Teaching Narrative in Chumash - a Multifaceted Approach

This online course seeks to familiarize teachers with the cha​llenges and rewards inherent in teaching Chumash narrative. The course is open to all teachers, in all Jewish school settings, regardless of their varying backgrounds and ideologies. The purpose of the course is twofold: to analyze different stories in the Chumash, and to figure out the best ways to teach them.​

Much of Chumash narrative forms the backbone of the Jewish heritage, and teachers are looking for ways to make these stories accessible and meaningful to their students. But the Chumash poses many difficulties for the modern student and reader, and teachers must think about these difficulties, and ways in which to deal with them. In addition, the Chumash means different things to different people, and the teacher has to reflect on what it means to her, and how that can be applied to her teaching. A third problem in the teaching of Chumash narrative is that often the teacher is not sufficiently conversant with the scholarly and rabbinic literature that explicates the text, which can facilitate her understanding of its underlying meanings.

• Analyzing the goals and methods of teaching Chumash narrative
• Familiarizing teachers with different approaches to the teaching of Chumash narrative
• Familiarizing teachers with secondary sources that can enrich the understanding of the text
• Adapting goals and means to teaching

The course consists of fourteen lessons, over a period of a semester. Two of the lessons will be synchronic, the fourth and the fourteenth. Every lesson will contain either a short written assignment for the following week, or a forum discussion. The final project will be a lesson plan of a story in the Chumash, chosen and developed by the participant, based on the materials that were taught in the course.

Assessment will be based on forum participation (25%), written assignments (50%), and final project (25%).

1. Introduction, goals of the course, outline of the course.
2. Orientations to the study of Tanakh in general, with examples from Chumash narrative.
3. Setting goals for the teaching of Chumash narrative, in terms of knowledge, skills, and understandings. Analysis of the terms peshat and derash and their applications.
4. Particular difficulties of the Torah narrative – synchronic lesson.
5. Literary approach to Chumash. How it can serve the goals of the teacher.
6. Contextual approach to Chumash. How it can serve the goals of the teacher
7. Using Midrash in the teaching of Chumash. How it can serve the goals of the teacher.
8. Parshanut – the Jewish interpretive approach. How it can serve the goals of the teacher.
9. Overarching themes and ideas of Chumash narrative
10. Model lesson: Introduction to the teaching of the blessings of Isaac (Gen. 27). Goals and questions.
11. Applying the orientations: Why did Isaac want to bless Esau?
12. Model lesson: Teaching the story of Joseph`s treatment of his brothers (Gen. 42) – Introduction.
13. Applying the orientations: Why did Joseph deal harshly with his brothers?
14. Sharing our learning and growth: students present segments of their lessons based on their conclusions and insights from the course – synchronic lesson.

This course refers to many books and articles that analyze and interpret the Bible. Sections of the following books will be required reading:
Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, Basic Books, 1981.
Nahum Sarna, Exploring Exodus, Schoken Books, 1986.
Nahum Sarna, Understanding Genesis, Schoken Books, 1978 (fifth printing).
Zielenziger, Ruth, A New Teacher`s Guide, level ד, Third edition (edited by Barry Holtz and Miles Cohen), Melton Research Center for Jewish Education, 1991.

Dr. Ruth Walfish
Dr Walfhish holds PhD in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is a senior lecturer in Tanakh and head of the Tanakh department at Efrata Teacher`s College in Jerusalem. She taught Tanakh for many years in Israeli high schools, and was a pedagogical tutor of Tanakh in Efrata College. She has written online courses in the study of Tanakh for Efrata students. She has lectured at various seminars on Tanakh, both in Israel and in the United States, and has published articles on various aspects of the Tanakh and its pedagogy. She serves on the editorial board of the Jewish Bible Quarterly, a journal published in Jerusalem dedicated to Tanakh studies.

The opening of a course is dependent on the number of participants.

If a course is not given in a particular semester, registrants may:​

  • Choose an alternate course from the ones that are offered
  • Postpone studies to the following semester
  • Receive a full tuition refund.​

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