Originally posted by castlerook
The word "story" does not imply that something is fictitious. Indeed, you write that "God is the author of fact"... if God is an author, then God is telling stories.
Good point. As I recall, however, you and I tend to see things like myth, symbolism, allegory in religion as being valid as such—whether a given story has a basis in fact or not.
For example, in his book Wanderings: A History of the Jews
Chaim Potok suggests that the Exodus story probably had a factual basis in a small, ragtag band of Israelites slipping out of Egypt, but that it was expanded into mythic proportions; and it is also a symbolic allegory about escape from bondage in mitzraim
(literally, “narrow places”, the Hebrew word used in the story to represent Egypt, or perhaps vice versa). In my own consciousness, for example, what are the mitzraim
? What is Pharaoh? Do I have the courage and stamina to wander in “the desert”? Etc., etc.
Jewish exegesis, called midrash
, to search out) tends to seek out all the possible interpretations, on many levels. The words of the Torah, the p’shat
, or plain-reading, are not the Torah itself, but the garments of Torah; the real Torah lies underneath, and is multi-vocal.
Rav Hisda said: “To learn Torah…it is better to go to several teachers. The many different explanations will help to give you understanding.” (tractate Avodah Zarah)
“The words of Torah are fruitful and multiply!” (tractate Hagigah)
“He who toils in Torah and discovers in it new meanings that are true contributes new Torah which is treasured by the congregation of Israel.” (the Zohar
“A place has been left for me to labor in it [the Torah].” (tractate Hullin)
—Talmudic quotes from The Talmudic Anthology, Louis I. Newman, ed.
[Retrovirus can correct any errors in my comments here.]