November 4, 2016 2:29 pm at 2:29 pm #618625
I often hear at times that what we learn in gemara should “not to taken literally.” Given that people generally do take what they read literally, why were stories and anecdotes presented in a way that requires such a disclaimer?November 4, 2016 2:46 pm at 2:46 pm #1191557
I heard that everything SHOULD be taken literally beside a select few. One such is the begining of Perek hasfina in bva basra.
It’s not for us to backhandedly reject a piece of Gemarah “don’t take it literally”November 4, 2016 2:48 pm at 2:48 pm #1191558
To require having a rebbe, because there’s no way the mesorah can otherwise be transmitted properly.
In fact, originally, it was assur to write down (other than as one’s personal notes) Torah sheba’al peh, and was only permitted out of sheer necessity.November 4, 2016 2:55 pm at 2:55 pm #1191559
The fact is people do learn on their own and without someone to explain things, they will either take it literally or refuse to believe it literally. My question is that given that reality, I imagine even back in the time of the gemara there were people who would learn certain passages in wonderment. I am the type that likes things put out simply and clearly and just don’t know what to make of some passages. For example in Sanhedrin 59 there is a maaseh of two tanaim confront by a pride of hungry lions and two slabs of meat fell from heaven. WHere did prides of lions run among humans in either Bavel or Eretz Yisroel?November 4, 2016 3:34 pm at 3:34 pm #1191560
The fact is people do learn on their own and without someone to explain things, they will either take it literally or refuse to believe it literally.
You need a rebbe to guide you on that.
My question is that given that reality, I imagine even back in the time of the gemara there were people who would learn certain passages in wonderment.
I’m not getting what the question is (I don’t imagine it’s about lions), but I think that’s incorrect; at the time the Gemara was compiled, everything was transmitted orally.November 4, 2016 3:43 pm at 3:43 pm #1191561
But people DO learn on their own. Are you saying, they shouldn’t lest they misinterpret. And yes, my question has to do with the facts related in the gemara. Check it out. If it was incorrectly transmitted from the oral, well, that is a problem,no?November 4, 2016 3:46 pm at 3:46 pm #1191562
Flatbusher. You articulated perfectly why someone needs a Rebbe.November 4, 2016 4:00 pm at 4:00 pm #1191563
Are you saying, they shouldn’t lest they misinterpret.
If someone is likely to misinterpret, then they should learn with a rebbe or learn subject matter which they are unlikely to misinterpret.
And yes, my question has to do with the facts related in the gemara.
So find someone who can teach you.
If it was incorrectly transmitted from the oral, well, that is a problem,no?
Who said anything about an incorrect transmission?November 4, 2016 4:10 pm at 4:10 pm #1191564
I think there are several places where the girsa is corrected because of some suspected transmission error.
You’re dancing around the issue. This particular gemara I did hear from a rebbi and this is how he explained it. I didn’t question further after he said not to take it literally, and I just wonder if someone would explain differently.November 4, 2016 4:33 pm at 4:33 pm #1191566
Yes, but people like me and you dont change the girsa.
If you have a gemara that your Rebbe tells you not to understand literally, and he explains it to you and it makes sense, what is the problem? If it doesnt make sense, go back and ask him to explain it again. If you want another explanation of the gemara, pull out an Ein Yackov and see how the meforshim explain it, pull our a Ben Yehoyada. Get one of the Hamesivta or these other gemaras that include everything but the kitchen sink in the gemara and look to see what others say about the gemara. Is not that difficult.November 4, 2016 5:23 pm at 5:23 pm #1191567
WHat is difficult is accepting explanations that are contrived. My simple question is why was it necessary to present things in the gemara in a way in which one would have to say that it should not be taken literally. Why not just include passages that don’t raise issues like this? Your answer is not an answer. It’s what commentaries do to make sense which apparently they themselves could not accept literally.November 4, 2016 7:28 pm at 7:28 pm #1191568
“WHere did prides of lions run among humans in either Bavel or Eretz Yisroel?”
2000 years ago Lions where found in both Bavel and Eretz Yisroel.
It is interesting to me that this is the opart that struck you as strabge and not the “two slabs of meat fell from heaven.”
