Kosher Queers

30 — Behar-Bechukotai: I Waited 50 Years and All I Got Was This Mortgage Reversal

May 14, 2020 Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow
Kosher Queers
30 — Behar-Bechukotai: I Waited 50 Years and All I Got Was This Mortgage Reversal
Chapters
Kosher Queers
30 — Behar-Bechukotai: I Waited 50 Years and All I Got Was This Mortgage Reversal
May 14, 2020
Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow

This week's episode includes celebrating sabbaticals, bemoaning Biblical slavery, and comparing campy 90s gay movies to Torah law.

Full transcript here.

Content notes: Around minute 43, there's a discussion of all the graphic curses G-d will rain down for disobeying. Like really graphic. 44:08-44:40 in particular should especially be skipped if you're queasy about cannibalism or mass graves.

At 49:20, Jaz talks about Xava talking about shmita years; you can check that out in episode 5 of Xai, How Are You?.

Support us on Patreon! Send us questions or comments at kosherqueers@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter @kosherqueers, and like us on Facebook at Kosher Queers. Our music is by the band Brivele. This week, our audio was edited by Ezra Faust, and our transcript was written by DiCo. Our logo is by Lior Gross, and we are not endorsed by or affiliated with the Orthodox Union.

Support the show (http://patreon.com/kosherqueers)

Show Notes Transcript

This week's episode includes celebrating sabbaticals, bemoaning Biblical slavery, and comparing campy 90s gay movies to Torah law.

Full transcript here.

Content notes: Around minute 43, there's a discussion of all the graphic curses G-d will rain down for disobeying. Like really graphic. 44:08-44:40 in particular should especially be skipped if you're queasy about cannibalism or mass graves.

At 49:20, Jaz talks about Xava talking about shmita years; you can check that out in episode 5 of Xai, How Are You?.

Support us on Patreon! Send us questions or comments at kosherqueers@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter @kosherqueers, and like us on Facebook at Kosher Queers. Our music is by the band Brivele. This week, our audio was edited by Ezra Faust, and our transcript was written by DiCo. Our logo is by Lior Gross, and we are not endorsed by or affiliated with the Orthodox Union.

Support the show (http://patreon.com/kosherqueers)

Lulav: Hi Jaz, how are you doing today?

Jaz: Hey, good to hear your voice! Lulav, what cool or queer or Jewish things have you been up to recently?

Lulav: Well, time is fake so I don’t actually remember when this happened, but I think it was two days ago. We got some conservative trolls on our tweets.

Jaz: Oh my G-d.

Lulav: And… (laughs) Yeah, so you had like, basic engagement with them to start, like, “Yes, that is what this says. We’re gay.” And I was like, “oh, is it okay if I argue with them?” And you were like, “yeah, I don’t want to, but you’re welcome to.”

(Jaz laughs)

Lulav: And we like, shared quotes about King David and his relationship with Yehonatan and how it’s very homoerotic? Explicitly and textually so?

Jaz: Uh-huh.

Lulav: And it was just nice because I’ve done internet arguments and used to do a lot more of them when I was on Tumblr.

Jaz: Oh no.

Lulav: (laughs regretfully) Listen, we were all 22 at some point. But I don’t think I’ve ever so clearly won an internet argument?

(Jaz laughs)

Jaz: What’s your delineation? How do you know you won?

Lulav: So remember how there was this saying, “don’t feed the trolls”, back in the day? That was like, really popular among bloggers and stuff?

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Yeah so I was dating into a blogging network. I was not myself a blogger but I was dating a blogger, and a lot of the talk that my friends and I had was about comment moderation and stuff and, specifically, responding to the concept of “don’t feed the trolls”. On the one hand, what trolls are looking for is to get all of your energy used up and to use very little of theirs, and to, like, make onlookers look at you as ridiculous. And so to me, winning an internet argument with a bad-faith actor means the things that you're saying are for the sake of your community rather than for the sake of this particular person, and also the things that you say are funny. Jaz made a meme — you know all of those, like, “What quarantine house are you stuck with?” memes that are going around? Well, I know it was a month ago, dear listener, but that was a big thing. So Jaz made a version of that which is “which seder table are you sitting at”, and it had a bunch of historical and contemporary Jews — specifically queer Jews, right?

Jaz: All of them were queer Jews, yeah.

Lulav: Amazing.

Jaz: Some of them were like Biblical figures and some of them were like, modern contemporary cool people.

Lulav:: Yeah, (chuckles) and so one of them— I think it might have been the very first name on the meme?

Jaz: Oh, absolutely the first one.

Lulav: Was King David, and some dude replied “king david?” Like, nothing else, no context as to what he was asking about. And so Jaz was like, “yes!” 

(both laugh)

Jaz: I was like, “yeah, he’s in House 1.” Like,

(Lulav laughs)

Lulav: Like we’re going to pretend that the reason you’re asking this is so that we can establish context or something, I don’t know. And he was like, “he was not queer!” So that was where Jaz left it, I think, maybe?

Jaz: Yeah because I remember it specifically because he said “he is not queer” and I very much resisted the urge to be like “he’s not anything now; he’s dead”

(Lulav hoots, hollers, & claps)

Jaz: And I was like, this is a silly thing to do, I’m going to go to sleep. And instead, I got a message from Lulav — who was also monitoring our joint Twitter account and also got that notification (clicks tongue) from the dude, and was like, “here’s a quote from the text if you want to argue with him.” And I was like, “I do not want to argue with him” and you went for it.

(Lulav laughs)

Lulav: Yeah and you said “[absolutely, ]feel free to go for it”.  I said “^_^”, which is, like, the smiley face, and then you said, “... take 2 Samuel 1:26 with you if you're doing this” and it was just wonderful. 

(Jaz laughs)

Lulav: So yeah, using two specific text citations — that you can interpret them in a no-homo way but it’s kinda hard — I was just like “yeah, here is why we feel comfortable calling David ha-Melech a queer Jewish figure”. And he just kept being like, “Oh, that’s very homophobic of you.” Sorry, it was — it was anti-Semitic, because we were supposedly calling the Jewish community homophobic. And instead of engaging him on like “No, we’re not anti-Semitic”, it was like, “No, we’re not talking about the Jewish community; we’re talking about you specifically.”

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: (sighs) Yeah, it was very clear that we were right; a bunch of people jumped in.

Jaz: I will say it’s a weird thing a little bit; it felt like an odd dynamic — that new people find you on Twitter when you have arguments with people.

(Lulav laughs)

Lulav: It’s true, I think we got like 20 followers.

Jaz: It’s bizarre. Like normally that happens when I make a cool meme or something. It doesn’t happen very often that we get in arguments with people — that’s not how I like using our Twitter account .

Lulav: Right?


Jaz: You know, like we really are here to talk about queer Torah, and queer Judaism, and whatever, but… but yeah it is a weird factor of the way Twitter is set up that people actually do find you more when you have arguments with people.

