Midrash is a Hebrew word that refers to a method of explaining various passages of the Bible. The word "midrash" also refers to a compilation of teachings that include exegetical or homiletical commentaries regarding passages within the Tanakh or Old Testament. Midrashic commentary is believed to have been handed down from one generation to another during ancient times through verbal communication and memorization. The writing of Midrashic literature began during the second century.
Midrashic literature often is categorized in two ways, as "Halakhic," or legal, or "Aggadic," non-legal and generally homiletical. Some of the more common compilations of Midrashic material are referred to as the Mekhilta, which largely focuses on commentary involving the book of Exodus; the Sifra, which focuses on Leviticus; the Sifre, which focuses on Numbers and Deuteronomy; and the Sifre Zutta, which focuses on the Bible's book called Numbers.
Other Midrashic books were compiled in later times, such as the Yalkut Shimoni, which was compiled during the 13th century and is a collection of midrash on the Old Testament.
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