Midrash Aggadah

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Made it into Evergreen going slow. Some timid Coloradans ahead. Black Mountain Drive/Brook Forest was icy, but Jeffco public works had put down a lot of sand, enough to make it safe to drive normal speeds.

To the Dandelion. A nice little breakfast place, quiet. Not as tasty as the Wildflower, which is in the touristy part of Evergreen, but the Wildflower is small and the dining area noisy. The Dandelion makes the usual suspects when it comes to breakfast and does them well, but with little imagination.

We discussed Chayei Sarah and how to approach it. I gave Alan a commentary by Zornberg’s mentor (whose name I can’t recall and Alan has her book). Forgot that commentaries are really behind the scenes props for clergy. They’re not secret, but few lay folk ever look at them. They usually require some background knowledge and they get technical pretty fast. Alan, who is a bright guy, admitted that he swam upstream while reading it.

We agreed to go with Zornberg’s approach first (see the post The Abyss Stares Back) and if we run out of conversation, Alan will hop in with what he’s learned. Gonna do a bit on exegesis and hermeneutics from the Christian perspective to introduce the Talmudic approach, midrash aggadah*. Midrash aggadah have a playful quality, making leaps, filling in gaps in the Torah narrative, and displaying a rigorous internal logic while suggesting many different ways of looking at a text.

Here’s a summary of a famous example, Abraham Smashing the Idols:

Abram tried to convince his father, Terach, of the folly of idol worship. One day, when Abram was left alone to mind the store, he took a hammer and smashed all of the idols except the largest one. He placed the hammer in the hand of the largest idol. When his father returned and asked what happened, Abram said, “The idols got into a fight, and the big one smashed all the other ones.” His father said, “Don’t be ridiculous. These idols have no life or power. They can’t do anything.” Abram replied, “Then why do you worship them?” Judaism 101

* Midrash falls into two categories.When the subject is law and religious practice ( ), it is called midrash halacha. Midrash aggadah, on the other hand, interprets biblical narrative, exploring questions of ethics or theology, or creating homilies and parables based on the text. (Aggadah means”telling”; any midrash which is not halakhic falls into this category.)

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