Gendered in the image of God: The first human (August 17, 2017)

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Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, 136 Magazine Street, Cambridge, MA  – August 17, 2017.  See end of post for logistics.

This study is led by Penina Weinberg.

In speaking of the creation, the Kabbalists call the first human du-partzufin, a Greek term meaning two visages, ie two faces on one body, not two bodies. They describe the divine and human each as bi-sexual. They say that both genders are present in all humans and that this is the image of the divine.
What does that actually mean? How does non-binary fit into this idea?
We will read from Genesis and from the Kabbalists in an effort to see the biblical story of the creation in a new light, and to make greater sense of our own gender journeys.

  • 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 webmaster at her synagogue. Penina is a mother and grandmother.

Sex of the Soul: Gendered in the Image of God (June 22, 2017)

The text which we will look at after reviewing the place of Mopsik’s work in the history of the Kabbalah is here:       Mopsik Sex of the Soul pp 46-52

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Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA
June 22, 2017.  See end of post for logistics.

This study is led by Penina Weinberg.

We will dip one toenail into Charles Mopsik’s book: Sex of the Soul: The Vicissitudes of Sexual Difference in the Kabbalah. Mopsik was a modern scholar of Kabbalah. With him we will re-visit the creation of humans in the image of God and explore what it means, according to the kabbalists, for the soul to be both male and female in every human. This will not be a study in depth, but will open a tiny peep hole into an amazing world of thought. Mopsik warns us that we cannot pull this knowledge into modern reality, but it will illuminate our own thinking on the questions of gender.

“Clearly it is out of the question to draw a direct lesson from these classic texts and apply them to modern reality… Nevertheless, even though there is no way of equating them, the parallels are thought-provoking and can guide attempts to find solutions to the problems raised… The religious recognition and acceptance of polymorphism in human sexual identity, bisexuality, the acknowledgement of a gulf between external gender and ontological real gender, the existence of parents who are basically of the same gender, and a complex economy of desire differing vastly from so-called natural instinct, all demonstrate the flexibility of kabbalistic mystical belief as it attempted to grapple with the infinite variety of human existence.”

  • 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.

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.

Ki Tisa as a Song of Longing (Mar 16, 2017)

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Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA
March 16, 2017.  See end of post for logistics.

This study is led by Penina Weinberg.

Parashat Ki Tisa is a Song of both longing and danger. First, the longing. Previous to our parsha, Moses has gone up to the top of Mount Sinai, entering the cloud of God’s presence, to remain with God for 40 days (Ex 24:18). While Moses is up on Mount Sinai encountering the Divine, the children of Israel wait expectantly at the foot of Mount Sinai for Moses to return with God’s prescription for a holy life.

Now the period of time is coming to an end and the people are restless, “for this Moshe, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him!” (Ex 32.1 Everett Fox translation). They go to Aaron, brother of Moses, and say to him, “Make us a god who will go before us!” (Ex 32.1 Everett Fox translation). There follows the well-known story of the creation of the golden calf from the gold rings of the people, and of the people eating, drinking, and dancing wildly around their creation.

I would like to read the creation of the golden calf as the story of people who are yearning for God’s presence, and who do the best they can in their circumstances to fill that longing. But there is a problem with this reading, and that is where the danger comes it. Although Moses successfully pleads with God not to destroy the people entirely (Ex. 32:31-34), nevertheless God sends a plague upon the people (Ex. 32:35). Moses himself orders the Levites to assassinate 3,000 of the Israelites. (Ex. 32:26-28). If the people were expressing longing for God, how do we understand a world in which they can be punished for doing so?

We can illuminate the Exodus text by following the ancient rabbinic tradition of reading Torah intertextually with Song of Songs. But fair warning, the Song illuminates the danger as well as the longing.

  • 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.

Tziporah and the Awesome Fusion of Aaron and Moses (Feb 16, 2017)

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Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA
February 16, 2017.  See end of post for logistics.

This study is led by Penina Weinberg.

There is a mysterious and awe-filled encounter between YHVH and Moses, as Moses returns from Midian to Egypt to undertake the deliverence of the Hebrew slaves from Pharaoh (Exodus 4:24-27). It appears that YHVH seeks to kill Moses and that Moses’ wife Tziporah, a Midianite priestess with overtones of Osiris, performs a magical and life-saving circumcision. Immediately afterwords, YHVH sends Aaron from Egpyt to join Moses in the wilderness. Aaron meets Moses and kisses him. From now on, Aaron will “speak Hebrew” for Moses. Moses is both Hebrew and Egyptian and stuggles to come to terms with his existence as a hybrid being. Tziporah’s magical/priestly ritual forms a crucible for Moses, enabling him to essentially fuse with Aaron.

