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The definition and types of Aggadah

In this unit of the introduction, we shall learn about the definition and various types of Aggadah.

It is very difficult to define Aggadah. Does Aggadah refer to the fantastic things uttered by the sages, while the Halacha refers to real things? Is it the fictional material in the literature of the sages? Perhaps Aggadah is an expression of the sages' world of thought? Although many have tried their hand at defining Aggadah, it transpires that the definition of R. Shmuel Hanagid, who lived at the end of the 10th century, is the most accurate. According to him: "Aggadah is every interpretation that appears in the Talmud about any matter that is not a commandment – that is Aggadah" (Introduction to the Talmud, R. Shmuel Hanagid). His definition is a negative one: Whatever is not halachic material is considered Aggadah material. Up to now, no one has come up with a more accurate definition – not even in the world of academic research.

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