Jeroboam and the loss of inheritance [nachalah]

In our class on Kings, we often read that such and such a king was as evil as Jeroboam son of Nebat, and/or will suffer his fate.   For example, after King Ahab’s wife Jezebel has Naboth killed, and Ahab takes possession of Naboth’s vineyard, the prophet Elijah says to Ahab:

Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will utterly sweep thee away, and will cut off from Ahab every manchild, and him that is shut up and him that is left at large in Israel. And I will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasa the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked Me, and hast made Israel to sin. [I Kgs 21:21-22].

In seeking to understand exactly what Jeroboam did that was so nefarious, one class member suggested that it might be related to the way in which King Ahab and Queen Jezebel tried to alienate Naboth from his vineyard, from the inheritance [nachalah] of his ancestors.  For in this matter, Jezebel and Ahab are subject to the same curse and manner of death as Jeroboam.

Jeroboam enters our narrative as he raises up his hand against King Solomon [I Kgs 11:26] and runs to Egypt to escape being killed by Solomon.  After Solomon’s death, Jeroboam is called back to be the leader of the opposition in the north to Solomon’s son and heir apparent, Rehoboam.

Rehoboam refuses to promise the northern tribes that he will remove from them the burden of taxation and forced labor imposed upon them by Solomon.  When the northern tribes (called Israel) see that Rehoboam will not harken to them, they say to King Rehoboam (who is the representative of the house of David, son of Jesse):

‘What portion  [chelek] have we in David? neither have we inheritance [nachalah] in the son of Jesse; to your tents, O Israel; now see to thine own house, David. [I Kgs 12:16]

And here we have the beginning of the division of the monarchy into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.  Certainly Jeroboam will be remembered for more than one nefarious deed – we have not even mentioned his encouraging the people to bring the golden calves into their worship (join us on March 25th as we study Jeroboam and the calf worship).  Yet it seems that there is a clear connection between Ahab who alienates Naboth from the inheritance [nachalah] of his ancestors, and Jeroboam whose leadership results in the northern tribes losing the inheritance [nachalah] of the house of David.  We understand why Ahab therefore will suffer the same fate as Jeroboam.

March Schedule


Here is our upcoming schedule
Weds Feb 25: Intensive on Jezebel – limited to regular class participants only
Weds Mar 04: NO CLASS – join us at EC for ~~~~PURIM!!!!!~~~~
Weds Mar 11: Intensive on Jeroboam and the division of the monarchy – limited to regular class participants only
Weds Mar 18: REGULAR CLASS continues – come one come all!!!!
Weds Mar 25: Intensive on TBD – limited to regular class participants only
1st and 3rd Weds – continue REGULAR CLASSES as always
2nd and 4th Weds – Intensive study on varying topics open ONLY to regular class participants
I hope that anyone who has been holding back due to weather will make a special effort to come on March 18. Mark your calendars now. Let’s get SPRING in our minds.

King David as Inspiration

Despite his rascally ways, King David holds his place in our tradition as a source of inspiration. Though he is shown in the book of Samuel to be a guerrilla warrior, an uncertain lover, a not entirely loyal friend, and not always a dedicated father, yet he triumphs in establishing his kingdom. The book of Kings tells us David is a model, who was loyal to YHWH. For David’s sake, Solomon and his son are allowed to hold on to the united kingdom. And in the world to come, David’s lineage will once again return. Despite the destruction of the temple, twice, it seems there is an eternal hope that someday the world will again be in good order.

Study 1 Kings with Penina on January 8, 2014

We had an amazing discussion in our class on December 18, 2013, about the Presence, corporeal or otherwise, of the Divine in the Temple.   Who, or what exactly came into the Temple once Solomon built it?  And was Solomon sort of Moses-like, or was he trying to cloak himself in Moses’ mantle for political reasons?   On January 8, 2014, we will pick up the discussion at 1 Kings 8.43.

By Jan 15 we should be up to the Queen of Sheba.  I read the opening stanza from “The Visit of the Queen of Sheba” by Yehuda Amichai 12/18/13.  I must say it was variously received.  We’ll look at it again on January 15th.  Come hear it for yourself and express your own opinions!

As always, no Hebrew is required, learning is at all levels.  Feel free to bring wine or other beverage and snacks.    See you at 7:30pm at Congregation Eitz Chayim, 136 Magazine Street, Cambridge, MA.

