Kosher Queers

34 — Behaalotecha: El na refa na la

June 11, 2020 Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow
Kosher Queers
34 — Behaalotecha: El na refa na la
Kosher Queers
34 — Behaalotecha: El na refa na la
Jun 11, 2020
Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow

For this week's episode, Jaz and Lulav are joined by guest Julia Franco. Julia introduces us to Tzipporah's gay dads and Miriam's skin condition, Lulav reclaims the word pascal, there are continuity errors, the priests form a long daisy chain of blessings over two bowls, and meanwhile, the rabbis don't endorse procrastination but do endorse second chances to be involved in religious life. 

Full transcript here.

Shout out to Mem on Twitter @shabbosdyke for xer insights about Christian use of terminology. These are vuvuzelot, that Lulav thinks are the holy things that priests are using. Lulav mentioned the podcast Sefirat HOmoer, another queer Jewish podcast. BoJack Horseman, with the character Hollyhock Manheim-Mannheim-Guerrero-Robinson-Zilberschlag-Hsung-Fonzerelli-McQuack, can be watched on Netflix. You can see the verse in Bamidbar 11:10 here. Also, Lulav mentions Gödel's incompleteness theorem super offhandedly, and if you want to read more about that it looks like you can do that here.

Here's the midrash about Miriam telling her father to go back and re-marry her mother. Here's Rabbi Meir saying you can't declare your relatives pure of tzaraat. You can learn more about Alicia Jo Rabins here, and you can buy "Snow" and its album here. Also, if you want to include us in your Jewish archive, drop us a line? Here's Julia's "Prince of Egypt" fanfic and her Tumblr, plus the specific post from her Tumblr that she sent when she was pitching us on coming on the episode.

Content notes: non-explicit sex mention from 34:45 to about 35:45. Also, Julia drops a swear word at 37:21.

Support us on Patreon! Send us questions or comments at, 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 Reuben Shachar Rose and Jaz Twersky. Our logo is by Lior Gross, and we are not endorsed by or affiliated with the Orthodox Union.

Support the show (

Show Notes Transcript

For this week's episode, Jaz and Lulav are joined by guest Julia Franco. Julia introduces us to Tzipporah's gay dads and Miriam's skin condition, Lulav reclaims the word pascal, there are continuity errors, the priests form a long daisy chain of blessings over two bowls, and meanwhile, the rabbis don't endorse procrastination but do endorse second chances to be involved in religious life. 

Full transcript here.

Shout out to Mem on Twitter @shabbosdyke for xer insights about Christian use of terminology. These are vuvuzelot, that Lulav thinks are the holy things that priests are using. Lulav mentioned the podcast Sefirat HOmoer, another queer Jewish podcast. BoJack Horseman, with the character Hollyhock Manheim-Mannheim-Guerrero-Robinson-Zilberschlag-Hsung-Fonzerelli-McQuack, can be watched on Netflix. You can see the verse in Bamidbar 11:10 here. Also, Lulav mentions Gödel's incompleteness theorem super offhandedly, and if you want to read more about that it looks like you can do that here.

Here's the midrash about Miriam telling her father to go back and re-marry her mother. Here's Rabbi Meir saying you can't declare your relatives pure of tzaraat. You can learn more about Alicia Jo Rabins here, and you can buy "Snow" and its album here. Also, if you want to include us in your Jewish archive, drop us a line? Here's Julia's "Prince of Egypt" fanfic and her Tumblr, plus the specific post from her Tumblr that she sent when she was pitching us on coming on the episode.

Content notes: non-explicit sex mention from 34:45 to about 35:45. Also, Julia drops a swear word at 37:21.

Support us on Patreon! Send us questions or comments at, 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 Reuben Shachar Rose and Jaz Twersky. Our logo is by Lior Gross, and we are not endorsed by or affiliated with the Orthodox Union.

Support the show (

[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 she’s Julia! And we’re here to joke about Judaism and talk Tanakh together! Today, our chevruta is learning Behaalotecha.

Jaz: Yeah. Welcome, Julia, to the podcast. Julia Franco holds a graduate degree in creative writing and a BA in literature. She currently works as a technical writer in California. She's also a conversion student who's been studying Judaism for two years with the support of local rabbis. Her hobbies include kissing her wife, (Lulav chuckles) studying Torah and writing gay “Prince of Egypt” fanction. Aww. 

Lulav: Which is kind of the best bio? (laughing)

Jaz: It’s delightful.

Julia: Thank you!

Lulav: It gets all the high points. (Lulav laughs)

Julia: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: So, the fact that you wrote “gay Prince of Egypt fanfiction” was not included in your original pitch, but I did definitely read all 20,000 words that you had already written of it—

Julia: Uh huh.

 Lulav: —during the vetting process. 

Julia: And there’s more coming! 

Jaz: (Jaz laughs) “Vetting process.” I also wanna give a shout out to Julia for being the first person to take us up on the offer to just write in and say “hey I wanna be a guest and I think I have good things to talk about,” (Lulav chuckles) ’cuz, I'm excited. 

Julia: Yeah! I've been kind of wanting to get into podcasting, honestly, and I feel like this is a good way to start. 

