[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
Can poetry help us gain insight into Torah and can a woman’s perspective on parashat hashavua (the weekly portion) enhance our understanding of the text? Dr. Andrea Weiss’ research has been dedicated to developing these resources, and the result of which is The Torah: A Woman’s Commentary, for which she served as associate editor with Tamar Cohn Eskenzai, editor in chief.
Dr. Weiss is coming to Louisville April 20-22 as the 2012 Goldstein/Leibson Scholar-in-Residence, and she will be delivering a series of four lectures that explore these and other topics. She said she’s looking forward to coming to Louisville.
The weekend will begin at The Temple on Friday, April 20, during Shabbat Services at 7:30, when Dr. Weiss will deliver the sermon, “Bitter to Sweet: Why Torah Study Matters.”
Those in attendance will have the opportunity to learn why many adults, when faced with life’s trials and transitions, turn to Torah study and other forms of adult Jewish learning as a source of insight and inspiration.
Dr. Weiss will deliver the D’var Torah on April 21 during the 10:30 Shabbat morning services at Adath Jeshurun. Her topic will be, “Strange Fire and Troubling Texts.”
“This week’s parashah, Sh’mini,” she explained, “contains the disturbing story of the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu. What meaning can we derive from this episode? What can it teach us about different approaches to troubling biblical texts?”
The weekend will continue with a Shabbat afternoon study session at 12:15 p.m. at Adath Jeshurun, when Dr. Weiss will discuss, “The Poetry of Torah: Voices from The Torah: A Women’s Commentary.”
The Torah: A Women’s Commentary brings together the research and insights of Jewish women: scholars, rabbis and poets from around the world and from all segments of the Jewish community.
One of the unique features of this award-winning commentary is that it collects poetry and other creative responses to each Torah portion. “As we study a sampling of Voices poems, we will consider how poetry can enrich our understanding of Torah and our personal connections to this sacred text,” Dr. Weiss explained.
The weekend of study will conclude on April 22 at 10 with a Sunday morning program in the JCC ’s Patio Gallery, during which Dr. Weiss will explore, “Power, Passion, & Politics: What Can We Learn from King David?”
“As we head into an election year,” she asked, “what can we learn from the biblical account of our most colorful Israelite king? We will examine selected episodes from the fascinating and artfully crafted story of King David that shed light on the challenges and potential pitfalls facing political leaders.”
The weekend is designed to showcase The Torah: A Woman’s Commentary, and Dr. Weiss hopes to use it as a tool to open doors of understanding to the text.
She also believes that the poetry can “collapse some of the distance between our contemporary world and the world of the Bible,” enabling us to connect our own experiences to the text and thus foster a better understanding of the Torah and issues relevant to us today.
“My aim,” she said “is to make biblical text accessible and meaningful – to discover how this ancient, sacred text is meaningful to our lives today.”
When we recite the Hebrew prayer before study, she pointed out, we use the word “la-asok” – seeking to “immerse our ourselves in the study of Torah.” Throughout the weekend, she plans to demonstrate how “engagement in words of Torah can be enriching and exciting,” while helping those in attendance to “become better readers of biblical text,” using the tools she will share to “access the rich layers of meaning.”
Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D. is associate professor of Bible at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York and currently a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
She received a B.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley in 1987 and was ordained at HUC-JIR in New York in 1993. She earned her doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania, department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
Dr. Weiss served as associate editor of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (URJ Press, 2008), which won the Jewish Book Council’s 2008 Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award.
She has also published Figurative Language in Biblical Prose Narrative: Metaphor in the Book of Samuel (Brill, 2006) and articles on metaphor and biblical poetry. Her current research interests include the book of Psalms and metaphors for God in the Prophets.
She grew up in San Diego and attended a small, “heimish” Reform synagogue where she was very involved. She also attended Camp Swig, the Reform summer camp for that part of the country.
She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and their two children.
This program is made possible by the Goldstein/Leibson Scholar-in-Residence Second Century Fund, the Jewish Community of Louisville Goldstein/Leibson Education Program Fund, Congregation Adath Jeshurun and The Temple.