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Poetry

Yom Kippur: Afflicted but Angelic

Self-affliction and fasting heightens awareness of our bodies; at the same time, it helps us to transcend our immanent selves. This tension was embraced by the 6th century poet Yannai in his qerova, who beseaches God to forgive Israel both out of pity for their wretchedness and on account of their resemblance to angels.

Prof. Rabbi

Laura Lieber

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Moses Pleads with God: Why Must I Die?

Moses, on his last day, recites two poems—the Song of Moses and Blessing of Moses (Deut 32, 33). In this spirit, the eighth century Tiberian Pinchas Hakohen poetically describes Moses excusing his sins and offering alternatives to his death.

Prof.

Raymond P. Scheindlin

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The Poetry of Beauty: What Does it Mean to See the Beloved?

Three descriptive poems in the Song of Songs wrestle with the experience of being in the beloved’s presence. In each case, the woman’s body is described using layered landscape imagery and complex, overlapping angles of vision. These poems ask us to consider what it means to see.

Dr.

Elaine T. James

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On Sacrifices and Life: Wholeness Dismembered but Re-membered

A burnt offering, must be whole (תמים), after which it is dismembered (נתוח) and offered to YHWH. In the wake of the loss of my parents, I have come to appreciate how this process mirrors the creation story and life.

Prof.

Wendy Zierler

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Composing the Song of Deborah: Empirical Models

The Song of Deborah in Judges 5 is similar to both Arabic qaṣīdā poetry and ancient Egyptian epic poetry. How should we categorize it? Is it like the former, and composed orally by a bard, or like the latter, and composed by a royal scribe?

Prof.

Aaron Koller

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Moses’ Blessing Through the Eyes of a Karaite Poet and Commentator

Aaron ben Joseph (ca. 1250–1320), a Karaite exegete from Constantinople, wrote poetry for each Torah reading. His poem for Moses’ blessing of the tribes, in conjunction with his prose commentary, Sēfer ha-miḇḥār, offer a glimpse into the world of Byzantine Karaite biblical interpretation.

Dr.

Joachim Yeshaya

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Abraham Passes the Test of the Akedah But Fails as a Father

The story of the Akedah appears to present Abraham’s actions in a uniformly positive light. However, Isaac’s absence at the end of the story, and Sarah’s death immediately afterwards, suggested to some traditional and modern commentators a criticism of Abraham.

Prof.

Aaron Koller

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Poetic Laws

A fresh look at the legislation in Parashat Kedoshim: Are we reading the legal details wrong? 

Dr.

Jason Gaines

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Korah's Poetic Rebellion and God's Flowery Response

A new analysis of compositional layers suggests that God responds to Korah’s rebellion with patience and beauty—until someone changed the ending.

Dr.

Jason Gaines

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Refracting History Through the Spiritual Experience of the Present

Rabbi

David Bigman

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Tikvatenu: The Poem that Inspired Israel’s National Anthem, Hatikva

With a Close Look at Its Biblical Sources[1]

Prof. Rabbi

Dalia Marx

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Does the Torah End with "The End"?

Traditional and Critical Perspectives on the Ending of The Torah

Prof.

Richard Elliott Friedman

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Capturing Pain in Poetry

A Taunt So Cruel It Will Freeze an Enemy’s Blood

Dr. Rabbi

Eliezer Finkelman

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Who Is the Eshet Chayil?

Dr.

Jacqueline Vayntrub

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Enallage in the Bible

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine” (Song 1:2). The Song of Songs opens with this sudden shift in person, an ungrammatical syntactic substitution called enallage. How common is this literary device, and why is it used?[1]

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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A Moral Value in the Song of Songs

Reading Shir HaShirim in Its Original Sense

Prof. Rabbi

Michael V. Fox

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The Prehistory of the Balaam Story

When Balaam and Balak were Independent Characters

Dr. Rabbi

David Frankel

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Dating Deborah

The Song of Deborah (Judges 5) is often seen as an ancient text, perhaps one of the oldest in the Tanach, but analysis of its language and contents suggests that it is a later Deuteronomistic composition.[1]

Dr.

Serge Frolov

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Voices in Lamentations: Dialogues in Trauma

Prof.

Edward L. Greenstein

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Deutero-Isaiah Reworks Past Prophecies to Comfort Israel

The Jewish practice of studying older texts and composing new ones based on them goes all the way back to the Bible itself. The haftarot from the second part of the Book of Isaiah that we read for the next seven shabbatot are an outstanding example of this practice.

Prof.

Benjamin D. Sommer

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Exploring the Multiple Metaphors for God in Shirat Haazinu

Prof. Rabbi

Andrea L. Weiss

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Jeremiah's Teaching of the Trees

The verdant tree and the desert shrub: Jeremiah’s wisdom psalm (17:5-8) uses this arboreal simile in poetic parallelism to offer a poignant message: A person who trusts in God will still confront challenges.

Prof. Rabbi

Andrea L. Weiss

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Sensing Balaam's Divine Moment: Prophecy as Poetry

Prof.

Everett Fox

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