[My regular posting day is Thursday, but out of love for this project, I’d like to post something on our kick-off day]
Sefer ha-Aggadah 1:9 “quotes” Koheles Rabba to Koheles 2:8:
“The delights of the sons of men” (Koheles 2:8). These are the Aggados, which give delight to [the study] of Scripture.
Interestingly, my copy of Koheles Rabba quotes a different meaning here (in the Judaica press translation): “i.e. public baths and lavatories . . . with numerous demonesses to heat them.” The Judaica Press translation contains footnotes claiming that public baths and lavatories were “considered in those times to be great luxuries” and takes “demonesses” from the obscure שדה ושדות claiming that שד refers to demons, and asserting “evil spirits were popularly believed to haunt baths and privies; according to the Midrash he pressed even those into his service.”
I think this Midrash has many levels of meanings. The aggados are great luxuries – but they are also viewed by many as being haunted by demons (and, perhaps in the male-centric world of the Talmud, the even more seductive and dangerous demonesses.) Perhaps the secret to deep mystical study is not to be scared of those demons, but rather to turn them – for they are also God’s creation – into sources of warmth and power.
I wish all of you great success in your study in of the aggados. May you even turn the demons into positive, Godly energy.