Lulav: G-d. Normally, I wouldn’t get into it with people, I would just block them and move on.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: But this was something where I felt, like, particularly well-equipped to speak to it, like it was unambiguous and pretty easy to just say things about. So we were learning about how extremely into Yonatan David was, along with the people who were also reading this argument. It was fun.

Jaz: I’m glad you had a good time.

Lulav: Thank you. I’m really glad that you had a good time when you woke up in the morning.

(both laugh)

Lulav: So, Jaz, what’s up in your life? What’s cool and queer or Jewish?

Jaz: Well, I guess a couple queer and Jewish things have happened recently. I will say over the last week, I’ve had several cool queer movie nights. Well, so one of them was a movie morning. I had two friends from New York who I was watching a movie with, and we were watching a movie that my friend Riki found — I was watching with my friends Riki and Sarah and having a running chat during the movie.

Lulav: Yay.

Jaz: It was a… absolutely terrible rom-com.

(Lulav laughs)

Jaz: Like truly atrocious.

Lulav: What was it called? I need to watch this.

Jaz: I think it was called Love, Marriage, Repeat.

Lulav: Uhhh that sounds really bad, yeah.

Jaz: It was really really bad; we had a great time.

(Lulav chuckles malevolently)

Lulav: It’s on Netflix!

Jaz: It is, that’s how we found it! One of Riki’s strengths is to find things on Netflix and she found this ridiculous movie and we watched it on Netflix Party, that thing where you all get to watch a movie together at the same time. And it was the first thing I did in my morning because it was like noon in New York for them and like 9am here, and I got up and maybe had breakfast and watched this terrible movie with my friends.

Lulav: Amazing.

Jaz: It was great. 

Lulav: I’m so happy for you.

Jaz: (smilingly) Yeah. Yeah.

Lulav: What else did you watch this week?

Jaz: Also, I watched But I’m a Cheerleader!

Lulav: Yeah!

Jaz: Which is an excellent good gay movie that several of my friends have been trying to get me to watch for, uh, years now

(Lulav laughs)

Jaz: And I said that I would watch it during quarantine so I finally got around to doing so and it was a great evening

Lulav: Yeah. How did you expect to feel about But I’m a Cheerleader?

Jaz: (laughs) I also expected it to be like a humorous train wreck of a movie like sort of like this terrible romcom that I watched with Riki and Sarah, but instead it is this movie from the 90s — I think 1999 — that stars this girl who starts the movie being like, “I’m a straight cheerleader!” and everybody in her life is like, “It seems to be that you’re a lesbian.”

(Lulav laughs)

Jaz: And then her parents send her off to like, gay conversion therapy?

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: I didn’t know any of the actors except that RuPaul is there playing an ex-gay; it’s wild.

Lulav: Also Natasha Lyonne! 

Jaz: Yes, I realized that later, but at the time, didn’t know that. Anyway, it was a real fun time and also I enjoyed the movie a shocking amount

Lulav: Right? I had previously watched half of it and was like, “I didn’t like this”. But I think the thing is that I didn’t like camp five years ago and it’s very campy. Did we talk about the fact that you watched it with me?

Jaz: No, we watched it together. We also did that, and watched that movie.

Lulav: Cool. And was that it? Just those two: movie morning, movie night?

Jaz:: Honestly, probably more than I’m forgetting

Lulav: Sure

Jaz: But yeah, that’s it

Lulav: Do you want to start the episode?

Jaz: Please 

[Brivele intro music]
 
Lulav: Welcome to Kosher Queers, a podcast with at least two Jews, and generally more than three opinions. Each week, we bring you queer takes on Torah. They’re Jaz — 
 
Jaz: And she’s Lulav — 
 
Lulav: And today we’re going to talk about Behar-Bechukotai.
 
Jaz: Great, this is our last one in Vayikra.
 
Lulav: Yeah! We’re almost done kra-ing!
 
Jaz: True. Yeah so, preliminarily, how do you feel about this book now that we’re all of the way through?
 
Lulav: Oh the whole book of Vayikra?
 
Jaz: Yeah
 
Lulav: Well it had more story than I was expecting, which doesn’t say much about the amount of story in it. (laughs)
 
Jaz: Yeah, was the amount of story you were expecting none?
 
Lulav: Yes.
 
Jaz: Yeah.
 
Lulav: But… yeah, there’s some stuff that is objectively bad and some stuff that is really cool, and some stuff that you really have to read into to make it not bad, is my overall opinion of the book of Vayikra.
 
Jaz: Great.
 
Lulav: I enjoyed it. Much more than I thought I would.
 
Jaz: Fair enough.
 
Lulav: It’s like watching But I’m a Cheerleader.
 
(Jaz laughs)
 
Lulav: In that you go in expecting, “oh I’m going to hate these laws”, but then you realize having been told by a friend what camp is all about, (Jaz laughs) / legalistic text, you find yourself enjoying it much more!
 
Jaz: I am so delighted that your comparison is “Well, I didn’t like camp” and “Well, I didn’t like Torah laws.”
 
(both chuckle)
 
Lulav: Yeah, so, big shout out to Cassidy Mosity for helping me learn a love for Torah law.
 
Jaz: Great
 
Lulav: Jaz, what are you thinking about the book as a whole?


Jaz: I probably should have had an answer lined up to that question since I asked it, but I didn’t.
 
Lulav: Mwahaha!
 
Jaz: Look, questions are important. Answers, eh.
 
Lulav: (laughs) Good.
 
Jaz: But um...yeah, y’know, I think it’s been really exciting to get to go through this and also I haven’t had answers. Like we’ve been really exploring— 
 
Lulav: Yeah.
 
Jaz: —it and like figuring stuff out together and thinking our way through it, and I really appreciated the chance to get to do that because otherwise it is like a whole deal to try and get through.
 
(Lulav laughs)
 
Jaz: And I think sitting with it and puzzling through it intentionally has been really positive.
 
Lulav: Yeah.
 
Jaz: So are you ready to summarize this last double parsha?
 
Lulav: Yes. I am. Can you give me 75 seconds? I can probably do it in less but I’d rather take my time pronouncing words because otherwise this is going to be a mess.
 
Jaz: Yeah. Always a good time to remind people that we have transcripts. Anyway.
 
Lulav: Yes. 
 
Jaz: Okay, ready, set, go.
 
