AGGADAH or HAGGADAH
AGGADAH or HAGGADAH (Heb. הַגָּדָה, אַגָּדָה; "narrative"), one of the two primary components of rabbinic tradition, the other being halakhah, usually translated as "Jewish Law" (see: Kadushin, The Rabbinic Mind, 59f.). The term aggadah itself is notoriously difficult to define, and it has become the custom among scholars to define aggadah by means of negation – as the non-halakhic component of rabbinic tradition (Fraenkel, Midrash and Aggadah, 20). While fair enough, one must be careful in adopting this approach not to define the parallel term halakhah too narrowly. The halakhah of the rabbinic tradition can be described in part as a system of laws, but not infrequently it also has the character of a personal moral and spiritual discipline. It can be expressed in the form of concrete judgments about specific cases, but also in rules involving varying degrees of abstraction and generality. Talmudic tradition often uses stories to express a halakhah. This is obviously so when the story reports an explicit legal precedent. But it may also be true when a story merely describes the behavior of a notable sage, if it is understood that this behavior is worthy of imitation. Despite the varied forms in which the halakhah is expressed, the rules, judgments and precedents included in talmudic literature all have one thing in common: they all categorize specific forms of behavior and well defined areas of experience in line with formal dichotomies, such as "permissible" or "forbidden," "pure" or "impure," "holy" and "profane," etc. Aggadah, on the other hand, investigates and interprets the meaning, the values, and the ideas which underlie the specific distinctions which govern religious life. In line with the accepted tendency to define aggadah as "that which is not halakhah," one could say that the relation between aggadah and halakhah is similar to the relation between theory and practice, between idea and application, and, in the area of ethics, between character and behavior.
[Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)]
The aggadah is first and foremost the creation of Palestinian Jewry, from the time of the Second Temple to the end of the talmudic period. Throughout that time, Palestine was the meeting ground of different religions and cultures as well as the field of violent political clashes. Its Jewry, confronted incessantly by bitter struggles with a variety of foes from within and without, evolved in the aggadah an ingenious instrument for deriving guidance from the Torah, for educating the people, strengthening their faith, and bolstering their pride and courage. Though much aggadic material has been preserved in the Babylonian Talmud, it, too, is predominantly of Palestinian origin, as are all the older Midrashim. The contribution of Babylonian Jewry in the field of aggadah, although often reworking earlier Palestinian aggadic themes, often achieves new levels of imagination and originality, frequently striking, engaging, and earthy. Sometimes a "mere" linguistic clarification can be the occasion for developing and elaborating a fragmentary tradition in new and unexpected directions (see: Friedman, BT Bava Meẓi'a VI, Commentary, 148).
According to Bacher the word haggadah is derived from the expression higgid (or maggid) ha-katuv, "Scripture related [or relates]," with which an aggadic discourse often opened. However, the aggadah did not always derive from biblical exegesis, but often arose independently of it. The word aggadah
Content and Form
The aggadah comprehends a great variety of forms and content. It includes narrative, legends, doctrines, admonitions to ethical conduct and good behavior, words of encouragement and comfort, and expressions of hope for future redemption. Its forms and modes of expression are as rich and colorful as its content. Parables and allegories, metaphors and terse maxims; lyrics, dirges, and prayers, biting satire and fierce polemic, idyllic tales and tense dramatic dialogues, hyperboles and plays on words, permutations of letters, calculations of their arithmetical values (gematria) or their employment as initials of other words (notarikon) – all are found in the aggadah. "Whatever the imagination can invent is found in the aggadah, with one exception: 'mockery and frivolity'" (Zunz), the purpose always being to teach man the ways of God. The aggadah's variegated contents and multiplicity of forms can be accounted for by a consideration of its sources and its manner of growth.
The Folkloristic Aggadah
Although the aggadic literature as known is an expression of the ideas and feelings of the tannaim and amoraim, in many instances it merely adapted ancient material to its needs. Ready at hand were myths dating back to biblical times, popular legends of national heroes – patriarchs, prophets, and kings – and fanciful stories, some the product of the Jewish imagination and "wisdom," and others remnants of the folklore treasury of nearby and faraway peoples, which had become judaized in the course of time. The sages, however, were interested in establishing a connection between the current, popular aggadah and the Bible. Many aggadot seem to stem solely from Bible exegesis or a penetrating examination of the text; yet modern scholarship has been able to determine the place and time of their origin and so to separate the original layers from the later additions of the sages. The study of the epic literature of the ancient Orient, the apocrypha, and the legends of other peoples has helped greatly in this regard, as the following instances show. "R. Judah stated in the name of *Rav: 'When the Holy One blessed be He sought to build the world, He said to the Prince of the Sea "Open your mouth and swallow all the waters in the world." He said to Him "Master of the World, it is enough that I should retain my own." Immediately He struck him with his foot and he died, as it is said: "He breaks the sea with His power; with His understanding He smites through *Rahab"'" (BB 74b). Similar statements (Ginzberg, Legends Jews, 5 (1925), 17–18, 26–27) are merely the traditional myths of the revolt of the sea which were preserved in popular memory, and which parallel, fundamentally, the Mesopotamian myth of the war of the god creator against Tiamat, and Canaanite legends recorded in the Ugaritic inscriptions (Cassuto, in: Keneset, 8 (1943), 141–2).
