Teaching the Bible, Teaching Israel – a Pause for Reflection – 18

As mentioned in Lesson 1, this course is based on the assumption that in liberal Jewish education, the three primary texts are the Bible, the Siddur, and the calendar; thus about two thirds of the course meetings focus on study of these sources, with the last third devoted to modern history and current issues.  The emphasis in the first third, the Bible section, has been on helping participants maintain their alertness to the opportunities for teaching Israel in just about any Bible lesson.  After all, the Bible is a book about God, the Jewish people, and the Land of Israel.  However, in recent generations, the land has lost some of its centrality, at least in liberal Jewish classrooms in North America.  So, first of all, this course seeks to refocus the teaching of Bible, to keep Israel always within the field of vision; the Bible must be understood and taught as not only the biography of God, nor only the history of the Jewish people, but as the story of the three-way relationship of God, people, and land.

This lesson seeks to present an opportunity to step back and reflect on some of the underlying questions that must be addressed in our teaching of this relationship.

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Tu Beshvat – 27

Tu Beshvat is mentioned in the Mishna not as a holiday but as the cut off date in determining tithes and orlah. (See lesson 9 on the mitzvot of the land of Israel). Despite these humble beginnings the day has evolved into a holiday commemorating our connection to the land of Israel and its natural bounty. In this class we will trace the evolution of the day and the different meanings it has acquired throughout the ages. We will try to understand the reasons behind the significance each age chose to emphasize and how the different interpretations reflect a changing connection to the land of Israel.

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