a guide to Jewish themes in “Divinity School”Alicia
People have been writing me recently asking about using my poetry book, Divinity School, as a teaching tool in spiritual study, teaching or prayer settings.
I’m a huge believer in integrated arts education as well as arts-integrated spirituality (which is why I created a curriculum about women in Torah through the arts!) so needless to say, my answer is, GO FOR IT!
To help out, I thought I’d create a guide to Jewish texts and themes in Divinity School. Here it is; enjoy! Just be warned that the book does contain adult language and themes so make sure the setting is somewhere people will be cool with that.
I have not yet gone through and listed actual chapter, verse, or Talmud tractate and pages – so please feel free to do that in comments, you scholars of Torah!
Guide to Jewish References in Divinity School
Some are more clear/obvious than others. It is poetry, after all. For those of you teaching in Jewish settings, I’ve listed the weekly Torah portion when appropriate (parasha).
Page 6…THE DEFINITIONS – This poem contains a somewhat veiled allusion to the ritual of the Sotah (woman accused of adultery with no witnesses, from parashat Naso). Essentially, in this poem I imagine the Sotah as an older woman, teaching girls about her story and what she’s learned about being a woman in a patriarchal world. This poem originally was part of a series with the poems on p. 12 and 43, so you may want to consider them all together in light of Sotah.
7…MALKHUT – draws on kabbalistic themes.
9…THE STORY OF NOAH – as title implies, an interpretation of the story of Noah, in Parashat Noach
12…THE MAGIC – see p. 6, The Definitions
14…THE MAN IN THE EARTH ROOM – no direct textual references but I write about living in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem
18…TOO LATE – language echoes the Genesis/Beresheet account of creation
19…HOW TO GRADUATE – no parsha reference, but reference to idea of Torah as love letter from God
22…HOW TO TELL TIME – Manna [Parashat Beshalach]
25…HOW TO SING – no parsha reference, but refers to the experience of visiting a concentration camp as a Jewish American
27…THE STORY OF JONAH – Book of Jonah, which we read on Yom Kippur
28…HOW TO ASSESS YOUR NET WORTH – based on a Chassidic teaching
31…HOW TO MAKE A GIRL COME – inspired by the Talmudic legend about fetus studying Torah in the womb beneath a candle
43…WILLOW – see p. 6, The Definitions
49…HOW TO SAIL – reference to the ritual of the Sotah (Parashat Naso) – also is explicitly about tutoring bat mitzvah students
50…DEAD SEA SCROLLS – no specific text reference, but draws on the archeological exploration of ancient texts
52…AT THE SCHOOL FOR YOUNG UNICORNS – but draws on Talmudic teachings about water and humility
60…FLOOD – slight reference to Parashat Noach (more about Gilgamesh/Sumerian cuneiform)