Standard 2

Grade: K–2 3–5 6–8 9–12

Students will be engaged in the learning of ancient, rabbinic, and modern modes of interpretation of the biblical text and will see themselves as a link in this ongoing chain of interpretation.

PREAMBLE

As a multivalent and often ambiguous text, the Tanakh invites questioning and interpretation. This standard encourages students to question and identify aspects of the text that "beg" to be understood and interpreted. By way of studying traditional and contemporary commentators' interpretations as well as modern and ancient modes of interpretations, students will develop the ability to apply interpretative methodologies to the study of Tanakh. This standard invites students to explore the multiple interpretations of the text and ultimately offer and find textual support for their personal understandings of the biblical text.

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STANDARD

GRADE LEVEL K–2
STANDARD 2 BENCHMARKS
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2.1 Knows that rabbis, teachers, and other people help explain the Torah.

Suggested Example: there are people who interpreted the Torah a long time ago and people who still interpret the Torah today.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • List examples of people who help us understand the Torah.
  • Invite guests to class to discuss the weekly Parashah: rabbi, cantor, camp director, parents.
  • Discuss a Torah story with parents and bring feedback to class, demonstrating how parents help us to understand the Torah.

2.2 Contributes personal ideas about the narrative.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Express responses to, ideas about, and reactions to the Torah story.
  • Provide a personal interpretation.
  • Discuss ideas about the Torah in circle time.
  • Keep a portfolio with pictures and other forms of expression displaying progression of ideas.

2.3 Raises questions about the stories of the Torah.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Identify what may not be immediately understood in the narrative, e.g., Who created תהו ובהו?
  • Articulate questions or comments, e.g., Why did this happen?; How did this happen?; Isn't this like/unlike . . . ?; I think it might have happened because . . .

2.4 Knows there are special stories—midrashim—that help explain and teach lessons based on the Torah's words and narratives.

Suggested Resources: Marc Gellman, Does God Have a Big Toe? Stories About Stories in the Bible; Sandy Sasso, Noah's Wife; Gabrielle Kaplan, The Magic Tanach

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Dramatize midrashim.
  • Create own midrash based on a selection of Torah.

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STANDARD
GRADE LEVEL 3–5
STANDARD 2 BENCHMARKS
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2.5 Understands that some questions have more than one answer.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Give an example of something from a class lesson that has more than one answer.
  • Offer alternative solutions to solve a scenario offered by the teacher.
  • Present questions in a round-robin format to elicit answers from classmates.

2.6 Recognizes special literary characteristics of the biblical text.

Suggested Examples: a shift from singular to plural, repetitions, something that seems to be missing, a repeating sound, an inconsistency of an action or use of a word

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Identify a special characteristic of the text.
  • Generate questions based on a special characteristic of the text.
  • Present a personal interpretation of the textual issue.

2.7 Understands that there are commentaries that provide interpretations of the Torah.

Suggested Examples: midrash aggadah and midrash halakhah; Rashi, Rashbam

Suggested Resources: Carol K. Ingall, Rashi and His World; The Melton Graded Curriculum; Harvey Fields, Torah Commentary for Our Times

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explain how a specific commentary interprets a given text.
  • Compare two commentaries on the same text.
  • Explain personal choice of commentary for a given text.

2.8 Understands that midrashim help interpret the biblical text.

Suggested Resource: Barry Holtz, "Midrash" in Back to the Sources, pp. 177-211; Hayyim Nahman Bialik and Y. H. Ravnitsky, Book of Legends/Sefer Ha-Aggadah: Legends from the Talmud and Midrash; Marc Gellman, God's Mailbox; Ellen Frankel, Five Books of Miriam

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Suggest a connection between the midrash and the biblical text.
  • Find a textual connection between the midrash and the biblical text.
  • Give possible reasons why a midrash was written.
  • Create illustrated midrash or aggadah based on biblical verse(s).
  • Dramatize two midrashim for the same text.

2.9 Distinguishes between midrash and the Torah text.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Given two or three midrashim and Torah verses from which midrashim are based, identify and cite Torah verses and delineate others as midrashim.
  • Create a personal midrash on select verses, either written, illustrated, or dramatized.

2.10 Navigates and reads a Rashi commentary from a humash.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Identify and locate a "dibur hamatchil."
  • Identify other biblical verses cited in studied commentary.
  • Explain why Rashi's commentary as well as several other commentaries were written in special script.
    • Decode a Rashi script.

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STANDARD
GRADE LEVEL 6–8
STANDARD 2 BENCHMARKS
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2.11 Understands elements of Rashi's commentary on the Torah text.

Suggested Examples: Rashi's use of peshat and midrash, clarifications of words, contradictions, explanations of grammatical and textual difficulties

Suggested Resources: Avigdor Bonchek, What's Bothering Rashi; Naomi Pasochoff, Links in the Chain

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Find implied question "מה קשה לרשי" raised by Rashi's comment.
  • Explain how Rashi's comment explicates the text.
  • Read a biblical text with Rashi's commentary.
  • Suggest a personal resolution to Rashi's "question."