Lulav: We establish fractal shabbatot: every seventh year the fields lie unworked; the seventh of these seven unworked years is followed by a "jubilee" of another unworked year and debt forgiveness. Real estate is held in family lines, and sales thereof are prorated to distance from a jubilee year, when it will be returned to the family. The exception is dwellings, within walled cities, that are not owned by the Levites. Obligation to take care of the poor is also held in family lines — don't charge interest, and don't enslave… I would like to say "people", but textually it is "family members". You can enslave non-Israelites forever, but they're not allowed to enslave Israelites past the jubilee. Btw: no idols. If you keep the commandments, you'll be well-fed and powerful and G-d will be present among you. If you don't, you'll be tortured progressively — including with cannibalism — until you repent, because G-d wants to maintain the covenants.
Then we talk about human equivalents for explicit vows, and the exchange rates when people sell animals to the priesthood or sell or buy their land, and we double back to that bit from Sh'mot about the firstborn of herd animals being for Adonai. We finish out the kra-ing of mitzvot by talking about what it means to tithe.
 
Jaz: That was so exactly on time.
 
Lulav: Yay! I’m valid!
 
Jaz: Also true. Unrelatedly.
 
Lulav: Aw, thanks. Yeah, so like…there’s a surprising amount of content in here for like, finishing out a book. I personally was not at all familiar with these parts.
 
Jaz: Mm. Yeah, I’m familiar with some of it because I’m familiar with the idea of a shmita year, what the English has here as a Sabbatical year, and I did some Talmud learning about that, a little bit. But I wasn’t deeply familiar with the rest of it, yeah.
 
Lulav: So the shmita year is the one when the fields lie unworked?
 
Jaz: Yes
 
Lulav: Okay, and I didn’t get a chance to get my hands on the Hebrew for this reading. What is the word for “jubilee”?

Jaz: I was just looking that up before we started recording, because I was curious about that. I was like, “I actually don’t even know what the word ‘jubilee’ means in English. And when you go look it up, what it means in English is it means a 50-year, a 25- year anniversary. Like the definition comes from here. You know? So in Hebrew it’s yovel, so I think “jubilee” in some ways is almost a transliteration. And it is related to being a ram’s horn or trumpet or coronet, like trumpet in particular. 
 
Lulav: Yeah, so when Hebrew encountered Latin and specifically in the context of Christianity — thanks — there was influence of like jubilant— the same root word as jubilant, so that people who spoke Latin thought of it as a very joyous time, 
 
Jaz: Mhm.
 
Lulav: Though it doesn’t originally have anything to do with that.
 
Jaz: Well, I mean, ram’s horn or trumpet is a thing about celebration.
 
Lulav: Yeah.
 
Jaz: It notes here that it’s used only for that or for like this jubilee year, which is marked by the blowing of these trumpets. 
 
Lulav: Cool.
 
Jaz: That’s the connection there.
 
Lulav: Yeah. I just wanted to share the etymology from your friend and mine, etymonline.com. We get it through French and Latin and stuff, where the way that people had been thinking about the word “jubilee” is in like the context of, like, “jubilant.”
 
Jaz: Mmmm.
 
Lulav: And while that is true, that it’s a great time — you get your ancestral property back; you are freed from bondage — it’s coming from two different sources.
 
Jaz: Fair enough, okay.
 
Lulav: Do you know what Behar means, by the way?
 
Jaz: Yeah, it means “on the mountain”.
 
Lulav: Oh, fun!
 
Jaz: This is distinguishing specifically that we’ve a little bit gone back on time, that these are all instructions that G-d gave Moshe on Mt. Sinai.
 
Lulav: Okay. Yeah, I thought that this formulation was the same as every other chapter, but it’s specifically Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mt. Sinai.
 
Jaz: Yeah, cuz last time we were in Emor, “vayomer Hashem el Moshe emor” — “And G-d said to Moses, speak” — and it was like “emor el hakohanim” like “speak to the priests.” And this time it’s, “Vayidaber Hashem el Moshe behar Sinai l’emor”
 
Lulav: Cool, it’s interesting that, I don’t know when parashot were invented as like divisions of text, but it’s interesting that the penultimate parsha is the one where we go back and talk about where this is taking place physically?
 
Jaz: Well, this time it’s the last one, so I think there’s also some significance to the fact that like sometimes this can be a combined one; sometimes this is the last one in the book, and sometimes it’s the second to last one
 
Lulav: Fair. So basically, Hashem says to Moshe on Mt Sinai to tell the Israelite people when you enter the new land, you’ll observe a shabbat. Not only the shabbat of the week, but also, you’ll sow your field, and prune your vineyard, and gather in the yield for six years, but in the seventh year, you just let the field rest; you let the vineyard rest; you don’t intentionally work the land. And you can just eat whatever the land makes for you, but you don’t do new planting. 
 
Jaz: Mmhm.
 
Lulav: And so I think similarly to how I’ve talked about shabbat previously, where it’s like you work the rest of the week to make sure that you are taken care of for the seventh day of rest? I think part of this is like, you make sure that you’re setting things aside, like Yosef did in Egypt, so that in the seventh year, you’ll eat.
 
Jaz: Yeah, I do think that that’s explicitly part of it. That it’s also here about like, it’s good for people to rest and have a break, and it’s good for the land for that to be the case — and we know that to be true.
 
Lulav:  Oh yeah, that’s the other thing. (laughs) So then, not only do you have that shmita year, you also have seven weeks of shmita years, gives you 49 years, and then after that you have an extra year of just chilling,
 
Jaz: Yes
 
Lulav:  And that is the year of jubilee.
 
Jaz: Yeah. In Hebrew, it’s the yovel year.
 
Lulav: Okay.
 
Jaz: The English for every seven years is the sabbatical year.
 
Lulav:  Thank you.
 
Jaz: Which still survives, like that’s still an idea. Academics get a sabbatical year.
 
Lulav: Yeah, what’s the word for year in Hebrew, Jaz?
 
Jaz: I think it’s shanah.
 
Lulav: Okay! 
 
Jaz: Yeah, I’m just double checking… yeah, they have it as shanim, so, shanah.
 
Lulav: Oh shana, of course! Okay, so basically in contrast to how I set it up, of having a year of rest means that you store stuff up towards that year, a lot of this is phrased as it’s going to be fine, I will just provide for you. 25:21: “I will ordain my blessing for you in the sixth year so that it shall yield a crop sufficient for three years.” 
 
Jaz: It’s sort of reminiscent in some ways of the manna that they get in the desert where you have to gather up the appropriate amount each day but then on Friday, you have to get a double portion so that you don’t get it on Shabbat.
 
Lulav: Yeah, how do you feel about that? I know you’re supposed to be asking the questions but…
 
Jaz: Well, I know that this is good taking care of land, and I believe in the idea of building in rest. I’m interested in the idea of what it would mean to build a society where they know you can’t do your main modes of production once every seven years and what it would mean to build a society that could withstand that. If we had to be like, yeah, you know, the economy stops for a year, every seven years, we’d have a very different type of economy
 
Lulav: Yeah, perhaps a better one, where you more fundamentally care about people. 
 
Jaz: Debatable but maybe.
 
(Lulav laughs)
 
Lulav: That has nothing to do with what’s going on right now.
 