Keep in mind knowing what to take literately depend on a lot of things including context and familiarity with culture. For example If I said “I have a frog in my throat” or “butterflies in my stomach” Presumably you know there isnt actually an amphibian in my pharynx nor an insect in my stomach (depending on the context of course). Someone not familiar with these Idioms even if fluent in English, may need some help knowing what to take literaly and what not. Understanding the language and meaning of the words isnt allways enough.
That isnt to say I am at fault for using ambiguous wording even though some English speakers (let alone non-english speakers )may not understandNovember 4, 2016 7:42 pm at 7:42 pm #1191569
“Not to be Taken Literally” is pretty much the slogan of Christianity. Whenever goyim hear a rule in the Tanach that they don’t want to follow (all of them) they just say “ehh it’s not meant to be taken literally.” So as to suggest that when the Tanach unambiguously forbids something, it’s all part of some greater, spiritual metaphor the meaning of which they’ll think of another time.
By the way, I realize I’m derailing this. Sorry.November 4, 2016 9:36 pm at 9:36 pm #1191570
For example I hope you believe references to Hashem’s hand, arm, feet, nose etc are all non literalNovember 5, 2016 5:21 pm at 5:21 pm #1191571
Rambam says in his introduction to Perek Chelek that the aggadot are all metaphoric. I do not take literally statements Chazal make about science which do not pertain to halachot. First of all, I do not think that they cared about a scientific theory if there was no nafka mina (in fact, the Baal haTanya opposes studying it where not needed for parnassa or to clarify one’s learning). Secondly, why would Ravina and Rav Ashi include purely scientific speculations in the Gemara? Thirdly, many things that are written about science are not literally correct.
Why did they do this? I once read a conjecture that they were making political statements that could not be expressed explicitly. It could also be that they were conveying deep kabbalistic ideas that had to be hidden from all but the most advanced. It could also be that they wanted to keep some things baal peh. In fact, I heard that when Rav Miller taught “Ein Yaakov” he would sometimes skip a portion and explain that he did not have a tradition for it.November 6, 2016 12:16 am at 12:16 am #1191572
“Rambam says in his introduction to Perek Chelek that the aggadot are all metaphoric.”
I have always learned that some are “metaphoric” (not sure if that’s the right word or not) and some are literal. I just looked at the Rambam and it is not clear if he is saying that they are all “metaphoric” or not. If he is saying that they are all metaphoric, he probably means that they all have a deeper meaning (which is probably the main point in any case) but some of them could still have a literal meaning as well. There difinitely are midrashim that are meant literally.
In terms of knowing which are which, I think that I have heard that the mefarshim on the midrashim discuss it.
There is something that is very important to be aware of that I think many people misunderstand:
When we say that the Midrashim are meant “metaphorically”, it doesn’t really mean “metaphorically” the way the terms is usually used. Every word is Emes. Everything really happened the way it is told, it just happened on a deeper metaphysical sense and not in a physical sense. For example, Hashem really does have a “hand” but it’s not a physical “hand” – it’s a spiritual concept and what we refer to as a hand is really a “mashal” and a physical representation of a spiritual concept called hand which is something that Hashem has.
Vashti may or may not have had a physical tail, but she had some spiritual malady which can be called a “tail” and which a physical tail is a physical representation of.
I think this last point should answer your question to some extent, Flatbusher. Remember, we are referring to the Aggadic part of the Gemara and not the Halachic part. The halachic part is obviously meant to be learned literally (although there are deeper, conceptual meanings as well which no one except maybe mekubalim are probably even aware of), and the Aggadic part is the deeper more conceptual part of the Torah She’beal peh (and the part that almost everyone says that girls can learn).November 6, 2016 7:49 pm at 7:49 pm #1191573
Lilmod, according to dictionary.com the word “metaphorically” means
2.something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else; emblem; symbol.
How is that different than how “we” mean it? You are contradicting yourself in the same sentence when you write “Everything really happened the way it is told, it just happened on a deeper metaphysical sense”. The way it is told is the literal meaning.
