Sifra is the earliest extant rabbinic commentary on the book of Leviticus. On a basic level, Sifra presents and validates rabbinic law, but this was done by creating a link between a proposition, halakhic or not, and a scriptural passage. Scholars in the last few decades-including Neusner and Stemberger-have debated Sifra's relationship to Mishnah-Tosefta. Howard Apothaker demonstrates that the set of rules in Dibbura deSinai on topics shared with Mishnah-Tosefta can be understood as an independent body of law. They share a common ancestor but represent different expressions of a similar worldview and with variant purposes. The framers of Sifra sought as their main objective to validate the essentiality, or non-superfluity, of every word of Scripture. Apothaker's analysis of the exegetical and rhetorical characteristics of Sifra in Sifra, Dibbura deSinai: Rhetorical Formulae, Literary Structures, and Legal Traditions builds on his translation of and commentary on the section of Dibbura deSinai which covers Leviticus 25-27. Analysis of Sifra's highly formalized rhetoric yields insight concerning the general purpose(s) for which the framers created the work.
Rabbi Howard L. Apothaker serves a congregation in New Albany (Columbus), Ohio. This book is a revision of his doctoral dissertation submitted to Hebrew Union College, where he received his Ph.D. in 1995.