Lulav: Baruch Hashem. (Lulav laughs) Glad for this to be a first experience. 

Julia: Mm hmm!

Lulav: Yeah! So, why did you want to come on for this particular episode Julia? 

Julia: This is my favourite Torah portion because a lot happens in it, (Lulav giggles) but most of the stories are ones that don’t get talked about very often, I think in part because a lot of them are confusing, or don't really fit with what's already been established in the Torah, there’s a lot that just—

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Julia: —doesn't make sense at first read so that's why I find it really intriguing to delve into this particular Torah portion and explore it. 

Lulav: Yeah! 

Jaz: That's rad. So, Julia, I understand that you did a short summary for this week? 

Julia: Yes! Would you like me to read that now?

Jaz: In one moment. How much time would you like for your short summary? I'm gonna give you an alarm. 

Julia: It took me about 30 seconds when I tested it on my own, so 30 seconds. 

Jaz: Great! Okay, ready—

Lulav: That's short for this! (Lulav and Julia giggle)

Jaz: That's pretty impressively short for a parsha that seems to have a lot in it, so… ready? Set, go. 

Julia: G-d talked about menorahs, and why the Levites are special. Makeup Passover for people who missed regular Passover is introduced. During all of this, the Israelites followed G-d's magic cloud. Moses’ buddy Hobab wants to leave but Moses convinces him to stay. The people get hangry, so G-d sends a quail plague. (Lulav laughs) Some random Israelites start acting like prophets which Moses thinks is pretty great. After a confusing argument between Moses, Miriam and Aaron, G-d struck Miriam with tzaraath. The people wait for Miriam to heal before continuing their journey. Done. 

Jaz: That was pretty great! 

Lulav: Yeah! 

Jaz: You had time to spare. 

[timer rings] 

Lulav: That's like, all the things! (Jaz laughs) Amazing. 

Julia: Thanks!

Lulav: We have been bested at our own game. (laughs)

Jaz: I'm also impressed by the whole story about meat being boiled down to “and then there’s a quail plague,” (laughter) because that's both accurate and real brief. (Lulav laughs)

Julia: Yeah, I mean that's what happens! The people say “we want meat” and G-d says, “Alright! You're gonna regret this” (laughter)

Lulav: So, do you mind if I take us through that a little more slowly and Julia and Jaz both of you can jump in with interjections any time you want?

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Julia: Sure! 

Lulav: Cool! So I actually wrote notes for this. The thing we start off with is the lamp stand isnt radially symmetric like I thought it might be. Unfortunately, all the lamps are mounted in front. And, that's just how we start the parsha, is talking about the lamp stand. Then the Levites have to cleanse, and then the Isrealites must touch them while Aharon lifts them up to Hashem's service. It's portrayed as an elevation offering, kind of the way that you do elevation offering with meats. 

Julia: Which works because they're kind of a spiritual sacrifice to G-d.

Lulav: Yeah! 

Julia: They are dedicating their lives to G-d. 

Lulav: And then the Levites touch the two bowls that they brought and presumably they are doing this in a manner similar to how we all touch the challah on Shabbat, because there are over 1000 of them? (laughter)

Julia: Yeah, I'm not sure how the logistics of that would work. 

Lulav: I don't know if either of you do these in your congregations but —

Jaz: You're suggesting that you daisy chain it.

Lulav: Right! You daisy chain it —

Jaz: You touch somebody who's touching somebody who's touching the altar. 

Lulav: So like the rabbi holds the platter that they're doing the hamotzi lechem blessing over and somebody touches the rabbi and then another person touches that person and two people touches that person and that's a little too much touching for our current times (Jaz laughs) but — 

Julia: But in non-plague times it would work! 

Lulav: Yeah, in non-plague times it's really fun, and also very surprising if you don't know that this is happening (Jaz laughs) and there are people behind you. 

Jaz: Do we have a reason to believe all the Levites are doing this or could it just be a representative from the Levites? 

Lulav: I mean, it says you shall bring the Levites forward before the tent of meeting.

Jaz: True.

Lulav: You're assembling the whole Isrealite community so presumably if everybody’s there, that does include all of the Levites.

Jaz: Yeah, yeah. 

Lulav: I don't know! I really think that there are over 8000 people just daisy chaining on two bowls here. (laughter)

Jaz: That’s beautiful. 

Julia: The next bit does lay out some specifications about who is eligible to serve from 25 years of age up, they shall participate in the workforce, but they get to retire when they’re 50 so I guess it's excluding Levites who are not in that age range but that’s still a good number of people.

Lulav: You said this is a parsha that has a lot of inconsistencies?

Julia: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: The prior census for Levites was ages 30 to 50, yet the commandment for service here is 25 to 50. 

Julia: Mhm. That's what we call a continuity error. (Jaz laughs)

Lulav: Excellent. (Lulav laughs)

Lulav: So yeah, that rounds out chapter 8, then we come to the first Pesach. 

Julia: Mm hmm.

Lulav: Things work well, but not without a hitch. Some dudes had touched a corpse and therefore couldn't do the paschal sacrifice. I'm reclaiming the word paschal… (Lulav giggles)

Julia: Okay. Can I talk about that for a bit?