2.12 Understands some basic principles of midrash.

Suggested Examples: Midrash is the product of the rabbis. It is an ongoing process and people continue to write midrash today. Midrash attempts to explain a question and/or to teach a lesson. Midrash delves into the text to add meaning. If it is midrash halakhah, then its goal is to explain a particular law. If it is midrash aggadah, its goal is to teach a moral principle or to try to resolve a textual question/"koshi," which arises from the words, style, or literary characteristics of the text.

Suggested Resources: Samuel Peerless, The Methodology of Nechama Leibowitz; Barry Holtz, "Midrash," Back to the Sources

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Identify the purpose and message of the different types of midrash.
  • Given two or three midrashim on the same text, explain what aspect of the text is being interpreted in each midrash.

2.13 Examines various art mediums as a modern form of textual midrash.

Suggested Resources: visual arts; music; drama, i.e., S'torahtelling; Jewish theater revived; www.meltonarts.org

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Analyze works of art as a form of textual midrash.
  • Illustrate, tear paper, use photography, use micography, dance, and/or sing to create a personal midrash.

2.14 Differentiates between peshat and derash.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Offer a contextual interpretation of a given set of verses.
  • Explain differences in Rashi's commentaries between the peshat and derash explanations.

2.15 Knows some basic details about Parshanut Hamikra, rabbinic approaches to textual issues, and k'shaiim in the Tanakh.

Suggested Examples: To the early rabbis, the writers of the Midrash, Mishnah and Talmud, and the medieval commentators, the text of the Torah is written by God and therefore must make sense. Ergo:

The text cannot have contradictions, e.g., two descriptions of creation.

The text cannot have unnecessary repetitions, e.g., narrative of Abraham's servant looking for a wife and finding Rebecca, where details of events are repeated in the retelling several times.

The text cannot be missing details, e.g., Cain and Abel (Genesis 4), Ruth 1 (ten years later).

The text cannot have grammatical or syntactical mistakes.

Suggested Resources: Joel Rosenberg, "The Biblical Narrative," and Edward L. Greenstein, "Medieval Bible Commentaries" in Back to the Sources, Barry Holtz, editor; Joel Lurie Grishaver, Teaching Torah

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Suggest a type of "koshi"/ קושי a given text poses, e.g., grammatical, syntactical, unnecessary repetition. missing detail, apparent contradiction. ambiguity
  • Demonstrate an understanding that one "koshi"/ קושי can have a variety of responses.

2.16 Understands that there can be multiple interpretations to a textual issue.

Suggested Resources: Mikra'ot Gidolot; Torat Hayyim; Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in the Book of Genesis

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Compare two commentaries on the same "koshi" and note differences.
  • Cite multiple interpretations in one commentary, e.g., Rashi's "davar acher."
  • Write own commentary or resolution to an issue.
  • Contribute a personal commentary to class: a "Torat Hayyim" or "Mikra'ot Gidolot" page.

2.17 Understands that commentators from different times and places formulated ideas about the text based on the context in which they lived.

Suggested Examples: Onkelos, Rashi, Rashbam, Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Sforno, Everett Fox, Ellen Frankel

Suggested Resource: Encyclopedia Judaica

Sample Learning Activities:

  • List three facts about the commentator's life and how it may have influenced the commentator's approach to commentary.
  • Portray a commentator in dialogue with other "commentators" about a given text.
  • "Interview" a commentator.

2.18 Draws connection between text and personal experience.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Respond with personal examples on which text sheds light.
  • Journal responses, e.g., Have you ever had an experience like the one in the text?; How does this law illuminate an aspect of your life or the lives of people you know?; How does it relate to your moral compass?

2.19 Evaluates own process of interpretation.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Write a commentary to a section or verse of text and note the methods used in personal commentary.
  • Keep a log of different forms of interpretations.

GO TO
STANDARD
GRADE LEVEL 9–12
STANDARD 2 BENCHMARKS
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2.20 Translates and interprets a Rashi commentary independently.

Suggested Resources: Chaim Pearl, Rashi; Edward Greenstein, "Sensitivity to Language in Rashi's Commentary on the Torah," The Solomon Goldman Lectures, Volume VI, 1993

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Read and interpret an unfamiliar Rashi commentary.
  • Locate the source of a given Rashi commentary in its original context, e.g., Talmud, Midrash, Rabbah, Tanhuma, etc.
  • Examine the context of texts from which Rashi cites.

2.21 Understands various methodologies of rabbinic interpretation / Parshanut Hamikra.

Suggested Examples: midrash aggadah, midrash halakhah; Rashi's revolutionary, P'shuto shel miqra and Aggadah m'yashevet; Rashbam's P'shat approach; Bekhor Shor's rational approach; Ibn Ezra's linguistic and philosophical approach; Ramban's mystical and allegorical approach

Suggested Resources: Edward L. Greenstein, "Medieval Bible Commentaries" in Back to the Sources, Barry Holtz, editor

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Categorize rabbinic interpretations into midrash aggadah and midrash halakhah.
  • Identify the approach of the commentary studied and what is being interpreted in the text.