It is related in a baraita that when an accused adulteress was being summoned to confess, she was reminded of biblical parallels for confession, as when not only *Judah but *Reuben too, "confessed and were not ashamed" (Sot. 7b; Sif. Deut. 35:5). With regard to Reuben this is not evident from the biblical narrative itself, but in the Talmud it is derived from the text by homiletical exegesis, by comparing it with the passage, "May Reuben live and not die.… And this he said for Judah" (Deut. 33:6–7; Sot. ibid.). The details of the story, however, appear in the apocryphal Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (Reu. 3). The influence of universal folklore on the aggadah is especially evident in the proverbs and fables. Late talmudic and post-talmudic sources ascribe to *Hillel the knowledge of the "conversations of trees and clouds, and of the beasts and animals" (Sof. 16:9), an element common to the folklore of all peoples. Another relatively late tradition (Suk. 28a) states that his pupil, Johanan b. Zakkai, knew the parables of laundrymen and fox fables. The amora, Johanan, related that R. Meir had known 300 fox fables. On the other hand, there is no confirmation from tannaitic sources for this claim, and it seems that the real "hero" of this tradition is the early amora, Bar Kappara, whose talents in this field may have been transferred to the earlier figure R. Meir by the aggadah (see: Friedman, The Talmudic Parable, 28). For his own part Johanan states that he himself knew only three such fables (concerning which he quotes only three biblical verses): "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Ezek. 18:2); "Just balances, just weights" (Lev. 19:36); "The righteous is delivered out of trouble" (Prov. 11:8). The Talmud (Sanh. 38b–39a) takes it for granted that the fables to which these verses correspond were known to all. When *Hai Gaon was asked to expatiate upon Johanan's statement, he said: "Know that these fables contain moral lessons which are presented as if they emanated from the mouths of the beasts of the fields, like the writings of the Hindus which are called Kitab Kalila wa-Dimna and which contain moral lessons, wise sayings, and metaphors in the forms of animal fables. As for these fables of R. Meir, each was attached to a biblical verse which expressed a similar idea. So the story would be told: 'It happened that a lion caught a fox and wanted to eat it. The fox said to him: What do I possess that can appease your appetite …'" (B.M. Levin, Oẓar ha-Ge'onim, 6, pt. 2, on Sukkah (1934), 31–32).
A more Jewish version of the fable is quoted by Rashi (in Sanh. 39a). Sometimes only the proverb or moral teaching is given, the story itself being known from Aesop or from Indian fables. At other times only the title of the story is mentioned: "Said R. Ammi: 'Come and see how great are the men
From the earliest times the public reading from the Torah and the prophetic books occupied a prominent place in the synagogue service (BK 82a; TJ, Meg. 1:1, 70b). "They read in the book, in the Law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense and caused them to understand the reading" (Neh. 8:8). At the conclusion of the reading, an exposition adapted to the level of the listeners would be delivered. This exposition contained the seeds of the derashah or discourse, which may be regarded as a continuation of the activities of the prophets "who reproved in the gates" (Isa. 29:21; Amos 5:10). The ordinance requiring the appropriate exposition to be delivered before the festivals was regarded as of the greatest antiquity, the sages asserting: "Moses ordained that Israel should enquire and expound concerning the Festivals" (Sif. Num. 66). Philo mentions the discourse many times (De Somniis 2:127; Apologia 7:12). On the Sabbath that Paul came to Antioch, after the Torah and haftarah reading, the congregants turned to him and asked him whether he wished to preach (Acts 13:14–15). Gamaliel, Joshua, Eleazar b. Azariah, and Akiva delivered discourses in Rome (Ex. R. 30:9). There is also an account of Akiva's address in the town of Ginzak in Media (Gen. R. 33:5). These discourses were delivered to the common people, in some instances gentiles being present in the audience. "At the time the elder sits and discourses, many strangers become proselytes" (Song R. 4:2). The "words of admonition" spoken on fast days were none other than a derashah (Ta'an. 2:1; Tosef., Ta'an. 1:8). Addresses were also delivered on the occasion of family joys and sorrows (Ket. 8b). People flocked to these addresses (Sot. 40a), and enjoyed listening to them. It was accurately said: "'The delights of the sons of man' – these are the aggadot, which are Scripture's delight" (Eccl. R. 2:8). The aggadah eventually became the core of the discourse, the preacher utilizing the occasion to point to the virtues and faults of his audience, to voice their feelings and aspirations, to scrutinize the events of the time, and to judge their deeds and those of their enemies. Whatever he had to say would be linked to the portion of Scripture they had just heard. At times it is difficult to determine whether the biblical exegesis is the source of the aggadic idea or whether the idea was read into the Scriptural passage. This, however, is immaterial. The spirit of the Bible pulsates in these derashot. Only individuals permeated with this spirit, in whom the words of the Bible had become alive, could relate their thoughts and feelings so closely to the text as to emerge with an exegesis and aggadic idea which seem, at times, to have arisen simultaneously. This total involvement with Scripture also explains why, despite the wide differences in the form, style and content of aggadic literature, and the vast distances in time and often in space which it spanned, no radical differences in its essential nature are perceivable.
In addition to its role in the public address, aggadah was studied and taught in the academies. Periods of instruction and study would be enlivened by aggadic interludes. When R. Zeira, on one occasion, was not up to delivering a halakhic discourse, he was besought, "Let the Master deliver an aggadic exposition," the latter requiring less exertion (Ta'an. 7a). The exegesis of some word in the course of a halakhic investigation would often lead to an aggadic discourse (BB 78b). The wording of a halakhah would sometimes recall a popular maxim (BK 92b). Obviously the aggadic expositions of the sages in the academies were subsequently made use of by popular preachers, just as those of the public sermons found their way back to the academies. The aggadah is a fusion of both.