Jaz: I wanna hear Julias thing and then I wanna hear your mini rant about “paschal,” because it's great. 

Lulav: Yes please. 

Julia: Okay. Yeah so I was curious about if there is any more context on this corpse that they had touched and it turns out there are three different midrashim about why they are ritually impure. 

Lulav: Of course there are. 

Julia: One of them is that these were the people who were carrying Joseph's casket. (Lulav laughs) Remember Joseph had been buried in Egypt but had wanted to be ultimately buried in the promised land. 

Jaz: Yeah.

Julia: So some people had to find his casket and bring it with them on this journey. The other theory is that they are carrying the casket for Nadav and Abihu—

Jaz: Aww!

Julia: —the two sons of Aaron who died. 

Lulav: Oh yeah! 

Julia: Which is kind of tragic because this is where the surviving Levites are (Lulav chuckles) getting ordained so that adds some pathos to this whole story.(Lulav chuckles) And the third theory is that they had buried someone who didn't have any family members to bury them, like these are people who realize, “hey, this person isn't going to get a proper burial unless we do it ourselves so we're gonna step up and do it ourselves!” which is also kind of sweet.

Lulav: Because, clearly they’re observant and proactive about getting themselves included in the new rituals, right?

Julia: Mm hmm, yeah. 

Jaz: Yeah, they actively wanted to participate. 

Julia: Makes sense that they would be proactive about noticing other things that need to be done in the community.

Lulav: Yeah. So, Julia, which of those is your favourite? 

Julia: (sighs) They're all pretty good. I think I like the last one best. The idea that they, you know, weren’t burying anyone who was particularly special or notable; it was just a regular person in the community who they nevertheless realized needed a proper burial and stepped up to do it themselves. 

Lulav: Yeah! That’s nice. 

Jaz: That is nice. 

Lulav: Everybody has a place. 

Jaz: Lulav, you were going to tell us about the word “paschal” and how you're taking it back?

Lulav: Yes! Okay! So, “paschal” comes from “Pesach.” It's an adjective that just means “relating to Passover”. But like, the context in which I learned that word was at Lutheran school ‘cus its very often used when talking about Easter stuff? 

Julia: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: And I'm just mad about that because it literally means “about Passover” and the first thing that a lot of people think of now is something weird about Jesus instead of commemorating when Hashem brought us out of Egypt. 

Julia: Wow! Jewish text being appropriated and misunderstood to be about Jesus? That's never happened before. (laughter)

Lulav: Right? So I was complaining about this on Twitter an hour before we started recording and @shabbosdyke on Twitter had some nice commentary about that. Just about the general trend of supersessionism—

Julia: Mm hmm. 

Lulav:  —and how words like “sin” and “repentance” and stuff like that are, like, because Christians have a different meaning for them from the meaning that Jews have, there's a lot of misunderstanding if you're not brought up explicitly Jewish, you might not understand what sin means in the context of Judaism or what it means to repent, all that stuff,

Julia: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: and paschal is just one of the many things that has been superseded, unfortunately. 

Jaz: Thats wild. 

Julia: Yup. 

Lulav: Jaz, you were brought up Jewish.

Jaz: Entirely. I didn't know any of this. 

Lulav: Okay! 

Jaz: Literally the only way in which i've ever heard the word paschal, at least to my knowledge, is the paschal lamb or paschal sacrifice in reference to the literal lambs blood they smeared on the door when they were leaving Egypt. 

Lulav: Good. I'm so glad. Julia, what’s your experience with, I don't know, terms, that have different meanings in different faiths? 

Julia: So, some background on me, I was nominally raised Catholic, I was not very good at it. (Lulav giggles) I actually didn't know I was Catholic until I was nine years old (Lulav laughs) when some kids at my school asked me what religion I was and I had to go ask my mom. (laughing) 

Jaz: Awww. 

Lulav: Good. That's relatable. 

Julia: Yeah, I feel like I've mostly heard “paschal” in the terms of “the paschal lamb,” which, I associate more with the ancient temple sacrifice.

Lulav: Oh yay!

Julia: But yeah, I think that's more of my studying and the last two years. 

Lulav: That's really good. 

Jaz: I do for sure hear you about the point that was brought up by Mem on twitter, I think that xe had a really good point too, like that other terms like “sin” and “commandment” and “purity” and “repentance”—

Lulav: “Commandment,” that was the other one. 

Jaz: Yeah, a lot of us have either difficulty trying to explain nuance, or just difficulty trying to understand differences, especially when were kids —

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz:— or especially when those distinctions are new for us. 

Lulav: Yeah! 

Jaz: Anyway, Lulav what's next?

Lulav: Yes! So these dudes are talking to Moshe about like, “hey, we can't do the paschal sacrifice, so what do we do about that?” and Moshe’s just like, “uhhh wait here while I think of something!” and he talks to G-d about what to do and then he comes back with what I like to call (hobbit voice) “second Passover'' (giggles) where people who were unclean or otherwise didn’t offer the paschal sacrifice can do so one month later with matzah and maror. Jaz, what's that actually called? When you're not imitating a hobbit?