Jaz: How do you feel about it?
 
Lulav:  I — it’s the same thing I have commented on several times where it sets up a very transactional relationship. 
 
Jaz: Mm. 
 
Lulav: Where if you do all the things right, you will be rewarded in a very specific and obvious way but that means that if people are not being rewarded in a very specific and obvious way, that must be somebody's fault for doing things wrong and it’s just a very transactional way of doing things that I don't like to think in, yeah.
 
Jaz: Okay.
 
Lulav: That's how I feel about stuff where it’s like, yeah, you’ll get three times the thing on the very last year, or the very last day or whatever.
 
Jaz: Mm. Okay, I have more questions about later on.
 
Lulav: Okay, so basically you gotta be fair to neighbors. Every fifty years, just go home! And when you are buying land from somebody else, it is not a deal made in perpetuity and so you prorate how much you’re paying for that land for the number of years left until the juilee basically.
 
Jaz: Yes.
 
Lulav: Is that your understanding as well?


Jaz: Yes. For those of us who know nothing about certain subjects, can you define the word prorate for me?
 
Lulav: Yes. So to prorate, which you may be familiar with if you have ever been the person on the bill for internet and had to change services or something, what that means is if you don’t use the service for a couple days or a couple years in this case, you are charged less for that month.
 
Jaz: That’s I think a pretty solid definition.
 
Lulav: Yeah, it’s pretty straightforward as a concept, but if you haven’t heard it before, that can be like, what does that mean?
 
Jaz: I asked it because I saw it in your summary, and I was like, that word is familiar to me, but I do have to double-check to make sure I’m right about its meaning. 
 
Lulav: Yeah.
 
Jaz: And then I asked you to define it both because some of our listeners are teenagers, and also because when I looked it up, it informed me that this is a North American specific term, which I did not know.
 
Lulav: Oh? Okay what do other people asy?
 
Jaz: I don’t know!
 
Lulav: Okay.
 
Jaz: So if you are a listener who is listening somewhere else in the world, and you’re like, “We have a different word for the same concept!” please tell me. I’m so curious.
 
Lulav: Please write in, but yeah if you don’t use the word prorate, you can do like the Torah does and say, “In buying from your neighbor, you shall deduct only for the number of years since the Jubilee and in selling to you, he shall charge you only for the remaining crop year,” so it’s pretty straightforward the way it’s laid out in the text, but I did very much have to ask the customer service representative what they meant when they said prorate the first time I heard it.
 
Jaz: Uh huh. Okay so, my question here, is this bit ends in the English in my copy here with, “Do not wrong one another, but fear your G-d, for I the Eternal am your G-d.” And do you think that this thing about prorated property is related thematically to “do not wrong your neighbor”? And if so, how? And if not, why not?
 
Lulav: I think so, because this parsha and the next one both talk about fairness in economic dealings. There’s an old saying about business like if neither of you are happy with the deal, you know it’s a good one, and basically the Torah is here saying, do not make up spurious reasons to charge people more for something, like meet each other in the middle.
 
Jaz: Okay. 
 
Lulav: Does that make sense as a read?
 
Jaz: Yeah, I think so.
 
Lulav: Okay.
 
Jaz: It reminds me — I’ve probably said this on the podcast already before — but it reminds me of that bit where it’s like when you stand before G-d at judgment, you’ll be asked six questions and the first of which is were you honest in your business dealings?
 
Lulav: Yeah. Which makes sense, because like when you have a G-d who is not just the G-d of your household but who is the G-d of all people, you need to be working towards fairness in dealings and so making sure that people follow the same rules when interacting with each other, is just a good way to make it work both ways.
 
Jaz: Yeah, maybe related to having the Shemita year is for everybody. 
 
Lulav: Yeah. 
 
Jaz: You shall proclaim it throughout the land for all its inhabitants but in Hebrew, it’s dror b’aretz and I think dror b’aretz is like, closer to like everyone in the land.
 
Lulav: Yeah, that’s cool, so basically if your kinsman is having a tough time financially and has to sell off real estate because of that, the nearest kinsman who has money should pay for it, is my understanding of line 25:25.
 
Jaz: I think that that’s right, if that they allow your family.
 
Lulav: So if the dude who’s selling the real estate gets money back, and has good fortune again, he’ll prorate what he pays for the land to like buy it back from the kinsman or the debtor or whoever it is.
 
Jaz: Oh, you skipped my favorite bit.
 
Lulav: Oh, what is your favorite bit?
 
Jaz: We have a bit in 25:23 that goes “But the land must not be sold beyond reclaim, for the land is Mine, you are but strangers, resident with Me.” 
 
Lulav: Yeah, that’s a very good point because this is a very important concept that kind of underlies all of the property laws that come up here.
 
Jaz: Yeah.
 
Lulav: It’s not your land, it’s G-d’s land.
 
Jaz: Yeah.
 
Lulav: And to some extent, that gets wonky because it’s the land of the clans and property travels within family lines, which is weird,
 
Jaz: Well, that’s the principal of inheritance in some ways.
 
Lulav: Yeah, but what if we each took what we needed to survive, and put in what we could give?
 
Jaz: Yes, I mean also, the text is very clear, all strangers resident in the land, owning things? Kind of fake. 
 
(Lulav laughs)
 
Lulav: Yeah, so that’s how it works for like, property in general, you get a family member who has money to bail you out.
 
Jaz: Yes.
 
Lulav: But in the specific case of a dwelling house in a walled city, which is to say a living space in a space where there is a limited amount to build houses — sorry to use space the third time in the sentence — then selling it is permanent.
 
Jaz: Yeah, it notes that some things pass between families but if it’s in a city, it’s not really expected to do that in the same way.
 
Lulav: Yeah people who need to live in the city and have the money to pay for it, do that.
 
Jaz: Yeah.
 
Lulav: That there is now and this is in contrast to dwelling places in unwalled villages where you can kind of build wherever or at least there isn’t a very, very finite amount of area on which to build on and there’s also the cities of the Levites, because the houses and the cities they hold, the Levites forever have the right of redemption to those houses. Do you have any questions till the end of 34?
 
Jaz: No, I feel like most of this is fairly technical.
 
Lulav: Okay. Yeah. 
 
Jaz: I’m most interested in what happens after that.
 
Lulav: So again if your kinsman is in bad financial straits and you’re bailing him out, basically the limit of what you can do then is have him be a resident alien living by your side.
 
Jaz: So.
 
Lulav: What’s up.
 
Jaz: What does your translation say for 35?
 
Lulav: “If your kinsman living in straits comes under your authority and you hold him as though a resident alien, let him live by your side:”
 
Jaz: Okay.
 
Lulav: And I can look that up in the NRSV as well. Why do you ask?
 
