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A friend with a secular background is now becoming more connected with Judaism (yay!), and has told me she finds the aggadic stories that fill in the gaps in the torah to be particularly helpful. (She's already participating in a torah-study group with basic commentaries.) I'd like to find a suitable collection of aggadah for her -- in English and not written for children. Options I know about:

  • Tz'enah Ur'enah, which I previously asked a question about. (I'm looking for a sourced edition, but she probably doesn't care about that yet.) I've seen this book once but don't own it yet, so have only a vague sense of its contents.

  • The comments on that question mention MeAm Lo'ez, a source I don't know.

  • Sefer ha-Aggadah: while this is where I started, I think it may be a little overwhelming (I was also taking a talmud class; she's not). A lot of its contents aren't exactly stories anyway but summaries of other rabbinic discussions, and the story-telling is somewhat abbreviated (understandable; it's a huge book as it is!).

What is a good first aggadah collection for an adult learner?

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I know several people who have found Me'am Lo'ez (in various languages) quite beginner-friendly. –  WAF Sep 23 '13 at 16:19
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There is also an English translation of Eyn Yaakov, which is the one that I would personally recommend. –  Shimon bM Sep 24 '13 at 0:56
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@ShimonbM, this? –  Monica Cellio Sep 24 '13 at 2:19

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Here's Me'Am Lo'ez on Amazon. It was written a long time ago by a Rabbi Culi, but translated into English by the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (whose Torah translation I reference all the time). Kaplan taught himself Ladino to do this translation.

There's also The Midrash Says. (Not the "Little" Midrash Says, which is for kids.) Again, you have to know how to approach Aggada generally.

Those works are both tied to Torah stories; there's also Aggadic material in the Talmud that's not particularly connected to a given Torah story. However these are really best done with a lot of good commentary, which is rare in Hebrew let alone English. Maimonides has some rather harsh words for those who just translate raw Aggadic material for the masses without any explanation, leaving a lot of people going "this makes no sense and these rabbis are nuts." Yehuda Cahn has a few volumes called "Torah from Jerusalem" (I believe Ner Israel Rabbinical College has sent them around as a fundraiser), which is a collection of Aggada from the "Jerusalem" Talmud. (Which was actually compiled in a city that's over 50 miles away from Jerusalem, but that's another story...) I don't know much about it, though.

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There isn't very much Aggada in the yerushalmi. They mostly kept that in separate works. –  Double AA Sep 23 '13 at 17:55

Midrash Rabbah in English is a great source for beginners and scholars.

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Soncino published this, right? –  Adam Mosheh Sep 23 '13 at 17:32

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