Jaz: It is called “second Passover.” It’s called—


Jaz: — “Pesach Sheni”, 

Lulav: Heck yeah!  (Jaz laughs) 

Lulav: Got it in one! (Lulav laughs)

Jaz: No, you did great but, nobody does Pesach Sheni basically, like — (Lulav snorts) 

Julia: I actually know someone! 

Jaz: Really? Fascinating. Please tell me your story, and then I will tell you mine. (Lulav giggles) 

Julia: Yeah! So, one of my friends was really hoping to be able to do Passover with some friends and family this year, but then coronavirus happened, so they decided, “Okay, I'm going to wait and see if I can do a proper Passover for Pesach Sheni,” and of course the plague is still going on (Lulav laughs) but they ended up doing a makeup seder over zoom with some friends and family so I think they still had a good experience! 
Jaz: That's wonderful! 

Lulav: Yay. 

Jaz: Yeah, the thing I was going to say is I heard about it for the first time this year because there were some rabbis talking about, “if you can't do Passover at the regular time maybe we should bring back Pesach Sheni,” (Lulav laughs) but they were sort of phrasing it as like “we could bring it back, it's not a thing that mostly we do but maybe we could bring it back for this year,” even though their idea, I think was “in a month, we’ll be able to gather!” and in a month we were not able to gather so… 

Lulav: Ah! (laughing) Good.

Jaz: But it's really cool that it's there! And we have this, if you can't do it right now you can do it later. 

Lulav: It's really great. I'm a little confused about the assumption that if you are ritually unclean the first time, you're definitely going to be ritually clean the second time? Is there a Pesach Third? Is there an elevenses? (Jaz and Julia laugh) 

Jaz: We have Pesach Sheni, do we have Pesach Shlishi? 

Lulav: Thank you. (Lulav laughs)

Jaz: You're welcome. But I don't think so. (Lulav laughs)

Julia: I mean, the second one happens a month later, right, and I think most of the periods of impurity don't last longer than seven days so that should be more than enough time, unless there's another corpse that you have to handle. 

Lulav: Right? That's what I'm thinking. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Like sometimes you just accidentally touch corpses. It happens. (Julia giggles) That’s a thing that I do all the time. 

Jaz: Okay. Alright. (Jaz laughs) 

Lulav: It's not. 

Jaz: Not to be like a stickler about this, but I think also it’s a thing like, they're impure by reason of a corpse, it says, and there's actually several different ways to be ritually impure. I think maybe this indicates that this is the only kind of impurity that cancels you out of doing Pesach sacrifice, that other types of impurity don't rise to the same level, only this type of more extreme impurity. 

Lulav: Yeah, that does seem to be the case, ‘cus the thing that Hashem says is if you and your posterity are defiled by a corpse or are on a long journey and you just can't as a result, offer a sacrifice, you do it on Pesach Sheni. So those are the only two reasons: if you're out of town or if you have recently touched a corpse. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: That's cool. 

Jaz: Yeah. Okay. What's next? 

Lulav: So the chapter rounds out with Torah making sure we're clear that the Israelite camping patterns were directly responsive to the divine cloud over the mishkan. 

Julia: Mm hmm. This is going to be important later!

Lulav: (chuckles) Good. I can't wait to find out how. 

Jaz: Lulav, you're skipping one last bit,

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: which I just want to throw in as a note, which is they throw in a quick affirmation that if you can do Pesach at the regular time, you still have to. This is for exceptional and extenuating circumstances. It's not like you can just decide to do one or the other (Lulav chuckles)
Julia: Yeah, the Torah is not endorsing procrastination. 

Jaz: Yeah (Lulav laughs) And it notes if there is a ger or a stranger living with you, they also do it at the proper time. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: They have this again, affirmation of there shall be one rule for all of you. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Okay, and then we can go on to your thing about clouds of fire. 

Lulav: Yes. So, I don't know about clouds of fire -- I mean, appearing as fire by night? 

Jaz: Yeah! 

Lulav: But not fire all the time, right? 

Jaz: Okay, but it is sometimes a cloud of fire. This is nitpicky. 

Lulav: True. (Jaz laughs) True. Okay, so instead of picking nits, we break camp when the cloud leaves. We set up camp when the cloud comes back and yeah, that was just a little reminder before we go on to chapter 10. On G-d's command, the Israelite people get two silver vuvuzelim that the priests will use to call mishkan assemblies with long blasts or to order the wings of divisions to march with short blasts. The vuvuzela is also brought out to demonstrate defensive military actions and joyous sacrifices. Does anybody want to fight me about the choice of instrument? 

Julia: No, I think that's fair. It's not a shofar because it's not made of a horn. 

Lulav: Right?     

Julia: It's specifically made of silver.

Jaz: Why—what is a... ? What did you say? 

Lulav: I said "vuvuzelim." 

Jaz: I don't know what that is. 

Lulav: Actually wait, no -- it would be vuvuzelot. 

Jaz: Yeah, there we go. 

