Midrash (Hebrew: מדרש; plural midrashim, lit. "to investigate" or "study") is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible.
Midrash is a way of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal or moral teachings. It fills in many gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at.
as Wikipedia so nicely puts it.
The two books I've posted on lately had stories from these rabbinical interpretations. Here is one from Original Sinners by John R. Coats on the story of Abraham and Isaac. The author is discussing this verse.
2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." (Genesis 22)
Classical Midrash suggests that the chain of words used by Elohim seem to be the record of a one-sided dialogue; they imply the attitude of the one being addressed. Using that implied attitude, they imagine a dialogue between Elohim and Abraham. Rashi's version of that dialogue is:
"[Take] Your son."
"I have two sons."
"Your only one."
"This one is an only one to his mother and this one [read, that one] is an only one to his mother."
"[The one] Whom you love."
"I love both of them."
"Isaac." (pg. 124)
In From Stone to Living Word, author Debbie Blue claims as one who is used to Christian commentary, she was "struck by how the rabbinic mode of reading seems to counter many of our idolatrizing tendencies" and quoted Susan Handelman in her book The Slayers of Moses who "discusses how the interpretive methods of Christianity were poised to go in a certain direction when it 'severed its ties with Judaism, [and] became allied with Greek philosophy.'" (pg. 50)
Seemingly unpropelled by the anxiety that often propels Western interpretation, the writers of midrash didn't fear the gaps or try to brush over them. The silences weren't locked vaults, but open caves....So they tell stories to fill in the gaps. Wild ones. About Og the Giant, the pursuer of ecstasy, condemned in the flood but clinging to the side of Noah's Ark. Noah pokes a hole in the side of the boat and feeds the giant to keep him alive.
The rabbis speculate about what exactly it was that Adam and Eve ate, or what Noah fed the animals, or what the fight between Cain and Abel was all about. Midrash doesn't consider this unimportant or silly or absurd. God speaks and pauses, and even the pauses are full of redemptive possibility." (pg. 56,57)
While I'm not so sure of my stance on Midrash, I do admit I love the thought that "even the pauses are full of redemptive possibility." Shows that God is merciful and loving and eager to redeem fallen creation.
What do you think?