Curious Concepts in the Hebrew Bible

What is the pillar of cloud and fire that leads the Israelites out of Egypt?  What are those winged creatures we call cherubs in English, and keruvim in Hebrew?  What is Eden, and why is it called kedem? What is sheol, and does it have anything to do with life after death?

The Hebrew Bible is strewn with concepts that made sense to the ancient Israelites, but baffle or mislead many twenty-first-century readers. And some Hebrew words in the bible are shape-changers, shifting their meanings in different contexts and subtly changing our emotional responses.  My “Curious Concepts in the Hebrew Bible” classes are exciting for both Hebrew speakers and people with no Hebrew at all; for those who regularly study the Torah and those who vaguely remember a story or two.

At each class, we study a selection of texts from both the Torah and later Jewish writings that include the concept of the month.  Then we discuss what it might mean in the context of our own life experience. (All Hebrew is translated into English.)

I taught eight “Magic Words in the Torah” classes at P’nai Or of Portland, and I am currently teaching a series called “Curious Concepts in the Hebrew Bible” as an in-person class in Portland.

Creative Midrash Workshops

Your own Torah lies deep inside you.  One way to coax out your their insights and interpretations uses a process that engages both your left and right brain.  In my workshops, I share one of my own Torah monologues or Passover haggadot (scripts to read at the table in between prayers). I explain how my ideas developed. Then we all dive into one of the juicy stories in the Torah, and study some of the midrash and commentary written about it over the centuries.  Moving from intellect to intuition, students then explore the theme with drawings, and embody characters through bibliodrama.  Finally we write our own character-oriented stories, plays, or haggadot.

I have taught creative midrash workshops at P’nai Or of Portland, Bet Shira in Port Townsend, and the Cactus Kallah in Tucson. I look forward to teaching another, in person or by Zoom.

Melissa Carpenter