What are the differences between Midrash Halakha and Midrash Aggada?
How might understanding different kinds of midrashim add to our appreciation of the text of the Haggadah?
Which midrashim do I find most meaningful, and why?
Learners will be able to articulate the definitions of Midrash Halakhah and Midrash Aggadah, and to recognize these different genres.
Learners will formulate ideas about how these midrashim function in the course of the seder.
Learners will experiment with these idea to create their own Midrash as a way of making meaning out of these genres.
Part I: Definitions and Examples
The teacher explains the definitions of Midrash Halakhah and Midrash Aggadah, and asks students if they have any clarifying questions:
Midrash can refer to any rabbinic interpretation of a piece of Torah.
Midrash Halakhah is a midrash that explains how and why a law (halakhah) comes from words in the Torah. You can think of Midrash Halakhah as a bridge: It is a piece of midrash that connects the words of the Torah to a law. Sometimes, it is easy to understand how the bridge is built, and sometimes it is harder. Just as there are rules about how to build a real bridge so that it doesn’t collapse, the rabbis follow careful rules to construct Midrash Halakhah - it is never random!
Midrash Aggadah is a midrash that fills in details in a story that appears in the Torah. Sometimes, important pieces of the story seem to be missing, and the Midrash will fill in those pieces. Other times, the story seems complete, but the Midrash provides extra details or background. At times these additions seem very logical, and other times, it seems that the rabbis were being more imaginative. If you look closely, though, you can usually find clues in the text of the Bible that will tell you why the Midrash might have suggested these details.
Because Midrash Aggadah doesn’t create or explain any laws, there can be lots of different midrashei halakhah around a specific text, just as you might have multiple ways to understand any story. You can think of it as a puzzle piece - depending on what the missing piece looks like, that will shape the story.
2) The teacher provides students with an example of each, and asks them to spend a few minutes reading them together in hevruta.
Here is an example of Midrash Aggadah:
Here is an example of Midrash Halakhah:
3) Then, ask students:
What makes example #1 Midrash Halakhah?
What makes example #2 Midrash Aggadah?
Can you think of any other examples of either kind of Midrash?
Part II: Sorting the Seder
This activity sheet contains five different midrashim, all taken from the Passover seder. Students are asked to make a copy of the sheet and categorize the midrashim as either Midrash Halakhah or Midrash Aggadah, and then answer a few questions about them.
After sorting the material and answering questions, students will email their finished sheet to the teacher. This instruction can be modified to fit your classroom environment; results could be posted to google classroom, students could pair and share, etc.
Part III: Discussion and Wrap Up
Finish this lesson with a discussion of this question:
Which midrash do you think adds the most meaning to the Passover seder? Explain why this is the one you think is most important to your experience of the seder.
It is printed on the sheet, but depending on timing, you may choose to remove it from the sheet and have the students wait to discuss this question until you reconvene as a group.