Jewish Commentaries

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The Whole Old Testament

Rashi – Commentary on the Whole Old Testament  d.  1106  After you click on a book of the Bible, note that you have to click on ‘Show’ Rashi’s commentary for it to appear, otherwise it will only show the selected passage of scripture.  Here is another (easier to use) edition at Sefaria.

‘Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak) is the most influential Jewish exegete of all time…  Rashi says ‘I, however, am only concerned with the plain sense of Scripture and with such Aggadot [exegetical notes] that explain the words of Scripture in a manner that fits in with them” – Wiki

Elias Levita – The Massoreth Ha-Massoreth of Elias Levita: being an exposition of the Massoretic Notes on the Hebrew Bible, or the ancient critical apparatus of the Old Testament in Hebrew  d. 1549  Translated, and with an 84 page introduction, by Ginsburg, 1867. 

Masoreth means ‘to bind’ or ‘fix’, that is, it was the Jewish commentary on the scribal reproduction of the Hebrew scriptures during the first millennium of the Christian era, meant to ‘fix’ and preserve the Hebrew text indefinitely.  For a helpful summary of the Masorah and its significance, see the reliable McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia.

Levita’s title connotates something to the effect of ‘a binding commentary on the Masorah’, that is, to shore up and confirm the validity and usefulness of the Masorah.  Ginsburg was a leading Hebraicist of the 1800’s.  In the very valuable introduction he says:

‘ The work now submitted to the public in the original Hebrew, with an English translation, is an explanation of the origin and import of the Massorah.  Those who are acquainted with the fact that our Hebrew Bibles abound with marginal and textual glosses… and who know that there is no guide in our [English] language to these enigmatical notes, will welcome this Treatise, written first, and almost the only, Massoretic exposition.’  

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In Latin

Rashi (Jarchi) – Hebrew Commentary in Latin with Critical Notes and Philological Illustration: Gen-DtJosh-Esth, Prov-SongIsa-Mal, Psalms  (Gothae, 1710-14)

Rashi (1040-1105)

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The Torah 

Rabbeinu Chananel – Commentary

Chananel ben Chushiel (1000’s)

Rashbam – Commentary

Samuel ben Meir (c. 1085 – c. 1158)

Hezekiah ben Manoah – Chizkuni

Hezekiah b. Menoah (1200’s)

“Composed in Middle-Age France (c.1220 – c.1260 CE). Commentary on the Torah of Rabbi Hezekiya ben Manoah. Chizkuni, composed in mid-13th century, is actually a compilation of insights culled from the Midrashim, as well as the writings of twenty other Rishonim, including Rashi, Rashbam and Ibn Ezra. However, Chizkuni does not name any of his sources (other than Rashi), in order to encourage objective study, as he felt that one should focus on the message rather than the messenger.”

Rabbeinu Bahya – Commentary

“A commentary on the Torah written by Rabbi Bahya ben Asher, 1255-1340, in Spain. Rabbeinu Bachya’s commentary includes the pshat (contextual meaning) along with aggadah, philosophy and Kabbalah.”

Jacob ben Asher – Tur HaAroch 

“Tur HaAroch, a commentary on the Torah, is written by R’ Jacob ben Asher (c. 1269 – c. 1343), known as Ba’al ha-Turim. While his concise introductory “Parperaot” (lit. appetizers) gained wide popularity and is printed in most standard Chumashim, his commentary body is less known. The English translation is by Rabbi Eliyahu Munk.”

Sforno – Commentary

Ovadia ben Jacob Sforno (1475-1550) was an Italian rabbi, Biblical commentator, philosopher and physician.

Shabbetai ben Joseph Bass – Siftei Chakhamim

“Composed in (c.1660 – c.1680 CE). Siftei Hachamim is a supercommentary on Rashi’s commentary on Chumash. Written by Shabbetai ben Joseph Bass (1641–1718) in Amsterdam, it is mostly a collection of other commentaries, in addition to the author’s own insights, meant to give a basic understanding of Rashi. It is printed in almost all editions of “Mikraot Gedolot”. An abridgement of this work, entitled “Ikar Siftei Hakhamim”, appears in many editions of Chumash with Rashi.”

