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Tanakh Department

Department Chair: Mrs. Suzanne Cohen

The goal of the Tanakh department is to teach the skills and love of learning which are necessary for a lifetime of Torah study. We work to develop textual and analytical skills through extensive use of guided chavruta, so that our graduates are equipped to study Tanakh independently and seriously. Our curriculum and methodology are based on the firm conviction that the most meaningful and productive learning is achieved through the personal and active involvement of each student in the learning process. Because all parshanut begins with asking questions, we always encourage our students to ask. By involving our students actively in the learning process, we help them develop the sense that they can turn to the Torah for answers to any philosophical or religious questions they may encounter in life.

More specifically, our goals in teaching Tanakh at Ma’ayanot include the following:

  • To help students understand and appreciate the message and beauty of Torah, its internal unity and its ethical, moral and spiritual imperatives
  • To develop facility in reading and understanding classical texts. Special attention is given to developing skills in close reading, analysis of grammatical and syntactical forms, using te'amim as exegetical guides, and building basic vocabulary through recognition of roots and word families
  • To develop interpretive skills through close reading, identification of textual questions, recognition of contextual clues, comparisons to parallel or related passages elsewhere in Tanakh, and examination and comparison of classical commentaries
  • To study the biographical background and methodological approaches of classical commentators, and to learn to distinguish between peshat and derash
  • To develop facility in reading, decoding and analyzing the commentaries of the Rishonim through intensive study of parshanut
  • To understand the distinguishing features of literary genres such as narrative, legal and poetic passages and be able to identify literary techniques
  • To understand the overall structure, themes and goals of the sefarim studied
  • To teach students to use reference materials such as a Concordance and a dictionary


Students are required to take four years of Tanakh and have additional elective offerings throughout high school. In 12th grade, they have the option of taking a Tanakh elective in addition to their regular Tanakh class.

9th Grade:

  • Humash: The section of Sefer Bereishit that tells the story of Avraham Avinu. Emphasis is placed on developing analytical reading skills for both peshat and mefarshim.
  • Navi: Students learn selections from Melakhim, completing their study of Nevi'im Rishonim. Parallel narratives in Nevi'im Aharonim and Divrei Hayamim are studied where applicable.

10th Grade:

  • Humash: Selected portions of Sefer Shemot are learned be'iyun, and others are learned in bekiut. Topics include shibud Mitzrayim, yetziat Mitzrayim, matan Torah, and chet ha’egel. Students continue to hone their peshat and parshanut reading skills, focusing especially on the commentary of the Ramban.
  • Navi: Selections of Sefer Yeshayahu are studied. Perakim are selected to give the students an understanding of the nature of classical nevuah and of the personality, literary style, and historical context of Yeshayahu. Comparisons are made to nevi'im who lived at the same time as Yeshayahu, such as Amos and Mikha.

11th Grade:

  • Humash: All of Sefer Bamidbar is learned, in a combination of bekiut and be'iyun study. All narrative sections of the sefer are learned be'iyun. There is extensive use of parshanut, including medieval as well as more recent commentaries.
  • Navi: Students learn sections of Sefer Yirmiyahu which give a sense of the mission, personality, goals, and literary style of Yirmiyahu, as well as the time period in which he lived.

12th Grade:

  • Humash: Students learn Parshat Bereishit and Sefer Devarim. Emphasis is on developing an understanding of the unique character and structure of this sefer. To this end, the whole sefer is learned in a combination of bekiut and be'iyun study, with thorough use of parshanut.
  • Navi: The 12th grade Navi curriculum draws together different Biblical sources that discuss the period of Shivat Tzion. Selections of Haggai, Zeharya, Malakhi and Ezra/Nehemya are studied. Students learn about the history and challenges of Shivat Tzion and the prophetic mission of the neviim of that time.

Integrated into the Tanakh curriculum are general units of study (yediot kelaliyot) that give students a basic understanding of topics such as the authorship of the various sifrei Tanakh, the concept of Torah MiSinai, the historical time-frame of the different parts of Tanakh, and other key concepts that foster Jewish literacy.

Tracking:  Tanakh classes are tracked throughout all four years. All students can choose to take Tanakh Seminar in 12th grade.