a guide to Jewish themes in “Divinity School”

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a guide to Jewish themes in “Divinity School”

Hi friends,

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!

With love,


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)


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