What’s the general rule when it comes to the perushim of midrashim. Are they literal? Are they allegories? Are they riddles?
This you have to know, works according to lomdus, so it’s not for a novice to decide. There’s no general rule. Sometimes it’s פשוטו כמשמעו, what it says is to be understood literally; and by those midrashim the very best advice is to follow them exactly as they’re said. The aggadata is a gold mine. One seventh of shas is aggadata. It’s a big mistake when the rebbes skip the aggadata in the yeshivos. They should say shiurim on the aggadata too; it’s very important. It’s a gold mine of Torah attitudes, of how to live life. You can become a tzadik from learning agadata properly.
But some of the agadata and midrashim, you have to know, are mesholim. Sometimes they are only allegories, which means that it’s a levush, a cover, for another idea. However, to know where it’s k’pshuto and when not k’pshuto? You have to talk to a mumcha, an expert; you can’t make your own decisions.
TAPE # E-44 (December 1995)