Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Syllabus: Intro to Judaism

Proposed, September 2006
Southern Methodist University
Mary Moorman

Intro to Judaism

This course will focus on significant themes in the history of Judaism, the historical development of Jewish identity, and the unfolding of the Jews’ relationship to God and community. The readings, lectures, and discussion sessions will combine historical and conceptual analysis of constant themes identifiable throughout the Biblical, Rabbinic, Medieval and early modern periods, particularly with regard to relational encounters with the Gentile world and cultures. We will rely heavily on the Biblical texts, on themes from rabbinic law, and on the commentary of celebrated figures in modern Jewish thought. These themes will concentrate heavily on aspects of the integrated systems of Jewish law, theology, and worship as progressive constants of Jewish life among different social contexts. Each student is also expected to attain a basic level of comprehension in the written Hebrew alphabet by the end of the term.

The course will be based on one weekly lecture, and one weekly discussion for the analysis of reading material and film presentations. Each discussion meeting will be facilitated by the assigned moderator and oriented around a paper presented by the assigned presenter, whose commentary will be evaluated by his peers. For extra credit, a course blog will be available for ongoing discussion of relevant issues. It is assumed that each student is prepared to participate actively in all facets of the learning of this critical material through timely and critical readings, and through regular and active class attendance.

Course Requirements

Weekly Comments. 30% Each student is required to submit weekly comments, questions, personal reflections, and identification of major issues by drawing on and citing the assigned materials in detail. These commentaries are to be no more than one page in length and are submitted by email each Monday.

Mid Term Examination. 20% The mid term examination will consist of two components:

A) The exam will provide an extensive list of terminology pertaining to Jewish life, of which each student will select and define twenty terms in a concise sentence that demonstrates conversational grasp of the vocabulary.

B) Each student will demonstrate written proficiency with the Hebrew alphabet.

Final Paper. 25% Each student will write a ten-page exegesis/interpretation paper based on the text of Psalm 47. The paper may alternatively develop a statement of that Psalm in light of a theme addressed in the course. The top three of these papers will be submitted by the instructor for review at the Journal of Jewish Studies.

Final Exam. 25% The Final Examination will have two components:
A) Identification. Each student will be expected to read/translate a set of ten Hebrew words and then to elaborate on their significance.

B) Brief Essay.

Extra Credit (up to 15%)

A) Participation in ongoing course blog discussions.

B) Upon careful reflection, a student may opt, if he wishes, to participate as an observer in any of the Jewish high holy days falling within the term, whether at an appropriate Synagogue, a Jewish student center, or with a Jewish family or group of Jewish friends. Successful completion of the extra credit assignment will involve completion of a 3-5 page report detailing the observances of the day, and the student’s response to them, to be posted for commentary on the class blog.


Required Texts.

Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews. Harper & Row, 1987.

The Holy Bible.

Milton Steinberg, As a Driven Leaf. Behrman House Publishing, 1996.

A Better Hebrew Primer and Home Workbook (Hebrew alphabet and basic grammar) from Torah Aura Productions.

Available in Course Packet and on Reserve

Jon D. Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity. Yale University Press, 1995.

Rabbi Ephraim ben Jacob of Bonn. The Akedah, translated from Oxford MS 1154, no. 205(=A); Berlin MS 9, no. 124 (=B); Selihot MS 446, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, no. 172 (=N).

Neil Hecht, comp. Selected Materials in Jewish Law. Boston: Boston University School of Law, 2002.

Theodor Herzel, The Jewish State. Filiquarian Publishing, 2006

Leslie J Hoppe, Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ. ( The Catholic Biblical Quarterly April 30, 2000)

Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance: Studies in Jewish-Gentile Relations in Medieval and Modern Times. Greenwood Press, 1961.

Hillel Levine, Economic Origins of Antisemitism.
In Search of Sugihara. Free Press, 1996.

Jacob Neusner, Religion and Law: How through Halakah Judaism Sets Forth its Theology and Philosophy. Scholars Press, 1996.

David Novak, Halakah in a Theological Dimension. Scholars Press, 1985.

Law and Theology in Judaism. KTAV Publishing House, 1974.

Shalom Spiegel, The Last Trial: On the Legends and Lore of the Command to Abraham to Offer Isaac as a Sacrifice. Jewish Lights Publishing, 1993.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, Satan in Goray. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996.

Elie Wiesel. Night. Hill and Wang, 2006.

Elie Wiesel. The Trial of God: A Play. Schocken, 1995.

Elie Wiesel. Wise Men and Their Tales, portraits of Biblical, Talmudic, and Hasidic Masters. Schocken, 2005.

Film: Abba Eban, “Heritage, Civilization, and the Jews” Monumental Series, available for viewing through university facilities.

