Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Orthodoxy Test #23: Reading Nonliterally

Reading difficult Torah stories nonliterally is

a) a perversion of Torah
b) sometimes but rarely a valid approach
c) occasionally ok, but makes me uncomfortable
d) ok if you can sort of back yourself up with an obscure Rishon
e) often necessary to make Torah understandable in light of science
f) Leave this question out of my results

I don't remember how I answered this one. I may have chosen (f). I don't even know what it means. I think there's a big difference between saying that a story in Chumash is nonliteral (which may indeed occasionally be okay, but I don't know) and saying that a story in the Talmud or Midrash, for example, is not literally true. In the latter case, given that Rambam and others explicitly state that much of the aggadic material in rabbinic literature is not meant to be taken literally, I'm quite comfortable with it.

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