Aggadah can be defined very broadly. Some of the general areas that can be researched include:
- Biblical exegesis: How the rabbis interpreted events and personalities of the Bible (Can be approached comparatively with Church Fathers, etc.).
- Religious ideas: God, the Torah, Jewish peoplehood, Messianism, Afterlife, etc.
- E. Urbach, The Sages: Their Doctrines and Beliefs (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987) provides a good model of the sorts of topics that fit into this category. If you find a subject that interests you, try following up on his end-notes and bibliography. You must of course make sure that you can formulate your paper in such a way that it does not merely repeat Urbach's presentation. It would also help to coordinate with me so I don't end up "stealing" your topic for my class lectures [I might however conscript your services as a guest lecturer...]
- The rationales for religious commandments.
- Attitudes to contemporary circumstances: The Roman and Persian empires, Christianity, converts, etc.
- The literature of the Aggadah: There are some very interesting developments in current scholarship, attempting to trace the origins and rationales of the peculiar literary forms preferred by midrashic works. Some of the more fruitful approaches see their origins in oral sermons that were delivered in synagogues in connection with scriptural readings. The different theories about the literary setting affect our evaluation of the contents, the hermeneutics, etc.
Note: Often the same topic can be dealt with as an aggadic and a halakhic issue. You must be aware of which you are doing. It is possible to submit two separate papers dealing with the aggadic and halakhic aspects of a single topic.
- Chernus, I. Mysticism in rabbinic Judaism : studies in the history of midrash. Berlin.
Cohen, A. Everyman's Talmud. New York.
Ginzberg, L. and B. Cohen (1968). The legends of the Jews. Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society of America.
Goldin, J. (1957). The Living Talmud : the wisdom of the Fathers and its classical commentaries. New York, New American Library.
Heinemann, J. Prayer in the Talmud, forms and patterns. Berlin.
Herford, R. T. Christianity in Talmud and Midrash. New York.
Kadushin, M. Worship and ethics : a study in rabbinic Judaism. Westport, Conn.
Kadushin, M. (1987). A Conceptual commentary on Midrash Leviticus rabbah : value concepts in Jewish thought. Atlanta, Scholars Press.
Schechter, Solomon (1961). Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology. New York, Schocken.
- Segal, A. F. Two powers in heaven : early rabbinic reports about Christianity and Gnosticism. Leiden.
Sperber, D. (1978). Roman Palestine, 200-400, the land : crisis and change in agrarian society as reflected in rabbinic sources. Ramat-Gan, Israel, Bar-Ilan University Press.
Sperber, D. (1991). Roman Palestine, 200-400 : money and prices. Ramat-Gan, Bar-Ilan University Press.
Stern, D. (1991). Parables in Midrash : narrative and exegesis in rabbinic literature. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.
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