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Sunday, November 15, 2009
French exegete; lived at Narbonne about the middle of the eleventh century. According to a manuscript in the possession of the Alliance Israélite Universelle containing those parts of Abraham Zacuto's "Sefer Yuhasin" that are omitted in Samuel Shullam's edition (see Isidore Loeb, "Joseph Haccohen et les Chroniqueurs Juifs," in "R. E. J." xvi. 227), Moses was descended from a Narbonne family distinguished for its erudition, his great-grandfather, Abun, his grandfather, Moses ben Abun, and his father, Jacob ben Moses ben Abun (called "ha-Nabi"; see Jew. Encyc. vii. 39), all having been presidents of the Narbonne yeshibah. Moses himself held this position, and after his death it was occupied by his brother Levi (see R. Tam, "Sefer ha-Yashar," ed. Vienna, No. 620, p. 74).
Though Moses ha-Darshan was considered a rabbinical authority (R. Tam, l.c.; Abraham ben Isaac, "Sefer ha-Eshkol," ed. Auerbach, i. 143, Halberstadt, 1865), he owes his reputation principally to the fact that together with Tobiah ben Eliezer he was the most prominent representative of midrashic-symbolic Bible exegesis ("derash") in the eleventh century. His work on the Bible, probably sometimes called "Yesod," and known only by quotations found mostly in Rashi's commentaries, contained extracts from earlier haggadic works as well as midrashic explanations of his own. Often the latter were not in harmony with the spirit of the rabbinical Midrash and even contained Christian theological conceptions. Probably the non-preservation of the work was due to an excess of the foreign element in its composition, causing it to be regarded with disfavor. Moreover, as has recently been ascertained by Epstein, it was not a systematically arranged work, but merely a collection of notes made by Moses. For this reason, apparently, it did not have a fixed title, and therefore it is quoted under various names by different authors (see A. Berliner, "Eine Wiederaufgefundene Handschrift," in "Monatsschrift," 1884, p. 221; Zunz, "G. V." 2d ed., p. 302, note E).
The Midrash Bereshit Rabbah Major or Bereshit Rabbah Rabbati, known through quotations by Raymund Martin in his "Pugio Fidei," has many haggadot and haggadic ideas which recall very strongly Moses ha-Darshan's teachings; it is claimed by Zunz (l.c. p. 302) that the midrash was actually the work of Moses. A. Epstein, however, is of the opinion that the final compiler of the midrash, certainly not Moses ha-Darshan, took from the "Yesod" whatever he considered appropriate for his purpose, especially from Moses' midrashic interpretation of the Creation (see A. Epstein, "Bereshit Rabbati," in Berliner's "Magazin," xv. 70). In a similar way the "Yesod" influenced the Midrash Bemidbar Rabbah and the Midrash Tadshe, which latter, in a haggadic-symbolic manner, endeavors to show the parallelism between the world, mankind, and the Tabernacle (Zunz, "G. V." p. 292; Jellinek, "B. H." vol. iii., pp. xxxiii. et seq.). Concerning the Midrash Tadshe, Epstein goes so far as to assume that Moses ha-Darshan was its author ("Beiträge zur Jüdischen Alterthumskunde," p. xi.). Moses ha-Darshan explained some obscure expressions in certain piyyutim (Zunz, "Ritus," p. 199; Ziemlich, "Das Machsor von Nürnberg," in Berliner's "Magazin," xiii. 184). He is credited also with a midrash on the Ten Commandments and with a "widdui."
Moses' son was Judah ha-Darshan ben Moses; probably the Joseph he-hasid mentioned in Samuel ben Jacob ibn Jama''s additions to the "'Aruk" of Nathan ben Jehiel (see S. Buber in "Grätz Jubelschrift," p. 34, s.v. ) was a son of Judah ha-Darshan. It is certain that Nathan ben Jehiel was a pupil of Moses, whose explanations of Talmudical words and passages he cites. Both Abraham Zacuto ("SeferYuhasin") and the above-mentioned manuscript of the Alliance Israélite Universelle ascribe to Moses three more pupils—Moses 'Anaw, Moses ben Joseph ben Merwan Levi, and Abraham ben Isaac (author of the "Sefer ha-Eshkol"). A. Epstein credits Moses with another pupil, a certain R. Shemaiah, who is quoted sometimes in Bereshit Rabbah Rabbati and in Numbers Rabbah as explaining sayings of Moses ha-Darshan's (l.c. pp. 74 et seq.; comp. p. ii.). He also suggests (l.c.) the identity of this Shemaiah with Shemaiah of Soissons, author of a midrash on Parashat Terumah (published by Berliner in "Monatsschrift," xiii. 224 et seq.), whose cosmological conceptions seem to have been influenced by Moses ha-Darshan.