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Are there rules that must be followed in learning Torah with commentaries? I mean, clearly, we can't put words in the mouth of the Torah that go against the basic tenets of the faith, but what rules are there with regards to how to interpret stories in the Torah?

I'm not looking for the 13 principles of Rabbi Yishmael, as those are rules for deriving halacha from the Torah -- I want to know the rules for the interpretation of stories found in the Torah.

  • It might be fruitful to pose this question to someone steeped in the Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva tradition. – Isaac Moses Dec 23 '14 at 20:32
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    Related: parshanut-theory ;-) – Shokhet Dec 23 '14 at 20:32
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    see the Maharatz Chayes' Mavo Hatalmmud, where he mentions a few of the rules for drash in stories (beginning with chapter 15 or so). As for pshat, whatever fits the words, as for remez, see R. Yaakov Emden in his comments to Avos end of ch. 3, and as for sod: it's a secret and I can't tell you :-) – הנער הזה Dec 23 '14 at 20:40
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    See the author's introduction to Haamek Davar. A bit long, but not difficult, and almost wholly devoted to answering this question (as applied not only to stories though). – msh210 Dec 24 '14 at 3:15
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    Such universal unanimous rules don't exist, which is why there is such a range of styles of biblical commentators. Its really just a question of where you draw the line in excluding more and more sorts of approaches. E.g. Rav Saadya Gaon, Rambam, Ibn Ezra, Ralbag, Ibn Kaspi, etc. – mevaqesh Nov 9 '17 at 3:32

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