Jaz: No, that sounds about right. I was just curious because mine translates that as “resident alien” too. It has sort of removed the gendering from this because it notes that this situation could conceivably happen to anybody, but it still translates it as “akhim” which is like literally brothers like your brother, it translates it as like your kin.
 
Lulav: Is there a different word for a mixed gender group of siblings? Or is it the whole “male is default” thing?
 
Jaz: No, it’s masculine default. I mostly wanted to highlight, however, that they translate this as “resident aliens” because the word here is actually also “ger” which is the same word that we saw over in 25:23 that they translate as strangers.
 
Lulav: Okay.
 
Jaz: So the same word that comes up as “strangers resident with me” are held up here as “resident aliens.”
 
Lulav: Oh okay.
 
Jaz: It’s “strangers” in both cases, “ger” in both cases.
 
Lulav: Yeah in like 36, where it says, “But fear your G-d” I think I feel much better about that than I do about every other instance where “fear your G-d” is used because this is kind of establishing the same relationship between G-d and the Israelites as between an indigent kinsman and a well established kinsman, which is that you need to not exact any interest and just like, give them what they need to survive, and ask only that in return. Because G-d is also doing that with you. 
 
Jaz: I like that.
 
Lulav: Yay! So yeah, lots of statements of “I am your G-d” in this particular paragraph. And then — okay that’s if your kinsman is just in financial trouble to start off with you loan them money. But if that continues and there’s no conceivable way that they could ever pay back that amount of money basically, you can’t make your kinsman a slave, you treat them specifically as a hired or bound labourer and someone who serves only until the year of jubilee. 
 
Jaz: Yes, let’s again remember a jubilee year is not very often. Only until then!
 
Lulav: That’s once in a lifetime.
 
Jaz: Yeah.
 
Lulav: Yeah, so this is still basically slavery.
 
Jaz: I mean, it’s not in the sense that it’s not generational.
 
Lulav: Right. The Torah makes very clearly that there’s this sort of indentured serviturude and then there’s slavery which is worse and permament and something that you are, as we see in the next few lines, totally allowed to do to people who are not Israelites. That’s fine.
 
Jaz: Though it seems complicated. 
 
Lulav: Yeah?
 
Jaz: Keep reading, because I would argue that, yes, people have read the text that way, obviously we know that. Keep reading.
 
Lulav: Okay, so basically, don’t treat your kinsman ruthlessly. Oh yeah, here we go, the male slaves and female slaves that you may have are from the nations roundabout you; that’s where you may acquire them from. And you may also buy them from among the children of strangers in your land, or from their families.  And when you buy those slaves, they become your property (Jaz breathes deeply) and for as long as you live, they are your slaves, and when you die, they are your children’s slaves, which is bad, as we have previously established.
 
Jaz: Yes, and also as the text itself has previously established even. Part of why this is so odd. This chapter opens with “behar” on the mountain — they just got to Sinai, out of slavery, like they just got out of their very recently, and then their leader goes up there and says, “Hey, do you know it’s okay for us to keep slaves?”
 
(Lulav sighs)
 
Jaz: It’s the same word, the same thing that has been used to describe them as enslaved; it’s not like it’s a different thing
 
Lulav: And specifically the latter half of 46, “Such you may treat as slaves, but as for your Israelite kinsmen, no one shall rule ruthlessly over the other,” which implies that the way that you treat slaves is to rule ruthlessly, and that that’s totally fine as long as they’re not in the in-group.
 
Jaz: Yes, the other thing that’s going on here that I’m thinking about and that I want to ask you about 
 
Lulav: Okay. 
 
Jaz: is that when it says in 45, this thing that’s translated as “You may also buy them from among the children aliens resident among you” so that is “b’gam mit b’nei ha toshavim ha garim amichem.” Now you may remember we were just talking about gerim?
 
Lulav: Oh yeah. 
 
Jaz: Which means we have now parallels between those resident among you with your kinsmen to you who living by you and you to G-d and now to these people that theoretically the text is telling you could also be enslaved.
 
Lulav: Yeah.
 
Jaz: So what do you make of the comparisons drawn there?
 
Lulav: It may just be that they didn’t have another word to use?
 
Jaz: Oh, they do. They have lots of other words. We’ve come across some of them even before. They actually have lots of words to describe people who are not Israelites. 
 
Lulav: Okay.
 
Jaz: Or lots of words — like when Aaron’s sons are burned up for offering alien fire, they’re offering esh zara, like zara is like a totally different word for alien or foreign or threatening — we have lots of other words. One could argue that this is a meaningless distinction. Is, I guess, is that the argument you’re marking?
 
Lulav: … Yes.
 
Jaz: Okay.
 
Lulav: I— I just have trouble reconciling something where it’s like you are strangers in G-d’s land and you will be treated well and your kinsmen who are in dire financial straits are strangers in your land and will be treated well and then there are strangers in your land who are not related well and they can be treated as slaves and ruled ruthlessly over. And I don’t get how you can write the first two and then have this heel turn in the third one and not see those as connected.
 
Jaz: Well, I guess that’s my argument is that they have to be connected, they’re intrinsically connected. They use the same words to describe them, and we have gone back in time specifically so we can elevate that this happened earlier in the narrative when the people hearing this would have been closer to slavery. Obviously, you can read this and just think, wow the text is endorsing slavery. But I also think you can look at this narrative and say, even this text that theoretically refuses to condemn slavery, even within it, there’s the seeds of its own downfall because it has implicitly already set up this parallel of all of these people deserve to be treated like if we are all strangers in this land, then you already know how you’re supposed to treat strangers, and you alrady know what people deserve, and this isn’t it.
 
Lulav: I think, were I to tell a midrash about this, it would be that G-d laid it out very clearly, like you are strangers in my land, and your kinsmen who don’t have money are strangers in your land and completely different non-Israelite people are also strangers in your land, and Moshe hears this and is like, “So we can treat them as slaves though, right?” and the way that he tells it to people is unjust and non-parallel. And the reason that I would tell that midrash is that, as you have said before, Torah is the word of G-d filtered through a man and then filtered through other men who wrote it down, and so, in keeping with that paradigm, I would tell the story that this is not the direct word of G-d, this is something where the seeds are there to overturn it. But the people hearing weren’t ready. Are you okay with that as a place to leave that discussion?
 
Jaz: Yeah.
 
Lulav: Okay, so there’s more about how you buy yourself back if you are a laborer. Oh, and specifically if somebody who is a resident alien purchases your kinsman, they have the right of redemption, they can buy themselves back, in a way that slaves seem not to be able to. Specifically the price is prorated for how soon the jubilee year is. Again, really hate that double standard. I think in order to imagine the best G-d that we can, we have to think of all the creatures of that G-d as intrinsically valuable and so just because you were born into the Israelites doesn’t I think make you more worthy of fair treatment that someone who happened not ot be born into them.
 
Jaz: Sure, yeah.
 
