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?
There is an alternative, one that accepts without reservation that every syllable of the rabbis resonates with brilliance and profundity.
Many of our rabbis, though, would not concur with such an approach.
The twelfth century Maimonides, for instance, wrote about three different attitudes in his day toward the Midrash (aggada).
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.
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.
It assumes that every epigram, every passage, every remark flows with the Divine wisdom that is vouchsafed to those who immerse themselves in Torah.
One thing that bothers me, however, are the Midrashic texts which describe things in a very far-out way. You have touched on a very fundamental topic in Jewish thought.
I recently saw something about Moses being 10 feet tall. Writing in Jewish Action magazine, Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein explains: There are a number of different ways of dealing with passages that seem to elude our grasp. If that's what it says, then that's what it means – and let the chips fall where they may.
One figure stands out as a master of this approach.
He is Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague, usually identified by the acronym Maharal.
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