Chaim ibn Attar – Or HaChaim 

Chaim ibn Attar (1696-1743)

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Genesis

The Great Genesis  A.D. 500

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (500 CE). Bereshith Rabbah (The Great Genesis) is a midrash comprising a collection of rabbinical homiletical interpretations of the Book of Genesis. It contains many simple explanations of words and sentences, often in Aramaic, suitable for the instruction of youth. It also contains varied haggadic expositions popular in the public lectures of the synagogues and schools. The tradition that Rabbi Hoshaiah is the author of Genesis Rabbah may be taken to mean that he began the work as numerous additions have been made over the subsequent years before it was redacted (4th-5th Century CE).

The editor strung together various longer or shorter explanations and haggadic interpretations of the successive passages, sometimes anonymously, sometimes citing the author. Even then the text was probably not closed, for longer or shorter passages could always be added, the number of prefatory passages to a section be increased, and those existing be enlarged by accretion. It is divided into sections variably numbered between 97-101. This arrangement shows some similarity with the triennial reading of the Torah as was practised in Israel.” – Sefaria

Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer  A.D. 700’s  Table of contents

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (c.630 – c.1030 CE). Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer (Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer) is an aggadic-midrashic work on the Torah containing exegesis and retellings of biblical stories. The composition enjoyed widespread circulation and recognition throughout Jewish history, and continues to do so in the present. Traditionally, it has been understood to be a tannaitic composition which originated with the tanna Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, – a disciple of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakai and teacher of Rabbi Akiva – and his disciples. However, modern scholarship has shown the book in fact a a medieval work from the 8th Century. The work is divided into 54 chapters, which may be divided into seven groups. Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer comprises exegesis, legends and folklore, as well as astronomical discussions related to the story of the Creation. The author dwells longest on the description of the second day of Creation, in which the Ma’aseh ha-Merkavah (Ezek. i.) is described in various forms.” – Sefaria

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Exodus

Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael [Rule of R. Ishmael] A.D. 135  on Exodus, chs. 12-23, 31, 35  at Sefaria

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (135 CE). Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael (Measure, Rule of R. Ishamel) is a halakhic midrash to the Book of Exodus, used to denote a compilation of Scriptural exegesis using Talmudic hermeneutics. Neither the Babylonian nor the Jerusalem Talmud mention the Mekhilta by name, but it is referred to once as She’ar Sifre debe Rab…  The author, or more correctly the redactor, of the Mekhilta cannot be ascertained.” – Sefaria

Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer  A.D. 700’s  Table of contents  See chs. 40-49

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (c.630 – c.1030 CE). Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer (Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer) is an aggadic-midrashic work on the Torah containing exegesis and retellings of biblical stories. The composition enjoyed widespread circulation and recognition throughout Jewish history, and continues to do so in the present. Traditionally, it has been understood to be a tannaitic composition which originated with the tanna Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, – a disciple of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakai and teacher of Rabbi Akiva – and his disciples. However, modern scholarship has shown the book in fact a a medieval work from the 8th Century. The work is divided into 54 chapters, which may be divided into seven groups. Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer comprises exegesis, legends and folklore, as well as astronomical discussions related to the story of the Creation. The author dwells longest on the description of the second day of Creation, in which the Ma’aseh ha-Merkavah (Ezek. i.) is described in various forms.” – Sefaria

The Great Exodus  A.D. 1200  at Sefaria

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (1200 CE). Shemot Rabbah (The Great Exodus) is the midrash to the book of Shemot, containing in the printed editions 52 parashiyyot. It is not uniform in its composition. In parashiyyot 1-14 the proems are almost invariably followed by the running commentary on the entire seder or other Scriptural division. The author includes sources Tanhuma as well as others. Zunz ascribes the composition of the entire work to the 11th or 12th century.”