The freedom of interpretation allowed to the aggadah is given expression in the 32 hermeneutical principles included in the *Baraita of the Thirty-two Rules attributed to Eliezer b. Yose the Galilean (appearing in the printed editions of the Babylonian Talmud after the tractate Berakhot and in Mishnat Rabbi Eliezer (ed. by H.G. Enelow (1933), 10ff.)), but probably post-talmudic in its present formulation. Some of these principles are the same as those used in halakhic exposition, such as the seven principles of Hillel and the thirteen of R. Ishmael. Others are either exclusively or generally intended for the aggadah. Not invented by the sages, they closely resemble the exegetical methods used by the Greek orators and the grammarians of the ancient world (see: Lieberman, Hellenism). The talmudic sages employed these principles in finding scriptural allusions to and support for their ideas and in holding the attention and interest of their audiences. To personify the relationship between God and the people of Israel, the talmudic sages like the interpreters of Homer, from Anaxagoras onward, and like Philo of Alexandria, used parables as allegories. The aggadah knows of no conflict between literal and figurative explanations. The verb "pashat" is used both in reference to the plain or literal meaning (peshat) and to interpretations which are obviously homiletic (derash). Only toward the end of the amoraic period does the rule appear: "A verse cannot depart from its plain meaning" (Shab. 63a; Yev. 11b; cf. Bacher, Exegetische Terminologie der Juedischen Traditions literatur, 2 (1905),
The Structure and Style of the Discourse
The derashot or discourses of the tannaim and amoraim have rarely come down in their original form. Ideas that were once coherent are now separated and scattered. In the extant Talmuds they are fragmented, joined with other elements, and removed from their original order. To the words of the early expositors the remarks of the later sages on the same topic have been added. Most evidence on the arrangement of the addresses dates back to amoraic times. The Talmud states that R. Meir would devote one third of his discourse to halakhah, one third to aggadah, and the rest to parables (Sanh. 38b). Since the discourses were based primarily on the weekly Torah and haftarah readings, some preachers would link elements from both. Indeed, the linking together of verses from all three divisions of the Bible and the exposition of Torah verses through verses in the other books was an integral part of the discourse. The Midrash relates that "R. Eliezer and R. Joshua … sat and occupied themselves with Torah … and they linked (the correct reading is horzin) words of the Torah to the Prophets, and of the Prophets to the Hagiographa …" (TJ, Hag. 2:1, 77b; cf. Lev. R. 16:4).
A striking feature of most extant Midrashim is the proem or introduction (petiḥah). A verse from a remote source, usually the Hagiographa or the later Prophets, is adduced. This verse is then interpreted and eventually associated with the section to be expounded, at which point the preacher concludes by repeating the original verse. In some aggadic Midrashim, a series of proems (petiḥot) serve as introductions to the systematic exposition of an entire portion of the Torah. Although it seems that each petiḥah served as the introduction to a specific sermon, some were, very likely, complete sermons in themselves (Heinemann, in: Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 1968). Vestiges of such sermons as delivered by the tannaim have been preserved. The petiḥah, though primarily an expository instrument, also served the purpose of emphasizing the unity of the Bible.
It was customary to conclude aggadic discourses with words of comfort. The sages took note that "all the prophets began with words of reproof and ended with words of comfort" (PdRK ed. Mandelbaum, 238). Sometimes the conclusion of the discourse flowed naturally from the content of the discourse; sometimes it was a deliberate addition. There are many stylistic resemblances between the derashah and the stoic and cynic diatribe, both being rich in dramatic description, anecdote, and antithesis. In these discourses, dialogues are created within the context of biblical events, e.g., "The Egyptians said, 'Let us flee from the face of Israel.' The wicked and foolish among them said: 'Shall we flee from before the afflicted and degraded people? Shall we flee from before Israel?' The wise among them replied: 'Let us indeed flee from the face of Israel'" (Mekh., Be-Shalaḥ, 8).
The aggadic expositors focused their attention upon topics of everyday life, not hesitating to color their remarks with popular maxims, some translated from Greek to Aramaic while others were retained in the original. Aggadic homilies, often faithful reflections of actual customs and institutions of the Roman Empire, are rich in analogy: "This may be compared to a king …" "To a prince …" and the like.
Two styles may be discerned in the aggadah, one simple and the other ornate. In the first, the folklore basis is clearly evident. There is no striving after refinement; no embellishment is added and the language itself is sharp, and even coarse. In the second, the refined and the pleasant, the arresting and the attractive, are consciously sought after. In most aggadic works both styles are indiscriminately represented. Points of contact between the heikhalot literature and rabbinic sources may occasionally be detected in the Talmuds and Midrashim (see: G. Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism and Talmudic Tradition (1962), 23–27), as well as rudiments of poetry (Mirsky in: YMHSI, 7 (1958), 1–129). The tannaitic homilies may be seen as representing the first stirring of the *piyyut style, the later amoraim refining and polishing until the piyyut form was finally assumed (see: Mirsky, ibid., passim).
This category consists of additions and supplements to the Bible narrative and ancient aggadot preserved among the people, some dating back to Bible times themselves. Incidents and deeds only hinted at in Scripture serve as the kernels of dramatic accounts. Minor biblical figures become leading heroes. Biblical heroes become prototypes, for instance Abraham is the archetype of all proselytizers, Esau the fashioner of violence and deceit. In aggadic history, the limitations of space and time are transcended and anachronisms abound. Shem and Eber, for example, founded academies (battei midrash) where Jacob studied Torah (Gen. R. 63:9). Biblical heroes and their deeds are freed from the restraining bonds of time, the aggadic authors striving to discover in them meaning for their own and for their subsequent generations. The verse: "The voice is the voice of Jacob but the hands are the hands of Esau" is seen as the contrast not only between Jacob and Esau but also between their descendants, Israel and Rome, for "the deeds of the fathers are a sign to the children." In the aggadah can be found side by side a tendency to clear national heroes of all guilt, to exalt and glorify the nation and its past, and harsh criticism of even the patriarchs and the prophets. What is more, these two attitudes do not necessarily represent opposing views of different sages, but may even appear in the dicta of the same rabbi. Yet there is no contradiction or lack of consistency. For when they spoke of the past, their eyes were fixed on the present. Just as they desired to comfort and encourage by their words of praise, so were their critical observations intended to reprove and chastise. Yet their attitude to the present did not always determine their outlook on the past (see: Urbach, in: Molad (1961), 368–74). Aggadic literature even preserved stories and legends which were "foreign
Systematic philosophies or theological doctrines are not to be found in the aggadah (see: Kadushin, The Rabbinic Mind, 280–81). Nevertheless, numerous attempts are made to provide well considered, if fragmentary, answers to questions concerning God, His attributes, the secret of Divine Providence, His rule over man and creation, the nature of idolatry, the source, character, and purpose of human existence, the relationship of man to God and to the world, the problem of the righteous and the wicked, reward and punishment, the position of the Jews among the gentile nations, the mission of the Jews, the Messianic era, and the world-to-come. It is true that the esoteric doctrine of "what is above and below; what came before and will come afterward" only concerned the elect, who were bold enough to enter the world of mysticism and to occupy themselves with the "Creation" and "Chariot" chapters of the Bible (Gen. 1 and Ezek. 1), but many esoteric teachings became part and parcel of the aggadah. The older works of the aggadah are also the most ancient sources of Jewish mysticism (Urbach, in: Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to G. Scholem (1967), Heb. sect. 1–28).
