Mekhilta DeRabbi Yishmael

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Mekhilta DeRabbi Yishmael
Mekhilta DeRabbi Yishmael
מכילתא דרבי ישמעאל
Dates3rd century
PlaceEretz Yisrael
Impacted on



  • Common names – מכילתא, מכילתא דרבי ישמעאל2
  • Other names – מכילתא ואלה שמות, מכילתא דארץ ישראל, ספרי3



MekRY was redacted in Eretz Yisrael.


Mishnaic Hebrew


  • Manuscripts4 – There are two complete manuscripts, Oxford 151 and Munich 117. Vatican 299 contains approximately half of MekRY, and approximately eighty pages of MekRY from the Cairo Geniza are extant. The Geniza fragments provide access to an Eastern textual transmission of the midrash that is generally superior to the Ashkenazic tradition represented in the Oxford and Munich mansucripts.5
  • Printings – Two critical editions were published in the 1930s without reference to each other. H.S. Horovitz’s edition was published posthumously (completed by I.A. Rabin) in Frankfurt, 1931, while J.Z. Lauterbach published a three-volume edition in Philadelphia, 1934-1935.
    The Horovitz version lists variants from manuscripts, earlier printings, and various works that quote MekRY, such as Yalkut Shimoni and Midrash Chakhamim. The edition also contains a concise critical commentary.
    The Lauterbauch edition used a few more manuscript resources than Horovitz did6 (although is less thorough in noting variant readings) and includes an English translation and useful indices.
    Scholars have noted that these editions fail to take into account important aspects of the history of the textual traditions of the midrash. Such issues include the direct dependence of the Venice 1545 edition on the Constantinople 1515(?) edition,7 the relative superiority of the Oxford manuscript (see above, Manuscripts),8 and the fact that the Ashkenazic manuscripts seem to have a common source.9 Furthermore, since the publication of these editions a significant quantity of additional manuscript versions (partial or fragmentary) has been discovered.
  • Textual layers – Scholarship has shown that the halakhic and aggadic portions of MekRY are based on different sources that were combined by redactors.10  The aggadic portions have much shared material in common with Mekhilta DeRashbi, implying that both midrashim worked off of a common midrashic source for aggadah.



midrash halakhah


  •  As the main focus of MekRY is halakhic, it starts only in chapter 12 of Shemot while skipping the earlier narrative sections, although it also contains much aggadic material.11 MekRY is divided into nine major sections, called masekhtot, as follows (with verses from Shemot covered by each masekhta in parentheses):
    Pascha (12:1-13:16)
    Vayehi Beshalach (13:17-14:31)
    Shirata (15:1-21)
    Vayasa (15:22-17:7)
    Amalek (17:8-18:27)
    Bachodesh (or Debiri) (19:1-20:26)
    Nezikin (21:1-22:23)
    Kaspa (22:24-29)
    Shabta (31:12-17; 35:1-3)
    Each masekhta is divided into parashiyyot, which are subdivided into halakhot numbered by the Hebrew letters.


  •  In its halakhic sections, MekRY employs the derash methods typical of the school of R. Yishmael, which include a greater reliance on middot (rules of interpretation), and a tendency to avoid expounding ‘superfluous’ words and particles, and duplicate verbs, nouns, verses, and passages.12


Significant Influences

Occasional Usage

Possible Relationship


Other Midrashim

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Medieval Exegetes

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