Lulav: (laughs) Okay. Because the singular is vuvuzela. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: For anybody who doesn't remember, there was a world cup in like 2012 or something where probably a third of the people in the audience had these plastic horns that they were tooting on. 

Jaz: This is terrible. 

Lulav: And it was the only thing you could hear the entire time. 

Jaz: This is terrible. We have to link people to pictures of it because I had to look it up as you were speaking to be like, what on earth is that?

Lulav: Uh huh. 

Jaz: These are horrifying. 

Julia: Those look like they'd be great for Purim. (Jaz and Lulav crack up) 

Lulav: It's basically the whole like, medieval trumpet thing that you see in like, Monty Python or old Disney movies. 

Jaz: Yes. 

Lulav: So, I don't know. (laughs) I feel comfortable calling these vuvuzelot. 

Jaz: Great, okay. 

Lulav: Okay so moving on, we start the whole march on the 35th day of the Omer, which Elijah of Sefirat HOmoer tells me is malchut of hod. The east wing marches and then the mishkan is broken down and the Gershonites and Merarites do their porterage tasks. Then the south wing marches, then the Kohaitites march with their sacred objects. Then the west wing marches and the north wing is apparently the rear guard, unlike what I previously said. 

Julia: Or that might be another continuity error. 

Lulav: Probably that. (Lulav laughs) Cuz the east wing is the front guard, the vanguard, so why is the north wing the rear guard? What are they doing? (Lulav laughs)

Jaz: Rotating. 

Lulav: But yeah. Does anybody have comments about this part? 

Julia: I have a comment about the bit that's coming up, but not about the marching. 

Lulav: Okay. So there's some really challenging stuff in this bit that's coming up, where Moshe is talking with someone who is supposedly his father in law but is not named Yitro. Is that one of the things that you wanted to comment on? 

Julia: Yes! So there are three different names given to Moses' father-in-law in various points in the Torah and sometimes it'll change from one paragraph to the next. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Julia: It's very confusing and that's probably an error from different traditions being combined. That would be, you know the terms Doylist interpretation verses Watsonian interpretation? 

Lulav: Uh huh. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Julia: That would be the Doylist explanation. My Watsonisan explanation however is that Moses had three gay fathers-in-law. 

Jaz: Aww! 

Lulav: Baruch Hashem. 

Julia: There was Jethro, there was Ruel, and there was this guy, Hobab, and they were all in a very happy gay poly marriage. (Lulav laughs) 

Jaz: Julia, I have an addition to your comment. 

Julia: Mm hmm? 

Jaz: Which is just that, according to midrash, there's actually seven names, not three. 

Lulav: (sigh) Okay. (Jaz laughs) We live like this (Lulav laughs) 

Jaz: So would you like them to each have multiple names, or would you like them to be in a large polycule? 

Julia: I like the large polycule idea! (Jaz and Lulav laugh) I want to imagine Tzipporah having just, a bunch of supportive gay dads. 

Jaz: Aww. 

Lulav: Oh good! Like the one character in BoJack Horseman, After finishing watching BoJack Horseman I forgot everything about it, but there's a character with eighth gay dads. 

Julia: Nice. 

Jaz: That's so many dads. 

Lulav: It's so many dads. 

Julia: So many dad jokes. 

Lulav: And she has a hyphenated name that's all of their last names. 

Jaz: Oh no. (Lulav laughs) No wonder you don't remember her name. 

Lulav: Yes. Uhm. (laughs) So, yeah. The name given here is Hobab bar Ruel the Midianite? 

Julia: Mm hmm

Lulav: Actually sorry, I pronounced that like German. I don't know what the actual pronunciation of that is, but it's probably Ruel. 

Jaz: It's Ru'el. Yeah.

Lulav : Ru’el? Yes. Okay. Thank you.

Jaz: I mean, no, it's like (with Hebrew "r" sound) Ru’el, but whatever. 

Lulav: Oh fun! There was a very long time where I pronounced the sandwich "Royben" (Jaz laughs) because I was like, it's an "E" "U" so by German pronunciation, it's gotta be "royben."

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: But then I looked it up. 

Julia: But we're not speaking German. 

Jaz: (laughs) When has that ever stopped her? (Jaz and Lulav laugh) 

Lulav: Yeah, when has that ever stopped me before? (Laughs) So those are the particular names here. Hobab. The conversation ends without an actual conclusion, which is another thing that I thought you might have opinions on. Basically, the Midianites want to go back home and Moshe wants them to be scouts and share in the bounty of the new land. Julia and Jaz, do either of you have insights here? 

Jaz: I just want to hold on to one thing here for later, that Moshe's father is a Midianite, and then we can come back to that later. 

Julia: Yeah, so I think it's interesting that they have this cloud to guide them and yet Moses also really wants the Midiantes to be guides and I'm going to talk more about this later but I think there's a transition in this Torah portion away from divine leadership and towards human leadership. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Mmmm.

Julia: And I feel like this is an example of that, where Moses is putting, not necessarily more, but equal amounts of faith in the ability of humans to guide them to the promised land as he puts in G-d to guide them to the promised land. 

Lulav: And this is something that G-d is supporting, which we'll see in Chapter 11. 

Julia: Mm hmm.

