New Blog from Israel and Storytelling
There is a new blog from Israel, South Jerusalem, which describes itself as “A Progressive, Skeptical Blog on Israel, Judaism, Culture, Politics, and Literature.” Among the interesting posts that have so far appeared, I want to specifically mention two. One is on Jacob Katz, and the other on Judaism, storytelling and history. Here is a selection from the latter post.
It’s important to tell the stories of the Bible and the Talmud as stories rather than as history because these stories are the foundation of Jewish culture and chronicle how the Jewish people has responded to the challenges with which history has presented it. We need to know the legendary Hillel because it’s the legendary Hillel, not the real one, who has shaped our history. But the fact is that, even in religious schools in Israel, the stories seldom get told simply as stories. Israeli kids who attend other schools often encounter these stories first in satirical versions on television or in books.
Then what about history? That needs to be taught, too. We need to pass on our stories to the next generation, but we also need for the next generation to know what actually happened, in both ancient and modern history, and to know the difference between story and history. But there are few teachers and few schools that are willing and able to do both. Religious schools in Israel are afraid to tell students about academic Biblical criticism out of a fear—not entirely unjustified in the modern milieu—that kids will lose all interest in traditional texts if they’re told that they do not offer literal truth. Non-religious schools are afraid to tell the stories as stories out of fear that they’ll be accused of religious indoctrination.
So how can we instill in our children both facts and stories, both the tools they need to inquire into truth and respect for traditions, whatever the historical truth status of those traditions? Rabbi Lau points the way—tell the stories as stories (and tell them well), relate them to our lives, and at the same time make sure your kids know that you are telling stories and not history. Like Nebuchadnezzar, we need to know what is happening, but we also need to know what dreamed.
Take a look.