On all other topics most of the tannaim and amoraim expressed their views freely. There is hardly a generation which did not submit contradictory solutions to the problems mentioned above. To mention a few examples: Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel differed on whether the heavens or the earth were created first. Four generations later, R. Simeon delivered his opinion: both were created simultaneously, like a pot and its lid (Gen. R. 1:15). The amora, Resh Lakish, differs and offers a compromise: "When they were created, He created heaven first and afterward the earth; when He stretched them forth, He stretched forth the earth first and afterward the heaven" (Hag. 12a).
Again, in respect to proselytes, the Talmud contrasts Shammai's impatience with them to the well known patience of Hillel (Shab. 31a). These opposing attitudes are ascribed to amoraim as well. R. Eleazar, in the third century, declared: "God dispersed the Jews among the nations only that proselytes should join them" (Pes. 87b). R. Ḥelbo, a generation later, made the biting remark: "Proselytes are as hard for Israel to endure as a scab (sappaḥat), as it is written (Isa. 14:1): 'And the stranger shall join himself with them, and they shall cleave (nispaḥ) to the house of Jacob'" (Yev. 47b).
The verse, "This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth all the days of thy life" (Josh. 1:8) was interpreted by R. Ishmael to mean "Make them follow the way of the world" i.e., engage in normal occupations. Simeon b. Yoḥai objected: "Is it possible that man should plow in the proper season, sow in the proper season, reap in the harvest season? What will happen to the Torah? But when Israel obeys the will of the All-Present, its chores are performed by others." On this, the amora Abbaye commented: "Many followed the advice of Ishmael and it worked well, of Simeon b. Yoḥai and failed." Abbaye's colleague, Rava, forbade the sages to gather at the academy during the harvest seasons (Ber. 35b).
R. Eliezer and R. Joshua disagreed as to whether the redemption of Israel is conditional upon its repentance, the controversy reappearing in a different version several generations later, between Rav and Samuel. "Rav said: 'All predestined dates have passed. Everything now depends on repentance and good deeds.' Samuel said: 'lt is sufficient for the mourner to keep his period of mourning'" (i.e., they will be redeemed even without repentance; Sanh. 97b). Special emphasis was given to those derashot dealing with the Messiah, the world to come, resurrection, the redemption of Israel and of the world. Here too, controversies abound, some sages adopting the apocalyptic trend and others a more realistic approach. All, however, share a common conviction – the eventual triumph of the Jewish people over all their sufferings, and the ultimate victory of Judaism over all the world's evils and abominations. All that has been said in this regard revolves around two poles: the nation and its land, on the one hand, and the universal, the perfection of the world on the other. It would be surprising if aggadic literature, which grew over a period of over 1,000 years in lands of different religions and cultures, did not bear the imprint of time and place. Foreign languages (Greek in Ereẓ Israel, Persian in Babylonia) enriched the Hebrew and Aramaic vocabularies; elements of Platonic, Stoic, and Pythagorean philosophies, and concepts which had gained currency in the prevalent Hellenistic culture infiltrated into the aggadah. Political and religious events also influenced trends of beliefs and doctrines in certain areas of the aggadah. On certain issues of religious thought, there were many-sided polemics which persisted for many generations. The later sages revived the discussions of the problems from the changed perspective of their own times (Urbach, in: Y. Kaufmann Jubilee Volume (1960), Heb. sect., 122–48) with even greater vigor and boldness. The editors of the aggadah collected the various views pro and con, and left them side by side, since in their opinion all were "the words of the living
Whatever the Jewish people, including its sages, scribes, teachers, and preachers, thought or felt during a period of more than 1,000 years is reflected in the aggadah. Later generations found in this great treasury the expression of their own deepest feelings. On the one hand they derived support and proofs for their views and concepts, and on the other, they were able, when necessary, to declare that the aggadic view contrary to their own was not binding, or that it constituted a foreign addition. The attitudes of scholars and rabbis toward the aggadah – its literary or free interpretation, its evaluation as binding doctrine or as imaginative, literary creation – differed widely at various periods in history. Even after the aggadah had ceased to grow and other modes of creative expression had replaced it (i.e., piyyut, philosophy, Kabbalah), it remained a perennial source of inspiration and insight.
Although most of the masters of the aggadah excelled in halakhah as well, there were sages, tannaim, and amoraim, who specialized in aggadah. Although it was said of Akiva that he "composed halakhic and aggadic interpretations" (TJ, Shek. 5:1, 48c), the Talmud ascribes to one of his contemporaries, Eleazar b. Azariah, a negative evaluation of his expertise in aggadah: "Akiva, what have you to do with the aggadah? Cease your talk, and turn to the laws of Nega'im and Oholot" (Hag. 14a). R. Tarfon is reported to have said of R. Ishmael: "He is a great scholar and expert in homiletic exposition" (MK 28b). R. Johanan stated in the name of R. Eleazar b. R. Simeon, "Wherever you find the words of R. Eleazar b. R. Yose the Galilean, shape your ear like a funnel" (Hul. 89a). Among the Palestinian amoraim were many masters of the aggadah; R. Jonathan, R. Samuel b. Naḥman, R. Isaac Nappaḥa, R. Levi, R. Abba b. Kahana, R. Berechiah, and R. Tanḥuma are especially famous as aggadists. Some of them apparently, are referred to by the collective name, rabbanan de-aggadeta ("the rabbis of the aggadah," TJ, Ma'as. 1:2, 48d; TJ, Yev. 4:2, 5c). They were not immune to criticism, however. It is told of R. Ze'ira that he used to rebuke the aggadic expositors, calling them "magician scribes" and characterizing their interpretations as turning over and over and conveying nothing (TJ, Ma'as. 3:9, 51a). R. Johanan's thrust, "There is a tradition transmitted by my fathers not to teach aggadah to a Babylonian or a southerner since they are uncouth and not learned in Torah" (TJ, Pes. 5:3, 32a; Pes. 62b), is no more than a rejoinder to remarks such as those expressed by R. Ze'ira.
