Imagine having a book which organizes all or most of the midrashic stories and legends into one volume ordered thematically to follow the Bible and important topics. Wouldn’t that be a resource too good to be true?
Well, its not because it is true and it does exist.
Hayyim Bialik (1873 – 1934), the national poet of Israel and perhaps the best known Hebrew poet in history collaborated with Y.H. Rawnitzky in 1911 to compile most of the rabbinic stories and legends and homilies into one volume organized so the non-expert can access them.
This is a monumental achievement when you realize the staggering breadth of rabbinic literature and the years and commitment it takes to master this literature. The Book of Legends is a shortcut worth knowing about. It won’t make any of us experts, but it will enable us to read with context and some clarity pieces of rabbinic thought which illuminate Jewish thought and often add dimension to our biblical understanding.
Schocken, a Jewish press, publishes the book in English only, and it is available on amazon for $50.37 — not bad considering the book has 984 pages of fairly small type.
In the beginning are short chapters explaining the meaning of aggadah and parables. The chapters from there are organized according to the Bible and topics with detailed headings and subheadings. The major headings include:
2. The Work of Creation and the First Generation
3. The Deeds of the Fathers
4. Israel in Egypt and the Departure from Egypt
5. Israel in the Wilderness
6. Judges, Kings, and Prophets
7. The Destruction of the First Temple
8. The Era Between the First and Second Temple
9. The Second Temple — Its Structure and Its Service
10. The Destruction of the Second Temple and the Land
11. The Deeds of the Sages
12. Israel and the Nations of the World
13. The Land of Israel
16. Redemption and the Days of Messiah
17. In the Time to Come
19. Wisdom, Prophecy, and Song
20. Sabbath, Feasts, and Fasts
21. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, And Relations Between Human Beings and Him Who Is Everywhere
22. Good and Evil
23. Man and His Needs
24. A Man’s Household
25. Between Man and Man
26. Traits and Attitudes
27. The Community, the State, and Their Requirements
28. The World and All That It Holds
29. Matters Pertaining to Divination and Healing
30. Parables, Proverbs, and Sayings
31. A Miscellany