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TORAH SHEBALPEH------agadita literal?

The requirement to believe Torah MiSinai includes of course, not only Torah shebiksav but Torah shebaal peh. That includes Midrashim.

However, Agados can be interpreted not literally. Rav Saadia Gaon writes that an Agada can be interpreted as Mesholim in 4 instances: If it contradicts reality, reason, Gemara or Rabbinic tradition.

The Ramchal, in Maamar HaAgadta also writes that some Agados are mesholim. (See also Radak Shmuel I end of ch. 28)

Not accepting a Maamar Chazal is not acceptable - but to reinterpret it in a way that makes it more palatable is OK.

Theoretically, that is. In order to interpret any Chazal - Halachah or Agada - you need to benefit of Rabbinic tradition throughout the ages. If the Rishonim considered an Agada literal, you would be fooling yourself by saying that it is not. They surely had the same measure of common sense as we do, and so if they were not bothered by the credulity of a specific statement of Chazal, we should not be, either.

Another thing: There are people who refuse to accept what seems to them incredulity even in Pesukim of the torah and they therefore interpret them allegorically. That is Apikorsus for sure. And to say that well, I will trust the Torah and the prophets but not Chazal makes no sense. Chazal didn’t make up stories. But rather the Agada was said, sometimes, as a Moshol. But to know when it is a Moshol and when it is literal is as difficult as properly interpreting any Torah passage.

And here, too, the same logic that tells you the literal meaning of the Chazal is hard to accept also tells you in even stronger tones, that we are nothing but foolish to reject the opinions of our Rishonim, who understood both reality and Chazal much better than we do.

I have a better idea, then, for such cases, when you come across such a Chazal. Invoke Rav Chaim Brisker's dictums: "Fun a kasha shtarbt mir nisht". You won’t die from a [an unanswered] question. And "S'iz besser to bleiben by a kasha vi tzu zogen a krumer teretz" - "It’s better to remain with a question than to have the wrong answer."

So say simply, "I don’t understand this Chazal." You don’t have to interpret it any way at all. Maybe one day you’ll see something in a sefer or someone will explain it. In the meantime, there is no need to jump to conclusions that our predecessors did not reach.

The Ramban at his Barcelona dispute disagreed with you. He said there is no requirement to believe midrashim.

The Ramban doesn't say that. Please see the footnote by Rabbi Chavel on that statement (p.308).

First, there is the Shvil Hazahav who points out that what the Ramban said to the Chirstains in response to their problems with a Medrash does not mean he really believed it. He was answering Chrstians - not Jews. What's he suppsoed to say - that the Medrash that says Moshiach was born in the days of the Bais Hamikdash is actually explained al pi kabbalah? The Ramban had to lie to them in order to protect himself and Judaism, which is quite understandable. Such statements will not be found in the Ramban's serious writings.

Secondly, all the Ramban says, in context of his statement comparing it to sermons as opposed to Talmudic authority, is that it doesn't have to be meant literally - like he says he doesn't believe that Moshiach was born 2000 years ago. But that doesn't mean the Medrash is just baloney - all it means, is that the Medrash isn't to be taken literally, as we all know already.

(Chavel quotes a statement from Rabeinu Avrohom ben HaRambam which, to tell you the truth, I dont see as having any relevence to the Ramban, but then he quotes a SHiltei Hagiborim in Avodah Zorah (which NREE613 submitted but his post didnt get up yet) that says, too, that Medrashim dont mean to explain the literal pshat in the posuk but rather to add taamei hamikrah, drush, and remozim. Fine. But none of that means they're not true, just that their intent is not literal. And that we have seen already from Rav Saadia).

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