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Moshe ha-Darshan

משה הדרשן – Moshe ha-Darshan (11th cen., southern France) was a medieval compiler of midrash. The appellation ha-darshan probably pertains to this activity rather than preaching. He was active during the first half of the 11th century in Narbonne, Provence (southern France)

Life

Moshe ha-Darshan almost certainly headed a beit midrash in his home city, one of the early established Jewish centers in Provence. Under the auspice of that role, attributed to him are collections of midrash that emanate from his school. It has also been suggested that some of the works of his that we have are in actuality abridgements of larger works whose compilation he oversaw.

Students & Legacy

Moshe ha-Darshan is also known as the teacher of Natan b. Yechiel of Rome, who wrote the Aruch, an important early Talmudic lexicon that was much used by Rishonim. Moshe ha-Darshan is cited in the Aruch and relatively frequently in Rashi’s commentaries, from which others cite him as well. Moshe ha-Darshan’s midrash is also frequently cited in the Lekach Tov, a midrashic anthology on Torah and the five megillot written in the late 11th century, and Sekhel Tov, a midrashic anthology written in the early 12th century.

Works

The work of Moshe ha-Darshan cited by name in Rashi’s commentaries is the Yesod (“Foundation”), which has not come down to us. Israel M. Ta-Shma conjectures that the Yesod was a Tanakh commentary to certain words and phrases.1 Extant today are Midrash Aggadah2 and BeReshit Rabbati 3. The latter is related to, but distinct from, the work of that name cited by Ramon Martí (Raymond Martini) in his late 13th century Christian conversionary manual, the Pugio fidei (Dagger of Faith), which contains many extracts in Hebrew and extensively cites Moshe ha-Darshan. It has also been accepted that in BeMidbar Rabbah, the portions of BeMidbar and Naso come from the school of Moshe ha-Darshan, as well as other smaller Midrash collections.

One of the features that distinguishes Moshe ha-Darshan’s school of midrash is the inclusion of material from Midrash Tadshe, one of the smaller Midrash collections. This material is otherwise known from the Apocrypha and Pseudeipgrapha, ancient Hebrew literature preserved by some Christian groups. Otherwise, the midrash emanating from Moshe ha-Darshan’s circles is largely based on classic sources, expanded and reworked.

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Notes

  1. In the Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. “Moses ha-Darshan” (2007 ed.), vol. 14:556-557. This would make it similar to the Lekah Tov and Sekhel Tov.
  2. Published from the manuscript by Salomon Buber (Vienna, 1894); Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
  3. Published from a unique manuscript by Chanokh Albeck (Jerusalem, 1940).