Introduction to Prophets
Posted on October 29, 2015
Kitah Dalet will mostly be working with stories from Prophets and Writings this year. During our last regular class (on 10/4; 10/11 was our Sukkah walk, and 10/18 was Building Jerusalem) we talked about the Israelites’ journey through the desert after leaving Egypt, and about Moses’ death and the fact that he did not lead his people into the Promised Land. Our next subject will be the story of Joshua, and with it, the entrance of the Israelites into the Promised Land.
First, though, we talked about the role of oral tradition in forming Prophets, and what that means about the best way to read and understand the stories within it. To demonstrate the way oral tradition can shape a story, we performed an in-class exercise. The class divided into two groups of 7 – 8 students; from each group, an individual was chosen to invent and write down a 3 – 4 sentence story. When the story was written, the students formed a line; the writer told the story to the first student in line, the first told it to the second, and so on down the whole line. When it reached the last student, we compared the story as it had been originally written to the form it took at the end.
In both cases, the stories followed each other closely in plot, character, and theme; when we examined them, however, we found minor differences: a gender had been changed, or a name; a plot device remained the same but details had been exaggerated; peripheral characters had been added or removed. We talked as a class about what remained and what had been changed, and what this meant for reading stories today that our ancestors told one another so long ago.
In addition, through looking at a few specific Torah passages, individually and then as a group, we discussed what it meant to be a prophet, a person spoken to and chosen by God as a messenger to the Jewish people. Throughout the year, we will be studying the lives of several of the prophets, starting on November 8th (after genizah on the 2nd) with Joshua.