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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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22 votes
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What literally was the mark of Cain?

Here is a sampling of the interpretations offered by the commentators (all taken from commentaries to the verse in question): Rashi God inscribed (part of) His name on Cain's forehead: חקק לו אות ...
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20 votes
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How could Yocheved be conceived

I just discovered that many Rishonim address this question. For example: Tosafos to Taanis 11a s.v. אסור לאדם אסור לאדם לשמש מטתו בשני רעבון - ואם תאמר הרי יוכבד נולדה בין החומות ואותו העת עת רעב היה ...
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19 votes
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Why the reverse order of "Zachor Veshamor" in "Lecha Dodi"?

The beginning of each stanza spells the name of the author שלמה הלוי. I surmise that the author wanted to spell his name and therefore reversed the order.
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19 votes

What literally was the mark of Cain?

Midrash, Bereishit Rabbah 22:12 וַיָּשֶׂם ה' לְקַיִן אוֹת, רַבִּי יְהוּדָה וְרַבִּי נְחֶמְיָה. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אָמַר הִזְרִיחַ לוֹ גַּלְגַּל חַמָּה, אָמַר רַבִּי נְחֶמְיָה לְאוֹתוֹ רָשָׁע הָיָה ...
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17 votes

Did the brothers know about the snakes and scorpions in the pit?

The Maharal (Gur Aryeh ibid) explains that the Gemara which says that a person will surely die in a pit full of snakes and scorpions is only when it is full of snakes and scorpions, but this pit just ...
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17 votes

The claim that Midrash Genesis Rabbah 35 refers to a virgin birth of the messiah?

This midrash does not exist in Bereishit Rabba. Indeed, the verse referenced by the translation "Behold the man whose name is Zemach [branch], and he shall branch up out of his place" is ...
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15 votes

Did Avraham Avinu really have a daughter named Bakol?

Bava Batra (16b) records a dispute (found earlier in Tosefta Kiddushin (5:17 in R. Lieberman's edition) regarding the interpretation of Genesis (24:1) which states that God blessed Abraham "bakol" (...
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13 votes
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Was the Mishkan Built on Shabbat?

This question is addressed by several Acharonim. R. Pinchas Horowitz says that during the 7 days of inauguration Moshe did not erect the Mishkan by himself. Since multiple people did the act together ...
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13 votes
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Who First Knew of the Messiah

The first individual to know of the Messiah was Adam HaRishon. This is stated explicitly in Sanhedrin 38b in the name of Reish Lakish, by Yose ben Chalafta in Seder Olam Rabbah 30 and Rabbi Yehuda bar ...
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13 votes
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Are there any Midrashim where Yitzchak was actually sacrificed by Avraham?

A collection of four medrashim can be seen here along with their translations and an explanation. Pirkay DeRabbi Eliezer, ch. 31. ר' יהודה אמר: כיון שהגיע החרב על צוארו, פרחה ויצאה נשמתו של יצחק. ...
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12 votes
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How did Rivka get married when she was three years old?

The following I remember from a Sicha of the Lubavitcher Rebbe: Rashi at the end of Parshas VaYeira feels the need to explain why the "news" Abraham received about his family tree is written right ...
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11 votes
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source for a story: man who went to milk a lion

The story is found in מדרש שוחר טוב to Tehillim (39:2). (Menachem's comment [now deleted]) This is probably the earliest source. It is also quoted in the אורחות צדיקים (in שער כ"ה, שער לשון הרע) [on ...
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11 votes
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What age were Leah and Rachel when they got married

The Seder Olam Rabba (ed. Leiner) states (ch. 2) that they were twins and were both 22 when they got married: נמצאו רחל ולאה נשאו בנות כ"ב כ"ב, שהיו תאומות Thus, Rachel and Leah were both ...
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11 votes

If God removed prophecy from the gentiles because of Bilaam's wickedness, how come that Obadiah who was a gentile was a prophet?