Lulav: So that’s my whole thing there. And then we end with “You shan’t keep idols.”
 
Jaz: No idols.
 
Lulav: And you shall keep Shabbat. We don’t interestingly have a reminder about how much G-d hates wizards. (Jaz laughs) And then we come to Bechukotai which is above the law is mine, or to the law is mine? My understanding from taking the grammatical pieces apart is that chukah is law, and so chukot is the plural. Chukotai is my laws, and bechukotai is — 
 
Jaz: Roughly in my laws?
 
Lulav: In my laws. And this one starts out very straightforwardly, with if you follow my laws, I will grant your rains in their season. You get a bunch of really cool stuff. Is there anything that you want to talk about beyond the broad brush strokes here?
 
Jaz: I mostly want to talk about the broad brush strokes things. Yeah, it’s intense.
 
Lulav: (laughs) Yeah so like i said in the short summary, if you keep the commandments, you’ll be well fed, and you’ll be militarily powerful in a really unbelievable way. 
 
Jaz: Yeah, can I ask what numbers you have there?
 
Lulav: “Five of you shall give chase to a hundred, and a hundred of you shall give chase to ten thousand. Your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.”
 
Jaz: Yeah so I was looking at it and I was like, I know some of these numbers, but I don’t recognize that last one. And maybe I just don’t know numbers that big, whatever —. And I called my mother over to ask, “What is this? Your Hebrew is better than mine in some respects.” And she was like, “Oh no, that number ravava, that’s not a number, that just means a lot.”
 
(Lulav laughs)
 
Lulav:  U hrair, as the rabbits would say.
 
Jaz: I was looking it up specifically because I was like, the math seems off there. Why in one case can you do 1 v 20 and then in the other you can do 1 v 100? Let’s move on.
 
Lulav: Let’s move on. Okay. G-d will establish Their abode in your midst, G-d will nor spurn you, G-d will always be present.
 
Jaz: Yeah.
 
Lulav: Yeah. So then it turns it around. If you do not obey G-d, if you do not observe all these commandments, if you spurn the laws given, G-d will wreak misery upon you. First consumption and fever and your enemies eating your food and then your enemies trampling you in combat. Even though nobody’s chasing you, you’ll run.
 
Jaz: Yeah, and then it gets worse.
 
Lulav: And then, if you don’t obey me, I’ll break your proud glory. I’ll make the skies not rain and the earth be hard and dry so that you can't get food out of it. And then if you’re still hostile to Me, I will loose wild beasts against you which I previously promised not to do, and your roads shall be deserted.
 
Jaz: Yeah, does any of that sound familiar to you, Lulav?
 
Lulav: I forget. When did G-d loose wild beasts?
 
Jaz: It’s one of the plagues. It’s one of the ten plagues. It’s one of the things G-d does to the Egyptians.
 
Lulav: And they shall bereave you of your children and wipe out your cattle.
 
Jaz: Uh-huh, there we go.
 
Lulav: Cool, so yeah basically if you break the covenant you will be visited with the same wrath that was visited on the people who enslaved you.
 
Jaz: Yeah.
 
Lulav: And here’s an interesting one, when I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven. They shall dole out your bread by weight and you shall not be satisfied. There seems to be a lot of, like, inside baseball about what it meant to bake bread that is just not translating to my modern understanding.
 
Jaz:  I mean, I think that the framework here is if you’re baking it by weight and having ten people bake in a single oven, you just don’t have very much food. 
 
Lulav: Mmmmm. Yeah, okay.
 
Jaz: It can all fit in a single oven, you don’t have very much, you’re carefully parceling out so that everyone gets the same little amount of flour.
 
Lulav:  That makes sense. Thank you for that image. And then if you still disobey me, you shall eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. (Jaz groans at length) I will destroy your cult places and cut down your incense stands and I shall hear your carcasses upon your lifeless fetishes. So some really graphic stuff right here.
 
Jaz: Yeap, yeah.
 
Lulav: Probably going to have to put a warning.
 
Jaz: Yeah, that, yeah.
 
Lulav:  It just keeps getting worse.
 
Jaz: It just gets worse. Somehow, you’re like we reached the thing, and they’re like, nope, worse. 
 
Lulav:  So I think part of it is the punishments imply that you have been setting pu cult places and burning bad incense — alien fire, as it were — and so this is kind of working off the whole thing of destroying other gods’ idols that we see a lot, including with Eliyahu haNavi, and the midrash about Abraham when he was young.
 
Jaz: Yeah, yeah sure.
 
Lulav: Okay, so yeah, we’ll keep going. G-d will spurn you, and lay your cities in ruin and make your sanctuaries desolate as will the land be and you will be scattered among the nations and G-d will unsheath the sword against you. So this is an important thing, because as I’ve talked about previously, a lot of this was written in the context of people who had been put into diaspora.
 
Jaz: Okay.
 
Lulav: At least once, and so when we start off with the promise that “your G-d will dwell with you” and we come to “If you’re bad, and we’ve gotten past the point of cannibalism, you will be scattered among the nations,” I think that’s — like I was talking about before, working within a transactional relationship to justify, “Oh, this is why things suck now! Because obviously one of us did something bad, or we as a group did something bad.”
 
Jaz: Right. When we have this, we’re probably not in diaspora yet. Right? Like, this text is not written in diaspora. Later texts are, and certainly later interpretations of this text are, but originally, it is I believe more like you would have talked about previously related to maybe a priestly class thing, it is probably written with the framework of we will have a homeland.
 
Lulav: Okay, I think that’s definitely part of it. My guess is this was written in the period of time — and again, this is a guess, I am by no means an authority on the history of, like, Biblical construction — but I think this is in the period of time when there has been foreign occupation of the homeland which has recently been undone and we’ve built the second Temple maybe? Again I don’t know, but that is my impression, is that like yeah we were scattered for a bit, but now we’ve come back together, so we’ve got to keep that covenant or it will happen again. So regardless of how it was written, I think that the whole transactional relationship thing does lead to some paradigms where like, you do mitzvot because that is what will get you a homeland, rather than you do mitzvot because of the absolute joy of keeping the covenant.
 
Jaz: Mm. We know that there’s things that show up later, of what does it mean to keep a shmita year if you don’t have farms. You know, like, there’s people who are writing later who are like “Okay, but we’re not allowed to own land now. And so how do you do these mitzvot if you don’t have land? Like, what does it mean to keep those commandments when you can’t?”
 
Lulav: And I think we get a similar thing right now in the difference between essential and non-essential workers, and how some people have a bunch of time off or have been fired because they don’t have a job anymore, but then other people are like just doing the same thing that they usually do and then some if they’re medical professionals.
 
Jaz: Sure. Can you walk me through the parallel? I’m not totally seeing.
 
