RW783 – The Riches of Rabbinic Narrative

Instructor: Rav Carl Kinbar
Dates: January 8 – March 12, 2023; Winter Semester 2022–23

Our Sages lived in the paradoxical space between knowing that God is beyond comprehension and yet connecting with God emotionally and intellectually. Like authors of the world’s great literature, our Sages often used stories to convey their deepest thoughts and feelings, stories in which the Sages and angels and biblical figures appear (especially God!) appear. In this course, we will study and discuss some of their most meaningful stories and explore their relevance for us today.

Rabbinic narratives are part and parcel of the curriculum.

The Rabbinic Narrative serves a dual function to preserve traditional Jewish theology and ethics and as a living idiom for ongoing reflection.


Students must have a computer and good internet access.

Weekly interactive class sessions (150 minutes) and asynchronous discussion threads are the main learning components of the course. A final comprehensive final exam will also be given.

Students are required to:
• complete the weekly reading assignments in advance of the weekly class sessions,
• participate in the weekly class sessions via conferences on Populi,
• participate in asynchronous discussion,
• write a final exam.


  • Rubenstein, Jeffrey L. Rabbinic Stories. New York: Paulist, 2002.
  • Course Pack : See weekly assignments in the course outline.
    – Englard, Izhak. “Majority Decision vs. Individual Truth.” Tradition, a Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought 15 (1975): 137-152.
    – Friedman, Hershey H. “Living the Virtuous Life: Lessons from Talmudic Stories.” SSRN (February 7, 2018), 1–107. Available at SSRN: or
    – Friedman, Hershey H. and Friedman, Linda Weiser, “Encounters with God: Rabbinic Stories and What We Can Learn from Them.” SSRN (August 14, 2022). Available at SSRN: or
    –  Luban, David. “The Coiled Serpent of Argument: Reason, Authority, and Law in a Talmudic Tale.” Chicago-Kent Law Review, vol. 79.3 (2004). Available at
    –  Oatley, Keith, “On Truth and Fiction: Dialogues between Literature and Cognition” in Dialogues between Literature and Cognition. Michael Burke and Emily Troscianco, eds. New York: Oxford, 2017, 259-278.
    – Shapira, Haim. “The Schools of Hillel and Shammai.” The Jewish Law Annual Volume 17 (1st ed.). ed. Lifshitz, B. London: Routledge-Cavendish (2007): 50 pages.
    –  Stern, David. “Imitatio Hominis: Anthropomorphism and the Character(s) of God in Rabbinic Literature.” Prooftexts, vol. 12.2 (1992): 151-174.
    –  Zaker, Christina R. “Parable as a Lens for Theological Reflection.” Reflective Practice: Formation and Supervision in Ministry, (2015): 55-67.
    –  Zion, Noam. “Back to the Cave! Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai’s Dilemma: Torah or Tikkun Olam?” Article on


  • Pearl, Chaim. Theology in Rabbinic Stories. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003. (180 pages)
  • Jeffrey L, Rubenstein. Jeffrey L. The Culture of The Babylonian Talmud. New York: Jewish Publication Society, 2018.
  • __________________The Land of Truth: Talmud Tales, Timeless Teachings. New York: Jewish Publication Society, 2018.
  • Amy Scheinerman, The Talmud of Relationships, Volume I and II. New York: Jewish Publication Society, 2018.


1. Read the article by Friedman and Friedman, Rabbinic Stories, before the first day of class to obtain a reasonable sense of the scope and depth of the Rabbinic narrative. Due by the first day of class, January 8, 2023.
2. Read the assigned weekly readings prior to the weekly class session.
3. Participate in the weekly class sessions and asynchronous discussions according to instructions given during class.
4. Submit the Final Exam on Populi by 11:59 pm, Thursday, March 3, 2023.


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