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Midrash in the Communities of the Genizah Project

The discovery of the Cairo Genizah has shed new light on aggadic midrash literature. The hundreds of previously unknown midrashic texts unearthed there attest to the continued vitality and development of midrashic activity long after its early tannaitic and amoraic antecedents. Yet despite the evident endurance of midrash aggadah in Genizah documents, their high degree of creative flexibility likewise attests to their lack of authority, particularly in comparison to tannaitic and amoraic halakhic works, specifically the Mishnah and Talmud. Stemming from the end of the first millennium, Midrash Aggadah emerged in the shadow of the rationalistic movement, which critiqued both the content and exegetical methodology of aggadah. Aggadic midrash literature from this period, in contrast presents an important shift, assembling aggadic traditions into collections, which were canonized only later with the advent of printing. These collections ultimately raised the status of aggadic midrash and their overall presence in Jewish culture. The Project devoted to Midrash in the Community of the Cairo Geniza has a number of goals: To tell the story of aggadic midrash literature from the evidence gleaned from the Cairo Genizah; to continue to uncover lost aggadic works; and to deepen our understanding of them and their place in the larger Jewish culture. What’s more, the centre aspires to turning the spotlight on what have long been neglected Genizah passages, which at the same time indirectly relays the story of Aggadic traditions. In order to accomplish these goals, the Midrash at the Genizah Projects likewise examines relevant historical evidence which attests to the place of aggadic traditions. These include personal lists of individual sages and preachers; lists of biblical verses and raw material ripe for midrashic exposition; Judeo-Arabic texts which contain midrashic elements along with exegetical compositions, translations and more.