Lulav: What did you have, Jaz? 

Jaz: I was reading this book that I think I mentioned before called Leadership in the Wilderness, by Erica Brown. 

Lulav: Yeah!

Jaz: About Bamidbar and they note that Hobab is a word that indicates friendship, so it indicated that the two of them were close, but also that potentially the author here noted the same thing a Julia about they have the ark to guide them but Moshe also wants this person to guide him, whose guidance he relied on, and noting that it's an interesting paradigm of leadership, of wanting to not just rely sort of one the world or on your own connection with G-d and inspiration, but also to rely on other humans to help you lead. 

Lulav: Yeah. One thing that I want to say is this seems like a DBT worksheet where you got the — I'm going to use Hegelian terms because I can't remember what it's called in DBT, but there's the thesis of I will not go but will return to my native and the antithesis of please do not leaves us in as much as you know where we should camp; if you come with us we’ll extend you the same bounty that the Lord grants us and then the synthesis line is just left blank, fo you to find the wise path. 

Jaz: Mmmm! 

Julia: Yeah. I assume that Hobab went with them, because I don't know, that just feels like a better conclusion (Lulav giggles) to the story to me, but it doesn't explicitly tell us that. 

Lulav: Right? So like, there's ample midrashic room here for Hobab to be like, “nah, I'm good. I don't need this particular land. We're just going to go back where we're from.” 

Jaz: Lulav, which is your preferred interpretation? That they stay together or that they didn't? 

Lulav: I mean, for continuity's sake probably that they stayed together, but like, if I could get a specific story with a bunch of pathos and characters, I would probably like the one where Hobab doesn't go. 

Jaz: Mmm.

Julia: And sad breakup music plays. 

Lulav: (laughs) Good. So yeah, they march from Mt. Horeb three days away and the ark travels in front of them, which is confusing to me because the ark of the covenant is the thing that's at the center of the mishkan, right? 

Julia: Mm hmm.

Lulav: So that means that it's carried by one of the divisions of Levites, right? 

Julia: Yup. 

Jaz: Yes?

Lulav: And yet, it is travelling out in front of them, so I'm a little confused about that? 

Jaz: Oh, so that it's not in the center? 

Lulav: Right. It's not like 2nd or 4th, it's in front? So I'm just confused about if the ark of the covenant counts as sacred objects or where in this process it is. It's not that important, I don't think. 

Julia: Yeah, I think when they're camped it's in the center. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Julia: But when they're moving, it's out front and I guess would have to be, because that's where the cloud is. The cloud stays over the mishkan.

Lulav: Okay 

Julia: So they're kind of using it as a compass point to guide them. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: Moshe speaks as though G-d is directing it without the assistance of people, as if the ark floats out in front and then the people follow it and then they surround it again each evening. 

Lulav: So, that's not my interpretation. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: For context, Moshe says an invocation at the start and end of the march. He says, "advance, Hashem, may your enemies be scattered and may your foes flee before you," as the ark sets out and "Return Hashem, the myriad spirit of Yisrael" as the ark comes to a stop. And so what I'm hearing here is that there is a blessing of “okay, the cloud is already leaving so we're saying, you know, advance, do all this”, and when the ldou is coming back, it's like, “return, you are welcome back in this mortal home.” 

Jaz: Mmm.

Julia: That makes sense to me. 

Lulav: But you are free to have other interpretations. 
Jaz: Can you bring us to the next bit?

Lulav: Yes. So chapter 11, we have a smash cut to, what else? The people complaining. There's a fire in camp because G-d's mad about it — the complaining — and then we are given a specific complaint of the people of a lack of food variety and of course, a counterpoint from the narrator that says the manna they did have was good as heck.

Jaz: Hmm!

Julia: Mm hmm. It tasted like rich cream.

Lulav: Yeah, rich cream and coriander seeds? Like, okay! I love cilantro. Many people do not. (chuckles) Moshe complains to Hashem that the Israelites are complaining, since it's his responsibility to ensure their needs are met. He says, (dramatic voice quavering) “kill me now,” and like a friend who is very used to this sort of whining, Hashem ignores this request and offers an accomodation instead: the first Sanhedrin of 70 dudes who Moshe trusts to judge things correctly. Agreement, disagreement, different things you want to point out?

Julia: No, I think that's accurate. Moshe gets very dramatic in this part.

Lulav: He's so dramatic.

Julia: Yeah. I will say the imagery that he uses is very interesting and I'm not quite sure what to make of it because he uses a lot of specifically feminine imagery — 

Lulav: Yeah.

Julia: —saying, did I conceive all this people, did I bear them—

Jaz: Ooh.

Julia: —that you should say to me, carry them as a nurse carries an infant, so, that's intriguing.

Lulav: Yeah. I mean, when I read it, I hear that as a masculine rejection of that. “I didn't conceive all these people, and I'm not suckling them and yet, I have to do all this.”

Jaz: Ooh.

