How to Learn Midrash
Avraham smashing the idols, Vashti sprouting a tail, and the very fact that the Torah was created 974 generations before creation. Many of the stories Jews (and other readers of scripture) tell about the characters in Tanakh are not found there, but are contained in a large body of literature called Midrash.
How did Midrash come to be, and how old is it? How do practitioners of midrash decide what stories to tell, and did they actually think they were part of scripture?
In this course we learn the tools of learning midrash as a sophisticated and rich method of reading scripture, from its beginnings to the eighth century, but mostly through conversations on and close readings of "classical midrash", redacted in 4th century Palestina/Eretz Israel.
The course will be useful for complete beginners - translations will be provided - but will be most enjoyable for those with some experience with midrash, who always wanted to understand exactly how it "worked.