WAYIḲRA RABBAH (called also Haggadat Wayiḳra):

Haggadic midrash to Leviticus. Under the name "Wayiḳra Rabbah" this midrash is first referred to by Nathan, in his " 'Aruk," s. v. , , and in several other passages, as well as by Rashi in his commentaries on Gen. xlvi. 26, Ex. xxxii. 5, Lev. ix. 24, etc. According to Zunz, however, Hai Gaon and Nissim knew and made use of this midrash; and Zunz dates its origin back to the middle of the seventh century. It originated in Palestine, and is composed largely of older works, its redactor having made use of Genesis Rabbah, Pesiḳta de-Rab Kahana, and the Jerusalem Talmud, in addition to other ancient sources. He appears to have referred also to the Babylonian Talmud, several expressions in the midrash being used in the sense in which only that work employs them (comp. Weiss, "Dor," iii. 261).


The Wayiḳra is not a continuous, explanatory midrash to Leviticus, but a collection of exclusivesermons or lectures on the themes or texts of that book; and it consists altogether of thirty-seven such homilies, each of which constitutes a separate chapter, or "parashah." The Scriptural passages on which the homilies are based are often referred to in the midrash as "parashiyyot," and are further designated according to their contents; as, for example, ch. i., "Parashat ha-Mishkan," on Lev. i. et seq.; ch. ix., "Parashah Ḳorbanot," on Lev. vii. 11 et seq.; ch. xv., "Parashat Nega'im," on Lev. xiii. 1 et seq.; etc. Of the thirty-seven homilies, eight (1, 3, 8, 11, 13, 20, 26, 30) are introduced with the formula "Pataḥ R." ("The teacher has commenced"); eight (2, 4-7, 9, 10, 19), with "Hada hu di-ketib" (lit., "As it is written"); and twenty-one (12, 14-18, 21-25, 27-29, 31-37), with "Zehshe-amar ha-katub" (lit., "This is what the Holy Scriptures say"). The fact that the redactor of the midrash selected only these thirty-seven texts for his exposition, is explained by Weiss (l.c.) as the existence of the Sifra, the halakic midrash to Leviticus: "The redactor of the Wayiḳra Rabbah had nothing to add to the halakic midrash; he collected therefore only those haggadic explanations which he found on various texts and passages." This surmise by Weiss is, however, refuted by the circumstance that nearly all the parashiyyot of the Wayiḳra Rabbah (with the exception of chapters 11, 24, 32, 35, and 36) refer to halakic passages. Thus, the redactor of the midrash collected haggadic expositions also of such texts as were treated in the Sifra. The conjecture of Theodor that in the older cycle of weekly lessons the passages on which the homilies of the Wayiḳra Rabbah were based consisted in certain paragraphs, or in lessons for certain festivals, seems therefore to be correct (comp. Theodor, "Die Midraschim zum Pentateuch und der Dreijährige Palestinensische Cyclus," in "Monatsschrift," 1886, pp. 307-313, 406-415; see also Jew. Encyc. viii. 560).

Relation to the Pesiḳta.

In its plan, as well as in the form of the several parashiyyot, the midrash bears great resemblance to the Pesiḳta de-Rab Kahana (see Jew. Encyc. viii. 559). Like the lectures in the Pesiḳta, the homilies in the Wayiḳra Rabbah begin with a larger or smaller number of proems on passages mostly taken from the Hagiographa. Thereupon follows the exposition proper of the passage to which the homily refers. The explanation often covers only a few verses, or even a few words of the first verse, of the passage on which the parashah is based. In some cases long pieces, in others brief sentences only, have been adduced in connection with the Scriptural passages, seemingly in accordance with the material at the redactor's disposal. Inasmuch, however, as the homilies in the Wayiḳra Rabbah treat largely of topics beyond the subject-matter of the Biblical text itself, the explanations of the individual verses are often replaced by series of haggadic quotations which refer to the theme considered in the homily (comp. ch. 8, 12-15, 18, 19, 23, 31-34, 36, 37). In this the Wayiḳra Rabbah differs from the Pesiḳta, for in the latter work the individual explanations are seldom lacking. Another difference between the two works is, that while the Pesiḳta rarely quotes lengthy haggadic excerpts after the proems, the Wayiḳra Rabbah quotes such after the conclusion of a proem, in the course of each parashah, and even toward the end of a chapter; these excerpts have often very slight reference to the context. But otherwise the Wayiḳra carefully follows the form of the Pesiḳta. The end of each parashah in the former work, in analogy with the usage followed in the Pesiḳta, consists of a passage containing a Messianic prophecy.

The extent of the present midrash is the same as that of the edition quoted by R. Nathan in the " 'Aruk," since he refers to passages from ch. xxxvi. (s.v. ) and xxxvii. (s.v. ) as "the end." Aside from some transpositions, eliminations, and glosses, the printed text of the midrash is noteworthy as containing, at the end of the first three parashiyyot, annotations from Tanna debe Eliyahu which were not contained in the older manuscripts.

  • Zunz, G. V. pp. 181-186;
  • Weiss, Dor, iii. 261;
  • Theodor, Zur Composition der Agadischen Homilien, in Monatsschrift, 1881, pp. 500-510.
S. J. Z. L.
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