Women in Aggadah
The many aggadic images of females and the feminine offer a complex, nuanced portrait of women. Through midrashic expansions of biblical narratives and rounding out of biblical characters, biblical women are given a voice, albeit a voice filtered through the minds of men. In aggadah, one hears Sarah protesting her imprisonment in the house of Pharaoh (Gen. Rab. 41:2), Leah praying that her last child will be a daughter (b. Ber. 60a), and Rachel describing how she assisted her father in his deception of Jacob in order to protect her sister from embarrassment (Lam. Rab. Proem 24). Biblical women, like their male counterparts, are constructed in aggadah as paradigms and models for all Jews; thus Tamar's willingness to be burnt unless Judah identified his seal, staff and cord serves to teach that "it is better that a person throw himself into a fiery furnace than shame his fellow in public" (b. Ber. 43b). The range of aggadah illustrates that there is no monolithic rabbinic view of women; classical aggadah includes both accolades and sharp critiques. While the women of the generation of the Exodus are praised for their faith and devotion (Midrash Tanhuma Pinhas 7), Eve is blamed for "corrupting Adam" and "extinguishing his soul" (Gen. Rab. 17:8). Just as there are aggadot that praise the good qualities of the matriarchs, so too there are aggadot that highlight their shortcomings. In many aggadot that describe some aspect of the relationship between God and the people Israel, Israel is portrayed in the feminine. When God is compared in parables to a "flesh and blood king," Israel may be portrayed as the king's consort or his daughter. These parables are used to describe the divine-human relationship as one marked by love, anger, betrayal and reunion. The use of the feminine to symbolize Israel is inconsistent; parables are equally likely to characterize Israel as God's son. It would be incorrect to read the emotional turmoil of the king-parables as an indication of rabbinic dislike of women or as a critique on family life among the ancient rabbis. Instead, these aggadot demonstrate the rabbis' willingness to identify, as part of collective Israel, with the feminine. Scholars who have attempted to compare or contrast attitudes toward women in halakhah and aggadah have drawn no clear-cut conclusions. At times, aggadic traditions attempt to explain or justify women's legal status and obligations. Some discussions of the three commandments especially associated with women (separation of dough, separation during menstruation, and lighting the Sabbath lights) describe these responsibilities as punishment or atonement for the shortcomings of Eve (Gen. Rab. 17:8). In other cases, aggadah may serve to soften or critique a law that touches on the lives of women, as in the case of divorce (Gittin 35a).
[Dvora E. Weisberg (2nd ed.)]
Although aggadic views about women vary, they are generally based on the conviction of women's essential alterity from men. "Women are a separate people" (Shabbat 62a) asserts the predominant supposition that the physical characteristics, innate capacities, and social functions of females are inherently dissimilar and generally less valued than those of males. Niddah 31b points out that males are welcomed at birth because of their physical potential for generativity and because they enter the covenant through circumcision. Females, on the other hand, are not a cause for celebration; they are empty wombs requiring male insemination, their birth delays their parents' resumption of sexual relations by an additional week, and their menstruation requires them to be separated from their husbands for almost half of each month. Woman's otherness is said to originate in the secondary nature of her creation. The final segment of Niddah 31b suggests that the preferred position for sexual intercourse is that in which the man, on top, looks towards his origins in the earth (i.e., to the cosmic substance from which God created him) while the woman, facing upward, looks toward the man from whose body she was created. The assumption that the initial human creation was a solitary male from whose body a woman was subsequently built is the view that most commonly appears in the rabbinic aggadah (e.g., Ketubbot 8a; Gen. Rab. 18:2). Several extended aggadic narratives catalog and justify a series of female disabilities as consequences of the lesser nature of female creation and the first woman's subsequent deleterious moral choices (Gen. Rab. 17:8; ARN B 9; Eruvin 100b). Aggadic passages reflect anxiety regarding women's sexual unreliability; unaccompanied women in the public sphere are suspect and may be divorced (Ketubbot 7:6; Gittin 90b); women gathering in groups are connected with witchcraft (Pesaḥim 8:7; Avot 2:7; Pesaḥim 110a, 111a). Having to wear a veil outside of the domestic sphere (Sotah 3:8) is seen as a female burden connected with guilt and shame (Gen. Rab. 17:8; Eruvin 100b); ARN B 9 comments: "In the same way Eve disgraced herself and caused her daughters to cover their heads." A woman who remains veiled even within the home is truly pious and will be rewarded (Yoma 47a). Foreign women, like Hagar (Gen. 16–21) and Cozbi (Num. 25), are usually understood to exemplify unrestrained sexuality and ill will towards Israel and are represented with particular hostility in aggadic sources (Gen. Rab. 53:13–14; Me'ilah 17b; b. Sanhedrin 82a; Num. Rab. 21:3). Rahab, the noble harlot of Joshua 2 and 5:25, and Ruth, the Moabite ancestress of King David, are among the few women from outside the Israelite community who are praised, essentially because each is understood to have joined herself to the community of Israel through faith and marriage (Zevahim 116a–b; Megillah 14b; Sifre Num. 78; Ruth Rab. 2:1).
[Judith R. Baskin (2nd ed.)]
The Aggadah in Modern Scholarship
Leopold *Zunz's classic work, Die Gottesdienstlichen Vortraege der Juden (1832), marks the beginning of modern research in the field of aggadah. Ever since then, scholars, prominent among them Nachman *Krochmal, S. *Rapoport, S. *Buber, A.H. *Weiss, A. *Epstein M. *Friedmann, J. *Theodor, W. *Bacher, H. *Albeck, and I. *Heinemann, have concentrated on three tasks: (1) to publish critical and corrected editions and also such material as was still in manuscript, (2) to compile the aggadic treasury in some systematic form; and (3) to examine the contents, ideas, and methods of the midrashim and thus to determine the dates of the various works. An especially significant and original contribution was made by Bacher, who gathered and arranged in chronological order, the aggadic material of all the tannaim and amoraim, thus making the aggadic creation of each sage accessible, and enabling us to assess his particular approach and "world of ideas." Bacher's works: Die Agadah der Tannaiten (1878) and Die Agadah der Palaestinensischen Amoraeer (1892–99) were published in German and translated into Hebrew. Louis *Ginzberg, in his Legends of the Jews (1909–38), arranged the aggadot around a chronology of biblical personalities and events. His collection is extraordinarily rich and broad in scope, and his notes and explanations are a gold mine of information on the history of the aggadah, especially in its relation to the Apocrypha and Patristic Literature. The Sefer ha-Aggadah of *Bialik and *Rawnitzki is a popular work which has achieved a very wide circulation. It includes most of the important branches of the aggadah, (in Hebrew translation, where the sources are in Aramaic). The first section is arranged in chronological order, the second, according to topics. The compilers found it necessary to graft versions to one another, and also to omit material offensive to the modern reader. A subject index is appended to the work. First published in 1910, the Sefer ha-Aggadah has gone through eighteen impressions, including an enlarged edition published in 1936.
