Rav Avigdor Miller on Agadata 

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Q:
What’s the general rule when it comes to the perushim of midrashim. Are they literal? Are they allegories? Are they riddles?

A:
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 coverfor 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)