BTW, even Halacha can be metaphoric. The classic example is an eye for an eye. It means monetary compensation and not lex talionis.November 6, 2016 7:59 pm at 7:59 pm #1191574
“BTW, even Halacha can be metaphoric. The classic example is an eye for an eye. It means monetary compensation and not lex talionis.”
The Chumash says “an eye for an eye.” The halacha is not metaphoric. The halacha says that it refers to money.
“You are contradicting yourself in the same sentence when you write “Everything really happened the way it is told, it just happened on a deeper metaphysical sense”. The way it is told is the literal meaning.”
I already explained what I meant. The Midrash says that Vashti had a tali. It does not say that she had a physical tail. What she had was a spiritual tail (I think that Medrash may actually be meant literally, but I am just using it as an example).November 6, 2016 9:40 pm at 9:40 pm #1191575
I don’t think you’re allowed to take something offline just like that. You need a mesorah. You need to follow our Torah greats, out Torah leaders. Deciding for yourself what’s to be taken literally and what’s not is quite dangerous. ??? ????? ?? ????? we don’t make our own inroads…
If you’re following a Mefareah, a Tanna, Amorah, Rishon or Achron etc. it’s authentic. Otherwise it’s dangerous…
If Chazal say she grew a tail.. she grew a tail. Yes.. one that even little I could see. With my own eyes. Unless there’s a Torah giant that says it’s metaphoric, it means as it says. (in this case, grada, I heard/saw it means something of an appendage grew on her) Physical.November 6, 2016 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm #1191576
LF- I didn’t make it up. The Torah Giants (I believe the Maharal, but I’m only 98% sure, so I didn’t bring the source) say it’s conceptual. However, it is possible that it is meant literally as well, as I stated.
These were my exact words:
“Vashti may or may not have had a physical tail, but she had some spiritual malady which can be called a “tail” and which a physical tail is a physical representation of.”
If you are referring to my second post, I see how it can perhaps be misunderstood if read by itself. However, it was in response to Avi’s question on my original post, and in that context it should be clear.November 8, 2016 12:09 am at 12:09 am #1191577
To clarify: According to the way I was taught to understand Agadata, the meaning is the conceptual meaning. They may be meant physically as well, but I was taught that the physical meaning is generally NOT the (main) point that the Midrash is trying to get across. Yes, of course we have to know what the Mefarshim on the Medrash say and we can not decide for ourselves which Medrashim are meant literally and which are not. And we have to make sure that we do not find ourselves in a position that we can not, chas v’shalom, accept the possibility of a Midrash’s literal interpretation, especially in those cases in which the Mefarshim do say that it is meant literally.
However, my point was that the conceptual meaning IS the main meaning that Chazal were trying to get across (even when it also is true in a physical sense). At least, that is how I learned Medrashim and that is my understanding.November 8, 2016 2:54 pm at 2:54 pm #1191578
1. OK. A halachic statement can be metaphoric.
2. The way it is told is not that she had a tail in a metaphoric sense
Froggie, Rambam says some very sharp things about people who think that the aggadatot a literal and believe the literal meanings. Do you also think that Moshe was ten amot (approx. five meters) tall and that Og was similarly large? “John Wass, a specialist in acromegalic gigantism at the University of Oxford, reckons it would be impressive to survive for long if you grew taller than 9ft.
First, high blood pressure in the legs, caused by the sheer volume of blood in the arteries, can burst blood vessels and cause varicose ulcers. An infection of just such an ulcer eventually killed Wadlow.
With modern antibiotics, ulcers are less of an issue now, and most people with acromegalic gigantism eventually die because of complications from heart problems. “Keeping the blood going round such an enormous circulation becomes a huge strain for the heart,” says Wass.” (from the Guardian).
Do you believe that Yehoshua literally made the Sun stand still (really the Earth as it is the one that rotates)? Everything not firmly connected to the bedrock would have been thrown off by the centrifugal force.November 8, 2016 3:34 pm at 3:34 pm #1191579
Lilmod: The problem I have with your explanation is that it requires a higher level than normal intelligence to understand that concept. Let’s face it we’re not all on that level, speaking for myself, and I have hard time understanding why the Torah, which is intended for all Jews, would present things that could be misinterpreted because someone doesn’t understand or grasp the deeper meaning.
