Sometimes I'll hear a Midrash and sometimes people might say, "Well, I don't know if it's meant to be taken literally."

When do we know when Midrashim are speaking metaphorically or when they are telling a real story?


  • 1
    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
  • 1
    I don't think this is a duplicate. It asks how to categorize individual midrashim, whereas the other question asks about "midrash" as a seemingly monolithic class (though some of the answers draw distinctions between different types of midrashim). (Can I ping @msh210 here?) – Fred Jan 5 '15 at 21:57

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.

  • 1
    even that is not in contradistinction to the Rambam and the Ramchal – simchastorah Jan 5 '12 at 3:13
  • How does this answer the question? The question wasnt which Midrashim contain wisdom; it was which are literal. – mevaqesh May 22 '17 at 23:11

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