Lulav: Which is unfortunate. (laughs)

Jaz: Well, I was reading it sort of as, Moshe's doing the wrong thing here (Lulav laughs) by complaining about the people weeping, and that the reason we can tell this is we have this line, here in uhm, 11:10 that notes Moshe had heard the people weeping and G-d is angry and the word is uses for Moshe — my translation renders it as "distressed" but the word is "ra" which I believe is —

Lulav: Oh, bad!

Jaz: Yeah! It is like, the same one you have that is sometimes translated as "evil" or "wicked' like it crops up most frequently in like lashon hara, often translated as the evil inclination, and so Moshes's over here being like, I don't like the people and I don't wanna take care of them and he shouldn't be doing that.

Julia: I'm not their mom! It's not fair! (Jaz and Lulav laugh)

Jaz: Yeah, and that's irresponsible of him, and also, okay, I get that "ra" is a little more complicated of a word, don't @ me, but still! (Lulav laughs) His responsibility is to take care of his people and not treat them like they're just being fools.

Lulav: Yeah. And when you combine the English translation of distressed with the original wording of ra — 

Jaz: Mm hmm.

Lulav: — it's like, yeah he's distressed by this and also he's responding in a bad fashion.

Jaz: Yeah. Which I liked your interpretation too, of he's temporarily overwhelmed and he's complaining in the same way that he's accusing the people of.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: And G-d is like “uh uh, buddy, pull yourself together. It's alright, promise.”

Lulav: (Laughs) One of the specific complaints, this is gonna come up later, is that the people are whining and saying give us meat to eat. Like, where am I gonna get meat from? So I'm gonna go in two directions here. One is focusing on the Sanhedrin that Hashem gives to Moshe. And then we're going to talk a little bit about that meat. So, the 70 elders, when they gather together for the first time, are filled with the breath of the Name and "spoke in ecstacy." What does that look like to you?

Julia: I imagine a little bit of the G-d cloud coming away from the ark and settling over them and then they all start prophesying all at once, which I imagine would be cocophanous and (Lulav chuckles) impossible to understand if 70 people are doing that all at once.

Lulav: Oh.

Julia: But I don't know. Maybe it was impressive.

Lulav: Okay. Jaz, do you have anything?

Jaz: I'm thinking about it. I — I'm curious about what the word is here is mostly what I was trying to look at, because I didn't look up the word they were using for ecstacy earlier.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Do you have an interpretation? Come back to me.

Lulav: Yeah. So when Julia said there were so many people prophesying cacophonously, that just makes me think of what it must be like to field all the truths of the world at once as Elohim.

Jaz: Mm.

Lulav: Any individual prophecy you're listening to probably makes sense, but there are 70 all at once and you have to take them all in combination, so that's why we're not always like that (laughs).

Julia: Because it would be overwhelming?

Lulav: Because it would be so overwhelming to just be prophesying all the time. The whole thing with Gödel's incompleteness theorem where any system you have for understanding natural phenomena necessarily won't include all of the possibilities of natural phenomena. 

Julia: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: You need multiple voices.

Jaz: Mmm!

Lulav: And the synthesis of them.

Jaz: That's beautiful. Okay, so I did double-check because I was so curious. I was like, what is theis word for ecstasy? But I do know this root, because it's just nun vav aleph and it's the same word a navi, like prophet, for Neviim.

Lulav: Oh! Okay, so it's literally prophesying.

Jaz: It is literally prophesying.

Lulav: Cool.    

Jaz: And this one is a conjugation about it that's more specific about “under the influence of divine spirit,” but yeah, it's the same thing.

Lulav: Cool.

Julia: Yeah, I've got two translations, and one of them translates that sentence as, “they acted like prophets.” (Lulav chuckles)

Jaz: Yeah.

Julia: Rather than, "they spoke in ecstacy."

Lulav: Okay. Do you know where "spoke in ecstasy" is coming from in the JPS translation?

Jaz: I don't. I'm not sure.

Lulav: Okay.(chuckles) Anyway, all 70 of these elders are prophesying. And then a kid from town snitches on Eldad and Medad, who are just these two dudes. 

Julia: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: They were, according to the text, also filled with the breath and also prophesying, despite not being elders, and so we get two responses when this kid comes to tell on them. One is from Yehoshua Bar Nun, who keeps cropping up at random moments. I wonder if he's going to be important in the rest of the Tanakh (Jaz laughs) and he's saying “milord, we must catch them!” but the other perspective we get is from Moshe, who's just like, “dude, it would be so rad if everyone did prophecy. Be glad that these two people have the breath on them.”

Jaz: I love this.

Lulav (laughs) Yeah.

Julia: So Rashi has an interesting bit of commentary on this. He says that what they were prophesying was that Moses would die and Joshua would bring the people into the land, which is true, it is what's going to happen, but I understand Joshua hearing that and being freaked out because I don't want Moses to die and I don't want this responsibility and this is terrible! Moses, stop them! (Lulav laughs)

Jaz: Or, less generously, they're prophesizing and Joshua's like, “I'm going to get in so much trouble.” (Lulav laughs)

Julia: Yeah, that too.

Jaz: I found another interpretation about these guys too though, because Lulav you were like, these are just two dudes!

Lulav: Uh huh.

Jaz: But the commentators noted that Moshe asked for 70 elders.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: And if there are 12 tribes—

Lulav; (gasps) Oh!