I am sorry to say, this is along the same vein regarding some people who excel in gemara and others who either struggle or just don’t get it despite their effort. Despite some general impression that Jews in general are smart, not all of us are. WHen the Torah talks about the beauty of the imahos, the natural interpretation is physical beauty. If the TOrah meant middos, then why not state that they had beautiful middos?November 8, 2016 4:24 pm at 4:24 pm #1191580
Here comes another one.
1) I don’t really believe you literally exist. It’s just some metaphoric mass I’m communicating with.
2) The Rambam, of course, does not write that about ALL portions of Chazal. He does not write off the whole Torah just like that ?? ?????. You need to have sechel to know where and what. That’s what Mesorah and Rebbeim are all about. You don’t start on the scene armed with a (translated) sefer or two, and become the next ‘expert’ in Judaism. Chazal say one should be an Anav. Oh, that’s metaphoric. Not really!! A person should be a Yerai Shamiyom. No, it’s only meant metaphoric!! Go have fun!! Oh really? That’s where Mesorah, and a bit of sechel come in.
3)There are a lot that disagree with that Rambam. And it’s an old one. This is the famous Rambam everyone who chooses to deflect knows. There are lots of other Rambams as well.
4)A halachic statement can be metaphoric. Oh really? So I have been keeping Shabbos, Kosher etc. all for extra credit!! No – if doesn’t really mean ‘chayav’ – it’s only metaphoric!! (the only metaphoric aspect I found in Halacha, is that when it says ‘Reuven’ and ‘Shimon’, it could also mean me and you – oops I forgot you don’t really physically exist)
5) You don’t want to be believing in Mamarei Chazal because some John Wass has issues. Mind you, there’s a great Creator up there, in spite of some John Wass theories. And anyone else’s. Your’s too. He, in His wisdom, knows perfectly well how to handle his world. He knows exactly how to make all His creature stand and withstand. He, who brought the great giraffes into being, knows exactly how to create creatures of height.
6)And now he’s questioning another portion of Torah. The sun stood still. OK? That’s the sun that you (oops, there’s no one there), I and every one else observes. That bally up there. IT STOOD STILL!! It really did. Every one saw that miracle (besides you!). And lest you be a chochom in your eyes, what does “been thrown off by the centrifugal force” mean. You’re so busy doubting, questioning Divri Chazal, that you forgot to apply brains. If the world stood still and stopped rotating, what centrifugal force is there?!?
I’m writing as such, because this is the slippery slope our deflectors chose to go on… (and I’m not really attacking any real person)November 8, 2016 6:09 pm at 6:09 pm #1191581
I don’t know froggie whether you are intentionally misinterpreting what I am saying or I’m not making myself clear. Again, let me state, why would the TOrah use metaphors instead clearly stating what it meant, especially since there are enough individuals who may not get the metaphor. Can I state it any clearer without you concluding that somehow someone (me?) is questioning chazal? Your response sounds like a bullying technique, like you better believe everything you hear lest you be labeled a.. whatever..November 8, 2016 6:32 pm at 6:32 pm #1191582
Flatbusher, why does the torah write “let US make man”, it doesnt mean hashem had a partner, c’v, despite that being the simple meaning.November 8, 2016 7:17 pm at 7:17 pm #1191583
Flatbusher: My words were NOT directed at you. Actually I didn’t even see your post before starting to write mine.
In the case where Chazal do use metaphors, it’s (as I heard and learned) because Chazal chose to hide the real deeper meaning and disclose it to worthy students, ?? ??????, as a chain. The inner secrets of Torah was not meant for the common-folk. For them the base text should be studied. I think it’s a ????”? somewhere.
Sorry for the notion I was attacking you.November 8, 2016 8:45 pm at 8:45 pm #1191584
1. Flatbusher – My impression was that LF was arguing with Avi, not with you. I don’t think that you and LF were contradicting each other. You are both leaning towards the idea that midrashim are meant literally.
2. Avi- The Medrash says that Vashti had a tail. It does not say that this is meant in a physical sense. That is your interpretation. A tail can be taken to mean a physical tail or it can mean a spiritual tail. In order to know which it is, you must know how to understand Midrashim. In every day language, we use the word “tail” a certain way. The Midrash is not every day language, and we have to know how to understand Midrashim.
