Questions tagged [literalism]

Questions regarding the literal interpretation of Biblical or Rabbinic texts.

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Was the "three days and three nights" in the prophetic book of Jonah a complete span of 72 hours?

Was the "three days and three nights" in the prophetic book of Jonah a complete span of 72 hours? Is this "three days and three nights" to be taken literally or close to it or ...
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Stories of Eliyahu HaNavi in Gemara

Throughout the Gemara there are many stories in which Eliyahu HaNavi appears in one form or another and is in conversation with Chazal. Have any commentators or scholars provided a systematic approach ...
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Did Shem's physical body (or) Shem's teachings remain alive 600 years?

Did Shem's physical body (or) Shem's teachings remain alive 600 years? What is the correct understanding of וַֽיְחִי־שֵׁ֗ם אַֽחֲרֵי֙ הֽוֹלִיד֣וֹ אֶת־אַרְפַּכְשָׁ֔ד חֲמֵ֥שׁ מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָ֑ה וַיּ֥וֹלֶד ...
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Are there any respected rabbis who say that the Avot did not follow all of the laws of the Torah before it was given?

I am disturbed by the oft-repeated claim that Abraham, Issac, and Jacob followed all the details of Torah before it was given to us at Sinai. I suspect that it is a case of later generations ...
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How Should I Understand Gemaras Where People Quote Pesukim that Were not yet Written at the Time the Story Takes Place?

In various places in Talmud Bavli, there are stories told that take place during the times of Torah or Neviim where people in the story quote verses from prophetic books that did not yet exist at the ...
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4 votes
1 answer
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Migdal Bavel during the times of the Gemara?

In the Gemara Sanhedrin 109a, it states R. Yonatan said: A third of the tower was burnt, a third sunk, and a third is still standing. Rav said: The atmosphere of the tower causes forgetfulness. ...
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Is there a midrash that says all of the water in the world split at the time of the splitting of the reed sea?

Is there a midrash that states that all the bodies of water split during the splitting of the reed sea? If yes, I would think that such an event would be recorded in some secular history book? Are ...
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1 answer
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Jeremiah 29:6 - encouragement of intermarriage? [closed]

It is written to take wives and husbands, and then in the next verse to think of the welfare of the city where the Jews reside. Is it possible to see from here an encouragement of mixed marriage? I ...
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Allegory vs. Literalism in Judaism and How to Tell the Difference [duplicate]

In the following article, the author makes a compelling argument for why Judaism doesn't always approach scripture literally. However, although there are many examples throughout the Bible for the use ...
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Did the Avos light the menorah? [duplicate]

The Gemara Yoma 28b says that Avraham Avinu kept the whole Torah including Eruv Tavshilin. We see that Avraham kept the Rabbinic laws. Does this mean he lit the Menorah as well? אמר (רב) ואיתימא רב ...
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Copper mining in ancient Israel

The Torah promises [successful] copper mining in Israel's mountains: אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר ... וּמֵהֲרָרֶיהָ תַּחְצֹב נְחֹשֶׁת׃ a land ... from whose hills you can mine copper. (Deut 8.9) I tried to ...
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3 votes
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Where is Gehenom located?

Where is Gehenom located? After Korach and his followers got swallowed up by the Earth, they fell right outside the gates of Gehenom, and are (presumably) till this day yelling משה אמת ותורתו אמת (...
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Rashi on Adam and on the Snake cunningness

The snake was able to speak from its creation (Likutei Sichos (10) p. 13) so why is man singled out as being capable of speech (דעה ודבור acc. to Rashi) if the snake already had it?
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Why did Moses have a ten-cubit-long axe?

The Talmud in Berachot 54b relates the following tale: אבן שבקש עוג מלך הבשן לזרוק על ישראל גמרא גמירי לה אמר מחנה ישראל כמה הוי תלתא פרסי איזיל ואיעקר טורא בר תלתא פרסי ואישדי עלייהו ואיקטלינהו אזל ...
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Deceased individuals appearing after death

Inspired by this answer: Are there any documented stories of deceased people appearing after death to live people? [I am not looking for stories where someone dead appeared in a dream] The Gemara in ...
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Biblical description of the firmament vs. round earth in the Zohar

Zohar Vaikra 10a [quotes the Book or Rabbi Hamnunab Sabah]: וּבְסִפְרָא דְּרַב הַמְנוּנָא סָבָא, פָּרִישׁ יַתִּיר, דְּהָא כָּל יִשׁוּבָא מִתְגַּלְגְּלָא בְּעִגוּלָא כַּכַּדּוּר, אִלֵּין לְתַתָּא, ...
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What causes a person to remain in this world as a ghost?