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Leviticus

Sifra [Book] A.D. c. 250 – c. 350  at Sefaria

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (c.250 – c.350 CE). Sifra (Book) is the Halakic midrash to Leviticus. It is frequently quoted in the Talmud, and the study of it followed that of the Mishnah….  The authorship of the Sifra has been disputed. Maimonides and some modern scholars claimed Rabbi Judah the Prince was the author, whilst other scholars identify it with R. Hiyya. The Sifra shows strong connections with R. Akiva’s school but with traces of R. Judah’s influence…

The Sifra was divided, according to an old arrangement, into 9 dibburim (sayings) and 80 parashiyyot (sections). As it exists today it is divided into 14 larger sections and again into smaller sub- sections.” – Sefaria

The Great Leviticus  A.D. 500  at Sefaria  A small selection of this has been translated into English at the link provided; the rest is still in the Hebrew.

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (500 CE). Vayikrah Rabbah (The Great Leviticus) is a homiletic midrash to Leviticus…  It originated in the Land of Israel and is composed largely from older works. Its redactor made use of Genesis Rabbah, Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, and the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds. It might have been written in 7th Century CE but others place it in the 5th Century. It is not a continuous explanatory interpretation to Leviticus, but a collection of exclusive sermons or lectures on the themes or texts of that book. It consists altogether of 37 such homilies, each of which constitutes a separate chapter.” – Sefaria

Ibn Ezra – Commentary on Leviticus  d. c. 1167  at Sefaria

Ibn Ezra (1089 – c. 1167)

“Composed in Middle-Age France/Italy/England. Ibn Ezra’s commentary on the Tanakh reflects his knowledge as a Hebrew grammarian and philologist. His commentary is terse and aims to discover the pshat, the contextual meaning, of the text. Ibn Ezra was known for his independent ideas which aroused much controversy.” – Sefaria

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Numbers

Sifrei Bamidbar [Books on ‘In the Wilderness’]  A.D. 200  on Numbers, chs. 5-31  at Sefaria

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (200 CE). Sifrei (Books) also known as Sifrei debe Rav or Sifrei Rabbah refers to either of two works of Midrash halakhah, based on the biblical books of Bemidbar (Numbers) and Devarim (Deuteronomy). The earliest Sifrei is found in Talmudic times and successively cited by Geonim and Rishonim. This early version is certainly not identical with the modern Sifrei. The modern Sifrei is not a uniform work, but one composed of two parts, one on Numbers and one on Deuteronomy that were joined together. The Sifrei to Numbers is evidently a midrash which originated in R. Ishmael’s school, and which has all the peculiarities and characteristics of such a work though this does not exclude borrowing form Mekhilta de R. Shimon.” – Sefaria

The Great Numbers  A.D. 1200  at Sefaria  Much of the work is not translated into English yet.

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (1200 CE). Bemidbar Rabbah (The Great Numbers) is a midrash comprising a collection of rabbinical homiletic interpretations to Numbers. It consists of two parts; sections 1–14 on Torah portions Bemidbar and Naso including a late homiletic commentary upon Numbers 1–7. The second part, sections 15–33, reproduces the Midrash Tanhuma from Numbers 8 almost word for word. Most scholars think the work dates to the 12th Century.” – Sefaria

The Great Midrash on Numbers  at HebrewBooks.org  The text is in Hebrew, but the introductions are in English as well as the copious explanatory footnotes.

On the Mirash HaGadol, see Wikipedia.