Since the 1970s, when literary theory emerged as a burgeoning field of interest, intersecting with other areas of inquiry, studies in aggadah have been marked by an increasing awareness of its literary features. Scholars, primarily in North America, but also in Israel, have come to pay less attention to the historical veracity of aggadic texts, and to focus their attention more on the "literariness" of classical rabbinic texts. Underlying this new trend in the study of aggadah is the notion that rabbinic stories not only reflect beliefs, values, and customs, but also possess the earmarks of literature and should thus be examined in light literary motifs, themes, and structure. Many contemporary scholars are thus no longer interested, for example, in how a story about a certain rabbi may be utilized in constructing his historical biography. Instead, rabbinic narratives are analyzed in terms of their literary quality. At the same time, however, they are regarded as artifacts that function as conveyors and mediators of rabbinic culture. The historical import of narratives is therefore undiminished to the extent
The following is a précis of some of the many works that have affected contemporary studies of aggadah.
Neusner's The Development of a Legend has proven to be a turning point in the field of rabbinics. Here he methodically demonstrates how stories depicting the life of Rabbi Johanan Ben Zakkai evolved into what is considered the "normative tradition," and how they tell us more about those who produced the narratives or deemed them authoritative than about the actual personage. Rather than viewing the corpus of rabbinic literature as monolithic, Neusner's source and form-critical analyses highlighted the importance of the diachronic, as well as structural aspects of rabbinic texts. More fundamentally, his work called attention to the need to explore basic assumptions about the nature of rabbinic literature. Neusner's underlying assumptions, shared by his compatriots in biblical studies – Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament – provided the basis for much future study in rabbinics.
Advancements in literary studies and theory attracted such scholars as Boyarin and Stern, whose work exemplify the interdisciplinary approach to aggadah and Midrash that broadly speaking characterizes the general trend in North American research into rabbinics today. Boyarin's Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash, dealing primarily and explicitly with Midrash through a postmodern critical lens, is a significant contribution to the field of academic rabbinic research. Here Boyarin discusses rabbinic interpretation as discourse that is historically and ideologically situated. Through a study of the Mekhilta and its use of quotations, he illustrates how rabbinic interpretation is both the continuation and disruption of tradition. Although the work does not deal with aggadah per se, it provides a methodological framework for analyzing rabbinic narratives, and as such it has been regarded by many scholars as groundbreaking. Stern's Parables in Midrash is an in-depth analysis of the function of the mashal (parable) in rabbinic literature that explores its compositional and exegetical techniques, its rhetoric and role in midrashic discourse. Stern draws the conclusion that parables about kings constitute the preeminent form of narrative in rabbinic texts. Although he emphasizes the mashal, Stern also examines other literary forms such as the petiḥta (the proem of the homiletic Midrash), and the ma'aseh (reportage). Stern's later work, Midrash and Theory, investigates rabbinic texts theoretically and deals squarely with the impact of literary criticism on rabbinic exegesis. Kugel's In Potiphar's House examines a series of stories that elaborate on the Joseph narrative in Genesis. Here he traces the development of aggadah vis-a-vis traditions found in sources as diverse as early Christian writing, piyyut, and the Qur'an, in light of the manner by which exegetical motifs are created and evolve. In addition to examining the historical development of rabbinic narratives, in the final chapter of his book, "Nine Theses," he reflects on several aspects of Midrash and aggadah, and formulates general conclusions about the workings of early biblical exegesis. Kugel's The Bible as it Was, an expansive collection of biblical interpretation, also contributes significantly to the study of rabbinic narratives in so far as it offers erudite commentary on the ancient interpretive traditions, and elucidates how they in turn gave rise to crucial transformations in the meaning of a biblical story.
Talmudic scholars, such as Kalmin and Rubenstein, have focused on the study of aggadah in the Talmud. In The Sage in Jewish Society of Late Antiquity, Kalmin compares stories produced more or less at the same time but in different locations. By doing so, he demonstrates how the differences between Babylonian and Palestinian rabbinic social structures help explain distinctions between depictions of biblical heroes in aggadic texts. In the same vein of attempting to read narratives for their cultural significance, in Talmudic Stories: Narrative Art, Composition and Culture, Rubenstein closely examines six talmudic stories with an eye toward both literary aspects and cultural contexts.
Israeli scholarship has also contributed to the study of aggadah from a literary and interdisciplinary perspective. First and foremost, the comprehensive works of Isaac Heinemann (Darkhei Ha-Aggadah) and Jonah Fraenkel (Darkhei Ha-Aggadah ve-Ha-Midrash and Midrash ve-Aggadah) have shaped the ways in which generations of Israeli scholars and students have approached and understood the aggadic literature (see below). Dov Noy, whose folkloristic approach in general, and his listing of rabbinic folkloric motifs, Motif Index of Talmudic-Midrashic Literature, in particular, signaled a serious shift in the study of aggadah. These scholars in turn paved the way for a new generation of scholars whose are deeply engaged in aggadic studies. Noteworthy Israeli contributors to literary analysis of aggadah include Ofra Meir, who examines the relationship between rabbinic biblical exegesis and narrative from a literary perspective, Avigdor Shinan, who engages the nexus between aggadah and targum, Galit Hasan-Rokem, who approaches the study of rabbinic folktales from a cultural poetics perspective, and Joshua Levinson, who examines rabbinic narrative expansion and reformulation of biblical stories in the light of contemporary critical literary theory.
