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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 ...
Alex's user avatar
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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 ...
Alex's user avatar
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11 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 ...
Alex's user avatar
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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 ...
Rav Yaakov Beasley's user avatar
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 ...
Turk Hill's user avatar
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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"...
Meir's user avatar
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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 ...
DanF's user avatar
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5 votes

Can Angels "fall"?

Yehuda Shirpin points out multiple sources where angels did indeed make a mistake - Chagigah 15a where Metatron was whipped Rashi (Bereishis 19:22) where the Angels destroying Sedom are handicapped ...
NJM's user avatar
  • 14.3k
5 votes

Is the story of Gan Eden Literally true?

Ralbag writes that the serpent is allegorical but Adam and Eve are real. His proof is that it would be very improper to say that a creature originally had the faculty of speech, but was then given a ...
Alex's user avatar
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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־...
DonielF's user avatar
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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 ...
Dov's user avatar
  • 33.5k
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 ...
Alex's user avatar
  • 49.5k
4 votes

Does the story of R. Bena'a in the Cave of Macpelah imply that G-d has a physical form?

Depending on what you mean by "imply", yes, the Talmudic passage does imply that God has a physical form/image. The simple reading of the passage is that God has an image/form. If not for the fact ...
Alex's user avatar
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4 votes

Are there any respected rabbis who say that the Avot did not follow all of the laws of the Torah before it was given?

Rama in teshuvos yud. Says only Avraham kept the Torah not rest of Avos. The Rambam malachim implies that the Avos didn't keep the whole Torah, only a select few mitzvos. Which is difficult since the ...
Shlomy's user avatar
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3 votes

Do we know of any animals that behave this way? (Bava Basra 16a)

Dr. Slifkin writes (The Torah Encyclopedia of The Animal Kingdom p. 234) writes: Taken at face value, these descriptions do not concur with our knowledge of what actually happens; deer are observed ...
Oliver's user avatar
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3 votes

Did Og exist or was he a metaphor?

R. David Tzvi Hoffman in his commentary to Deuteronomy 3:11 gives a large size for Og based on the bedstead described there. However, he then quotes the opinion of Jean Leclerc (?) that Og ...
Alex's user avatar
  • 49.5k
3 votes

How was the world created through the even shesiya?

Art Scroll Talmud Yomah 54b1 note 9 explains that the even shesiyay is symbolic of the purpose of the world and the ideal on which it is founded (Meiri). Notes 10, 12, and 25 cite Rashi, that it was ...
sabbahillel's user avatar
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3 votes

Sources for seeing the Exodus as metaphorical rather than historical

In K'tav Hitnatzlut, an apologetic letter Rabbi Yeda'ayah Ha'pnini wrote as a reply to a cherem from the Rashbah on his philosophical views, he only makes a passing mention of Yetziat Mitzrayim, but ...
Harel13's user avatar
  • 25.8k
3 votes

The snake slept with Chavah?

There are two possible issues here: 1) Did Chava commit adultery against Adam by having relations with the snake? 2) Did Chava commit bestiality by having relations with the snake? Now of course ...
David Kenner's user avatar
  • 10.8k
3 votes

The Stones of Yaakov

The Meiri suggests a non-literal interpretation of the Midrash in his introduction to Beit HaBehira: וכן דרכי התורה יודיעו הטוב והרע והיודעיו ישוב בנקל מחטאיו או ישמור עצמו מתחלתו שלא לעשותם...שאם ...
mevaqesh's user avatar
  • 35.7k
3 votes

Age of Universe

I know of a number of approaches to evolution vs creation in Jewish thought. As far as I can tell, it seems that an insistence on the Torah giving literal history with it being roughly 5,769 years ...
Micha Berger's user avatar
  • 9,668
3 votes

Biblical description of the firmament vs. round earth in the Zohar

There is no contradiction; they talk about two points of view. The litteral meaning of the Bible's verses, doesn't talk about a physical/scientific reality. But rather from an everyday-life point of ...
yO_'s user avatar
  • 1,505
3 votes

Migdal Bavel during the times of the Gemara?

Indeed, some rabbinic travelers identified the tower: R. Benjamin of Tudela ומשם ארבעה מילין למגדל שבנו דור הפלגה והוא בנוי מלבנים הנקראים אגור ואורך יסודו כשני מילין וברחבו כארבעי' אמה וארכו כמו ...
Alex's user avatar
  • 49.5k
2 votes

Does one have to take a Midrash/Aggadah literally?

I am surprised that the Vilna Gaon hasn't been quoted. In the name of covering all bases, then: ואע"פ כו'. הרמב"ם וכ"כ בפי' המשנה לפ"ד דעבודת כוכבים אבל כל הבאים אחריו חלקו עליו ...
Rabbi Kaii's user avatar
  • 10.6k
2 votes

Plants before the Sun in the Order of Creation

On the initial premise of plants requiring the sun for photosynthesis, and it certainly is the best light for developing plants, this site reports how scientists developed plants WITHOUT anything but ...
NJM's user avatar
  • 14.3k
2 votes

What are the circumstances of the fulfillment of Ezekiel's vision of the temple?

See Did the Jews Disregard Ezekiel's Prophecy of the Temple and also Why Haven't the Jews Rebuilt the Temple Yet?. Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin in these two articles states that the Second Temple was not ...
Clifford Durousseau's user avatar
2 votes

Why Pinchas = Eliyahu?

Ralbag discusses this in several places. As one example, in his commentary to I Kings Chapter Seventeen he writes: ולפי שמצאנו זה האורך הנפלא מן החיים לאליהו והנה מצאנוהו ג"כ לפנחס כמו שזכרנו ...
Alex's user avatar
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2 votes

Is the story of Gan Eden Literally true?

R. Azariah de Rossi quotes Philo's allegorical explanation of the Garden of Eden, and severely castigates him for denying the literal truth of the story: Meohr Einayim, Imrei Binah 1:5 The third ...
Alex's user avatar
  • 49.5k
2 votes

Origin of אין משיבין על ההגדה

This expression has various permutations: אין סומכין, אין משיבין, אין שואלין and על הדרש, על האגדה, etc. It goes back to at least the Geonim. For example, Rav Hai Gaon, cited by the Sefer HaEshkol (...
mevaqesh's user avatar
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2 votes

Does וְאַל-תִּטֹּשׁ, תּוֹרַת אִמֶּךָ invalidate the Mitzvot-Exemption-for-Women: וללמדו תורה אבל לא האם and ותלמוד תורה and פריה ורביה?

Mishlei is a book of משלים, parables or figures. The pshat of a figure cannot be its literal meaning or it would not be a parable, it would be a non-figurative statement. Since the whole premise of ...
Dov F's user avatar
  • 6,413

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