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. . . .

The Story of Gedaliah, as told by Titus Flavius Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews

The story of Gedaliah as recorded by Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities. . . .

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. . . .

מגילת אנטיוכס | Megillat Antiokhus in Ladino by Rabbi Isaac Magriso (Me’am Lo’ez: Bamdibar BeHa’alothekha, Constantinople 1764)

This is a largely uncorrected transcription of Rabbi Isaac Magriso’s telling of Megillat Antiokhus in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) from the Me’am Loez: Bamidbar Parshat BeHe’alotekha (Constantinople, 1764). The paragraph breaks are a rough estimation based on my comparison with the English translation of Dr. Tzvi Faier (1934-2009) appearing in The Torah Anthology: Me’am Loez, Book Thirteen – In the Desert (Moznaim 1982). I welcome all Ladino speakers and readers to help correct this transcription and to provide a complete English translation for non-Ladino readers. . . .

פרק שירה | Perek Shirah (Chapter of Song), a hymn 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. . . .

מגילת יום ניקנור | A Reading for Yom Nikanor, the Day of the Elephantarch: II Maccabees, chapters 13-15

It is challenging to think of how to mark Nicanor Day, as it remains at a disadvantage, not only on years when it conflicts with Ta’anit Esther but on all years since it has no mitzvot. This is probably the main reason that, unlike Chanukah and Purim, it was lost to Jewish practice for more than a thousand years. Nevertheless, we do have its megillah, which has been translated into Hebrew and English. Perhaps, if we start reading chapters 13-15 of 2 Maccabees, even just to ourselves, on the 13 of Adar, we can begin to resurrect a holiday that was celebrated and instituted by Judah Maccabee and his followers over two millennia ago, and which they envisioned would continue throughout Jewish History. With the return of Jews to Israel and Jewish sovereignty to Jerusalem, I believe it is about time. . . .

בן סירא מב:כא-מג:לא | ben Sira 42:21-43:31, a hymn of creation translated by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan

Ecclesiasticus (ben Sira) 42:21-43:31 is presented as “God the Lord of Nature” in The Sabbath Prayer Book of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (The Reconstructionist Foundation 1945), p. 376-372 in the Supplements subsection, “God in Nature.” The text of Ben Sira used here differs in places found in other manuscripts. . . .

መጽሐፈ ኩፋሌ | ספר היובלים | Sefer haYovelim (the book of Jubilees, in Ge’ez) chapters 1-23

We are grateful to Dr. James VanderKam for preparing this critical text of the Book of Jubilees (Sefer Yubalim) in its Ge’ez translation in Ethiopic script. The book of Jubilees is an early Jewish deutero-canonical text originally written in Hebrew and composed during the Second Temple period sometime before the Maccabean struggle (164 BCE). . . .

መጽሐፈ ኩፋሌ | ספר היובלים | Sefer haYovelim (the book of Jubilees, in Ge’ez) chapters 24-50

Continued from the book of Jubilees Chapters 1-23. The book of Jubilees is an early Jewish deuterocanonical text composed in Hebrew during the Second Temple period sometime before the Maccabean struggle (ca. 167 BCE). . . .

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. . . .

מגילת יהודית לאמרה בחנוכּה | Megillat Yehudit, the Medieval Scroll of Judith to be said on Ḥanukkah

Below we have made a faithful transcription of the text of the medieval Megillat Yehudith (the Scroll of Judith), not to be confused with the deutero-canonical Book of Judith, authored in Antiquity. We have further set this text side-by-side with the English translation made by Susan Weingarten, originally published as “Food, Sex, and Redemption in Megillat Yehudit: Appendix to Chapter 6,” in Sword of Judith. ed., Kevin R. Brine, Elena Ciletti, Henrike Lähnemann (Open Book Publishers, 2010) p.110-125. Our transcription sources are the same as Dr. Weingarten’s: A.M. Habermann’s transcribed text in “Megillat yehudit le-omrah be-hanukkah,” Mahanayim 52 (1961), pp. 42–47, and the “Midrash No.8” found in A.M. Dubarle’s Judith: formes et sens des diverses traditions II: textes (Rome, 1966), pp. 140–53. Dubarle provided section numbers by which the extant variations of the midrashim for Judith might be compared. As Dr. Weingarten notes, Dubarle only transcribed the second portion of the only extant manuscript. We have provided his section numbers in curly brackets. “Missing” numbers refer to portions of the story appearing outside the Megillah in the other variations transcribed by Dubarle. (Please refer to Dubarle’s work for these.) We are grateful to Dr. Weingarten and to Open Book Publishers for sharing their work under an Open Content license. Please read Dr. Weingarten’s complete chapter in Sword of Judith for additional context. . . .

מגילת אנטיוכס | Megillat Antiokhus for Ḥanukkah in Aramaic, translated in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English

The Megillat Antiochus was composed in Palestinian Aramaic sometime between the 2nd and 5th century CE, likely in the 2nd Century when the memory of the Bar Kochba revolt still simmered.. The scroll appears in a number of variations. The Aramaic text below follows the critical edition prepared by Menaḥem Tzvi Kaddari, and preserves his verse numbering. The English translation by Rabbi Joseph Adler (1936) follows the Hebrew translation in the middle column, the source of which is a medieval manuscript reprinted by Tzvi Filipowsky in 1851. Adler and Kaddari’s verse ordering loosely follows one another indicating variations in manuscripts. Where Aramaic is missing from Kaddari’s text, the Aramaic version from Adler’s work is included in parentheses. Adler also included a Yiddish translation which we hope will be fully transcribed (along with vocalized Hebrew text, a Hungarian translation, and perhaps even a Marathi translation from South India) for Ḥanukkah 5775 , G!d willing. . . .

מגילת אנטיוכס עם טעמי מקרא | Megillat Antiokhus, with ta’amei miqra (for cantillation) by Isaac Gantwerk Mayer

Perhaps Megillat Antiokhus could be read a la Esther on Purim (the holiday with the most similarities), going to Eicha trope in the upsetting parts. A few notes: on the final mention of Bagris the Wicked I included a karnei-farah in the manner of the karnei-farah in Esther. I also included a merkha kefulah in the concluding section, which (according to David Weisberg’s “The Rare Accents of the Twenty-Eight Books”) represents aggadic midrash material. It also serves as a connection to the Chanukah haftarah, which is famously the only one that has a merkha kefulah. –Isaac Mayer . . .

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) . . .


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