Thursday, April 24, 2008

Text and Context

Although I was not, as I previously wrote, planning on tackling Shir ha-Shirim in the Integration Program at Frisch, I decided to have my students make a presentation on the book. The presentation ended up being more art historical, but that was because the class making it was AP Art History. The presentation was made fast and furiously to meet the Pesach deadline, and all in all I'm pleased with the concept. The head of the Tanakh department was concerned that the presentation was too secular for a Judaic Studies classroom, but I tried to incorporate enough text and information about Shir ha-Shirim that the Judaic Studies teachers would be okay with the idea. The students were scheduled to present this lecture and they were really excited about it! It was fun to get the students involved in the making and presenting of these lessons, and I'm going to make sure I continue to do so next year.

The presentation focused on the natural parts of the world that Shir ha-Shirim utilizes as a metaphor for love (between God and Israel) and then took one through various periods and cultures where nature is used to show the eras' ideals. Included was a discussion of what ideals are espoused through the use of nature.

If I deepen the presentation, I'd also include a discussion of the use of palace imagery in Shir ha-Shirim and connect it to Solomon's temple and other fabulous temples of the age. The materials mentioned in Shir ha-Shirim are ubiquitous in the ancient world.

I also had a chance before Pesach to put together a presentation for my daughter's fourth grade class at Yavneh Academy. In Chumash, my daughter is learning about Ya'acov's going down to Egypt to see Yoseph. My daughter's teacher wanted a presentation that compared Egypt to Canaan and that ultimately showed the students that Ya'acov's transition to Egypt would have been a difficult one. During the presentation, the kids asked so many questions and were really able to see everything the teacher wanted them to about Egypt and Canaan.

After Pesach, I'll be presenting to Yavneh's fifth grade class the lecture on the awesomeness of the Egyptian empire and the last two makot. The class is learning B'shalach.

For Frisch, I'm now preparing a presentation on Ruth. I have to do research, but after speaking with the head of Tanakh at Frisch, I'll be focusing on clan organization in the time of the Shoftim and laws like yibum, leket, shikkha and pe'ah and any similarities they may have with other ancient laws of the time.

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