Lulav:  My understanding when reading this is that only farmers let the farms lie untended so usually what you’re supposed to do is leave the edges of your property unharvested so that poor people walking by can pick food from them. And so in the shmita year, you just do that with the entirety of your land. And so the parallel that I was drawing is like, the farmers engage in an extra bit of thing for shmita, but people who aren’t farmers, it’s like a normal year for them?
 
Jaz: Mm.
 
Lulav: Is my understanding of how this particular parsha is setting up shmita. Do you have a different understanding especially if you have something about how people have interpreted shmita year since?
 
Jaz: It’s complicated and also I think that Xava has an episode that has a fun breakdown of both shmita year and some of what happens with it later — maybe a couple episodes on that later — and yeah, I’ll link to them, but I think all of this gets more complicated, I guess. I have a question for you.
 
Lulav: Yes!
 
Jaz: Which is when there is all of this language of punishment, and here’s the deal you can make where things will go really well, and then here’s what happens when things go really poorly, is there any kind of analogue that you think that this works for? Does it work for the analogue of a transactional business relationship? Does it work for the analogue of people and the earth? Does it work for the analogue of a parent to a child? Like what’s the analogue here, if any, that speaks to you?
 
Lulav: So I think the general thing about keeping mitzvot is that you are being focused on right actions and stewardship of your environment and your people
 
Jaz: Okay. 
 
Lulav: So being in a mindset where you are very intentional about keeping mitzvot regardless if it’s practical advice for taking care of your environment, having that willingness to compromise a build in leisure and all of that stuff is a good way to go about things. And so if you are fair in your dealings and you build in flex to your business model, your business is going to do better. At the very least you’ll have better employee retention if you don’t make everybody crunch for like 80-hour weeks every week.
 
Jaz: Yeah.
 
Lulav: Yeah, so an eye towards sustainability and right action is just generally a good thing. And so, while I don’t like thinking about it as, there will be direct analogs, where if you act correctly, you will see a specific result — 
 
Jaz: Yeah? 
 
Lulav: I think that generally speaking, if you act correctly, things will go better than they otherwise would.
 
Jaz: Okay.
 
Lulav: Does that make sense?
 
Jaz: Sure.
 
Lulav:  How do you feel?
 
Jaz: I feel complicated about it, I”m sure that’s unsurprising. I asked this question because I was trying to think through is there any sort of human relationship I know where this would feel acceptable to me. 
 
Lulav: Oh, with all the punishment and stuff?
 
Jaz: Yeah.
 
Lulav: No, I can't think of a thing where the focus on punishment is a good thing.
 
Jaz: Yeah, you wouldn’t want that between somebody you’re in a business contract with, you wouldn't want that between a parent and a child, you wouldn’t want that if you were in a romantic relationship, you wouldn't want that between a boss and an employee, you wouldn’t want it between any two friends… There’s kind of no human dynamic where this makes sense to me.
 
Lulav: Yeah.
 
Jaz: The closest I get in some ways is a child who is throwing a tantrum.
 
Lulav:  But even then, you don’t knock down their block tower and — 
 
Jaz: Sorry, I mostly mean it the other way around, where G-d is the child throwing the tantrum.
 
Lulav: Oh! (laughs) Okay
 
Jaz: Or in some ways a sort of this is so incredibly over the top language that it belongs in some ways to me in the realms either of like a teenager shouting at their parents where the Israelites are the parents
 
(Lulav laughs)
 
Jaz: Or this is like people trading back and forth insults such as you have in your superhero vs supervillain movie. 
 
Lulav: G-d. 
 
Jaz: You know what I mean?
 
Lulav: Yeah. (laughs) It’s a lot
 
Jaz: It’s a lot! It’s a lot.
 
Lulav: Oh okay, I think that this does put me in mind of is the strategy in game theory called tit-for-tat.
 
Jaz: Okay.
 
Lulav: Where you start off benevolent in your dealings, you assume that everybody will cooperate and you do whatever you can to help everybody out and if somebody screws you over, you screw them over, but as soon as they stop doing that, you go back to dealing benevolently and open-heartedly. And so when tested in the iterated Prisoners’ Dilemma against a variety of strategies, tit-for-tat performs the best. The participants in the experiments that were done end up the best in the long run. When you are dealing with a known strategy, tit-for-tat isn’t necessarily the right one to use, but yeah, that’s my amateur understanding of game theory from like ten years ago.
 
Jaz: Okay, here’s my one other offering then about this lens.
 
Lulav: Okay.
 
Jaz: Which is the thing that it does remind me of is climate change.
 
Lulav: Okay.
 
Jaz: Which is to say that’s one of those things where people might say to you, if you don’t change what you‘re doing, there will be catastrophe and disaster and destruction.
 
Lulav: Yeah.
 
Jaz: And they’re right.
 
(Lulav laughs)
 
Jaz: And in some ways, yes it’s a moral judgment if you don’t want catastrophe and disaster and destruction and this is more of a “consequences of your actions” type of deal.
 
Lulav: Okay.
 
Jaz: But like that works partially because you don’t see climate change as something the world is doing to punish you for being evil.
 
Lulav: Right 
 
Jaz: It works because the world is doing its best and you are forcing it to do something else. But I am reminded of it partially because we have joined together Behar, which is about treating the land properly in the shemita year, and bechukotai, and when they’re joined together, part of doing the mitzvot is treating the land properly, and if you treat the land properly, hopefully the people who are on it properly, including the gerim and the stranger among you, then maybe you are less prone to getting in a situation where the world is all messed up.
 
Lulav: Yeah. And I think that is borne out here. I can see why these two parashot are tied together because it explicitly says the land will be forsaken of you and it will make up for the Sabbath years that I guess it missed because you weren’t keeping the covenant.
 
Jaz: Yeah, I think that’s the implication, that you’re not treating the land properly.
 
Lulav: Yeah, so it makes up by not having you on it. (laughs) 
 
Jaz: Yeah, yeah.
 
Lulav: And then the last thing I want to point out in chapter 26, is that no matter how nasty you are about the covenant, G-d will remember it and as long as you come back with a willing heart, G-d will re-establish the covenant
 
Jaz: So there’s your bit about game theory.
 
Lulav: Exactly. At any point here, you can turn back and have the normal relationship with nothing held against you, but there is a lot of punishment if you continue in a way that does not honor the covenant that your ancestors made. So then we get to chapter 27 — we have been recording for a very long time and should probably hurry. It starts with explicit vows to the Lord in equivalence for human being and the best understanding I was able to cobble together about this is from notes in the NRSV that was like, well, you can’t do human sacrifice, so instead you give silver. So I think this is just like if somebody wants to promise the equivalence of themselves to G-d in hopes of later bounty, they pay the following numbers of shekels.
 
Jaz: Yes, I think that’s correct.
 
Lulav: Okay, do you have any questions about the specific numbers?
 
Jaz: I mean, they’re messy, and I don’t like them, and they’re sexist. 
 
