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Aggadic Midrash

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Chapter Summary

In aggadic midrash, the rabbis chose to speak through Scripture, rather than giving independent free standing formulations of their thoughts, as they did in the Mishna. This chapter reports that books of aggada circulated in Amoraic times, and provides testimony as to the contents of one of these books. It savours this testimony as it comes from someone who vigorously opposed the writing of aggada. The chapter advances the position that aggadic midrash was, in its day, the main avenue of rabbinic reflection and speculation. One would have to agree with Yitzhak Heinemann's view of the serious ends but playful means employed by the aggada. Yet even Heinemann's magnum opus leaves us dazzled by the variety of the aggada and in a quandary over the way one should understand the mythical language of the rabbis. The chapter discusses the enormous popularity that aggada enjoyed.

Keywords: Aggadic Midrash; Heinemann magnum opus; mishna



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