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Questions tagged [literalism]

Questions regarding the literal interpretation of Biblical or Rabbinic texts.

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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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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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2answers
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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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1answer
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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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2answers
163 views

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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1answer
169 views

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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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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3answers
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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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2answers
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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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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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1answer
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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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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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Belief in the Exodus

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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6answers
778 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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1answer
249 views

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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1answer
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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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0answers
163 views

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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1answer
199 views

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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2answers
113 views

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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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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Why Pinchas = Eliyahu?

The Midrash says that Pinchas and Eliyahu are the same person. According to most of the Rishonim, I believe, this (as any other Midrash) should not be taken literally. Which are some of the non-...
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Midrashic non-literalism in the Taz

The Taz writes in his Divrei David (Genesis 1:23) regarding a Midrash: ואין לנו להפקיע דברי חכמים מפשטן "We should not remove words of the Sages from their simple interpretations." Does the Taz ...
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1answer
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How might one reconcile a non-literal reading of the timespan of creation with literal 7th day Shabbat observance? [duplicate]

I am wondering, in the light of discussions regarding the possibility for non-literal readings of Bereishit, how we are to then understand a quite literal observation of Shabbat on the 7th day. To ...
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Why do we bring a sin offering on rosh chodesh, given the midrash about changing the size of the moon?

We bring a sin offering as a 'kapara' for hashem for decreasing the size of the moon. The story goes that the moon said we cant have two 'kings' the same size so I want to be bigger. Hashem says no ...
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2answers
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How literal is the concept of the Throne of Glory?

I am aware of two other questions asked on this site related to the Throne of Glory, but I have a somewhat different question. The baal haturim, in his commentary to the torah at Bamidbar 2:2-3 ...
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2answers
172 views

hints from verses that 6 days of creation is not literal

Are there hints in the verses of Genesis that the 6 "days" of creation are not literal, i.e. not 24 hour periods but rather some kind of "era".
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Does Judaism have a concept of holy text literalism?

Apologies if this is an ignorant, foolish or offensive question. I am not Jewish, and am asking to satisfy my curiosity. Some time ago, on a political forum online, I was discussing religious ...
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Is belief in Midrashim optional?

The Ramban in Sefer Havikuach (page 32, the bottom of the first column ) asserts with regard to Midrash: מי שיאמין בו טוב. ומי שלא יאמין בו לא יזיק ‏ Whoever believes in it, good, he who ...
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3answers
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Was Rachav A Harlot (Prostitute)?

It specifically says several times in Yehoshua chapter 2 and chapter 6 that Rachav was a Harlot " וְאֶת רָחָב הַזּוֹנָה". Why is it that it is accepted that she wasn't a harlot but an innkeeper and ...
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1answer
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Chronology of Shofetim

Where can I find a diagram or timeline showing the chronology of the Shofetim according to different commentators? For example Rashi on Shofetim 11:26, Ralbag nearby and Abarbanel on Shmuel 1 chapter ...
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Praying for the moon to become bigger

During Kiddush Levanah, a brief prayer is recited, that God "fill the defect of the moon, that there should be no more diminution thereof, and that the moon's light be like the sun's light and like ...
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How do we know that we can interpret the torah non-literally beyond what is found in the talmud?

I have often heard "drashot" or homiletic interpretations of many verses in the torah. How do we know that the torah can be explained in a non-literal way beyond the non-literal explanations found in ...
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Age of Universe and Shabbat

If one believes that our world is billions of years old, i.e. accepting the idea of each day in Sheshis Imei Berieshit (the Six Days of Creation) as eras and not literal days, then how does one ...
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Rashi and Corporealism

Shemos 7:4- וְלֹא-יִשְׁמַע אֲלֵכֶם פַּרְעֹה, וְנָתַתִּי אֶת-יָדִי בְּמִצְרָיִם; וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶת-צִבְאֹתַי אֶת-עַמִּי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בִּשְׁפָטִים, גְּדֹלִים There, Rashi comments-...
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What are the circumstances of the fulfillment of Ezekiel's vision of the temple?

Ezekiel (Yechezkel) 40 begins a section about a vision of a temple with priests and sacrifices and feasts. The detailed descriptions of this temple seem to indicate that a literal (as opposed to ...
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4answers
431 views

Plants before the Sun in the Order of Creation

Why does plant life precede the Sun in the order of creation given that plants need the Sun to do photosynthesis?
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3answers
736 views

Is there any precedent to read the first 11 chapters of Genesis as metaphorical?

I believe this will be related to a similar question about a statement by Rabbi Sacks. Rabbi Jeremy Wieder said in a lecture titled Non Literal Interpretation of Scripture in Jewish Tradition (and ...
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4answers
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Is it heresy to read the Bible literally?

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in this debate with Richard Dawkins says: Rabbis in the 10th century laid down the following principle: If a biblical narrative is incompatible with established scientific fact,...
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2answers
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Is the midrash about the moon and sun being the same size intended literally?

The Rambam in his introduction to perek Chelek discusses midrashic literalist, and classifies different approaches of different groups to midrash. He writes: You should know that as to [...
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4answers
971 views

Did people ever place actual physical stumbling blocks before the blind?

I know that the prohibition against placing stumbling blocks before the blind has been understood to be a prohibition against misleading or causing people to sin, but the simple meaning of the text is ...
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2answers
231 views

Non-literal Midrashim

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 ...
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7answers
3k views

Is there “Torah Inerrancy”?

Is there Torah inerrancy? In other words, does the Torah contain no factual errors: the Noah flood did occur, Garden of Eden did exist, Adam and Eve did live there and were subsequently expelled, etc ...