Centre for Continuing Education

Jewish Culture Course: Shemot I (Exodus) - From Slavery to Sinai

Jewish culture. Learn about Jewish culture with us.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

In partnership with the Department of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies
Course materials developed by The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning - a project of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. For specific enquiries regarding the program, please contact Hinda Young on 0432 567 917.

This course involves a deep exploration of the first half of the book of Shemot (Exodus) in the Torah (The Five Books of Moses). In this course, you will explore; the views of traditional Jewish commentators, classic and modern midrash (parables), and artistic understandings. You will be exposed to a multi-layered study of interpretations, historical influences, and contemporary perspectives from which you can draw a deeper level of meaning.

This course runs as part of the biblical series – a series of Jewish Culture courses exploring Jewish biblical texts and their meanings. The structure and method of study is consistent across courses, but the biblical text, commentators and scholars under consideration vary between courses.


This course aims to engage you in a close reading of the biblical text of the book of Shemot (Exodus) 1- 17. You will discover its nuances, debate its meaning, and unearth its many messages.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • identify questions, ambiguities, and existential dilemmas that arise in the Shemot
  • describe different approaches to interpreting Shemot through commentaries and art
  • explain how the layers of interpretation of Shemot through the ages, and through a range of perspectives, address central questions on the human condition
  • distinguish between the positions of the major Jewish thinkers on selected topics through the study of original texts
  • analyse the key moral and ethical messages of the texts studied, the historical realities at the time of their composition, and the contemporary implications of these perspectives on their own lives.


This course focuses on:

  • the human condition
  • the questions, ambiguities and existential dilemmas arising in the biblical text
  • its key moral and ethical messages
  • the historical realities at the time it was composed
  • the contemporary implications of these perspectives.

The topics covered are:

Lesson 1 – Pharaoh’s Paranoia SHEMOT 1: 8 – 22

Approaches to understanding the reasons for the slavery and an exploration of perspectives on the identity, roles, and reward of the midwives.

Lesson 2 – Moshe’s (Moses') CV SHEMOT 2: 11 – 22

Moshe’s response to conflict and injustice as a window into his character and the traits that guide his future leadership.

Lesson 3 – The Burning Bush SHEMOT 3: 1 – 22

Moshe’s first encounter with the divine and the unfolding of his mission as the messenger of God to enact the redemption.

Lesson 4 – Bridegroom of Blood SHEMOT 4: 24 – 26

An enigmatic passage about near death, the circumcision of Moshe’s son, and the active role in Tzipporah in averting tragedy.

Lesson 5 – Off to a Tough Start SHEMOT 5: 1 – 6: 1

Moshe’s initiation into leadership and the question of his support staff, his standoff with Pharaoh, and the waning of the people’s trust.

Lesson 6 – Hail: Profile of a Plague SHEMOT 9: 13 – 35; 10: 1 – 2

An examination of the plague of hail as a case study to explore the purpose of punishment, and concepts of justice and compassion.

Lesson 7 – The First Pesach (Passover) SHEMOT 12: 1 – 14

The significance of the Jewish calendar and the Passover rituals in the formation of the Jewish nation.

Lesson 8 – Into the Sea SHEMOT 14: 1 – 31

The notion of hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, fear and prayer in the face of the Egyptian pursuers, and the significance of the miracle at the sea.

Lesson 9 – Manna from Heaven SHEMOT 16: 1 – 36

The enigmatic food from heaven and what it reveals about the initial transition from slavery to freedom.

Lesson 10 – Amalek SHEMOT 17: 8 – 16

The historical and national struggle with Amalek and the significance of this eternal conflict to contemporary times.

Intended audience

Suitable for anyone wishing to explore Jewish biblical texts. You will analyse multiple interpretations, ranging from Rabbinic commentary, to contemporary perspectives from across the Jewish spectrum.

Delivery style

This ten-lesson course centres around text study and discussion between participants and the facilitator.


A course booklet is available in two formats:

  1. Complimentary online booklet (PDF) accessible via an online portal.
  2. Printed booklet (additional fee of $24) available for purchase here. Your booklet will be available to collect at the first or second class, depending on the date of purchase.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

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