Biblical exegesis, or the interpretation (Drash) of the Torah, was part of the rabbinic tradition since the earliest literary period. What makes certain interpretations valid and others not? Why is interpretation needed altogether?
Although there is more than one way to translate the word "aggadah," the English translation "legend" is not an insufferable one. A rejection of this translation on the grounds that many aggadot are didactic (mussar) fails to grasp the subtle but significant difference between the terms "aggada" and "midrash." Not some, but every single midrash, without exception, is didactic (mussar); every midrash teaches something. The midrashim are specific aggadot that were carefully selected by the Sages, selected specifically for their didactic character, from a great body of ancient Aggada that includes "just legends," just ancient Jewish lore of dubious instructive value.
Re Moses's height, and why we should not take this midrash literally, it's worth taking at look at the analyses of Rabbi Saadya Gaon, Maimonides and Rabbi Yedayah Bedersi as expertly laid out in the following article, together with the articles in the same series: Midrash and Reality
Michael Chighel Jerusalem
July 29, 2016
Divine Inspiration vs. Midrash
According to a "pearl in the mouth" of the Baal Shem Tov, nothing in this blessed universe of ours escapes the guidance of divine providence. And so, in a sense, there are indeed many, many levels of divine inspiration across the gamut. A toddler enjoying a chocolate ice-cream cone on the sidewalk maneuvers his tongue, albeit unconsciously, with divine inspiration. At the same time, in another very significant sense, there is a crisp line of delineation between divine inspiration in the full sense of the word "prophecy" and all the lesser forms stretching from the rabbinic composition of midrashim down to the licking of ice-cream cones on sunny days. This significant line of delineation was established by the Men of the Great Assembly. (Their unique authority to draw this sharp line was itself based on the fact that they composed a liminal judiciary that included some the last prophets sitting among the first sages lacking prophetic gifts.)
Michael Chighel Jerusalem
July 28, 2016
Is Midrash Divinely inspired?
Dear Dr Michael Kigel, your episodes are phenomenal on every level, both the production as well as your breathtaking delivery. One word with regards to your back and forth with regards to the Midrash being Divinely-inspired. I think 2 important factors need to be taken into account. 1. There are many, many levels of prophecy starting from the greatest prophet-Moshe, all the way down to the lowest level of Divine-inspiration-example where one doesn't realize consciously that they are being a vehicle for Divine inspiration at that given time. 2. Torah is called-Gd's wisdom i.e the essential Divine inspiration, since Midrash is part of the Torah, is most certainly is Divinely inspired. For both of the aforementioned reasons taking into account the caliber of those Rabbis of the Midrash as well as the fact that the Midrash is one of the key books of the Oral Torah, it undoubtedly Divine inspiration, regardless of whether the Rabbis teaching it were aware of that fact or not.
Sholom Klein NY
July 21, 2016
As usual, this is excellent! Just two points in which I humbly disagree on. 1) According to mach'shava master Rav Moshe Shapiro, Aggada does NOT mean legend- this is a modern Hebrew misnomer (one out of many). Proof is in the fact that Aggada contains many words of mussar that are not stories. Aggada means the body that is ME'AGED- i.e. connects the logical part of Torah with our hearts & emotions. 2) From the Talmud (Shabbat) it sounds very much like Moshe (and other Levies!) WERE physically that tall. The fact that it is not hinted to in the text means almost nothing, as we know how written Torah works, right? And no comparison to Goliath, as there his height was the main part of the story. As opposed to completely fantastic Aggada (such as Raba bar bar Chana) this is not so unreal- people's heights etc. change with history. Very respectfully, Akiva
July 11, 2016
This is wonderful, for a year and a half now, I have been drawn to learn as much as possible about Torah, and the Tanakh, etc, you summarize, inform, make the complex comprehensible, and order the information so clearly, and also entertain, thank you so much for this.
James Pierce Colorado Springs
July 5, 2016
good morning, yes today i succeded in watching the 4th lesson and as you said the unsaid lessons go deeper so deep that the new can be seen are you a doctor in medicine? if so than i have a lot of new knowledge for you especially in the field of psychiatrie
and thank you again for these wonderful lessons
inge reisinger zwickau
June 29, 2016
Thank you for your fine comment. Although it was a bit cryptic, I did manage to read between the lines ....
When I have counted "1," there is an infinity that I have not yet counted. But what if I say "10"? There is still an infinity of uncounted numbers. But in this "10," there is implied: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.
There is more than one way "not to say something," in short. There is simply "not saying" because one does not have more to say, or one wants to keep something hidden, or one cannot say, etc.. But there are also many ways of "not saying" by way of strong implication. This is how a good joke works, for example. The Unsaid is precisely what makes it funny. It's also how a good teacher teaches: by giving room to the students to arrive at the Unsaid by themselves. As in irony, or any good joke, the power of the Unsaid Lesson thus sinks in much more deeply.
But perhaps I've already said too much ....
Michael Chighel Jerusalem
June 28, 2016
L'drash,... "Enquiring minds want to know." ...a part of my mind wants to quantify the 'answers' to some questions with other famous examples of creative writing. In college, some 'answers' would receive a "C" grade,... A passing grade? Yes, but keep your day job. On the other hand, if the L-RD gives the answer, it is an "A+" with a gold star! ...but, what about all the stuff He DIDN'T talk about? Did the Almighty forget something? N-O-T ! Listen to Adonenu! What He says is greater than our enquiries about what He DIDN'T say. So He didn't say it, must not be all that important...
ג׳ורג ווייטהמאייר קליפורניה
June 27, 2016
Dear Dr. I am glad you have taken us through what the Midrash is all about. the PRDS of understaning the Torah. My concern is how to get access to the Midrash and own a copy. Does the Zohar also provide these four elements to understanding the Torah? Thank you for your great teachings, its educative and entertaining. Please keep it up
Hannoch Afful Ghana
June 26, 2016
Someone commented on the closeness of the camera. I have no technical studio experience but it seems to my untrained mind that the production of this video class is perfection. I feel like he is speaking to me, a one-on-one transference of knowledge and wisdom.
Scroll Down is designed to initiate auditors into a first acquaintance with the Torah and with Jewish history and ideas. The video lessons are presented at an introductory level of Jewish Studies at college.