Prof. Jonathan Weil

SCHENECTADY–Congregation Agudat Achim’s Adult Education Committee has announced a four lecture “virtual” course, “A Torah/Tanakh Tour De Force:  Exploring The Literary Devices And Purposeful Patterns In The Hebrew Bible.” The four Wednesday classes on June 9, 16, 23 and 30 will be from 1- 3:30 p.m. and are free and open to the community. The lectures/discussions will be led by Prof. Jonathan Weil. Classes may be taken individually, but Weil suggests participants take all four.

The course will focus, among other literary elements, on the use of repetition; on poetry and “heightened” speech, particularly the poetry of parallelism; on symbol, metaphor and archetype; on hyperbole and understatement; on literary and formulaic conventions of the time; on seemingly inexplicable narrative interruptions and jarring juxtapositions; on deliberate “gaps” in meaning, ambiguity and violations of expectation; and on the use of two contradictory or complementary versions to tell a single story, according to Weil.

Weil is a retired professor of humanities, with a focus in both literature and the visual arts. He specializes in the psychology of reader response and the role of ambiguity in the arts. He lives in Elizaville, N.Y., with his wife Susan. Weil reports that he has studied, taught and written about the Hebrew Bible since he was 23.

 “This course is for you … if you can actively engage in 2.5 hours of exploration per class and stay the course; respond feelingly as well as cognitively; prefer discussion to lecture; and can take the class home with you and do the assignments between classes. It is for you … if you want to not simply read the book but become the book; if you want to uncover a potentially new approach to the Hebrew Bible; and if you want to discover, surprisingly, how a literary approach can enhance rather than diminish religiosity and spirituality,” said the professor.

Weil believes one should not just read Torah but become Torah – that is, experience it, feel it, re-create it, actively engage with it … that is become the prophets and their prophecies, cross the Red Sea, make the Golden Calf, and experience the sacrifice of Isaac. He argues that all meaning is derived from the dynamic transaction between reader-responder and text.

He is writing a book with the working title, How To Be The Torah: A Reader Response Approach To The Hebrew Bible, A Journey Into Self.

Those interested in taking the course may contact Weil at 518-291-3875. The congregation’s main office at 518-393-9211 may also provide the Zoom link. Registration is https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAtd-iorTsvEtTfjZnbJ-9akI9Ddt5JhEwF .