38 votes

Is belief in Midrashim optional?

There is dispute among the commentators as to whether or not Ramban meant that seriously or just said it for the debate. R. Yaakov Kamanetzky z"l writes (Emet L'yaakov Genesis 44:18) that Ramban just ...
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31 votes
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Does Judaism have a concept of holy text literalism?

Either what was posted on that forum is about half-correct, or your understanding of what was said was about half-correct. Traditional Judaism does believe that "[H]oly texts are the revealed word of ...
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25 votes

Does Judaism have a concept of holy text literalism?

I agree with the answer Daniel gave, but I would clarify things slightly differently. 1) Orthodox Judaism believes that the Torah is the literal Word of G-d. This is one of the Thirteen Principles ...
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19 votes

Was Rachav A Harlot (Prostitute)?

Targum Yonassan followed by Rashi (2:1) explain that she was an inkeeper (that "zona" in this context relates to the word "mazon" for bread). Radak explains that she was actually a prostitute and that ...
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17 votes

Was Rachav A Harlot (Prostitute)?

The Talmud Bavli (Zevachim 116b, top) states quite plainly that she was a harlot: דאמר מר: אין לך כל שר ונגיד שלא בא על רחב הזונה. אמרו: בת י' שנים היתה כשיצאו ישראל ממצרים, וזנתה [כל] מ' שנה שהיו ...
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14 votes
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Should we interpret the Torah literally or allegorically?

Almost everyone will agree that neither extreme is correct. That is to say, that almost no one will interpret every word of the Torah literally, and almost no one will interpret every word of the ...
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13 votes
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Did manna really fall from heaven according to Rambam or Gersonides?

Both Maimonides and Gersonides believed that manna fell from heaven. Maimonides discusses the verse which describes the manna as raining down from the doors of heaven and asserts that the "doors ...
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11 votes
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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?

Kesuvos 111b: (Art Scroll 11b5) has the following: Rami bar Yechezkel traveled to Bnai Brak. He saw certain goats that were eating under the fig trees, and [fig] honey dripped from the figs ...
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11 votes
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What is the firmament?

The notion of a semi-spherical shell around the world, that the sun travels under during the day, and then back around and over at night is not necessarily the early Israelite understanding of ...
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  • 8,670
10 votes

Is belief in Midrashim optional?

R' Tzvi Berkowitz told me that R' Yaakov Kaminetzky told him that the Ramban was only saying that for the purposes of the debate, in order to avoid addressing a question to which they would not accept ...
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10 votes
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What causes a person to remain in this world as a ghost?

R. Ezekiel Landau discusses this aspect of the tale in his commentary there. He explains that the spirit cannot leave the body until the body decomposes, and that is why we conduct burials in a manner ...
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9 votes

Is it heresy to read the Bible literally?

the quote about what Rav Saadia Gaon believed regarding literal vs. non-literal interpretation is correct but incomplete. After he writes "it is a well known fact that every statement found in the ...
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8 votes

Avot keeping Mitzvot

The Mishna (Kiddushin 4:14) and Gemara (Yoma 28b) states that Avraham kept all of the mitzvos, even those established by the Rabbis such as Eiruvei Tavshilin (or Techumin). This is mentioned in ...
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7 votes

Is belief in Midrashim optional?

Early Rabbinic Views on Understanding Aggadah/Midrash Rav Sherira Gaon 906-1006, head of the Pumbedita Academy Sefer Haeshcol, Hilkhot Sefer Torah, p. 60a Those points brought out from scriptural ...
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7 votes

Is it heresy to read the Bible literally?

I wrote to Rabbi Sacks and he said that he believes the story of Adam and Eve to be true, but that he did not have the time to explain it to Richard Dawkins in the debate. He, therefore, suggested ...
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7 votes

How Should I Understand Gemaras Where People Quote Pesukim that Were not yet Written at the Time the Story Takes Place?