(Lulav laughs)
 
Lulav: Yeah.
 
Jaz: I don’t have a question. I just wanted to acknowledge that that’s there.
 
Lulav: That’s very fair. So if someone is making a vow to Hashem of an animal the specific one that they bring is going to be holy. They can’t be like, oh actually, I really liked Spot can you take Dotty instead? And if someone does switch them behind the priests’ back, they still owe both Spot and Dotty 
 
Jaz: Yeah. Why are all of your animals covered with spots?
 
Lulav: Hey, it’s what Yaakov did.
 
Jaz: Sure.
 
(Lulav laughs)
 
Lulav: We made them look at lines and they turned out really spotty. So basically the priest assesses the value of the donation and if the person wants to get a specific sheep back, they can pay for it but add on 20%, which is pretty standard with temple dealings. You can consecrate your house to the Lord and here I’m unsure if this is like donating your house or if it’s like, I am out of money and I don’t have any kinsmen to redeem for me so I’m going to sell it to the temple or if it is just like a donation.
 
Jaz: I think it is a combination of those things
 
Lulav: Okay. 
 
Jaz: Which is I think you’re supposed to do it  a certain amount like this is not exactly a donation it’s your taxes and if you can’t pay your taxes in any other way, you can do it with the value of your house, you can mortgage your house.
 
Lulav: Yeah that makes sense, and then in order to buy your house back, you add 20%. Same thing with land it’s prorated according to the jubilee year so if you consecrate your land in the jubilee year it’s the full price, and if not, it’s however many years it will bear. And you can get it back at any time by paing a 20% surcharge on the prorated value of the land. 
 
Jaz: Uh huh. 
 
Lulav: And then more things about paying your taxes. And then there’s an interesting thing about the tithing, which is basically what you tithe from your flock is the tenth sheep that passes under the staff, like you hold your staff over your flock and they run past and every tenth one is the one that you give to the temple
 
Jaz: Yeah.
 
Lulav:  And just like before, if you give Spot, you can’t swap in Dottie, it’s just like every tenth one. And so what this means is when you tithe, you do so irrespective if it’s good or bad. You tithe the things that are dear to you, and you tithe the things that you feel okay just tossing out. And you’re not the one who makes the decision as to which. Is that fair?
 
Jaz: Yeah, G-d is sort of implicitly making that decision.
 
Lulav: So yeah, these are the commandments that the Eternal gave Moshe to the Israelite people on Mt. Sinai. That’s it. That’s the book. 
 
Jaz: That’s it. It’s like a closing, also where we were at the beginning of Behar, to emphasize again, you’re at Behar Sinai.
 
Lulav: Ah, I love that. Thanks for pointing that out. So we come now to Rating G-d’s Writing, a segment in which we bundle up all our feelings about the parsha, transmute them into a numerical scale, and set that in the amber of audio for all time.
 
Jaz: Lulav, out of 100 people routing enemies by swords, how many people would you rate this parsha?
 
Lulav: So is this the number of enemies, or the number of people who are routing enemies?
 
Jaz: People who are routing enemies.
 
Lulav: Oh, okay. I am going to say 50 because as somebody who comes from a Jewish family and a goyish family, I really don’t like the thing about how goyim are significantly different in the way they should be treated from the people of the covenant. Even if I weren’t a halfsie I would still hopefully still feel that way. So yeah, I enjoyed a lot of things about this. There was a ton to talk about that wasn’t just yelling about slavery, but also there’s some nasty stuff which I don’t feel like I can personally redeem. So that’s mine, is 50 rowdy boys routing their enemies. Jaz, you passed the entirety of the Torah under your shepherd’s staff and this is the tenth sheep that passes through. What is its name and what is one fond memory that you have with this sheep? (chuckles)
 
Jaz: What? That’s not — I know it is your goal to give me ever more outlandish scales, but this isn’t even pretending to be a scale. Okay, so this is a sheep which I am not super close with. 
 
Lulav: Okay. 
 
Jaz: It’s speckled and it’s kind of middle of the pack, never did anything super exceptional and occasionally bullied the other sheep.
 
(Lulav laughs)
 
Jaz: And I know it did that because I was watching when its sibling came over to nurse and it just knocked it down
 
Lulav:  Boo!
 
Jaz: Also, it sometimes helps other siblings. But also it’s a bully and if we had to sacrifice a sheep, I guess it’s okay if we sacrifice this one.
 
(Lulav laughs)
 
Lulav: Wow. Good.
 
Jaz: There’s a lot of stuff in this parsha that I don’t feel as well qualified to deal with. The stuff with slavery, you know, we have a modern history of slavery in this country and like, I know chattel slavery is differnt from Biblical slavery — Torah slavery isn’t necessarily race-based in the same way — but still, this is a hard one to reckon with.
 
Lulav:  Yeah, if there was ever a parsha or a group of parshot that called into question for me the differences between Biblical slavery and American chattel slavery, this would be it.
 
Jaz: Yeah. The other thing here, right, is that I’m thinking I don't have a final conclusion about it, but I”m still thinking about this stuff about liek what does it mean, how are you supposed to treat a ger, what does it mean to be a stranger and who is a stranger and how are you supposed to treat them when the text itself offers such contradictory things. Like, obviously I think there’s a right answer there. 
 
(Lulav laughs)
 
Jaz: In terms of there being we are all strangers and also some people are placed in the position where they feel that strangeness and they are made to feel that strangeness more than others and sometimes our texts and traditions reinforce that and how do we struggle with that?
 
Lulav: Yeah, thank you. It’s been a pleasure talking with you about this, Jaz. Can you take us to the close?
 
Jaz: Sure can. Thanks for listening to Kosher Queers! If you like what you’ve heard, you can support us on Patreon at patreon.com/kosherqueers, which will give you bonus content and help us keep making this for you. You can also follow us on Twitter @kosherqueers or like us on Facebook at Kosher Queers, or email us your questions, comments, and concerns at kosherqueers@gmail.com, and please spread the word about our podcast! Our artwork is by the talented Lior Gross. Our music is courtesy of the fabulous band Brivele, whose work you can find on Bandcamp. Go buy their album, they’re great. Our sound production this week is done by our excellent audio editor, Ezra Faust.

Lulav: Our full transcripts, as with every episode, are done by DiCo and Jaz and definitely accessible through our episode descriptions on Buzzsprout!

Jaz: I’m Jaz Twersky and you can find me @WordNerdKnitter on Twitter. I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Ohlone people. 

Lulav: I’m Lulav Arnow and you can find me @spacetrucksix on Twitter, or yell at me @palmliker! I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Wahpékute and Anishinaabeg.

Jaz: Have a lovely queer Jewish day!

[Brivele outro music]

Lulav: This week's gender is: spoon[y/ie], in both senses of the word.

Jaz: This week's pronouns are: it/its