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Scroll Down with Dr. Michael Chighel

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About the Course:

Scroll Down is a 10-part course designed to orient viewers on the process of the Torah’s transmission and exposition through the ages. With deep insight and ample humor, Dr. Chighel leads a delightful tour among the people, places and events that have shaped the Jewish library.

Syllabus: The Jewish Library

Introduction: 101 Authors Who Didn't Write the Bible

Watch Anytime

How can the over-representation of Jewish Nobel Prize laureates be explained? The connection between intellectual excellence among Jews in secular studies and the literary tradition originating in the Torah.

Lesson 1. What Torah Thinks of Torah

Watch Now (Originally aired Tuesday, May 31)

What is the “literary” significance of the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai? The unique status and function of the Five Books of Moses within the bibilical canon.

Lesson 2. Moses and the Non-prophets

Watch Now (Originally aired Tuesday, June 7)

Given the incomparable significance of the Torah, what is the function of prophecy and of the prophetic books, the Neviim (”Prophets”) and Ketuvim (”Hagiographa”), composed after the Torah was given at Sinai? And why did the era of prophecy end?

Lesson 3. The Written and the Oral Torah

Watch Now (Originally aired Tuesday, June 15)

What is the “Oral Torah”? What role does the rabbinic tradition play vis-à-vis the Bible? The dialectical interplay, sanctioned at Sinai, between the Oral Torah and the Written Torah.

Lesson 4. Meta-Phor: Exploring Midrash

Watch Now (Originally aired Tuesday, June 21)

Biblical exegesis, or the intrepretation (Drash) of the Torah, was part of the rabbinic tradition since the earliest literary period. What makes certain interpretations valid and others not? Why is interpretation needed altogether?

Lesson 5. The Great Assembly and the Pharisees

Watch Now (Originally aired Tuesday, June 28)

Who decided which texts belonged to the biblical canon and which texts did not belong? The Oral Torah during the early, pre-mishnaic, periods.

Lesson 6. Boiling Point: The Mishnah is Written

Watch Now (Originally aired Tuesday, July 5)

Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi put the Oral Torah down on paper in the year 212 in the form known as the Mishna. What prompted this radical move in the history of Jewish literacy? What constitutes the Mishna? And what is its function in the Tradition?

Lesson 7. Boiling Over: The Talmud is Redacted

Watch Now (Originally aired Tuesday, July 12)

Since the redaction of the Talmud around the year 500, no single text apart from the Torah itself has played a more vital role in the preservation and development of Jewish education. What is the Talmud?

Lesson 8. All Set: The Codification of Jewish Law

Watch Now (Originally aired Tuesday, July 19)

The first half of the last millennium (1000-1500) experienced an explosion in Jewish literacy in many fields: Kabbalah, philosophy, biblical commentary, poetry, and, most notably, in the great codifications of Halakha (Jewish Law). How did these great Codes originate?

Lesson 9. As the World Turns: Modern Jewish Law

Watch Now (Originally aired Tuesday, July 26)

The second half of the last millennium (1500-today) saw still newer developments in Halakah as well as in other fields of literacy. How do these major literary trends (such as Hassidism) define Judaism today and into the future?

Lesson 10. Conclusion

Watch Now Originally Aired Tuesday, August 2

Concluding scientific postscript to the significance of the ever-expanding Jewish Library.

Course Overview

A 10-part comprehensive introduction to Jewish texts from the Five Books of Moses to the present.

Level: Introductory/Intermediate

Effort: 15 minutes per week

Language: English

Session: May 31–Aug. 8.

Cost: FREE
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Knowledge Acquired:

1. A comprehensive grasp of the scope and structure of the Jewish library.
2. An understanding of the difference, and relationship, between the Written and Oral Torah.
3. An appreciation of the essential function of Midrash in reading and understanding the Bible.
4. A general sense of how the Rabbinic tradition operates.
5. An appreciation of the true roots of Jewish genius.

Meet the Instructor:


Dr. Michael Chighel

Dr Michael Chighel received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Toronto for his dissertation on the Book of Job. In Canada, he taught philosophy and Jewish Studies at York, Queen’s and Waterloo. From 2008 to 2015, he headed the Jewish Learning Program at the Lauder Business School in Vienna, where he also taught courses in Political Economy and Ethics. He has published various articles in Jewish thought.