פֶּרֶק שִׁירָה | Pereq Shirah (Chapter of Song), a litany of verses pronounced in the voice of the creatures and works of Creation

Talmudic and midrashic sources contain hymns of the creation usually based on homiletic expansions of metaphorical descriptions and personifications of the created world in the Bible. The explicitly homiletic background of some of the hymns in Perek Shira indicates a possible connection between the other hymns and Tannaitic and Amoraic homiletics, and suggests a hymnal index to well-known, but mostly unpreserved, homiletics. The origin of this work, the period of its composition and its significance may be deduced from literary parallels. A Tannaitic source in the tractate Hagiga of the Jerusalem (Hag. 2:1,77a—b) and Babylonian Talmud (Hag. 14b), in hymns of nature associated with apocalyptic visions and with the teaching of ma’aseh merkaba serves as a key to Perek Shira’s close spiritual relationship with this literature. Parallels to it can be found in apocalyptic literature, in mystic layers in Talmudic literature, in Jewish mystical prayers surviving in fourth-century Greek Christian composition, in Heikhalot literature, and in Merkaba mysticism. The affinity of Perek Shira with Heikhalot literature, which abounds in hymns, can be noted in the explicitly mystic introduction to the seven crowings of the cock — the only non-hymnal text in the collection — and the striking resemblance between the language of the additions and that of Shi’ur Koma and other examples of this literature. In Seder Rabba de-Bereshit, a Heikhalot tract, in conjunction with the description of ma’aseh bereshit, there is a clear parallel to Perek Shira’s praise of creation and to the structure of its hymns. The concept reflected in this source is based on a belief in the existence of angelic archetypes of created beings who mediate between God and His creation, and express their role through singing hymns. As the first interpretations of Perek Shira also bear witness to its mystic character and angelologic significance, it would appear to be a mystical chapter of Heikhalot literature, dating from late Tannaitic — early Amoraic period, or early Middle Ages. . . .

שִׁמּוּשׁ תְּהִלִּים‬ | Shimush Tehillim (the Theurgical Use of Psalms), attributed to Hai ben Sherira Gaon

The Shimmush Tehillim is a medieval work providing prescriptive theurgical associations for Psalms and verses from Psalms. It has been historically attributed to Rav Hai Gaon (939-1038 CE) but any definitive statement of authorship is lacking. The suggestion that portions of the Shimush Tehillim were authored during the late Geonic period in Iraq isn’t implausible. We also know that Hai Gaon was knowledgeable of Hekhalot writings that should at least be considered part of the same thought world as the Shimmush Tehillim. Writings found in the Shimush Tehillim have been found in manuscripts dating from the 12th century. This digital transcription of Shimush Tehillim derives from Elias Klein Békéscsaba’s 1936 compilation. This edition should not be considered a critical text, as earlier editions certainly exist. Not all of the Psalms are identified as having a particular theurgical use. . . .

מדרשים על אדם הראשון וקלנדס על תקופת החורף | Midrashim on the Origin of the Festival of Kalends on the Winter Solstice by the Primordial Adam

Our Rabbis taught: When Adam HaRishon (primitive Adam) saw the day getting gradually shorter, he said, ‘Woe is me, perhaps because I have sinned, the world around me is being darkened and returning to its state of chaos and confusion; this then is the kind of death to which I have been sentenced from Heaven!’ So he began keeping an eight days’ fast. But as he observed the winter solstice and noted the day getting increasingly longer, he said, ‘This is the world’s course’, and he set forth to keep an eight days’ festivity. In the following year he appointed both as festivals. Now, he fixed them for the sake of Heaven, but the [unenlightened] appointed them for the sake of star worship. . . .

ספר יצירה | Sefer Yetsirah, a derivation of A. Peter Hayman’s experimental “earliest recoverable text,” by Aharon Varady for practitioners

The text of the Sefer Yetsirah presented here follows the “experimental exercise” produced by A. Peter Hayman in his Sefer Yeṣira: Edition Translation and Text-Critical Commentary, “Appendix III: The Earliest Recoverable Text of Sefer Yesira” (Mohr Siebeck, 2004). For details on his construction and his review of the available recensions of Sefer Yetsirah, please refer to Hayman’s complete commentary. Numbers in parentheses indicate sections. I have added spaces between sections indicate traditional chapter breaks. Square brackets indicate some doubt as to whether the included wording was present in the earlier form of the text (p.124). . . .

מדרש הגדול על פרשת תרומה | Why the Mishkan Resembles the World and the Human Body: a translation of Midrash haGadol on Parashat Terumah, by Shir Yaakov Feit (in memory of Laurie Feit, z”l, 5777/2017)

This translation was prepared by Shir Yaakov Feinstein-Feit in loving memory of his sister, Laurie Feit, z”l, (1961-2017). “Midrash HaGadol or The Great Midrash (Hebrew: מדרש הגדול) is an anonymous late (14th century) compilation of aggadic midrashim on the Pentateuch taken from the two Talmuds and earlier Midrashim of Yemenite provenance. In addition, it borrows quotations from the Targums, and Maimonides[2] and Kabbalistic writings (Oesterley & Box 1920), and in this aspect is unique among the various midrashic collections. This important work—the largest of the midrashic collections—came to popular attention only relatively recently (late 19th century) through the efforts of Jacob Saphir, Solomon Schecter, and David Zvi Hoffman. In addition to containing midrashic material that is not found elsewhere, such as the Mekhilta of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the Midrash HaGadol contains what are considered to be more correct versions of previously known Talmudic and Midrashic passages.” (via wikipedia) . . .

מדרש מעשה חנוכּה | Midrash Ma’aseh Ḥanukkah, another Ḥanukkah story

This digital edition of Midrash Ma’aseh Ḥanukkah was transcribed from the print edition published in Otzar Hamidrashim (I. D. Eisenstein, New York: Eisenstein Press, 5675/1915, p.189-190). With much gratitude to Anat Hochberg, this is the first translation of this midrash into English. . . .


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