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The Talmud tells us that the Sages had long discussions about which books should be included in the Tanach [Bava Batra 14b-15a]. Their decisions were important. First, the books they excluded do not have to be studied. Second, they do not have to be included in yeshiva libraries, which caused many to have disappeared completely. Third, and most importantly, they cannot be used to expound on the meaning of Torah verses.

But I don't know of a similar process for acceptance of midrashim. Was there one? Where? Is there a list of "accepted" midrashim for the three purposes listed above? Where?

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    You can ask the same thing about any Jewish work.
    – Double AA
    Jan 23 at 3:26
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    Rashi isn't included in Tanakh, but he is definitely used to expound on the meaning of Torah verses!
    – magicker72
    Jan 23 at 4:34
  • Tannaic and Amoraic midrashim in their original forms were collections of teachings of the sages passed down likely orally over a period of a number of centuries until they were written down. Because people were already familiar with the sages there was no reason not to accept their ideas, much like the mishna and the gemara. Non-chazalic midrashim would have probably experienced the same process of acceptance as any other Jewish book.
    – Harel13
    Jan 23 at 6:09
  • Personally I would consider those recorded in the Talmud as canonical, and those found in external works non-canonical. The origins and authorship of non-canonic midrashic works are often unknown and were not transmitted with the same authority as that of the Talmud. That does not mean non-canonic midrashim ought not be studied, but their stature ought be considered. When considering non-canonic midrashim, I would look at whether the Geonim/Rishonim cite it authoritatively (e.g. Midrash Rabbah), on the one end, or whether they are dismissive/questioning of it, on the other (e.g. Shiur Qomah). Feb 22 at 15:37

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The canonization of holy books bore not spiritual, but purely Halachic implementations, such as ritual impurity of touching, proper disposal, handling, etc (see טומאת כתבי הקודש).

Rabbinic literature does not have any of those limitations and therefore does not require canonization or codification.

In general, unlike some other religions, Judaism doesn't have a centralized Halachic body that institutionalizes edicts once and for all. Therefore, in my understanding, there's no "acceptance" in Judaism, but adoption. Different rabbis/communities adopted different rabbinic sources, for example, some accept "Likutey Mohara"N" or the "Tany"A" and some don't.

Similarly, with the Midrashic literature, some texts were widely adopted as genuine, some were not, but because of their non-Halachic nature, it does not make any difference.

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  • "because of their non-Halachic nature, it does not make any difference." What about when decisors, in the absence of halakhic precedent, do in fact rely in midrashim (as is the case in Ashkenazi jurisprudence)? Feb 22 at 16:12
  • @Deuteronomy This is exactly the point, imagine working on a case and visiting the Library of Congress. You can find sources that justify just about anything. Similarly, with the Midrashic literature - you dig it and find sources that support your views.
    – Al Berko
    Mar 10 at 12:41
  • I don't disagree with your criticism. Nevertheless, it does occur in contemporary Jewish jurisprudence and therefore "does make a difference". Accordingly, within that methodology it would be appropriate to know/understand which are considered authoritative for this purpose and which are not. Mar 10 at 13:14

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