An Integrated Curriculum for Teaching the Hurban in the Bible

Yael Ziegler

In this project, I have endeavored to provide a model curriculum which integrates the teaching of several interrelated books in the Bible. When we approach a biblical book, the only way to attain a comprehensive picture of the chosen subject is to peruse the other books that are directly connected to its subject matter or its historical time period. For example, I think that it is impossible to understand the book of Ruth without examining the book of Judges, and vice versa. Likewise, in order to fully comprehend Isaiah's prophecies, one cannot ignore Micah, Hosea or the book of Kings.

Although the idea of an integrated curriculum certainly has merit, one cannot ignore its potential drawbacks. Studying several books simultaneously should not lead the student to disregard the integrity of each book as an independent entity. After all, the Bible chose to separate these books for a reason. An integrated curriculum, therefore, should attempt to preserve the independence of each book by first explaining why the Bible separates these books, and how the separation of these books often enhances our ability to see the same events from multiple perspectives.

I have chosen to write an integrated curriculum on the books of Kings, Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Lamentations. All of these books scrutinize the time period of the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 586 BCE. I believe that in order to properly comprehend the Bible's message regarding these pivotal events, it is imperative to study all of these books. This project attempts to organize a curriculum which highlights the unique perspective of each book on the same events, while, at the same time, integrating the information in order to attain a comprehensive picture of the biblical presentation of this time period.

The curriculum targets Modern Orthodox post-high school American women studying in Israel for a year. I chose this group because of their unique educational potential, setting and needs. They are learning by choice for the first time in their lives, concentrating exclusively on Judaic studies. In addition, they are learning in Israel, the setting of the majority of the books of the Bible, a fact that should vivify their study of the Bible. Finally, they arrive in Israel at a unique juncture in their lives. Poised on the brink of adulthood, these young women perceive these studies as a catalyst for enabling them to make important decisions with respect to the future place of Jewish studies in their lives and even perhaps the place of Judaism in general. It is also the last year in which many of them are enrolled in formal Jewish education. My curriculum endeavors to stimulate the creativity and excitement of these students in a way that forces them to think about the Bible profoundly and comprehensively, in the hopes that this will provide them with the impetus to continue Jewish learning after this year. In this project, I have also examined some of the obstacles which confront the women during their year of study, and have suggested some ways in which to encounter and even resolve these difficulties.

The syllabus for the course (available in the full paper) contains the following course description:

This class will cover approximately 65 classes in one year. In women's yeshivot in Israel, this usually means three sessions each week. Each class requires a two-hour period, half of which will be devoted to the students' independent study. The teacher will prepare question sheets to guide the students in their independent study. This course will include three field trips designed to animate the events that they have been studying.

The goal of the curriculum is to impart to the students a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the biblical presentation of the Hurban. In addition, the course aims to give the students methodological skills which will enable them to continue to pursue study of the Bible in a sophisticated and comprehensive manner.

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