Teacher: Michael Hattin

Level: Intermediate


We will study selected topics in the book of Shemot in an attempt to reach an appreciation of the biblical medium and its message. The former will be reached by means of close readings and literary analysis, i.e. by close attention to formal elements such as structure, context, grammar, syntax, tone, sound, convention, repetition, and imagery; and to aspects of content such as theme, motif, metaphor, and character analysis.

This heightened sensitivity to textual nuance will be combined with an introduction to the classical commentaries. Students will work on improving independent reading skills and on familiarizing themselves with the various hermeneutical principles and methodologies used by the commentators in resolving textual problems.

This is primarily a skills class, with emphasis placed on empowering students to become independent readers of the biblical text and its commentaries.

This class aims to cover some of the major themes in the book of Shemot, such as: subjugation and enslavement, racism and genocide, conscientious objection, leadership, redemption, and the birth of a nation.

Course Requirements:
1. Regular, punctual attendance (8:30 a.m., twice weekly).
2. A reasonable working knowledge of the basics of Hebrew grammar, particularly the binyanim.
3. At the semester’s end, students will be required to offer class presentations on a selected biblical topic, using the skills acquired in the class.
4. While there will be opportunities to use computers to enhance the learning process in this class, use of computers will be restricted to non-shiur time. If there is a specific need for computer use in class itself—e.g. for note-taking—students should arrange for that possibility directly with the teacher.

Recommended Reading:
1. The Five Books of the Chumash (the rest of Tanakh is recommended, too.)
2. Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, Basic Books, Inc., NY, 1981.
3. 4. J. Weingreen, A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew, Second Edition, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1959.

Required Texts (to be purchased):
1. Chumash Torat Chaim (תורת חיים),Shemot Volume 1, מוסד הרב קוק, ירושלים.
2. A Hebrew-English Tanakh. Jewish Publication Society Tanakh recommended, but not required.