Anytime you read anything in any discipline, you have to first understand the language being use. If you want to read a math textbook, you need to first know what the various mathematical terms mean. A particular mathematical term may have a different meaning in math than it does in every day language. Even within every day language, different terms can have different meanings in different contexts.
Certainly when we are dealing with Torah and particularly with Midrashim, we have to know the language first. We have to first study what the Rishonim and Mefarshim on Midrashim, etc. tell us about how to understand Midrashim.November 8, 2016 8:51 pm at 8:51 pm #1191585
PS: – just so I should not be misunderstood again. I am NOT saying that Vashti did not have a physical tail. I do not know what the mefarshim say about it, and it could very well be that she did have one.
What I am saying (as I said previously) is that:
1. Some Midrashim are not meant in a physical sense at all.
2. I believe that all Midrashim (whether or not they are meant in a physcial sense) also have a conceptual meaning.
3. I think that I learned that the conceptual meaning is generally the main meaning. I do not know whether or not everyone says this. I also can’t 100% guarantee the accuracy of this statement, but that is my impression that that is how we are supposed to understand Midrashim.
4. I am fairly certain that according to the Maharal, Vashti’s tail was conceptual (and this is the main meaning according to him).November 8, 2016 8:55 pm at 8:55 pm #1191586
LF- I was surprised by your statement that there are those who disagree with the Rambam. I have spent a lot of time in many different places with different hashkafas and I have never before heard that anyone disagrees with this Rambam. Which does not mean that it is not the case – there are probably many things I have never heard of – I am just surprised. Do you know who says this and where?November 8, 2016 9:00 pm at 9:00 pm #1191587
“Do you believe that Yehoshua literally made the Sun stand still”
Unless you have a source that says otherwise, we are required to believe that it did, and it may be kefira to believe otherwise.
Even when it comes to Midrashim, I remember a teacher of mine pointing out once that even when it comes to those Midrashim that are not meant literally, if someone does not believe that they COULD have happened literally, that shows a problem with their Emunah.
When we don’t believe that something has a literal meaning, it is not because the literal meaning CAN’T be true, but ONLY because our Torah Greats tell us that it did not have a literal meaning. NONE of this should be about our personal beliefs but ONLY about what our Torah Giants tell us (as LF stated previously).November 8, 2016 9:32 pm at 9:32 pm #1191588
okay, so I found an article on Aish.com by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller in which she discusses Vashti’s tail. She says straight out that it is not meant literally – it is an allegory which she proceeds to explain. I saw another article that quotes the Maharal that it is not meant literally.
LF- do you have a source for the fact that it is in fact meant literally?November 8, 2016 9:34 pm at 9:34 pm #1191589
Again, the issue is NOT whether or not she could have had a tail, but whether or not she DID. Also, what is the Midrash coming to teach us?November 8, 2016 9:47 pm at 9:47 pm #1191590
For all those who want to have a better understanding of the topic, there is an article on Aish.com that I would recommend reading. You can find it by googling. It’s called “Is the Midrash literal?” by Rav Yitzchak Adlerstein.
He explains the topic pretty well, but it is important to remember that he is writing for a particular audience, so there were certain important points that were left out, namely:
1. That the issue is not that Midrashim CAN’T be literal; the question is whether or not they are, and I think it is possible that there can be a hashkafic problem with not being able to believe that they CAN be literal.
2. My understanding is that there are Midrashim that are meant literally.
I would also recommend reading the article on Vashti’s tail by Rebbetzin Heller on Aish.comNovember 8, 2016 9:50 pm at 9:50 pm #1191591
Sisrei Torah are hidden in aggadata. They are meant to be taught one-on-one with a Rebbe. See the beginning of the second perek of Chagigah ( ??? ?????? . . . ??? ????? ?????? ????? ??? ?????? ????? ??? ?? ?? ??? ??? ????? ?????)
It should also be pointed out that sometimes we might say that statement X is not meant to be taken literally because it is a figure of speech not a metaphor. E.g. hakeh es shinav.
