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Midrash - literal or not

Rabbi Ari ShvatTevet 10, 5780
23
Question
Thank you Rabbi for your previous reply! One last question I have is with regards the following. In Midrash Tanhuma we can find the following: "After Cain slew Abel, the body laid outstretched upon the earth, since Cain did not know how to dispose of it. Thereupon the Holy One, blessed be he, selected two clean birds and caused one of them to kill the other. The surviving bird dug the earth with its talons and buried its victim. Cain learned from this what to do. He dug a grave and buried Abel. It is because of this that birds are privileged to cover their blood." From what I can understand, this is a fictional story, but it is nevertheless beneficial for us to ponder, pray, and discuss its deeper meaning. I found the following text describing it: Midrash Tanhuma although bearing the name of R. Tan?uma, must not be regarded as having been written or edited by him. They were so named merely because they consist partly of homilies originating with him and partly of homilies by aggadic teachers who followed the style of R. Tanchuma. Does the fact that these are homilies indicate that the passage regarding Cain and the Bird is a fictional account meant for us to pray and think deeply over and discover the meaning? I am hoping you can provide an answer that is specific to this particular midrash. I understand that whether it is based on reality or not is besides the point, but I am nevertheless very curious to know if it is a real event that truly occurred. Thank you!!!
Answer
You are correct that this midrash is probably not meant to be taken literally or historically, but rather to teach deeper ideas, and perhaps to answer the question why we must only cover the blood of slaughtered fowl but not cattle blood. There's no difference between Midrash Tanchuma or other midrashim in this regard, they all have some factual and some not. The fact that some modern person chose to use the word "homilies" doesn't have any significance.
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