Yesterday, along with hundreds or most probably thousands of others, I spent the whole day learning Tanach, Bible at Michlelet Herzog in Alon Shvut.
People came from all over Israel to attend, and classes were in two languages, Hebrew and English. Considering the amount of English heard in the hallways, WC and cafeteria, I'd say that many English speakers attended classes in Hebrew. There was an amazing range of choices in lectures, and most people had preregistered, so the organizers knew in which sized rooms the lectures should be. Most people also paid for lunch, which was plentiful and efficiently served. And there was also an option to take buses, which even had a stop in Shiloh. Yes, that's how I traveled.
I only attended one day of the classes, but I have many friends who were there for more. Considering that there were five scheduled classes in just one day, I'd expect to fade long before the day was over. But thanks to the perfect temperature air-conditioning, spritz humidifiers outdoors, perfectly timed breaks between lessons and the unlimited hot/cold drinks available, I remained awake and alert the entire day.
Of the five classes I took, the highlights were Yehuda, "The Making of a Hero" by Rabbi Alex Israel, "An Unnatural Fault Line: Jerusalem," by Rabbi Moshe Shulman, and Dr. Yael Ziegler's "Our Father, Our King: The Difference Between Shirat Hayam and Shirat Haazinu."
These were lectures, not discussions, and frequently I had to bite my tongue to keep from trying to dialogue with the speaker. This was much less a problem with Yael Ziegler who is an expert in giving such a complete and brilliantly planned Bible Tanach lesson, which inspires and informs, rather than leaving me with a host of unanswered questions.
Rabbi Alex Israel stepped into the usual mistake of presuming modern family modes and values for the time of Yehuda and Tamar. I find that worse than annoying. Marriage in the time of the Bible was not like modern time at all. To me it's very obvious that Tamar's marriage to Yehuda's eldest son, Er, had nothing to do with "love." There was some business or political decision between her clan and Yehuda's. His sons, who as Israel did point out, were most probably too young to understand their role and cooperate by having children with her. But, as I see it, Tamar did understand the importance of having a family with Yehuda's clan, and that's why she took the daring step of disguising herself as a prostitute and seducing Yehuda. Disguises and daring women were very common threads in the David and Messianic line. Think of Ya'akov and Leah. Ya'akov disguised himself as his brother to fool his father to get the main inheritance instead of his brother, and then Leah tricked him, pretending that he was marrying her sister Rachel. These are points I had wanted to mention if it had been "that sort of lecture." But there was no time for questions and dialogues.
Rabbi Moshe Shulman's topic was totally new for me. I hadn't thought about the idea that the "political" Yehuda and Yisrael split predated the King Solomon's descendants. Rabbi Shulman used the tribal maps to simplify the geography of the split, which caused me to want to ask what happened to the Tribe of Shimon, Simon, which was in the area of Yehuda. Yes, that's one of my "dumb questions." Besides that, I quickly saw something that the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin had in common, which Shulman didn't mention at all. It almost reminded me of Korach... Both those tribes had members anointed as kings by Shmuel Hanavi, as instructed by Gd. Actually, I was disappointed that Shulman didn't mention it. The rivalry between the sons of Rachel and Leah is depicted many times in the Bible, but here we see them united against the sons of the concubines and their other brothers.
I really like it when a Bible lecture inspires me to ask lots of questions, but when it's not a framework that allows discussion, at least I have my blog, and I will send them this link. Bli neder, can't promise, I will post answers if I receive them. All lectures should be on the Herzog site at some point.