May 07, 2009

Schorsch, Jonathan
[RELI V3561] Classics of Judaism: Ethics of the Fathers

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This class was easy and at times informative, but generally it was quite dull. We focused in one the one text (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers) and studied it using different rabbinic commentaries, and each class we discussed only a small portion of the text. Professor Schorsch is a sweetheart and he does seem to know everything. He doesn't really care if you hand in papers late, as long as he gets them at some point. This includes the final research paper. He responds well to emails and is happy to meet with students outside of class. He has a tendency to do all the talking, though that might have been a function of a general lack of engagement on the students' part (it was also a reaction to our general lack of engagement). The issue was that there were few threads throughout the semester to tie the text together as a whole, and so a lot of our discussions ended up feeling pedantic or pointless (whether we discussed as an entire class or in small groups). It's hard to tell how much I've actually learned this semester, but my guess is that that means that I didn't learn all that much.

This class is very easy, but if you don't go into it already engaged in rabbinical texts in some way, it can be dull and confusing. Speaking/reading Hebrew is a plus, but it is in no way required, and not speaking it really didn't hold me back.


4 mini-papers (biographies of rabbis we encountered in the text), 4-5 pages each. 1 final research paper, 10 pages. Very light reading for all classes, especially after week 2.