July 20, 2024 |

Prophets/Oral Tradition

Posted on October 29, 2015

Due to the special programming at Temple Israel in October, this Sunday was only Kitah Vav’s second Tanakh class. We will mostly be working with stories from Prophets and Writings this year. We will study the lives of several of the prophets, starting on November 8th (after genizah on the 2nd) with Joshua, and the entrance of the Israelites into the Promised Land.
To begin this year (after a first class of introductions), 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 ways in which oral tradition can shape and define a story, we performed an in-class exercise. The students partnered up and told a short story from their childhood to their partner. They then switched partners and re-told Partner 1’s story to Partner 2. Partner 2 was responsible for telling the story they had just heard (now filtered through two people) to the group, and we compared and contrasted this version with the original story.
It was interesting to see and to discuss as a class which details changed and which remained the same. The stories mostly adhered to each other in plot and theme, but exhibited differences at the molecular level: a gender or a name had been changed; a side branch of the story had been left out; a story had been shortened; a detail that seemed crucial to the original storyteller had been deemed irrelevant and disregarded by the second storyteller. We talked as a class about what this means for reading stories today that our ancestors told one another so long ago, and will use our knowledge and critical thinking as we move forward to discuss the prophets’ role in shaping the beliefs of the Jewish people.