Course Agenda.

Week 1. Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.

The Calling of Abraham and the covenants of the Patriarchs; the Akedah in Jewish identity; the acceptance of the Law by Jacob as a gift for the nations.

Issues. What is the nature and meaning of the Jewish “covenant” with God, in light of the fundamental narratives of the Jews?

Film. Part 1.

Required Reading:
o The Book of Genesis
o Spiegel, Shalom. The Last Trial
o Rabbi Ephraim ben Jacob of Bonn. The Akedah
o Jon D. Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son
o Johnson, 1-24

Week 2. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!
The Implications of the Exodus; the Law given at Sinai; Torah and Jewish Worship

Issues: From the foundational narratives, how should we understand the concept of God’s “kingship” over the “nation” of Israel?

Film. Part 2; also “Covenant and Constitution”

Required Reading.
o Deuteronomy 3 and 4; Psalm 137; Psalm 119; the Book of Leviticus
o Johnson, 81-125
o Selections from Jewish Law.

Week 3. He subdued nations under us, 
peoples under our feet.
National Heroes and their ethic: sex, lies, and violence?
Joshua, David, Solomon.

Issues: Violence in Israel and the merciful God- a quandary?

No Film

Required Reading:
• The Book of Joshua, I, II Kings
• Selections from Jewish Law.
• Johnson, 40-59.

Week 4. He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. Selah.
The Prophets

Issues: How do the prophets respond to tragedy? How does Jewish suffering relate to God’s promises to the Jewish people? Is there a possible reconciliation between the idea of being God’s chosen people and the historical experience of exile?

No Film

Required Reading.
o The Book of Isaiah.
o Selections from Neusner and Novak: Religion and Law, Halakah in a Theological Dimension, Law and Theology in Judaism.

Week 5. God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Diaspora and the Shaping of the Tradition.

Issues: How did the culture of “Judaism” emerge from the nation, culture, law, and worship of national Israel?

Film. Part 3

Required Reading
o Johnson 59-166
o Steinberg, As a Driven Leaf

Week 6. Midterm Exam

Week 7. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
Judaism and its worship between Christianity and Islam.

Issues: Was the development of Synagogue worship influenced by the growth of Christianity and the spread of Islam? If so, was this influence for better or worse in terms of Jewish identity? How has Christianity, as the offspring of Judaism, historically responded to Judaism?

Film. Part 4

Required Reading.
o Johnson, 169-230.
o Singer, Satan in Goray
o The Gospels of Matthew and John; The Epistles to the Hebrews and to the Romans.
o (Extra credit: Levine, Economic Origins of Antisemitism)

Week 8. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
Messianism and Modernization.

Issues: What is the nature of Jewish Messianism and hope in relation to modernization and the life of the Jewish Ghetto? What is the relationship, particularly in this period, between Jewish Messianic piety and the development of scholarship among Jews like Maimonodes?

Film: Part 5.

Required Reading.
o Johnson, 233-305
o Hoppe, Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ.

Week 10. God reigns over the nations; 
God is seated on his holy throne.
Emancipation and Franchise.

Issues: Did the Jews fulfill their divine mandate to act as a righteous “pilgrim nation” among the nations in the European context? If so, how?

Film. Part 6

Required Reading.
o Johnson, 311-420.
o Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance.

Week 11. The nobles of the nations assemble for the people of the God of Abraham.
The Shoah, its Precedents, and its Echoes.

Issues: What trends in world history and attitudes led to the attempted genocide of the Jewish people in the 20th Century? What were the most significant influences shaping these attitudes? What theological/philosophical/liturgical wealth did the Jewish people draw upon in order to maintain their identity and prayer during times of horrific suffering, and how do such practices reflect the Jewish history and theology?

Film: Part 7 or Schindler’s List

Required Reading.
o Johnson, 423-514
o Each student will choose one of the assigned Wiesel texts for careful reading.
o Levine, Sugihara.

Week 12. For the kings of the earth belong to God; He is greatly exalted.
Zionism, the state of Israel, and the modern Diaspora.

Issues: What are the modern controversies surrounding the state of Israel? What are the sources of this controversy, whether religious or political? What are some ideas for conflict resolution? What are the major threats facing faithful Jewish life in the modern world?

o Johnson, 519-581.
o Katz, Tradition and Crisis.
o Herzel, The Jewish State
o One article on modern Jewish life in the USA/Europe, to be chosen personally by each student.

Week 13. Course Paper

Week 14. Final Examination

Psalm 47

For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.

1 Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
2 How awesome is the LORD Most High, 
the great King over all the earth!
3 He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet.
4 He chose our inheritance for us, 
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. 
5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
8 God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.


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