||First edition of the famed Midrash Tanhuma, attributed to the amora Tanhuma bar Abba, with the two important commentaries, Ez Yosef and Anaf Yoseph, which today are the standard commentaries on the midrash, by R. Hanokh Zundel ben Joseph of Bialystock. Referring to these commentaries the title page states that the tree bears fruit, peshat and pitron (literal and interpretive meanings), to explain every place that are closed and difficult to understand and “their fruit shall be for food” (Ezekiel 47:12) for all who are famished for knowledge of the midrash, “their fruit shall be for food” (cf. Psalms 19:11), and also noted are variant readings. There are approbations from R. Moses Zev Margulies, R. Aryeh Leib Katzenelbogen, R. Aryeh Lev Broda, R. Naphtali Wolf Guenzberg, R. Hayyim Ya’akov Halberstadt, R. Abraham Lichtstein, R. David ben Hayyim, R. Benjamin Diskin, R. Hayyim Perlmutter, and R. Issachar Be’er ben Tanhum. Next is a three column list of individuals who assisted in financing publication followed by R. Hanokh Zundel’s introduction. The text is comprised of the Midrash Tanhuma at the top of the page in square letters and below in two columns in rabbinic letters Ez Yosef and Anaf Yoseph.
Tanhuma bar Abba (second half of the fourth century C.E.), Palestinian amora. Tanhuma, to whom the Tanhuma Midrash has been ascribed, was one of the most prolific aggadists. His principal teacher in halakhah and aggadah was R. Huna. Nothing is known of his private life. In his public activities he was distinguished for his defense of Jews and Judaism against non-Jews. In one of Tanhuma's conversations with non-Jews, the emperor suggested that Jews and non-Jews become one nation. To this Tanhuma replied, "But we who are circumcised cannot possibly become like you." The emperor answered, "You have spoken well. Nevertheless, whoever gets the better of the emperor in debate must be thrown into the vivarium" ("arena of wild beasts"). Tanhuma was thrown in, but came out safely (the well-known motif of Daniel). A heretic who was present maintained that this was because the animals were not hungry, whereupon he was thrown in and was eaten (Sanh. 39a). Its contents indicate that this conversation was between Tanhuma and a Christian: thus in Yalkut, Zephaniah 567, the emperor bases his remarks on the verse (Zeph. 3:9): "For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent"; this verse has significance only when quoted by a Christian and not a pagan ruler. (For another conversation between Tanhuma and non-Jews on matters of faith, see TJ, Ber. 9:1, 13b). In Antioch he argued with those who believed in dualism (Gen. R. 19:4). It has been suggested that the title "pleader" (σχολαστικός), given Tanhuma, refers to this activity (TJ, Ber. 4:2, 7d).
Tanhuma is noted especially for the proems with which he introduced his discourses. The phrase "R. Tanhuma began his discourse with this biblical text" occurs frequently in the Midrashim (particularly in Pesikta Rabbati). The structure of his discourses was as follows: after a halakhic question, which he did not answer immediately, he quoted a biblical verse, usually from the Hagiographa, which he then connected with the first verse of the current Sabbath's portion of the Pentateuch and only reverted at the end of his discourse to the question that had been raised at the outset. Among the principal ideas that distinguished his many discourses are the signal value of studying the Torah and of charity, and the future redemption of the nation. The following is an example of his teaching: "'Who deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him' (Ps. 35:10). This applies to Israel, who falls into the hands of the nations of the world, and God delivers them. For 'the poor' refers to Israel…. David said, 'A sheep among 70 wolves, what can it do? Israel among 70 powerful nations, what can Israel do, were it not that You stand by them every hour'" (PR 9:2).
R. Hanokh Zundel ben Joseph (d. 1867), commentator on the Midrash. Hanokh lived in Bialystok (Poland), and devoted himself to writing commentaries on the Midrash. They are largely based upon the earlier commentators such as the Mattenot Kehunnah of Berman Ashkenazi, the Yefeh To'ar of Samuel Jaffe Ashkenazi, and the Yedei Moshe of Abraham Heller Ashkenazi, but he adds original comments. In the EzYosef he strives to give the plain meaning of the text and establish the correct readings, while the Anaf Yosef is largely homiletical (published together as Yalkut al Petirat Aharon u-Moshe, Warsaw, 1874). In addition to his commentaries on the classical Midrashim, the Rabbah (1829–34), and the Tanhuma (1833), he also wrote commentaries on other midrashic works, such as the Seder Olam Rabbah (1845), Midrash Shemu'el (1860), Aggadat Bereshit (1876), and the aggadot in the Ein Ya'akov of Jacob ibn Habib (1883). He also wrote a commentary on Pirkei Avot (1892), and Olat ha-Hodesh (1859), consisting of the prayers for the new moon, with a commentary. His commentaries on Yalkut Shimoni and the Mekhilta are still in manuscript.