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(Inspired by a comment on this question.)

What characteristics define Aggadah and Midrash, and how are they related?

If the distinction is merely that Aggadah is a more general category of "legend" and Midrash is Aggadah as taught by a certain category of Aggadists (Tannaim/Amoraim), what is the practical difference in terms of how one approaches them from a theological or philosophical (or even historical) perspective?

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Please change this from "what were these pseudonymous Internet people thinking at this time" to be explicitly about whatever semantic or conceptual distinction you're interested in learning more about. –  Isaac Moses Mar 29 '12 at 19:27
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there's still nothing in the body explaining what your question is. –  Isaac Moses Mar 29 '12 at 19:33
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@IsaacMoses, what do you think now? –  Seth J Mar 29 '12 at 19:55
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Adam, does this work for you? @IsaacMoses? –  Seth J Mar 29 '12 at 21:21
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I'm putting this as a comment since I don't have sources offhand- I'm hoping someone with a background will run with it: Midrash is the extrapolation of concepts from pesukim. There are (afaik) two general types of midrash- halacha and aggada. Midrashei halacha can be learned through midos (formulas)- for example the 13 midos of Rabbi Yishmael, though there are other schools that expand the list. Eventually, the midrashim went through revisions until they became simply the halachos of the mishna and tosefta without the midrashic formulas. –  YDK Mar 29 '12 at 23:05

2 Answers 2

They are definitely not the same thing. Aggaditah is the general terminology for narrative, non-halachic sections of Rabbinic literature. Midrash is a genre of Rabbinic literature composed of homiletic sermons based on p'sukim. Much of these become the Aggadic sections that are so often associated with Midrash. Not all Midrashim are Aggadic though. Sifrei and Sifra are halachic Midrash which often show up in halachic literature. In short, Midrash describes a type of sefer, Aggaditah describes a type of content. The trend to use the two terms interchangeably is inaccurate.

Wikipedia article on Aggadah
Wikipedia article on Midrash

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The word aggadah is to be understood as simply meaning "relating". Midrash is "to seek, study, inquire" that which is being related, the aggadah.

If you wish, aggadah is the p'shat (simple) narrative, which is followed by the midrash. Midrashot Rabbah are texts that contain both parts, while in the gemara only the former is often present. In both cases there may be remez included, but the sod is never included, being kabbalistic and therefore found elsewhere.

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