The Hannah Narrative: Listening to (my, your, their) Inner Voice (August 18, 2016)

Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA
August 18, 2016. 
Ruach HaYam study sessions provide a queer Jewish look at text, but are open to any learning or faith background and friendly to beginners.

Study starts promptly at 7:15 pm. However we open the doors at 6:45 for schmoozing. Feel free to bring your own veggie snack for the early part. —- A parking consideration is in effect for the three blocks around EC during all regularly scheduled events.

Accessibility information: MBTA accessible, all gender/accessible bathrooms, entry ramp.

This study is led by Penina Weinberg.

The Hannah Narrative, 1 Samuel 1:1-2:10, is recited as the Haftarah every year at Rosh Hashanah. R Nahman of Breslev teaches that “During the Days of Awe it is a good thing when you can weep profusely like a child. Throw aside all your sophistication. Just cry before God; cry for the diseases of the heart, for the pains and sores you feel in your soul. Cry like a child before his father.” (From R Noson’s work, “Liketey Eitzot”). The Talmud presents Hannah as an example to all of how to pray. “R. Hamnuna said: How many most important laws can be learnt from these verses relating to Hannah! Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart: from this we learn that one who prays must direct his heart. Only her lips moved: from this we learn that he who prays must frame the words distinctly with his lips.” (B. Berachot 31a-b)

Through many years of reciting the Hannah Narrative at the High Holy Days, I have generally understood the Hannah Narrative to be an example of how one needs to dig into one’s soul and shout out one’s inner longings. In this class, I want to ask the question, what is our responsibility to really listen? Is there a problem in expecting the Other to dig into their soul and to reach out to Us? In the Hannah Narrative, only Penina really listens from her own empathetic soul.

Penina Weinberg is an independent Hebrew bible scholar whose study and teaching focus on the intersection of power, politics and gender in the Hebrew Bible. She has run workshops for Nehirim and Keshet and has been teaching Hebrew bible for 10 years. She has written in Tikkun, founded the group Ruach HaYam and is president emerita and chair of various committees in her synagogue. Penina is a mother and grandmother.

Read Penina’s article with collaborator Mischa Haider in Tikkun here: Unrighteous Anger – Queen Vashti and the Erasure of Transgender Women