[Carol Bakhos (2nd ed.)]
The tendency toward interdisciplinary methodology and theoretical generalization described above has for the past two decades been accompanied by a parallel and probably related tendency toward the erosion of accepted and authoritative cultural canons in both literary and religious studies. While primarily characteristic of North American scholarship, these trends have also had their followers in Israel (see above). Nevertheless, it would be fair to say that in many Israeli circles the classical literature of the aggadah has largely retained its canonical status as well as much of its cultural and (for some) its religious authority. As a result, the fundamental assumption underlying much study and research into the aggadic literature in Israel (and similar Hebrew language research outside of Israel) is that the study of aggadic texts in their original
By the early 1970s Israeli scholarship had already produced a number of seminal works in the field of aggadah. First of all, Zunz's Gottesdienstlichen Vortraege had been translated into Hebrew, and richly annotated and updated by Hanoch Albeck (1946) thus placing a fairly comprehensive, reliable and accessible introduction to aggadic literature in the hand of every student. Second, Isaac Heineman published in 1950 (second edition 1954) his revolutionary typology of the rabbinic aggadah, Darkhei ha-Aggadah, which provided a detailed description of the methods of rabbinic aggadic under two general headings: "creative historiography" and "creative philology". The significance of this work lay in focusing the reader's attention for the first time on the ways in which the rabbis actually interpreted biblical texts and narratives, thus largely replacing the age-old polemical and apologetic discussions of how the rabbis "should have" interpreted the scripture. Thirdly, Ephraim Urbach published in 1969 his monumental work, Ḥazal (translated: The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs, 1987), which restated the entire theological, ethical, and eschatological content of the world of the aggadah in a modern format easily accessible to student and scholar alike. By 1970 the student of aggadah also possessed, in addition to the classic critical edition of Genesis Rabbah, begun by Theodor and finished by Albeck, critical editions of Levitcus Rabbah (M. Margulies) and Pesikta de-Rav Kahana (B. Mandelbaum), comprising, together with aggadah in the Talmudim, the basic corpus of the classical amoraic aggadic literature. Viewing aggadic literature as an integral part of talmudic rabbinic literature as a whole, the work of J.N. Epstein, H. Albeck, and S. Lieberman was seen to have laid firm foundations for the historical and philological analysis of the textual traditions in which the literature of the aggadah was preserved.
Without a doubt, the most important Israeli figure in the study of aggadah for most of the last three decades has been Jonah Fraenkel. One cannot overestimate the profound and pervasive impact of Fraenkel's work, both as a scholar and as a teacher. His influence is in some ways even stronger today, despite the fact that many of his former students have moved in new and different directions. This is due to the publication of his two comprehensive and synthetic works, Darkhei ha-Aggadah ve-ha-Midrash (1996) and Midrash ve-Aggadah (1996), which have appealed to a wide audience, and are not limited to a small circle of professional scholars. Similarly the recent publication of Sippur ha-Aggadah – Aḥdut shel Tokhen ve-Ẓurah (2001) has made many of his classic studies, along with a number of new articles, easily accessible to the general public. Aside from popularizing the fruits of modern research into the aggadah, Fraenkel's own contribution lies in two areas. First of all, building upon the work of Isaac Heinemann, Fraenkel further developed and elaborated the typology of the aggadah viewed from the perspective of the isolated act of rabbinic scriptural interpretation. More importantly, however, Fraenkel described and analyzed the macro-forms in which these interpretations are imbedded: the expanded biblical narrative, narratives relating to the talmudic sages themselves, the parable, the aggadic memra (amoraic statement), etc. Moreover, he shows the articulation and explication of these forms, understood in the light of modern literary theory, to be essential to the appreciation of the ideational content of the aggadah itself, thus continuing the work of his teacher, Ephraim Urbach. In one respect, however, Fraenkel made a clear break with Urbach's methodolology, a point which he has repeatedly emphasized. Urbach tended to compare and contrast parallel versions of a given tradition, and after philological and higher-critical analysis to posit a reconstructed original, which he then used as the basis for his analysis. Fraenkel's insistence on the unity of form and content in each and every version of a tradition led him to reject Urbach's approach and to refrain from conflating – and even from comparing – alternative versions of a tradition, basing his exposition on a detailed and exhaustive analysis of data present in a given talmudic text.
At the same time the scholarly tradition of Epstein, Albeck, and Lieberman has not been ignored. Scholars such as Jacob Elbaum, Menahem Kister, Chaim Milikowsky, Avigdor Shinan, Menachem Hirshman, Joseph Tabory, Paul Mandel, Menachem Kahana, M.B. Lerner, and Hananel Mack have written hundreds of studies both analyzing particular passages and addressing broader critical and methodological issues. Most of these scholars are also deeply involved in long term projects of preparing the next generation of critical editions and commentaries on the classical and post classical aggadic works. Shamma Friedman's work on the historical aggadah of the Bablylonian Talmud is noteworthy, because, on the one hand, it provides a radical alternative to one of Fraenkel's most fundamental notions, and, on the other hand, it may also be seen as complementary to Fraenkel's approach as a whole.
Friedman has produced a series of studies concerning a wide range of topics within the field of talmudic research, treating both halakhah and aggadah, and frequently of the reciprocal relation between them. One theme runs through all these studies: the notion of "development" or "evolution" – that later talmudic scholars often self-consciously reinterpreted and reformulated earlier versions of a given tradition. Applying the results of these studies to the historical aggadot of the Babylonian Talmud, Friedman has shown that the elaborate and colorful descriptions of events in the lives of both the tannaim and the more significant amoraim do not reflect ancient and independent traditions, but rather are the product of a synthetic literary process of deliberate and considered editorial revision. While Jacob Neusner deserves credit as a pioneer in this field of research, Friedman's exacting philological and higher-critical studies allow one to go beyond the
On the one hand Friedman's method contrasts with Fraenkel's emphasis on viewing each text as an integral whole – and studying it in isolation from other parallel versions of the tradition. On the other hand Friedman's comparative and developmental analysis of parallel traditions also represents an equally explicit rejection of conflating parallel texts, in that it demands a rigorous distinction and demarking of the boundaries between parallel traditions, in order to determine the causal and interpretive links which hold between them.
