Friday, August 29, 2008

this morning

Today, this man stopped me and asked: "Did you just see a tohr to by?" which, in my mind, obviously turned into "Did you just see a Torah go by?" I mean, it happens. But of course, he was looking for his campus TOUR...

I am teaching an intro-level class and am having some trouble reaching my students. I decided to throw my lectures out of the window and to concentrate on one single aspect per lecture, cutting down drastically what I am talking about. My students are bright, but seeing that most of them are religiously conservative, I think I need a new approach. It will take me some time, but today I started with Rabbinic culture and the story of R. Akiva's crowns. It's a favorite of many teachers because it can be taken as an example for Rabbinic attitudes toward authority and the connection to Moshe, and especially the rabbis' acute awareness of the difference between Biblical and Rabbinic Judaism.

But we also read the narrative of the oven of Aknai, and this one really rattled them. The story of Moshe and R. Akiva was strange, in spite of the lovely detail of a Torah scroll I'd pasted next to their text. ("Meat in a butcher shop???! How did they know it was R. Akiva?") But here, it was God Himself speaking, how could the rabbis not drop everything and obey? I had a ball watching them grapple with this different way of approaching text, authority, and the divine. 0:1 for me. This time at least.

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