Rosh Hashanah Speech 2013

Speech I gave as President to Congregation Eitz Chayim, Fall 2013


Thanks to Rabbi Stern, Cantor Debby Gelber, School Director Laurie Shapiro, Administrator Judy Lavine, Interim Adminstrator Dennis Friedler, the High Holy Day crew, represented by our venue coordinator, Armond Cohen, to the Board of Directors and the Committee Chairs, and many individuals whose hard work throughout the year has once again brought us to the space to celebrate the New Year together.   Welcome to members and visitors who are celebrating with us.

What I wanted to talk about today, is what it takes to build and sustain our remarkable Congregation. By way of preface, I remind us all that this year, like any other year, we celebrate victories in the public sphere, but we sometimes despair of completing our dreams.   Marriage equality moves forward, but trans folk still do not have the protection of law that guarantees free access in public accommodations; Egypt holds free elections, and the military deposes the president;  We celebrate 50 years since Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington, with an African American President and Attorney General, while the Supreme Court overturns key provisions in the Voters Rights Act of 1965.

What we do here at Eitz Chayim is: we create a Jewish home, within which we can educate our children, study as adults, worship, support our members throughout the lifecycle and work on tikkun olam, repair of the world.

Our texts teach us what it takes to building the building.   In Exodus, the children of Israel built the Mishkan, the itinerant tabernacle. God gave them an exact blueprint in advance, and they followed that blueprint. They participated with from a willing heart, nediv lev – they willingly brought the fruits of their labors, their jewels and treasure, and they had the advantage of knowing exactly what to do. Continue reading

II Sam Ch 17 – Wed April 3 – 7:30pm to 9:00pm


All are welcome, whether regular attendees or first time visitors: prior text study experience is not necessary.

Absalom has his father King David on the run, across the Jordan River.  Why is King David running?  Who are the unsung heroic women who help King David’s spies warn him to move away from danger?  Why are so many of David’s sons and nephews fighting amongst themselves? Come to class on Wednesday to find the answers to these questions, and to ask many questions for which there will be no answers!

Study with Penina: 1st and 3rd Wednesday evenings
Now in our 4th year on the Early Prophets
Eitz Chayim, 136 Magazine Street, Cambridge

  • Study is in English, interfaith and gender sensitive.
  • Bring your Tanakh (Bible) if you have one; books are provided as needed.
  • Feel free to bring snacks or a bottle of wine.

I  look forward to learning with you!

Reading Ruth as a Tapestry

I am very excited to be teaching at Brookline Community Beit Midrash

5 week series between Pesach and Shavuot

4/8/13, 4/15/13, 4/22/13 (self-study on 4/29/13), 5/6/13, 5/13/13

I’m calling the series Reading Ruth as Tapestry. We will engage in a close reading of the Book of Ruth, making meaning as though we were weaving a tapestry.  Our warp consists of the major themes: Ruth and Shavuot; David’s ancestors; individuals in relationship to community and the divine.  Our woof contains the modes of interpretation: our own reading; the Sages; modern –  including feminist, queer and traditional; woodcut art.  Study will be multi level and accessible to all.

The Brookline Community Beit Midrash (BCBM) is a warm and welcoming, non-denominational community of engaged and committed learners who meet weekly at Congregation Kehillath Israel on Monday nights, 7-9pm. BCBM believes that an energized learning atmosphere leads to a stronger community, new friendships, and a deeper connection to our Jewish tradition.  BCBM is centered on the principle that Torah should be accessible to all who wish to learn.

For information on the Brookline Community Beit Midrash, you may

2 Samuel Chapter 16 – March 20

Study with Penina March 20, 7:30pm.
Regularly 1st and 3rd Wednesday evenings
Congregation Eitz Chayim 136 Magazine Street, Cambridge

The story of King David continues to be a messy family story.  His sons and nephews are at odds with each other; who should get the throne is not clear.  Women in this chapter will only suffer.  As Samuel said in Book I: “I will call unto YHVH to send thunder and rain;  and you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of YHVH, in asking a king for yourselves.”  (1 Sam 12:17).

  • Study is in English, interfaith and gender sensitive.
  • Bring your Tanakh (Bible) if you have one; books are provided as needed.
  • Feel free to bring snacks or a bottle of wine.

All are welcome, whether regular attendees or first time visitors: prior text study experience is not necessary.

I  look forward to learning with you!

II Samuel Ch 15

Join us on March 6, 2013 to read 2 Sam 15.  Learn about Absalom’s attempt to usurp the kingdom from David.  How is Absalom able to “steal the hearts of the men of Israel (v 6)” and manage to send David running from Jerusalem?   Read how David cleverly installs five spies inside of Jerusalem, and insists that the Ark remain in the holy city, while fatally exposing his wives to abuse by leaving them behind (v. 16).