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I have found many different types of midrashic works. Some are, as far as I can tell, accepted as being authoritative. Meaning they were written (compiled?) by the sages in roughly the Talmudic era. Examples would be Bereshis Rabba, Midrash Tanchuma, Pirkei d'Rebbi Eliezer.

Then there are midrashim that seem to be apocryphal. Such as Sefer Zerubavel, The Sword of Moses and others which seem to be more like fiction based on Torah/Chazal. They also seem to be of a later origin.

Finally there are some midrashim which seem to be in a gray area, they are not the mainstream but I have seen referenced in traditional rabbinic writing, such as Midrash Abba Gorion, the Alphabet of Ben Sira, etc. (there have been termed "smaller midrashim")

I would like to know if there is a list of 'kosher' midrashim. I.e. ones which Orthodox Judaism has accepted as authentic.

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    Are you looking for a canonical list published by Mr. O. Judaism?
    – Double AA
    May 29, 2013 at 19:30
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    @DoubleAA possibly, if one existed. Otherwise I would settle for guidelines to help me know what is legit and what isn't
    – user2110
    May 29, 2013 at 19:49
  • What is excepted changes. Up until recently, all the gedolim didn't take seffer hayashar seriously. Nowadays Reb Chaim Kanievsky quotes out of it as if it were a real Medrash.
    – user6591
    Dec 31, 2019 at 13:21
  • Perhaps rav po'alim from rav Avraham Ben hagra could be considered such a list? hebrewbooks.org/14013
    – אילפא
    Sep 7, 2023 at 18:06

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I don't believe there is any formal list as such. Even רב פעלים by R. Abhraham b. ha-Gr"a doesn't really vet midrashic works so much as it catalogues their existence and notes where references to them are made and where they can be found (if extant).

That said, I do think that we can develop guiding principles that can help us to independently assess whether a given work passes muster.

I would consider those Midrashim 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).

With these principles in mind, I think one can determine how much weight to put into a given midrashic work. It ought be evident, the conclusion is not always a simply binary of acceptable/unacceptable. One will inevitable end up with works falling on a spectrum with acceptable/unacceptable at its two poles, and varying grades of acceptance/questionable-authority in between. The gray areas naturally will reflect long-standing divisions within rabbinic Judaism, many of which persist to this day.

Accordingly, there can not be a list that would universally reflect THE Orthodox view, as Orthodox Judaism is not monolithic.

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The responses you received were unfounded and not truthful at all and could lead people into doubts BaTorah, and greater Apikorsis as a result. Firstly the claim “judaism has changed” is obviously coming from a person who isn’t on the proper Hashkafa. Secondly we can verify a Midrash in a few ways

  • Rashi and the Tosafos making Pshat commentaries could easily discern that which was completely authentic and strong Midrash and that which wasn’t due to the accuracy of their commentary especially in relation to their intense literalist usage of Midos SheHaTorah Nedrashos B’Hein, which was corroborated by their contemporaries and their living predecessors. One can also discern that a Midrash is authentic if it is repeated multiple different times in different compilations or areas in certain texts. The source of all Midrashim can be located by looking at compiled chains of transmission for their appropriate narrations and comparing it to works such as the Tosefta. Determining whether a Midrash is read in the Pshat or not is a different question.
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    Hi @abjz21 - welcome to Mi Yodeya. We welcome answers but kindly ask that the tone you adopt is respectful. Even if you greatly disagree with a point, the statement saying that it "obviously coming from a person who isn't on the proper Hashkafa" is completely unnecessary. Please edit it out and remember that we have just had Yom Kippur.
    – Dov
    Sep 28, 2020 at 20:53
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Midrash is very subversive. The midrashim now known as "classic" today, and taught by every 3rd grade rebbe, weren't necessarily learned or accepted by all Jews throughout history. Different communities had their own work, whether it was Midrash Hagadol by Yemenite Jews in the Middle Ages, to Midrash Rabbah around the 400-500s C.E, to the Tosedta, written much earlier and in Israel.

Point is, at various times and locations,there were many different "authentic" midrashic collections floating around and getting redacted and assembled. Nowadays, certain midrashim are very popular, either because they are quoted by Rashi, or have other appeal, but there are certainly midrashim that aren't learned today that were once revered.

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    This is about interpreting authentic Midrashim, not determining which are authentic which is what the question asked.
    – Double AA
    May 29, 2013 at 20:11
  • I'm still not sure I understand what your answer is: that any Midrash is acceptable?
    – Double AA
    May 29, 2013 at 20:49
  • I'm saying that different midrashim are acceptable at different times. The midrashim that Nikmasi quoted might have been very popular in their respective times- but then lost popularity. midrashim often become authoritative simply because rashi quoted them. May 29, 2013 at 21:36
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    How does a text's authenticity change? Either it was written correctly or it wasn't. Popularity can't be all there is to it.
    – Double AA
    May 30, 2013 at 4:35
  • What does written 'correctly' mean? At different times, Judaism was different, people thought about God and Torah differently, and thus, different interpretations of the text (midrash) appealed to people according to what they believed and felt- which changes with the times. May 30, 2013 at 18:55

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