In Masechet Soferim 16 (and I believe in the Yerushalmi too) it is written: א"ר יהושע ב"ל הדא אגדתא כתוב בה הכותבה אין לו חלק לעולם הבא והדורשה מתברך והשומעה אינו מקבל שכר Whoever writes down Aggada has no shade in Olam Haba, whoever expounds on it is cursed, and whoever listens to it gets no reward.

How are we to interpret this? Does this imply that all study of Aggada is worthless?

  • והדורשה מתברך - how did you translate that, "cursed"?
    – MichoelR
    Jul 28, 2023 at 3:38
  • @MichoelR it’s a euphemism I believe. Going based off of Sefaria Jul 28, 2023 at 3:53
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    Maybe it's said along similar lines to דברים שבעל-פה אי אתה רשאי לאומרם בכתב (matters that [were taught] orally you may not say them in writing; Gitin 60b).
    – Tamir Evan
    Jul 28, 2023 at 8:07
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    @RabbiKaii Sifrei Devarim 49
    – Tamir Evan
    Jul 28, 2023 at 8:11
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    The medrash rabbah is replete with aggadah from Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi.
    – The GRAPKE
    Jul 31, 2023 at 4:21

3 Answers 3


I'm not sure what to make of that that statement; however there are many Gemaros and Midrashim which talk about the great importance of learning Aggadeta.

The Sifre (Ekev), talks about how Aggadah brings to recognition of G-d; Avos Derebi Nassan (1,29) declares that "anyone who doesn't know Midrash, hasn't "Tasted" fear of G-d; and the Gemara in Bava Kama (60B) records a fascinating story which indicates that Halacha and Aggadah are equally important faucets of Torah.

Furthermore, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Meggilah, 4,1) states that Aggadah stems from Sinai.

Even if the Talmud Yerushalmi you mentioned before is to be taken literally, it seems to be a Shitas Yochid; rejected by all the other Tannaim and Ammoraim who stress the importance of learning Aggadatah.

I recall that Rav Hirsch in his essay about Aggadata (somewhere in his selected writings), addresses this Talmud Yerushalmi, but i forgot how he explains it.


Nachalas Yakov there explains most of the statement. He brings from the Karban Ha'eida that the reason why it's improper to write it is because (in those times) it was only permitted to write down the laws of the Oral Torah because we're afraid people will do an issur, but by Aggadata there was no reason to permit it.

The one who listens to it has no reward is referring to someone who listens to it from someone who darshins it from a written source. Since he learned it from an aveira he gets no reward.

He doesn't explain the reason for being excommunicated (that's how he learns blessed, a euphemism for excommunication).

But the Radvaz (t'shuvos 232) explains "one who darshins it" to mean one who reveals the kabbalistic aspect of aggadata which shouldn't be done in public, rather from mouth to mouth.

  • Thanks for the very direct answer +1. I was just thinking about it, and I need to know: does Nachalas Yakov justify why there's no fear of negative consequences resulting from loss of Agada accuracy/quality? Many consider Agada literally the other half of Torah to Law, and of at least equal importance. Some argue that advocating for its neglect is tantamount to heresy
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Aug 2, 2023 at 18:31
  • @RabbiKaii im not sure why it would be equal, especially according to the radvaz and rav chaim vital that hold that aggadata is really kabbalah hidden away. And that study wasn't meant for the masses. Yet the laws were meant for the masses.
    – Shlomy
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:47
  • Aggadata isnt just Kabbalah it is the body of drash, i.e. the body of hashkafa to the Torah to go with the halacha, right?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:58
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    @RabbiKaii as i was thinking about it, i think maybe the statement can mean, when it says one who writes it down, is reffering to one who writes down the aggadic hidden message behind it. After all the gemara wrote down aggadata, which acc to this statement should be forbidden.
    – Shlomy
    Aug 2, 2023 at 20:17

Agaddah is only worthwhile with it's accompanying interpretation. Otherwise they are just silly stories about rabbis bowing to defeat giant frogs.

Imagine a bitter medicine that it coated with sugar. Eating only the sugar without the medicine is harmful because it rots your teeth and pancreas and doesn't give you the benefit of the medecine.

  • I got downvoted. There must be frogs about. Jul 28, 2023 at 19:55
  • Didn’t downvote, but if it’s like you say why wouldn’t the Gemara just say that? Saying “learning aggada earns no reward” is pretty straight forward and doesn’t leave room to interpret it as “learning Aggada without its deeper meaning.” Also how can learning Aggada with no meaning have no reward? Is it not still the torah of our sages? Jul 28, 2023 at 22:31
  • No. It is not Torah. It may be a tool to help you learn some Torah of Sages but until you realize the lesson you haven't learned Torah. As to why the sages didn't make that statement longer, it is because they A) like to be pithy. B) Like to give statements to make you stop and think. Jul 29, 2023 at 0:46
  • From Aruch Hashulchan 47:8 צריך לברך בין למקרא, בין למשנה, בין לגמרא, בין למדרש, והיינו מדרש המקראות במכילתא וספרא וספרי (רש''י ברכות יא ב). ודע שיש להסתפק בלומד דברי אגדה, כמדרש רבה או חכמת הקבלה, אם מחויב לברך ברכת התורה. דהנה בגמרא שם יש פלוגתא: דרב הונא אמר דרק למקרא צריך לברך, ורבי יוחנן אמר דגם למשנה צריך לברך (גירסת הרי''ף). ופירשו תלמידי רבינו יונה: משום דהמשנה מפרשת טעמי המצות. ורבי אלעזר אמר דגם לגמרא צריך לברך, משום שהתלמוד מפרש עיקרי הפסוקים (תלמידי רבינו יונה). והמסקנא דגם למדרש צריך לברך, משום שבמדרש לומד גם כן מהפוסקים מקל וחומר, ומגזירה שווה, ומהמידות שהתורה נדרשת בהם (שם).
    – user6591
    Jul 31, 2023 at 0:13
  • Continued: ולפי זה משמע שאין החיוב רק בדברים שמפרשים דיני התורה. אבל דברי אגדה או קבלה, שאין עיקרם לדינים והלכות – אינם צריכים ברכה. אבל אם נאמר הטעם משום שהכל ניתנה למשה מסיני (הגר''ז), או משום דכולהו תורה מקרי (לבוש) – פשיטא שגם אגדה וקבלה ניתנה למשה מסיני ומקרו ''תורה''. אבל מלשון תלמידי רבינו יונה לא משמע כן, וצריך עיון לדינא.
    – user6591
    Jul 31, 2023 at 0:14

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