On Fine Lines, Midrash, and The Red Tent
I'm used to a specific type of Torah learning. A type of learning where you respect the teacher and grant him or her every courtesy. A type of learning that is very much based in the actual text and that uses mepharshim but not personal opinions or theories to explore the issue further. A type of learning that treats every word in the Chumash with care because every word is divine and that while not afraid to say that people sinned, is also very careful to not jump to negative conclusions about the tzadikim of past generations. A type of learning that does not even a little bit resemble literary analysis.
I'm not saying that's the only way to learn Torah. I'm not saying that I've never felt frustrated with such an approach. I'm just saying that Torah is divine and the people in the Torah and the people who teach Torah should be treated with respect. That doesn't mean they can't do wrong, it just means they deserve respect. And there's a very fine line between trying to understand what's happening in the text and simply making things up. A very fine line.
Somebody told me that she read an interview with Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent, in which Diamant basically said that midrash was just the rabbis making up what happened, so her book was essentially her midrash. Midrash is not just rabbis making stuff up, and we do not have the right to just make up what happened in the Torah and see if it sells.
That's not to say we don't have an obligation to try to understand what happened in Tanach and to learn from it. Of course we do. But we can do that without trampling on Torah, the people who explained it for us, and the people who teach it to us. End rant.