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does one have to take a Midrash/Aggadah literally?

Sometimes I'll hear a Midrash and sometimes people might say "well, I don't if it meant to be taken literally." When do we know when Midrashim are speaking metaphorically or when they are telling a real story? Also, is there any source for those who say that some Midrashim shouldn't be taken literally?

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marked as duplicate by Shalom, msh210 Jan 5 '12 at 7:08

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I need to find it to be sure, but doesn't the Rambam criticize both those who take Midrashim literally and those who dismiss them outright? –  Seth J Jan 5 '12 at 3:27
I think the aforementioned More Nevuchim. See answers below. @SethJ –  Hacham Gabriel Jan 5 '12 at 3:28
I'm reading it. It's not so clear where the author is bringing the Rambam and where he is inserting his own ideas. And since it's anonymous ... –  Seth J Jan 5 '12 at 3:30
@SethJ Hakdama to More Nevuchim. Beli Neder I'll take a look at it later. –  Hacham Gabriel Jan 5 '12 at 3:33
Could've sworn it was Perush HaMishnayoth. –  Seth J Jan 5 '12 at 4:30

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The answer Here here which he says Rambam in the Moreh and the Ramchal are speaking metaphorically

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What does this mean? I can't parse this answer. –  msh210 Jan 5 '12 at 7:10

The Vilna Gaon (Even Shelema 8:26 citing his other works) says:

The Midrashim that seem to be nonsense (are not so). Within them is held all the secrets.

Just wanted to add this in.

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even that is not in contradistinction to the Rambam and the Ramchal –  simchastorah Jan 5 '12 at 3:13

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