mercy on Isaac's descendants, God's ultimate authority, and Satan's responsibility for our being uncomfortable with God's command. Bereishit Rabbah offered justifications based on Abraham and Isaac's willingness to obey God, Isaac's not being harmed, and God's testing the righteous for reasons we may not understand.

Thyra’s Midrashim:

I chose to focus on the 10 verses of Psalm 24 because it is a song. For me as a music history major who loves music, it is really interesting to see how the psalms, prayers in the form of songs, also convey history and moral stories. In my exploration of these verses, I decided to use the Ein Yaakov (Glick Edition) Midrash and 3 Midrash Tanchuma passages that comment on the first verse of the psalm. I chose to use these Midrashim because they each comment on every line of the psalm as well as address the psalm as a whole. The Midrashim primarily reference the psalm in the context of talking about the beginning of the world and the power God has over his people.