And of course there are times where a story is literally true and is also meant as a metaphor.November 8, 2016 9:55 pm at 9:55 pm #1191592
I am not sure how you are understanding the word “midrash.” There are definitely statements brought down in midrashim that are meant entirely literally. These midrashim explain pshat in a pasuk. For example, think of the midrash about Avram being thrown into a furnace by Nimrod.November 8, 2016 9:58 pm at 9:58 pm #1191593
Lily: My point, again, is why would meforshim think other than literal meaning? What is wrong with the literal meaning that would inspire them to find a metaphorical one that in concept may be harder to grasp.November 8, 2016 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm #1191594
I am getting the impression that no one here has a good answer why there metaphorical interpretations.November 8, 2016 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm #1191595
Flatbusher – I realize that I didn’t respond to that question yet -there were too many other things to respond to, and I felt guilty taking up so much of the page as it was. I will try to respond later, b”n.November 8, 2016 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm #1191596
Benignuman – I may not be using the term “midrash” correctly. I think that what I meant was “Midrash aggada”. I believe that people often use the term Midrash this way even though it may not be accurate. I admit to not being 100% clear on the precise terminology of divrei Chazal.
I do think that the Midrash that you referred to however, does in fact fall under the same category to which I was referring. I’m not sure why you think otherwise.November 9, 2016 7:52 pm at 7:52 pm #1191597
Flatbusher – I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to respond to your question yet. The truth is that it is a bit hard for me to respond because I don’t really see the question. This is what Medrash is about. That is why it is called “drash” and not “pshat”. There are different levels of understanding the Torah, and this is the drashic one. Would you have the same question about understanding Kabala?
I’m not sure why you think that every Jew has to be able to understand every aspect of Torah. As a girl, I and 50% of the Jewish population don’t even learn Gemara at all. That doesn’t make me any less of a Jew and it doesn’t mean I have any less of a connection to Torah.
In this case, the issue is not even that every Jew can’t learn Medrash. It is just that you must learn it with mefarshim in order to understand it. I think that it may actually be much easier to learn it and understand it than it is to learn and understand Gemara. Also, with Gemara if you don’t get it precisely, then you have an incorrect non-Emesdik understanding, whereas, with Midrash, since it’s conceptual, by definition, you don’t have to have a precise understanding.
I am guessing that perhaps part of the reason that you find it hard to understand (why Medrash is written this way) is that you are a man and you are used to learning things that are meant literally and practically, whereas, as a girl, I am used to learning things that are meant conceptually (and may even find them more meaningful).
Torah contains everything. There are many levels to Torah – practical ones and more conceptual ones. In Olam Haba, the Torah we will learn will be on a much different level than the Torah we are learning now. It will be more conceptual than the Torah we are learning now. Right now, we learn Torah on a much more “physical” level than they way we will learn it l’asid lavoh. Perhaps, the idea of Midrash is to give us an opportunity to experience higher, more abstract levels to some extent even in this world.
But if it doesn’t speak to you, then you don’t have to spend so much time on that area of Torah. There are many areas of Torah, and each person can choose what he wishes to focus on.November 9, 2016 9:41 pm at 9:41 pm #1191598
After I wrote my above post, I reread your last posts and I think I understand your question a bit better. I think that your question may be based on the understanding of the term “metaphor” the way it is usually used. I think that usually when people speak of metaphors, they mean that they are using one word to mean something else (usually for poetic reasons). In that case, you have a valid question – why didn’t Chazal just use the word they mean?
However, that is now my understanding of how Midrashim work. That is the reason that I do not like to use the word “metaphor” as I stated above. The point is not that Chazal are using the term “tail” to mean something else. The point is that they are referring to the deeper, more conceptual meaning of the term “tail”. We live in a physical world and we are used to thinking in physical terms. But everything in the world really has a much deeper meaning.
When a child asks you a question about a topic that is difficult for a child to understand (for example, death or Neshamas or Olam Haba), you use terms and concepts that the child does not understand (such as death and Neshamas) and then you attempt to explain these terms and concepts on a level that the child can grasp to some extent.
Chazal are using the correct accurate word to describe Vashti’s malady (a tail). We then need the Mefarshim to try to bring it down to our level and explain what that means in a way that we can grasp to some extent.