Ovadiah the prophet, at the time of his prophecy, was Jewish, not a gentile. He had converted. See Sanhedrin 39b: מר אפרים מקשאה תלמידו של רבי מאיר משום רבי מאיר עובדיה גר אדומי היה והיינו דאמרי ...
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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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Midrash About God Repeating Words of Torah

This is found in Tanna Devei Eliyahu Rabba, beginning of chapter 18 and Yalkut Shamoni Eicha 1034. The Tanna Devei Eliyahu version is: מאי שפכי כמים לבך נוכח פני ה' מכאן אמרו כל ת"ח שיושב וקורא ...
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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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10 votes

What is the source that says David wrote Psalms / Tehillim while hiding from Saul

Tehillim 54 לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ בִּנְגִינֹ֗ת מַשְׂכִּ֥יל לְדָוִֽד׃ For the leader; with instrumental music. A maskil of David, בְּב֣וֹא הַ֭זִּיפִים וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ לְשָׁא֑וּל הֲלֹ֥א דָ֝וִ֗ד מִסְתַּתֵּ֥ר ...
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10 votes
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Midrash on the sale of the Machpelah Cave

You're perhaps referring to the Sefer Hayashar on Chayei Sarah: ויכתוב אברהם את הדבר הזה בספר ויחתום, ויעד ארבעה עדים. ואלה שמות העדים: אמיגל בן אבישוע החתי אליחורף בן אשונה החוי, עדון בן אחירע הגרדי,...
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9 votes

Did Adam have intercourse with animals?

There is disagreement about this among the commentators. Here is a quote from the Artscroll Rashi Chumash Bereishis 2:23 footnote 4: Divrei Dovid...says that this prohibition [to have relations ...
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9 votes

Dead sea in the midrashim

According to the Midrash Tanchuma (Lech Lecha #8) the Dead Sea apparently became salty due to the sins of those involved in the war of the four kings against the five kings. הוא ים המלח שבעונם נעשה ...
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9 votes

Did Abraham and Noah know of each other?

The Kad Ha'Kemach by Rabeinu Bachyei ben Asher, implies that Avraham saw Noach (see footnote ג). It is very possible he met him later on on life since they were from different locations. As was ...
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9 votes

Rav S.R. Hirsch and fairy tales

You may want to check this reference to vol 3, p.263 on regard chanuka: Teach the jewish chanuka, don't feed the child with fairy tales. It does not beguile childhood and youth with the notions ...
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9 votes
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Would someone please translate this midrash on the death of Moshe?

Here's the first version (some of the punctuation is based on Eisenstein's edition) (some question marks in-between for words I wasn't sure how to translate): “This is none other than the house of ...
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9 votes
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Where can I find the original Hebrew text for this quote?

That'd be a reference to Lamentations Rabba to chapter 1 verse 14. Here's the Hebrew of your quote from Sefaria's edition: אָמַר אִם אֲנִי מַגְלֶה אוֹתָם דֶּרֶךְ מִדְבָּר, הֵם מֵתִים בָּרָעָב, אֶלָּא ...
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8 votes

What's a good beginner-friendly collection of aggadah in English?

I think Legends of the Jews by Prof. Louis Ginzberg is the classic work of aggadah. It follows the order of the Torah, and appears in 7 volumes. The first 4 volumes are the actual aggadot, the next ...
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8 votes

Explanations from חז״ל for Noah's ark?

The Ramban deals with this and points out that it must be a miracle. A WHOLE NEW WORLD and Ramban on the Torah: The Ark’s Size both show the explanation of this. God’s Instructions to Noah outline ...
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8 votes
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Who killed Nimrod?

The Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer does indeed state that Esav killed Nimrod (ed. Higger ch. 31). This is also found in Yalkut Shimoni (Parashat Tol'dot 110) and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (Parashat Tol'dot 25:27)...
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8 votes

Source wanted: Talmudic story about the power of teshuvah

I think you're referring to the story of R. Elazar ben Dodaya, which can be found in Avodah Zarah 17a. To summarize the story, it was said about a man named Elazar ben Dodaya that there was not a ...
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