Talmud

Differences of a famous midrash about Name, Language, and Clothing

Leviticus Rabbah 32:5 (M. Margoliot ed., Jerusalem 1958, vol. 4, p. 747) lists four things on account of which the Israelites were redeemed: Name, language, wicked speech (leshon ha-ra), and sexual licentiousness; the Venice 1566 edition of Midrash Rabbah, p. 190a, substitutes clothing for language; Lekah Tov on Deut. 26:5 (A.M. Padwa ed., Vilna 1880), p. 46a, lists three ways in which the Israelites were distinct from the Egyptians: Name, cuisine, and garb; Tanna Devei Eliyahu 23:2 (M. Ish-Shalom ed., Vienna 1902, pp. 123-5) records a covenant that the Israelites made with one another in Egypt: that they would be kind to one another, they would not neglect the covenant of circumcision, that they would not abandon the language of Jacob, and that they would not learn the language of idolatrous Egypt; Lekah Tov on Exodus 6:6 (S. Buber ed., Vilna 1880, p. 16a) lists four merits that the Israelites in Egypt had, corresponding to the four terms of redemption with which they were saved: they did not change their language, change their clothing, reveal their secret, or neglect circumcision (see n. 10 ad loc., where Buber, citing his own comment on Pesikta De-Rav Kahana [Lvov 1868, p. 83b, n. 66], lists several parallels to the Leviticus Rabbah version of the midrash and writes, “the statement that everyone quotes, ‘that they did not change their garb [“malbusham”],’ is not mentioned anywhere’ [!]”—an odd not to make on a passage that explicitly lists clothing [“simlotam”] as something the Israelites preserved; perhaps he misread the word—or thought the word should be emended to—“shemotam,” which would mean that names, not garb, is mentioned in this version of the midrash).

Elli Fischer, “‘Name, Language, and Dress’: The Life Cycle of a Well-Known but Nonexistent ‘Midrash'”, 1, n. 2 [https://www.academia.edu/28574595/_Name_Language_and_Dress_The_Life_Cycle_of_a_Well-Known_but_Nonexistent_Midrash]