2.22 Understands application of hermeneutic principles of rabbinic interpretation used in commentaries.

Suggested Examples:

The deduction from a minor case to a major case. קל וחומר
An analogy between texts based on a common word. גזרה שוה
An application of a principle from one verse. בנין אב מכתוב אחד
An application of a principle from two verses. בנין אב משני כתובים
An interpretation of a general principle derived from a particular principle. ופרט כלל
An interpretation of a particular principle derived from a general principle. פרט וכלל
Deriving a principle from a similar passage. כיוצא בו במקום אחר
An interpretation from its context. דבר מלמד מענינו

Suggested Resources: Yaakov Elman, "Classic Rabbinic Interpretation" in The Jewish Study Bible, Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, editors

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explain how principle is used in commentary to provide interpretation.
  • Given two or three verses with the same commentary, rewrite the verses using principles but not terminology.
  • Make a poster of rabbinic hermeneutic principles.

2.23 Applies understanding of methodologies to newly introduced rabbinic commentaries.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explain how a specific commentary is representative of the commentator's methodology.
  • Given a previously unseen rabbinic commentary, translate, identify the textual prompt/"koshi," and explain the commentator's solution or explanation.

2.24 Utilizes Mikraot Gedolot or Torat Hayyim text as a tool for interpretation.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Identify a textual issue or philosophical issue and cite two or three different commentaries on issues.
  • Highlight the main point(s) of each commentary and the interpretation of a given issue.
  • Evaluate commentaries; propose and defend the "best" commentary.

2.25 Identifies the literary characteristics used in Tanakh and applies them in analyzing the text independently.

Suggested Examples: word play, understatement/overstatement, inclusion, chiasm, parallelism, repetitions, leitwort, ambiguity, type scene

Suggested Resources: Joel Rosenberg, "Bible: Biblical Narrative" in Back to the Sources; Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Choose a narrative and write a personal interpretation based on literary analysis.
  • Participate in a class dialogue on a given narrative, presenting one's own literary analysis of narrative.

2.26 Understands that the text can be multivocal regarding a given theme.

Suggested Examples: Shabbat, images of God, covenant, slavery, reward and punishment

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Trace a theme throughout the Tanakh, comparing sources.
  • Present "findings" and analysis of a theme in class symposium.

2.27 Applies inner-biblical interpretation to selected texts.

Suggested Examples: Deuteronomy on Exodus; Psalms and Genesis, Ezra-Nehemia on Deuteronomy; Judges on Genesis

Suggested Resource: אבא בנדויד, מקבילות במקרא, הוצאת כרטא

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Examine how textual sources compare and differ.
  • Analyze text based on the assumption that inner-biblical interpretation is occurring.

2.28 Appreciates ancient extra-biblical interpretation.

Suggested Examples: Targumim on the Akedah, Dead Sea Scrolls on Isaiah

Suggested Resource: James B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East, Volume I, An Anthology of Texts and Pictures

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Explain how the extra-biblical text helps to illuminate the biblical text.
  • Evaluate the extent the extra-biblical source helps one interpret the biblical text.

2.29 Is familiar with different modern approaches to the reading of biblical text and the implications of these approaches. [See Standard 3]

Suggested Examples: source criticism, feminist readings, literary criticism, reader response

Suggested Resources: Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary, JPS; The Torah, A Modern Commentary, UAHC; Alice Bach, Women in the Hebrew Bible; Adele Berlin and Marc Brettler, The Jewish Study Bible: Tanakh Translation, Torah, Ne'viim and Kethuvim; Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses; Tikva Frymer Kensky, Reading Women in the Bible; Benjamin Scolnic, "Modern Methods of Bible Study" in Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary; Shalom Spiegel, The Last Trial; Avivah Gottleib Zornberg, The Beginning of Desire: Reflections on the Book of Genesis and The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Categorize questions regarding a text.
  • Use different approaches in interpreting the biblical text.
  • Evaluate approaches to the interpretation of selected secondary sources.
  • Write a translation as a deliberate interpretation.

2.30 Explores various art media as biblical interpretation.

Suggested Resources: Dance and Movement—Liz Lerman, Joanne Tucker, Avodah Dance Troupe; Drama—The Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv, Habima Theater, "V'ayomer, va'yelech," Storahtelling; Visual Arts—Debbie Ugoretz, papercuts and paper ripping, Ellen Frankel, Illustrated Hebrew Bible; works in micography; Music—Brian Gelfand

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Compare several artistic interpretations of a text.
  • Design and present an artistic interpretation of a text.

2.31 Develops own interpretations of text.

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Translate accurately and present a discussion of a given text from the the Tanakh that includes classic commentaries and modern scholars on the text
  • Write a commentary and note hermeneutic principles used in the commentary
  • Apply a personal lens to the interpretation of the text

2.32 Applies interpretative skills to the reading of literature.

Curricular Suggestion: can be integrated with a Hebrew literature or an English class

Sample Learning Activities:

  • Interdisciplinary unit with English class: analyze poetry or a selected novel with a conscious effort to apply skills and/or compare themes acquired through Tanakh study.
  • Interdisciplinary unit with a Hebrew literature class: identify biblical themes and biblical echoes in modern Israeli music, poetry, and literature.