We will do a close reading of the text to uncover interesting implications for queer identity and for identity fusion, transformation, or hybridization. We will look at issues of ethnic as well as gender identity (is Moses really a nursemaid? do all the 5 women who birthed him continue to live within him?). As suggested by Penina’s study partner in preparing this class, Noach Dzmura (thank you Noach for all the great ideas!), the closest modern analogy may well be the cartoon character Steven Universe. Our friend Ezra Rose Greenfield has graciously agreed to give us an introduction to the hybrid/fushion personas of Steven Universe and his friends.

  • 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.

A True Leader – Moses and the Five Women who Birthed Him (Jan 19, 2017)

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Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA
January 19, 2017.  See end of post for logistics.

This study is led by Penina Weinberg.

Join us for a queer look at Moses and the five powerful women of Exodus 1-2 who birthed/midwifed/nurtured the great leader of the Hebrew people. Despite contrary decrees by the powerful Pharaoh of Egypt, the women used their wits to gain power when they lacked authority. They launched Moses as a prophet and leader, and Miriam became a prophet herself. At the end of the book of Exodus, we will see that their efforts led to another quintuplet of women who changed their world: the daughters of Zelophehad – Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

As we sit upon the eve of destruction, what can we learn about faith, resistance, persistance, and feminine and non-elite power, by a deep reading of this story?

This class will not discuss current events, but the universal questions which arise in the study will resonate and perhaps be useful. My approach to Torah is not, how can we make this verse or that speak to a current event? Rather, we collectively unpack and seek to understand and own the texts; we bring the text to our selves, and our selves to the texts. Thereby each of us can increase our knowledge of human and divine nature, and with deeper understanding, strengthen our selves for our various forms of life work.

  • 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.

Elijah the Prophet: Zealotry, Despair, and Hearing kol d’mama daka (Sept 15, 2016)

Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA
September 15, 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.

We will do a close reading of 1 Kgs 19, Prophet Elijah’s flight to the desert, where he prepares himself to die. In what way are Elijah’s fear of Jezebel, his zealotry for God, and his despair, linked to each other? When God attempts to teach Elijah that the divine is to be found in kol d’mama daka, but not in the wind, not in the earthquake, and not in the fire, does Elijah get the message? Note: biblical scholar Athalya Brenner writes that translations for kol d’mama daka, “as various as the RSV’s ‘still small voice’, ‘roaring thunderous voice’, ‘the sound of utmost silence’ and ‘a thin petrifying sound’ are all equally plausible.” We will be assisted in the study of despair by Elizabeth Sweeny who will present some of her work on Elijah and depression. Thank you, Elizabeth!!! 1 K 18:46 – 19:21 is the haftarah for Num 25:10 – 30:1, (parashat Pinchas). We will compare Elijah’s zealotry to the of Pinchas. How does zealotry manifest? In what ways does the text approve and disapprove?

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.

Rebecca, Isaac, Jacob and Esau: A Queer Look at Family, Love, Jealousy and Gender in the Hebrew Bible (February 25, 2016)

Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA
Join us for an interactive study of Rebecca, Isaac, Jacob and Esau. Study will be led by Penina Weinberg. 6:45 pm for schmooze. Bring veggie snacks if you wish.
Study will begin promptly at 7:15pm.
Congregation Eitz Chayim 136 Magazine Street, Cambridge, MA
February 25, 2016
 

We’ll do a close reading of the story of Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Esau. We’ll follow through on what we learned from Song of Songs 8:6

For love is as strong as death [“The love which Isaac bore to Esau” –from Song of Songs Rabbah]

Jealousy as harsh as Sheol [“The Jealousy which Esau bore against Jacob” –from Song of Songs Rabbah]We will study the way in which Rebecca may be seen to inherit the mantles of both Abraham and Sarah, and to occupy a gender space both male and female. We will consider whether Jacob can be read as transgender and/or as a person whose true voice is never heard.

THE SOUL OF DAVID (December 17 2015)

Ruach HaYam workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim

Join Ruach HaYam for an interactive text study of the soul of David. Study will be led by Penina Weinberg on December 17, 2015 at Congregation Eitz Chayim, 136 Magazine Street, Cambridge, MA. Join us at 6:45 pm for shmooze. Bring veggie snacks if you wish. Study will begin promptly at 7:15pm.    Parking is allowed within a three block radius on event nights.

According to the Book of Samuel, “The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (1 Sam 18:1). Our study will ask the question, who did David love and what was the nature of that love? We will study David’s speech upon the death of Jonathan (2 Samuel Chapter 2) along side David’s speech upon the death of his first son by Bathsheba (2 Samuel Chapter 12). We will consider the love which Michal expressed for David (1 Samuel Chapter 18) and, time permitting, the relationship between David and Bathsheba.

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MOTHERHOOD, MANHOOD AND WAR: A QUEER LOOK AT GENDER AND POWER IN THE SONG OF DEBORAH (November 11, 2015)

Ruach HaYam Workshop at Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA

A close reading of Deborah, Jael, Sisera’s mother, Sisera, and Barak to see what we can learn about stereotypical gender roles, non-normative gender roles, and how power is wielded. We also consider the nature of war.