Rabbi Abin builds a Drasha on a phrase not found in the text (Vayikra_Rabbah.13):

"אָמַר רַבִּי אָבִין בַּר כַּהֲנָא אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (ישעיה נא, ד):
"תּוֹרָה חֲדָשָׁה מֵאִתִּי תֵצֵא, חִדּוּשׁ תּוֹרָה מֵאִתִּי תֵצֵא."

But the original verse says:

"הַקְשִׁיבוּ אֵלַי עַמִּי וּלְאוּמִּי אֵלַי הַאֲזִינוּ כִּי תוֹרָה מֵאִתִּי תֵצֵא וּמִשְׁפָּטִי לְאוֹר עַמִּים אַרְגִּיעַ׃"

Did he have a different version of the text? Did he misquote the verse?

  • 1
    I feel like most of your questions on Midrash are just indicative that you're unaware of how Midrash works.
    – robev
    Dec 29, 2021 at 17:50
  • 2
    @robev Very plausible, I didn't get any formal Jewish education. Please enlighten me. I see a rabbi interpreting a non-existing verse.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 29, 2021 at 20:16
  • 1
  • @JoelK Thanks, What does it add to the question? I'm not discussing the concept, only the misquotation.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 30, 2021 at 14:24
  • @alberko see his discussion at the end, where he suggests that the version of Isaiah in מתיבתא עילאה contains the word חדשה.
    – Joel K
    Dec 30, 2021 at 14:38

2 Answers 2


You have a good eye. In the work עלבונה של תורה this is listed as one of the cases of Christians corrupting our writings. The "new Torah" is meant to provide justification for the New Testament.

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  • Does he have any manuscript evidence for this claim?
    – Double AA
    Dec 30, 2021 at 13:39
  • +1 for the effort! Seems absolutely wrong to me for several reasons: 1. It appears in a list of unconnected statements - if one wants to forge he better do it in a proper place. 2. The whole Drashah is built on the word "new" - unless the author claims that the whole book is foreign. 3. Why forge a Midrash when you can forge the Prophet, and they didn't. 4. "Torah Chadasha" is interpreted in Kabbalistic (and Hassidic) tradition, I personally read a lot of interpretations on this topic. This book seems nonsense.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 30, 2021 at 13:46
  • 1. Why would you expect the forgery to be better than their own New Testament, which has many similar errors? 2. Not the whole book, the whole line, which the author argues is out of context anyway. 3. They can't really forge the prophets, which were more widespread and have much more literature on them. In addition, the New Testament often misquotes the Bible, and yet they did not change it in their own "Old Testament". 4. People will interpret it if it is there, but that does not mean it is originally true.
    – N.T.
    Dec 30, 2021 at 19:31

In the general case, yes, sometimes midrashim absolutely interpret pesukim which are in variance with the masoretic text, and which we can find in the Septuagint, or the Samaritan text, or the Dead Sea Scrolls. I've written about this extensively, and linked is one such example.

So, it is not impossible that Rabbi Avin bar Kahana (a third/fourth generation Amora of Eretz Yisrael) had an alternative text before him. Supporting this read is that the midrash, in the version as we have it, seems to take the Biblical phrase and interpret it. So תּוֹרָה חֲדָשָׁה coming from Hashem is interpreted not as a new Torah supplanting the old, but as חִדּוּשׁ תּוֹרָה, an innovation within Torah.

However, while variants certainly crept into the Biblical text, there was an internal process by which scribes attempted to maintain the integrity of the Biblical text. There were codices such as the one kept in the Temple Courtyard, and later the Leningrad and Aleppo Codex, and others. This is not the case for the text of gemaras, midrashim, and so on. If so, the error could also plausibly be in the midrashic text, rather than in the verse it quotes. Especially since we don't know of any extant variant text of Yeshaya (I checked Vetus Testamentum) that has this change, and we don't even see this in Christian translations, where they have all the reason to maintain this variant.

Indeed, in the Beur Maharif on Vayikra Rabba, by Rabbi Yechezkel Feivel, the Maggid of Vilna, he asserts that the midrashic text is erroneous and that the correct text doesn't have חֲדָשָׁה in the Biblical citation. I have not checked variant manuscripts of the midrash, and I don't know if he based himself on logic (that that isn't the Biblical text) or on some extant manuscript of the midrash.

If the word חֲדָשָׁה isn't present in the citation within the midrash, the interpretation still can work. The derasha is based on the word תֵצֵא in the imperfect (that is, future) tense. With that, the verse implies that Torah comes forth from Hashem in the future. This is thus a new Torah. And Rabbi Avin b. Kahana essentially says that this refers to innovations in Torah.


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