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The twelfth century Maimonides, for instance, wrote about three different attitudes in his day toward the Midrash (aggada).One group felt it an exercise in piety to simply accept everything in the works of the Talmudic rabbis, no matter how far-fetched.He is Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague, usually identified by the acronym Maharal.Take the Midrash which says that Vashti, the original queen in the Purim story, had a “tail." According to Maharal, we should not be slaves to the literal meaning of words.This creates a frightful dichotomy in our relationship with the Talmudic rabbis.Is it tenable to see them as incredibly profound when it comes to Jewish law, and incredibly naive and shallow when it comes to the philosophical topics treated in aggada?But rather than demonstrate their loyalty and tenacity, says Maimonides, these people cause much harm.Rather than praising us as a "wise and discerning people," the non-Jewish world reacts to this stance by thinking of us as "debased and foolish." And that they did.
He felt it would be easier to work on the assignment if he wrote his thoughts on paper.There is an alternative, one that accepts without reservation that every syllable of the rabbis resonates with brilliance and profundity.It approaches the words of the Talmudic rabbis with unqualified acceptance and regard.To properly understand these Midrashic passages, it is essential to have a learned and wise Torah teacher.If you tell me what city you're located in, I'll be happy to recommend someone that you could contact.In 1978, Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Peace Agreement, for which they received the Nobel Peace Prize.Much of the Arab world was outraged by Sadat's overtures toward Israel, and he was assassinated by a Muslim extremist in 1981.A friend of mine, Rabbi Leibel Benjaminson, described a self-improvement ("mussar") group in which he participated.In order to improve their sense of gratitude, everyone in the group was to select one thing that they do frequently - and then think for 10 minutes about its ramifications.In the infamous polemical debates of medieval times, a frequent target of the venom of both the Church and the Karaites was the philosophical aggada.Passage after difficult passage was paraded out to show the foolishness of the Jews in believing in this kind of stuff (or their arrogance in elevating Man above God, or assigning human properties to Him, or, at a later time, to demonstrate from the aggada itself that the Jews should really accept the Christian messiah.) Another approach, if it can be called that, is to assert that the rabbis were simply wrong about many things.