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Adult Bible Stories

TERRIBLE TENACH REDUX, with Jeffrey Rosen

     FOUR BIBLICAL VIGNETTES:

Not Quite What You Remember!

 IS THAT what is REALLY in the Bible? The Adult Education Committee is proud to announce a new class for the spring season which will shine a light on four different episodes from the Bible. The first two episodes are somewhat unfamiliar and troubling: the sexual trickery of the Judah and Tamar story from Genesis, and the wrenching sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter from Judges. The other two are instantly familiar from our first Sunday school classes, great art, and popular culture: David and Goliath from 1 Samuel, and Samson from Judges. But when stripped of their popular veneer and actually read in the Bible, these stories we have known from earliest childhood are not what we might recollect and have some darker corners.

This class will follow the format of prior Haftorot and Jewish Ghost Stories. The class involves detailed discussion and textual analysis of the materials described below in English but with occasional reference to the Hebrew. Class members should have a Bible with the passages being studied available for each class. Any translation is acceptable.

The class strives to be completely inclusive. No knowledge of Hebrew or Jewish texts is required. The class invites and encourages intensive discussion, references to comparable or analogous world literature, and continued questioning. Everyone is welcome, regardless of background or level of knowledge. Each class will begin at 4:00 PM on the dates indicated below and will last approximately one hour. Please check the Calendar for late changes.

 1.      MARCH 10, 2022 -Can A Would-Be Woman of Easy Virtue Be the Mother of a Divinely Ordained Dynasty?  Tamar and Judah, GENESIS 38:1-30; RUTH 4:12 -21.

Why would a nice widow of two Israelites disguise herself as a lady of the night working by the side of the road? Why did the man she serviced happen to be her father-in-law? What were the underlying legal principles here? What does this somewhat sordid tale have to do with the only legitimate Hebrew dynasty, the House of David? And how does this tale of sexual trickery link into the ostensibly pastoral Book of Ruth centuries later?

2.      APRIL 14, 2022 -Why Should Even a Military Hero Be Careful What Vows He Makes? Jephthah and His Daughter JUDGES 11: 1-40.

  Who was Jephthah and what was his background? What regrettable vow did he make? Is Jephthah a tragic hero undone by his own hubris or a somewhat careless buffoon? Should Jephthah have done at least something to try to get out of his predicament? Are vows immutable under Jewish law? Why does Jephthah’s daughter meet the grim fate Isaac avoids? Where does Jephthah show up in Shakespeare’s most famous play?

 3.      MAY 12, 2022 - “He [David] killed big Goliath who lay down and dieth” - or did he? David and Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:1-58; 2 Samuel 21:11-14; 1 Chronicles 20:5.

 Was David really the underdog here or did he utilize the latest technology to take down the neighborhood bully? Is this story of single combat by champions more fitting for The Iliad than the Tanakh? What does the story have to do with the dynastic Game of Thrones type struggle between the House of David and the House of Saul? And who was the otherwise obscure Elhanan? Was it Elhanan who really did in Goliath in a Biblical who-done-it? 

  4.      JUNE 9, 2022- You have read Milton’s sonnet; heard Handel’s oratorio; enjoyed Saint- Saen’s exotic opera; and have seen the C.B. DeMille movie about Samson, but what is the real story of the Jewish Hercules? -Samson [and, of course, Delilah], Judges 13:1 - 16:31.

What is the story of Samson’s miraculous advent and birth? Who was Samson - a hero of tragedy? The Jewish Marvel Superhero? A muscle bound oaf? Or a combination of these elements? What role does a riddle play in this story and other folklore?  Does Samson represent the sun and Delilah the night? Does Samson only “see” after he is blinded? Is Samson’s suicide justified?

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Fri, July 1 2022 2 Tammuz 5782