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Deuteronomy

Sifrei Devarim  [Books on ‘Words’]  A.D. 200  on Deut., chs. 1, 3, 6-7, 11-26, 29, 32-34  at Sefaria

“The Sifrei to Deuteronomy is of an entirely different nature [than that on Numbers above]. The main portion (Nos. 53-303), halakic in character, is preceded and followed by haggadic parts, and it has all the characteristics of a midrash from the school of R. Akiba. Several anonymous passages may be cited to express the views of R. Simeon; this midrash may with a fair degree of certainty be ascribed to him. The editor certainly drew upon other midrashic works besides R. Simeon’s midrash, especially upon that of R. Ishmael.” – Sefaria

The Great Deuteronomy  A.D. 900  at Sefaria

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (900 CE). Devarim Rabbah (The Great Deuteronomy) is an aggadic midrash or homiletic commentary on Deuteronomy. Unlike Bereshit Rabbah, the Midrash to Deuteronomy does not contain running commentaries on the text of the Bible, but twenty-five complete, independent homilies, together with two fragmentary ones. These are arranged as sedarim, the Sabbatical lessons for public worship according to the Palestinian triennial cycle.” – Sefaria

Ibn Ezra – Commentary on Deuteronomy  d. c. 1167  at Sefaria

Ibn Ezra (1089 – c. 1167)

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Ruth

The Great Ruth  A.D. 400’s

See Wikipedia, ‘Ruth Rabbah’.

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Esther

The Great Esther  A.D. 1100-1300  at Sefaria

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (c.1100 – c.1300 CE). Esther Rabbah (The Great Esther) is the midrash to the Book of Esther…  this Midrash consists of six “parashiyyot” (chapters, sections; singular = “parashah”) introduced by one or more proems. From its plan and scope it is apparently an incomplete collection derived from the rich haggadic material on Esther. The book draws from earlier Midrashim and was expanded over the centuries. It was probably written around the 10th Century though others date it to the 12th or 13th century.” – Sefaria

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Psalms

The Midrash on the Psalms  Buy  A.D. 800’s-1000’s

On this work, see the Jewish Virtual Library.

Kimchi, David  (1160-1235)

The Longer Commentary of Rabbi David Kimhi on the First Book of Psalms (1-10, 15-17, 19, 22, 24)

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Ecclesiastes

The Great Ecclesiastes  A.D. 700-950  at Sefaria

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (c.700 – c.950 CE). Kohelet Rabbah (The Great Ecclesiastes) is a haggadic commentary on Ecclesiastes. It follows the Biblical book verse by verse, only a few verses remaining without comment. The author confined himself chiefly to collecting and editing earlier sources including Bereshit Rabbah, Pesiḳta, Ekhah Rabbah, Vayiḳra Rabbah, Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah, the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud as well as others sources. The editor probably lived between the 6th and 8th centuries.” – Sefaria

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Song of Songs

The Great Song of Songs  A.D. 880-900  at Sefaria

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (c.880 – c.900 CE). Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah (The Great Song of Songs) is a haggadic midrash on the Song of Songs, quoted by Rashi…  The sources which it uses are from the Jerusalem Talmud, Pesiḳta de-Rab Kahana, Genesis Rabbah, Leviticus Rabbah and other no longer extant sources. No direct borrowing from the Babylonian Talmud.” – Sefaria

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Isaiah

Ibn Ezra, Abraham  (1089-1164)

The Commentary of Ibn Ezra on Isaiah, vols. 1 (Whole Commentary), 2 (Translation of Isaiah), 3 (Dictionary)  See this also at Sefaria

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Lamentations

The Great Lamentations  A.D. 500  at Sefaria

“Composed in Talmudic Israel/Babylon (500 CE). Ekhah Rabbah (The Great Lamentations) is a haggadic and homiletic interpretation of the Book of Lamentations. It belongs to oldest works of the Midrashic literature. It begins with 36 consecutive proems forming a separate collection, certainly made by the author. They constitute more than one-fourth of the work. These proems which are arranged in the sequence of the verses originated in the discourses. The haggadic explanations of this book were treated as appropriate dirges on the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem on the Ninth of Av. Numerous Greek words suggest the book was composed in Israel, sometime after the Jerusalem Talmud was completed, in the 5th century.” – Sefaria

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Zechariah

Kimchi, David  (1160-1235)

Commentary on the Prophecies of Zechariah, with notes and observations on the passages relating to the Messiah

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Related Pages

Bible Commentaries

Whole Bible Commentaries

New Testament Commentaries

Old Testament Commentaries