Tosafos (Gittin 68a, ד"ה וכתיב) addresses this very point, and refers to that episode in Bava Basra: אף על פי שזה הפסוק לא נכתב עדיין היו יודעין כמו ארור עושה מלאכת ה' רמיה בפ' לא יחפור (ב"...
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  • 7,337
6 votes

Rashi and Corporealism

Rashi to Exodus (2:5): על יד היאור. אצל היאור, כמו ראו חלקת יואב אל ידי (שמואל-ב יד, ל.), והוא לשון יד ממש, שיד האדם סמוכה לו. ורבותינו דרשו, (סוטה יב:) הולכות לשון מיתה, כמו הנה אנכי הולך למות, (...
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6 votes
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Drawing my own conclusions from the Torah

There are some areas where drawing your own conclusions is harmless, and some where it can be a big problem. Drawing your own conclusions when it will impact halacha is extremely dangerous, because ...
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6 votes

Is there any sect of Judaism that interprets both the written Torah and oral Torah literally

Your question presents contradictory ideas. Anyone that accepts the validity of the Oral law has inherently acknowledged that he is not translating the Written Law literally. That's the whole reason ...
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5 votes

Was Rachav A Harlot (Prostitute)?

There is a basic idea that whenever we have an opportunity to say good about a good person, we will. Likewise whenever there is the opportunity to say bad about a bed person we will. Rachav was a nice ...
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  • 32.2k
5 votes

Rashi and Corporealism

Rashi in Bereishis 1:26 mentions the Pasuk in Melachim that refers to right and left of Hashem. Rashi continues, Is there a right and left of Hashem? Only it means those saying merits, which is ...
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  • 4,603
5 votes
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Does Jewish tradition hold the book of Jonah to be depicting historical events?

Mikra (the TaNaCh), as opposed to Aggadaic Medrashim and Talmudic passages, are not allegories. Even when the verse is hinting a lesson, we learn that אין מקרא יוצא מידי פשוטו, the verse does not ...
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  • 4,603
5 votes

What is the firmament?

There are different opinions regarding the nature of the rakia. One opinion is that of R. Avraham Ibn Ezra who writes in his commentary to Genesis (1:6) (Shitta acheret) as follows: והנכון בעיני, כי ...
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5 votes
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Why does HaShem say, "I rebuke you Satan" in Zech 3:1-2.?

Read the Pesukim in context, with an assist from Rashi, and all will become clear. וַיַּרְאֵ֗נִי אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙ הַכֹּהֵ֣ן הַגָּד֔וֹל עֹמֵ֕ד לִפְנֵ֖י מַלְאַ֣ךְ יְהוָ֑ה וְהַשָּׂטָ֛ן עֹמֵ֥ד עַל־...
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5 votes
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Did Shem's physical body (or) Shem's teachings remain alive 600 years?

There are a number of sources that point to the fact that Shem did indeed live a long life and also lived to see some of the personalities that you mention above. Firstly by way of introduction, the ...
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  • 19.9k
4 votes

Plants before the Sun in the Order of Creation

Ralbag has two explanations of the order of creation that can address this. The first explanation is that everything existed at once. The sequence delineated in Genesis is just the order in which they ...
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  • 47.8k
4 votes

Why did the angels object to the Torah being given to Moshe – what did the angels think?

I recently saw a mashal that applies. I was unable to find it so this is from memory. A rabbi had been in a major community for many years and was getting old. He wanted to go to a smaller community ...
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4 votes
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Is the Leviatan real?

In general, rabbinic commentators (e.g. Maimonides, Maharal, Ramchal, Vilna Gaon) have been strongly opposed to the literal interpretation of medrash, and these midrashim are no exception.* To quote ...
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  • 17.2k
4 votes

Drawing my own conclusions from the Torah

Welcome aboard @Gabe12. It's a good and understandable question. In the beginning of learning Torah, like any other subject, it is important to get the data correct. That means quieting your own ...
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  • 12.3k
4 votes

Drawing my own conclusions from the Torah

Scripture, meaning Tanakh, is only Cliff Notes (or Spark Notes, if you prefer) to a larger body of knowledge. The "Oral Torah". Yes, one plane of understanding it is the simple meaning, and anyone can ...
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