Courses in the pshat of the text viewed through the lens of contemporary Biblical criticism as well as courses exploring classical commentaries on TaNaCH including Rashi and other medieval m’forshim; midrash; hassidic commentaries; contemporary and feminist commentaries.
This class will focus on a Jewish adaptation of a centuries-old contemplative form of engagement with Bible called ‘lectio divina’ — renamed here ‘kriat ha-kodesh’ — that will focus on learning midrash and then engagement of the heart, mind and soul through a repetitive listening (rather than reading) to biblical text and then praying, meditating on the words and meanings, and finally contemplating on the text in the very personal and intimate context of one’s own life. Students will learn the method of ‘kriat ha-kodesh’ and gain an opportunity to practice leading, as we delve slowly and mindfully into Torah’s stories. Our goal is that talmidim will have a new tool to share with their communities so that each person may enter deeply into Torah’s intimate and personal meaning for her/his life.
Ketuvim: The Feminine Books of Tanakh
The Book of Ruth, the Book of Esther, Song of Songs and the Book of Lamentations present the reader with powerful female characters and archetypes. They find themselves subjected to hegemonic masculinity in all its forms and yet challenge God and male power. We’ll read both academic and rabbinic sources in our studies and take a deep dive into the historical context, literary themes, and theological assumptions of these texts while interrogating their representation of female characters.
Learning to Love Leviticus
How are we to understand Torah today? The best way to begin is to approach Torah “on its own terms.” This course brings the learner back in time to explore as much as we can know of the original meaning of ancient practices and ideas that may puzzle us as moderns.
Midrash from a Renewal Perspective: Contemporary PaRDeS
This course will offer a deep engagement with Torah text using the diverse tools of old and new midrash aggadah. Together we will mine the Torah itself, first holistically activating our own integrated selves as midrashists, and then turning to ancient rabbinic aggadah as well as contemporary forms such as poetry, prose and music. This Jewish Renewal perspective will open gates to new ways and new perspectives (e.g., feminist, masculinist, queer, environmentalist, etc.) of approaching Torah text with the folks we serve as rabbis, rabbinic pastors and cantors. Through our learning together, we will strengthen our own ability to guide our ‘folk’ on the paths of their own fully engaged and holistically integrated experience of Torah and more meaningful Jewish lives. Basic comprehension of Midrash Rabbah level Hebrew is desirable for this course as each student will be expected to read aloud, translate and facilitate a discussion of a Hebrew text.
RP: ALEPH Required
Students will learn to listen to the different styles and voices within Biblical/Rabbinical/Hassidic/Zoharic interpretation through the lens of the hermeneutics of PaRDeS, encompassing the full range of understanding, from the contextual to the hidden. Focus is on use of Mikraot G’dolot as a rabbinic tool: reading, translating and analyzing scripture and the commentaries. In addition to building an understanding of the arguments of the classical commentators, students will develop their own “inner commentator.” Biblical Hebrew I and II (or equivalent) is required along with some ability to read without vowels.
Rabbinic: Content Required
Narratives of Bible
(formerly called Biblical History and Civilization Part 1)
Tanakh offers us ideas about revelation and covenantal promises. It texts conceptualize a society based on divine law and built in a promised land. Students will explore the wide-ranging theologies in these texts, how they were composed, and how they present “revelation” through law, rites, prophecy, and more. Students will become familiar with the major methodologies and disciplines of biblical studies and will explore how to teach biblical narratives from a Jewish Renewal perspective in ways that make the texts meaningful and relevant for today’s Jews.
Sefer Iyyov – The Book of Job
An in-depth exploration of the bewildering, heart-wrenching and profound book of Job. The text will be encountered in Hebrew and in English, focusing on the deep questions:
- why do good people suffer?
- where is God in our suffering?
- in the face of suffering, what is the meaning of life?
- what can we expect of God?
- do we have the right to indict and argue with God?
- what must we expect of ourselves?
- what is the nature of friendship?
- what is the nature of faith?
- what do we learn from this book that is useful to us as rabbis, rabbinic pastors and caretakers?
The class will also include such modalities as bibliodrama, consideration of a modern theatrical treatment of the story of Job, a contemporary film that focuses on Job as its thematic center and a contemplative approach to the text.
Sexuality and Gender in Tanakh
Discussion of sexual boundaries, narratives of sexual abuse and sexual violence, tales of an apparent erotic eden – it’s all to be found in Tanakh. We will explore the way sexuality is described, depicted and legislated in Tanakh, including prohibited, apparently prohibited and permitted sexual relationships among human beings. Our sources will include primary texts, midrashic discussions on the same, and academic commentaries. We will ask how these texts can be read, taught, and understood for our own time.
The Prophetic Book of Jeremiah
Prophets were known by several terms–both Greek and Hebrew: The Greek term that our English term comes from is prophetes meaning one who proclaims and interprets divine revelation and is descriptive of one who speaks forth God’s word. The Hebrew terms used for a prophet is primarily navi which is probably descriptive of “one called” to speak for God or one who “brings” the word of God to the people. This course is a critical study of the prophetic book of Jeremiah, who was called to speak for God in and around Jerusalem before the city fell in 587 BC. Through a close reading of the text and historical background students will develop skills for reading the prophetic books; study how biblical scholarship has impacted our understanding; learn how Jeremiah in particular was perceived by his contemporaries and grapple with the issues he addressed.