Unit II. Visualizing Values - Lesson 11: The Visual Talmud
|Materials:||All of the photographs by Zion Ozeri
A Guide to the Layout of a Talmud Page
Worksheet S: A Talmudic Debate (if desired)
Zion Ozeri’s Photo Captions and the Sample texts
|Preparation:||If you plan to show the Guide to the Layout of a Talmud Page, set up a laptop and LCD projector before class, or make photocopies to distribute. You may also want to make photocopies of the “Sample Texts” for student reference.|
|Overview:||In this lesson, students begin to create their own “visual Talmud pages,” linking images and values with a variety of textual and visual commentaries.|
|Big Idea:||Text study and interpretation, which is central to Jewish tradition, can be expanded to include visual texts as well.|
Introduction (20 minutes):
Recall for students the story about Hillel (see Worksheet J), in which the great scholar boils all of Judaism down to one short sentence and claims that “everything else is commentary.”
- Point out to students (if they haven’t already gotten the point) that in this course they’re looking at photographs as a kind of text that can be read and interpreted. Students may have also noticed that the values worksheets (Worksheets K–Q) are laid out like a page of Talmud.
- Explain that text study and interpretations are fundamental to Judaism and are typified by the Talmud.
- If your students are not familiar with the Talmud, show or distribute the color-coded diagram of a Talmud page from the “Resources” section of this guide.
- Help students understand that a page of the Talmud includes commentaries and responses all around the primary text in the middle. The primary texts are discussions by rabbis in ancient Israel and Babylonia about Jewish law and practice. You can liken it to a web page: Each bit of text around the sides is like a hyperlink to a different interpretation or commentary on the main text. You don’t read a page of theTalmud like other books, from top to bottom. You read the central text and consult the secondary “hyperlinks” as necessary to better understand it.
- If you have the time, distribute Worksheet S and have students work on it in pairs. (Paired study, or hevruta, is the traditional way to learn the Talmud.) The worksheet will give students a better feel for the nature of Talmudic debate and interpretation.
Creating the Visual Talmud (30 minutes):
- Next, explain that each student will be creating a Talmud page of sorts—a “visual” Talmud page. The primary text will be a photograph by Zion Ozeri that relates to whichever value the student selects. Students will photocopy the photographs, glue them to the center of a sheet of poster board, and then add various “commentaries” around the central image. The commentaries will be written or visual texts that interpret, explain, or enhance the central text and the Jewish value or values it reflects.
- Have each student select a value to focus on.
- Make all of the Zion Ozeri photographs available to the class. Give students some time to sift through the images and find one that relates to the value he or she has selected.
- Once students have chosen their central texts (that is, the photographs by Zion Ozeri they plan to use), you might want to have them begin with a close-looking exercise (such as the objective/subjective exercise in Unit 1, Lesson 1 “Reading a Photograph,” or one of the creative response activities described at the end of Unit 1 in “For Further Exploration.”
- Then have students begin to develop their commentaries. Have them finish the work and assemble their pages at home (and/or during additional class periods).
Students will need additional time to complete their commentaries and lay out their Talmud pages. You can assign this for homework and/or devote additional sessions to completing the work.