A baraita on Berakhot 18b relates a story where a pious man sleeps in a cemetery and hears two spirits talking. One of them suggests they wander the world, and the other says she can't because she ...
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Do Angels (Still) Keep the Torah?

Both the pious pre-Talmudic Book of Jubilees1 and the Talmudic Gemara2 agree that Angels kept the Torah in Heaven long before it was finally revealed through Moses to the people of Israel.3 My ...
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Age of Universe [duplicate]

What is the most plausible way to reconcile the traditional dating of the universe (now 5779) with science's understanding that the universe is billions of years old?
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1 answer
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Where is there a rabbinic recipe for milk and honey?

Where is there a rabbinic recipe for milk and honey? Shir HaShirim 4:11 "honey and milk are under your tongue" דְּבַ֤שׁ וְחָלָב֙ תַּ֣חַת לְשׁוֹנֵ֔ךְ From this passage, which to me seems to suggest a ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Should we interpret the Torah literally or allegorically?

I had a question regarding how we should interpret the Torah. Should we interpret it literally, or if not how far can we abstract its teachings, or should we favour a mix of both approaches? I have ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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Why does HaShem say, "I rebuke you Satan" in Zech 3:1-2.?

If Satan is obedient to G-d and works under his authority, why did HaShem reprimand him in Zechariah 3:1-2?
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4 votes
1 answer
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Do we know of any animals that behave this way? (Bava Basra 16a)

The Gemara in Bava Basra 16a explains certain pesukim in Sefer Iyov to be referring to a conversation between Hashem and Iyov in which Hashem rebukes Iyov for denying or complaining about Hashem's ...
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Did Og exist or was he a metaphor?

Did Og exist or was he a metaphor? I am asking this because we did not find any giant bones in the fossil record as to date. It also doesn’t seem to make sense to me since Judaism is the religion of ...
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3 votes
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Did manna really fall from heaven according to Rambam or Gersonides?

What does the Rambam or Gersonides, who were both rationalists, have to say on the miracle of manna falling from heaven? Did they believe such an event took place?
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Does the story of R. Bena'a in the Cave of Macpelah imply that G-d has a physical form?

On Bava Basra 58a it says (from Sefaria): כי מטא למערתא דאדם הראשון יצתה בת קול ואמרה נסתכלת בדמות דיוקני בדיוקני עצמה אל תסתכל הא בעינא לציוני מערתא כמדת החיצונה כך מדת הפנימית ולמ"ד שני בתים זו ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Can Angels "fall"?

According to this answer, the Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer (among other works) references an idea that angels "fell" -- were somehow separated from their holiness and "became" human. This answer states ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Moshe's Weapon Against Og

Is there anything particularly special about the weapon Moshe used against Og? The Gemara Brachos (54b) records משה כמה הוה עשר אמות שקיל נרגא בר עשר אמין שוור עשר אמין ומחייה בקרסוליה וקטליה. ...
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Does וְאַל-תִּטֹּשׁ, תּוֹרַת אִמֶּךָ invalidate the Mitzvot-Exemption-for-Women: וללמדו תורה אבל לא האם and ותלמוד תורה and פריה ורביה?

How can Shlomo write in Mishlei 1:8b, וְאַל-תִּטֹּשׁ, תּוֹרַת אִמֶּךָ, "don't abandon the Torah of your mother" if the Mitzvah of teaching one's sons - וללמדו תורה אבל לא האם - and learning Torah -...
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How tall was Chava?

Rashi here brings a Midrash that Adam Harishon's height was from earth until the Heavens. Based on the Midrash, was Chava that tall as well? Otherwise it would have been quite difficult to be married ...
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1 vote
2 answers
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Origin of אין משיבין על ההגדה

What is the original source for the phrase: "אין משיבין על ההגדה" (or: "אין משיבין באגדה", "אין משיבין על דברי אגדה" etc. - which I believe is generally used to mean that it is inappropriate to derive ...
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2 answers
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Is there any sect of Judaism that interprets both the written Torah and oral Torah literally [closed]

Is there any sect of Judaism that interprets both the written Torah and oral Torah literally?
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7 votes
1 answer
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The snake slept with Chavah?

