Saul and the Necromancer of Endor (April 20, 2017)

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Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA
April 20, 2017.  See end of post for logistics.

This study is led by Penina Weinberg.

King Saul’s visit to the necromancer of Endor (1 Kings 28) introduces us to man who is at the end of his political life but hoping for saving words from beyond the grave. Saul hopes the necromancer will bring up the ghost of Samuel to help him. We will look at what drives Saul politically to seek out the necromancer, and at how the woman’s wizardry bypasses the traditional authority structure. Ruach HaYam member Sarah Pasternak will lead us in a discussion of Saul’s struggle with his own mortality and forthcoming irrelevance (with the regime change to David). This story has power politics, confrontation with mortality, and the story of a woman who defies the king’s decree.

It turns out that the Kabbalist Hayyim Vital, writing at the end of the 16th century, discussed the women diviners of his day in great detail, some of whom commanded respect and obedience from great rabbis of the day. The modern scholar J.H. Chajes sums up his essay about Vital and the diviners thus: “Their authority was not based on their scholarship or communal post… Their commanding voices were heard because they were benign witches, expert diviners, vivid dreamers, acute dream interpreters, and socially conscious prophets.” In our class, along with examining Saul’s motivations, we will ponder Chajes’ study in conjunction with the comments of Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael quoted on the event banner.

  • 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.  It’s a good idea to put a note in the windshield that you are attending an event at EC.
  • Accessibility information: all gender/accessible bathrooms, entry ramp.

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.