The beauty of Midrash is that it gives us some idea of how much more there is to reality than what we ordinally perceive. It is our glimpse into Olam Haemes.
I hope that my explanation of Midrashim is accurate and that it helps to answer your question. Let me know what you think.November 9, 2016 9:49 pm at 9:49 pm #1191599
I think the answer that I and others have given explains why Chazal hid sisrei torah in divrei aggada that were not meant to be taken literally. There are 3 types of aggadata:
1. Aggadata meant to be taken entirely literally as a statements of pshat in posuk or historical fact.
2. Aggadata meant to be taken entirely metaphorically to teach hidden aspects of the Torah or to make a rhetorical point.
3. Aggadata that has both a simple literally true meaning and a deaper hidden meaning.
The only issue is how you know what kind of aggadata you are looking at. The first step is to look at the Rishonim (who had a kabalah of how to understand specific sugyas) and see how they interpret the aggada. The second step is to find a Rebbi that can teach you aggadata and how to tell if something is literal or not. You can then learn the various “tells” in an aggadic passage that give away whether it is meant literally or not. For example an aggadata that contradicts mefuresh pesukim is less likely to be literal (e.g. Yakov Avinu lo mes).November 9, 2016 9:56 pm at 9:56 pm #1191600
I knew you meant midrashei aggada and not all midrashim. I was responding that even things you might call midrashei aggada are sometimes meant literally to explain parts of the Torah. If you don’t like the Ur Kasdim example, another example would be the midrash that the 70th person to go down to Mitzrayim was Yocheved who was born in the gates. This is a midrash meant to explain the calculations of people in the pesukim. It isn’t about some deeper meaning about Yocheved or Levi.November 10, 2016 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm #1191601
Benignumam – I hear what you are saying. Thanks for clarifying. I don’t know enough about the topic to say that I definitely agree, but it definitely sounds like it makes sense.November 11, 2016 6:03 pm at 6:03 pm #1191602
Benigumam–you like others are missing my point. Not everyone who learns is at the level of looking at commentaries or asking a rabbi. Torah is not off limits to the partly learned or unlearned so your observations may work for those on a higher level. So given that for centuries there have been Jews who are not particularly learned, what would prevent those people from “taking it literally” and then questioning it.November 12, 2016 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm #1191603
flatbusher – either those people should not be learning midrash at all and should stick to something like Mishna or they should learn from a Rabbi/teacher. As DY pointed out, the Torah is supposed to be transmitted from teacher to student and one is not supposed to learn on his own.
Also, doesn’t it say somewhere that someone who is on the level of Chumash should learn Chumash, and someone who is on the level of Mishna should learn Mishna and only someone who is on the level of Gemara should learn Gemara?
In terms of people misunderstanding, that can happen with the Chumash as well. That is why we are supposed to learn from teachers.November 12, 2016 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm #1191604
Isn’t the tailbone the “etzem luz,” a seed of resurrection?
Maybe Vashti’s tail was a way to see that in her death would be the Jewish People’s resurrection.
That’s metaphorical, right?November 13, 2016 4:13 am at 4:13 am #1191605
Flatbusher – this discussion reminds me of a story I heard when I was a kid. I assume it’s from the Gemara.
Some of my details may be off, but the gist of the story is that someone approaches a Rav and tells him that he wants him to teach him Torah, but only the Torah Shebichtav since he doesn’t believe in the Oral Law.
So the Rav says “fine, the first thing we must start with is the Alef Beis.”
So he teaches him the first few letters.
The next day, the student comes back to continue the lesson.
The Rav points to an Alef and says, “this is a Beis.”
The student says, “no, it’s not, it’s an alef.”
The Rav asked, “How do you knwo it’s an Alef?”
“Because you told me so yesterday.”
“Ah, so you see, that we do need the Oral Tradition in order to learn anything. Without the Oral Tradition, you wouldn’t even know the Alef Beis and you would have no way to begin to learn the Written Torah”.
I think that story answers the question.November 13, 2016 6:06 am at 6:06 am #1191606
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Isn't the tailbone the "etzem luz," a seed of resurrection?
According to at least some opinions, it’s the bone at the top of the neck.
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