[Stephen G. Wald (2nd ed.)]
Aggadic Bible tales and views were disseminated in pre-Islamic *Arabia by Jews. A. *Geiger first showed in his pioneering treatise Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthume aufgenommen? (1833) that the aggadah had an important bearing on the shaping of ideas about Allah and the history of mankind held by *Muhammad and the hanifs, his monotheistic-minded contemporaries (cf. e.g., Koran 22, 32; 30, 79; 98, 4). In the *Koran Muhammad preferred to use vague expressions, often avoiding the mention of names of biblical personalities or even changing them. The earliest commentators endeavored to explain such passages and tales, which they did with the help of the aggadah. Muslim authors prepared special books called Qiṣaṣ Al-Anbiya ("Legends of the Prophets"), something similar to later *Midrashim, in which aggadic tales from the Bible – which also for the Muslim includes the New Testament – have been gathered. (For further information see: *Bible (in Islam); *Koran; and sections on biblical personalities (such as Abraham) in Islam.)
[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]
Aggadah in IlIuminated Manuscripts
Recent investigations have revealed that many aggadic motifs appear in the illuminations of Christian Old Testaments, such as the sixth-century Vienna Genesis, the seventh-century Ashburnham Pentateuch, and the 11th/12th-century Byzantine Octateuchs. These manuscripts are all assumed to be based on lost earlier models. The appearance of these aggadic motifs has led some scholars to put forward the theory that an ancient illustrated Jewish manuscript tradition served as inspirations for the Christian manuscripts. This theory is not conclusive, as no illustrated Jewish manuscripts are known before the ninth century. In addition, knowledge of early Christian biblical illuminations is very limited, since the earliest preserved Christian Old Testament manuscripts date from the sixth century. Furthermore, the writings of the Church Fathers incorporated many aggadic motifs which may have inspired the Christian aggadic illustrations.
Aggadic motifs in the Vienna Genesis include the accounts of how Joseph encounters the angel Gabriel on his way to find his brethren, Potiphar's wife visits Joseph in prison; and Asenath, Joseph's wife, is present at Jacob's blessing.
In the Ashburnham Pentateuch Adam and Eve build a hut after their expulsion; the giants drown during the flood; Rebekah inquires at the academy of Shem and Eber; Joseph and his brothers dine together at the same table in Egypt; and The Angel of Death slays the Egyptian firstborn. In the Octateuchs, the serpent walks upright in the Garden of Eden; Lamech kills Cain and Tubal-Cain; the raven sent out by Noah feeds on human carcass: and God, Himself, intervenes in the sacrifice of Isaac. Some other legends appearing in manuscripts are: Nimrod casting Abraham into the fiery furnace; Pharaoh's daughter, bathing in the nude, finds Moses; the test of Moses, Moses' imprisonment, and his wedding to Zipporah; Pharaoh bathing in the blood of Jewish children; Mount Sinai hovering over the children of Israel; the legendary throne of Solomon; and Mordecai stepping on Haman's back and Haman's daughter emptying a chamberpot on her father. C.O. Nordström has pointed out many Jewish legends in Byzantine, Spanish, and French art, mainly in the life of Moses, and his miracles. In his book on the Alba Bible he refers to many aggadic motifs in this very important manuscript. For a critical analysis of this book, see The Art Bulletin, 51 (1969), 91–96.
AGGADAH: Zunz, Vortraege, Zunz-Albeck, Derashot; Bacher, Bab Amor; Bacher, Tann; Bacher, Pal Amor; Ginzberg, Legends, L. Ginzberg, Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvaetern und in der apokryphischen Literatur (1900); H.L. Strack, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (1931), 201–34, Graetz, in: MGWJ, 3 (1854), 311–9, 352–5, 381–92, 482–31, 4 (1855), 186–92; Guedemann, in: Jubelschrift… L. Zunz (1884), 111–21; V. Aptowitzer, Kain und Abel in der Agada… (1922), Marmorstein, in: HUCA, 6 (1929), 141–204; Heller, in: J. Bolte and G. Polivka (eds.), Anmerkungen zu den Kinder und Hausmaerchen der Brueder Grimm, 4 (1930), 315–418, Stein, in: HUCA, 8–9 (1931–32), 353–71, I. Heinemann, Altjuedische Allegoristik (1935); idem, Darkhei ha-Aggadah (1954), H.N. Bialik, Halakhah and Aggadah (1944), S. Lieberman, Greek in Jewish Palestine (1942), 144–60, idem, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1950), 47–82; Seeligmann, in: VT, Suppl., (1953), 150–81 (Ger.), Zeitschrift fuer Theologie und Kirche, 52 (1955), 129–61; B. Gerhardsson, Memory and Manuscript (1961); G. Vermes, Scripture and Tradition in Judaism (1961); A.J. Heschel Torah min ha-Shamayim be-Aspaklaryah shel ha-Dorot, 2 vols. (1962–65), vol. 3 (1995); E.E. Halevi, Sha'arei ha-Aggadah (1963). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Kadushin, Organic Thinking (1938); idem, The Rabbinic Mind (1952); J. Heinemann, Aggadot Ve-Toldotehen (1974); J. Fraenkel, in: J.W. Welch (ed.), Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis (1981) 183–97; idem, Iyyunim be-Olamo ha-Ruḥani shel Sippur ha-Aggadah (1981); idem, Darkhei ha-Aggadah ve-Hamidrash (Hebrew; 1996); idem, Midrash ve-Aggadah (1996); idem, Sippur ha-Aggadah – Aḥdut shel Tokhen ve-Ẓurah (2001); S. Friedman, BT Bava Meẓi'a VI, Commentary (1990); idem, "The Talmudic Parable in its Cultural Setting," in: JSIJ, 2 (2003), 25–82; idem, "The Historical Aggadah of the Babylonian Talmud" (Hebrew), in: S. Friedmand (ed.), Saul Lieberman
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.