Chazal say (Avodah Zarah 22b) that the snake had relations with Chavah. Does the Gemara elsewhere ever fault her explicitly for this? If not, why not, as she was already commanded in it (Sanhedrin 58a,...
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2 votes
0 answers
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The moon in the future [duplicate]

We say in Kiddush Levanah, יהי רצון מלפניך...למלאת פגימת הלבנה ולא יהיה בה שום מיעוט May it be Your will...to fill the reduction of the moon, and that there should be no diminishment in it. ...
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5 votes
0 answers
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Understanding the Zohar's Anthropomorphism of God

Unlike the Rambam's now-conventional ideas against anthropomorphizing God, there are kabbalistic texts studied today which seem to espouse completely antithetical ideas. I am familiar with the ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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The Stones of Yaakov

the gemora in Chulin 91b comments on the pasuk in parsha vayetzei Rabbi Yitzchak said: This tells us that all the stones gathered themselves together into one place and each one said: 'Upon me ...
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3 votes
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Is the number of Jews killed during the Babylonian exile according to Gittin literally true?

Since the only authoritative sources of information, in this case, seem to be the Jewish Scriptures, can you help understand them? ... in this valley Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard killed ...
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3 answers
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Is the story of Gan Eden Literally true?

Could it be that the story of Gan Eden, Adam, Hava and the Snake is an allegory meant to teach us lessons but not a recording of an actual event?
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4 votes
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Must we consider the gemara's conclusions literally true?

I have in mind gemaras such as Yoma 54b, which says, according to the interpretation of one of my rabbis, that the Even haShetiya -- the stone found under what is now the Dome of the Rock -- was the ...
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1 vote
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How literally are we supposed to read the book of Bereshit/Genesis?

Especially with regard to the family of Abraham. Is there any extra-Biblical historical evidence of a paternal link between the Ishmaelite, Edomite and Keturan tribes and the 12 tribes of Israel? Is ...
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1 answer
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How was the world created through the even shesiya?

In Yoma 54, it says the world was created with the Even Shesiya (primordial rock). Is this to be taken literally and if yes, do we have details into this process?
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8 votes
5 answers
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What is the firmament?

In Genesis 1:6-8 the firmament and its creation are mentioned for the first time: And God said: 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.' ...
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12 votes
4 answers
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Sources for seeing the Exodus as metaphorical rather than historical

Recently, someone who presents himself as a religious member of Jewish society told me that he feels it doesn't matter if the story of the Exodus actually happened, and can be viewed as a nice ...
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12 votes
6 answers
824 views

Drawing my own conclusions from the Torah

I've always made my own inferences and interpretations from the Torah. Whether it's from a story, a Perashah or something from the Tanach. But I don't know how good/permissible that is. A problem ...
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0 votes
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Adam and Eve as parable or literal

Was the story of Adam and Eve meant as a parable for the dawn of civilization after human species evolved for millennia or is Adam and Eve to be literally read as the first humans to ever be created.
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6 votes
1 answer
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Does Jewish tradition hold the book of Jonah to be depicting historical events?

I recently heard some scholars attempt to date Jonah as a later (and hence fictional) work. Is it correct to assume that traditional Judaism considers Jonah to be a historical and accurate account of ...
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7 votes
0 answers
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Which Rishonim viewed maaseh bereishit as an allegory?

I have often heard that many rishonim were comfortable with the idea that at least the first week of creation could be read allegorically, not literally. What are the specific sources that support ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Is the Leviatan real?

I've heard that he is a giant fish that will be eaten by the tzadikim when the Messiah arrives. But I've also read that it may be just a metaphor. If it is real, what about the Behemoth and the Ziz? ...
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1 vote
2 answers
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Does it matter if one takes Torah stories literally/physically?

For example, angels cried into Yitzchak's eyes when he was about to be sacrificed. However, it is usually agreed this is to be taken literally (i.e. angels did exist and their tears did fall into his ...
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3 votes
1 answer
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Are there any sources that translate the term "a land flowing with milk and honey", as being literal rather than a metaphor?

The first usage that I can find that refers to Israel as a "land flowing with milk and honey" in Exodus 3:8: וָאֵרֵ֞ד לְהַצִּיל֣וֹ ׀ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֗יִם וּֽלְהַעֲלֹתוֹ֮ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַהִוא֒ אֶל־...
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