Themes in Hebrew Literature and Culture
Love and Friendship in Hebrew Poetry
Fall 2001, 10A
Lewis Glinert
Office: 305 Bartlett Hall


Human love and friendship and love of Godhave been central themes in Hebrew poetry from the Bible down to the present day. How have Jewish attitudes to love and eros varied down the ages and across continents and in modern Israel? And how did the pious in medieval germany and Yementuse these themes in martyrdom and mystical ascent? Starting from the Song of Songs and David's Lament, which occupy a pivotal place in both Hebrew and Western literature, we shall closely ezamine the celebration of wine, beauty and the soul inf medieval spain and Renaissance Italy; the first stirrings of love poety in the Russian Shtetl; the emergence of the Israeli woman poet; and conclude with a special focus on Israel's most celebrated modernist poet, Yehuda Amihai.

*No knowledge of Hebrew or Jewish life is required.


Course requirement

There will be a midterm and a final take-home examination, each consisting of thematic essays and explications of individual poems; the midterm (50% of the grade) will cover the material of Weeks 1-5, while the final (50%) covers the material of weeks 6-10. There will also be a number of assignments.

I encourage students with disabilities, including invisible disabilities like chronic diseases, learning disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities to discuss with me after class or during my office hours appropriate accommodations that might be helpful to them.


The following books are required and can be purchased at the bookstore:

The following books have been placed on 24-hour reserve in Baker Library:


Regular and punctual attendance is expected. If there are unavoidable reasons to miss a class, please inform me at least a day in advance.


Week 1: Human love and friendship in Jewish life
    ntroducing Hebrew poetry
    The Song of Songs [use the Soncino ed of The Five Megilloth] , David's Lament (2 Samuel 1:17-27, use the Soncino ed. of Samuel )
    Cohen, Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought. 'Eros, Sex and Body' (pp 177-182), 'Sanctification of the Name' (pp. 849-854)
    Biale, Eros and the Jews, introduction

Week 2: Biblical love and friendship
    Hosea, ch 1,2,3 [use Soncino ed. of The Minor Prophets]
    Falk, Love Lyrics from the Bible, ch 3-5
    Phyllis Trible ŒDepatriarchalizing in Biblical interpretation', JAAR 41(1), 1973, especially pp. 42-48.

Be prepared to discuss Trible's and Falk's ideas. Think through Falk's view that the Song of Songs is fundamentally (in her words) "non-sexist"
    Psalms 45, 63 [use Soncino ed. of Psalms],
    Proverbs 31:10-31 [use Soncino ed. of Proverbs]
    Biale, Eros and the Jews, ch. 1
    Scheindlin, Wine, women and death , pp 3-17, 77-134

Week 3: The Golden Age of Spain
    Brody, Selected Poems of Jehudah Halevi, poems #23, 24, 37
    The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, pp. 298, 312, 324-5, 328, 360-2
    Scheindlin, The Gazelle 3-12, 33-51, poems #1 to 7, 16 to 23

An short ORAL assignment, for report in class:
Using the Biblical references in the margins, discuss the imagery of the Yehudah HaLevi poem #37 (Dove Beside the Water Brooks), paying special attention to the last lines of stanzas.
I shall ask each of you to discuss one or two of the Biblical references

Week 4: Medieval mysticism and martyrdom
    The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, pp. 195-201 top, 215-6, 370, 372-5, 377-9, 384-8
    Spiegel The Last Trial ch 3, 10 and Appendix (Akedah)
    Chazan ch 5

Week 5: Renaissance Italy and the kabbalists of the East
    The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, pp. 421-3, 432-5, 454-7, 465-8 (Zarco), 471-2, foot of 481-2, 487-8, 494-5

Week 6: Breaking free: The new love poets of the Shtetl

      The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself, pp 18-9, 28-30.
    About the Midterm:
    You should know the major themes, personae and motifs of the Song of Songs -- as discussed in Falk and Trible and as dealt with in class (examples of motifs are the wasf, the nature imagery, city and wilderness).

    A question might take the form of an essay or a commentary.
    Be prepared to discuss the other Biblical texts we looked at as well.
    Bring your Bibles to the exam!

      Gross, Hebrew Love Poems, pp. 5, 13, 16-19, 27, 30-2, 58- 63, 67-71, 74-77, 80-1, 85-88
      Eros and the Jews, ch. 7
    Assignment (800-1000 words):
    "How far do the poems of Bialik and Tshernikhowsky on your syllabus accord with the claim that Bialik was the poet of the sublime and Tshernikowsky the poet of the beautiful (in Kant's/Burke's sense of the words)?"

    For Kant's views of the sublime, see his 'Critique of Aesthetic Judgment'.
    If you want to find out more about his views on beauty, see Roger Scruton's nice little book "Kant", Oxford, 1982, ch 6.

Week 7: Comradeship and love in a new land
    The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself, pp.62-4, 112-122, 136-8, 170-3, 182-3, 198-210
    Gross, Hebrew Love Poems, pp. 1-4, 8, 11, 29, 33, 38-9, 48-9, 52
    The songs Re'ut, Dudu and further poems (hand-outs) Eros and the Jews, ch. 8

Week 8: Modern Israel's love poet laureate: Yehuda Amichai
    The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself, pp. 160-3
    Amichai: Poems of Jerusalem & Love Poems pp.139-143
    Amichai: Poems of Jerusalem & Love Poems pp.149-157
    More of Amichai: 169, 173-5, 199, 247-9, 257
    Abramson, The writing of Yehuda Amichai ch 1-5 (especially ch 5)
    Assignment (3 pp: 'How far does Biale ch 8 shed light on Amichai's love poetry?'

Week 9: The voice of women in contemporary Israeli love poetry
    The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself, pp. 186-7
    Hebrew Love Poems, pp. ...
    Hand-outs: Bat-Miriam, Goldberg, Raab, Zelda, Wallach, Hess, Ravikovitch, Ayalon, Bejerano

Week 10: What continuity? What changed?

* If you have any questions about this course, you can reach Prof. Glinert at Lewis.H.Glinert@Dartmouth.EDU.

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