Jaz: —then to get an equal number of elders from each tribe, you would have actually had to have 72.

Lulav: Okay. Because that's' 6 from oeah of the ancestral houses.

Jaz: Yeah. But G-d asked for 70, and so these two would have been there except that G-d asked for 70 only.

Lulav: (laughs) Baruch Hashem.

Jaz: And the rabbis came up with this whole system of like, well, Moshe was really anxious about excluding people so he wrote "elder" on 70 pieces of paper basically (Lulav laughs) and then, “not taking in” on like two and then everybody drew a random piece of paper and that's how they decide which ones.

Lulav: Okay. This brings us back to, like, a central rule of coding, which is always check for rounding errors in your code. (laughs)

Julia: I assume G-d understands coding. I do not. (Lulav and Jaz laugh)

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Okay, and then —

Julia: So, next bit?

Lulav: So yes. Now we rewind a bit. A major complaint from the people had been that there wasn't any meat in their diet, so G-d, in response to that, is like, “they want meat? I'll give them meat! They'll have meat for a month! I'll make meat come out of their ears!” And they get a whole bunch of quails. But before the people can even eat even a little bit of this ridiculous amount of quail that they gather, they get hit with a sudden plague and a bunch of the ones who were complaining the most died. What are your thoughts on this?

Julia: Mixed? (Lulav laughs) Because, you know, this is a long and difficult journey and it is going to be long and difficult and there's one commentary that suggests that if the people wanted meat so badly, they could have slaughtered their livestock and eaten those but they didn't want to do that because livestock is wealth in this time period and they didn't want to give up that wealth. They wanted G-d to just provide everything for them, so in that sense I can kind of see how the people were in the wrong. At the same time, uhh, plague seems (Lulav chuckles) extreme.

Lulav: Yeah. Especially because that doesn't just hit the people who were hoarding wealth and as we are getting in real time, it will often hurt people who aren't hoarding wealth because they don't have any.

Jaz: Yeah. An alternate take: this is based on an interpretation that the rabbis give, but I tweaked it because I didn't quite like their conclusion, which is the rabbis looked at it and they were like, they're asking for fish and they're asking for meat and they're like, "like we had back in Egypt freely" and the rabbis are like, ah, this is a veiled metaphor because the thing they're asking for is not actually asking for the flesh of animals. It's humans, they want to be able to have sex whenever they want without rules.

Julia: Alright.

Lulav: (laughs) The Israelites, banging drums at Kibrot Hatavah: (Jax laughs) We want period sex! We want period sex (Jaz laughs)

Jaz: Anyway, and G-d is like well, we're going to take this really literally and instead just give you quails, and also do this to symbolically remind you that actually, having boundaries around stuff is a good thing. (Lulav laughs) You gotta have, like, norms and take care of each other and not just like, grab people. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Anyways, the rabbis were a little bit less — they landed on a slightly different conclusion.

Lulav: Uh huh

Jaz: But you know -- they definitely did come up with the thing about sex. That wasn't me. (Lulav laughs)

Lulav: Okay. So we come to the last chapter of the parsha, which is Julia's specialty.

Julia: Yes!

Lulav: Julia, would you like to walk through this, or… would you like me to continue?

Julia: Sure, I can do it. So they get to Hazara and there, "Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married," which, just that sentence on its own opens up a whole bunch of questions.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Yeah, like, for example, remember when we were talking about his father in law earlier, who's a Midianite?

Julia: Yeah.

Lulav: And Midian and Cush are nowhere near each other on the map, right?

Julia: Right. We don't know exactly where Midian was, but probably like, somewhere in the -- I mean, it's got to be somewhere close to Egypt, right, because Moses was able to get there from Egypt.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Julia: And then Cush we know is where modern Ethiopia is, so that's a difference.

Jaz: It's kind of far away, yeah.

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah, so the first interpretation that I come up with is, oh, he has multiple wives and we just haven't heard about the other one?

Julia: Yea, that's a plausible interpretation. (Lulav laughs) If that's the case, then that implies that the reason Miriam and Aaron are upset are because Moses is doing polygamy which at this point, people are not really -- or at least the Israelites aren't really doing anymore?

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Julia: It's also possible that he is neglecting Tzipporah because of this new woman and they're like, hey, Moses, that's fucked up, you gotta communicate.

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: That was the interpretation I read, basically, that said Tzipporah complained to Miriam who like, passed that on to Aaron and that they were slandering and gossiping and that's like, part of the story, but also that they're like, hey, we are also prophets both of us, all three of us as sibling are prophets and were still being with our spouses and being good to them like, why is Moshe not?

Julia: Yeah. 

Lulav: and also the thing which I probably should mention is that imagery around Cush often related to very dark skin—

Jaz: Mm.

Julia: Mm hmm.

Lulav: —and so when the only context were given here is that he married a Cushite woman and that they’re yelling about him marrying a Cushite woman, it seems like they're being nasty about a dark skinned lady 

Julia: Yeah, they might be being racist and I think that's a plausible interpretation and I think it's good to have a text to point to to say, “hey, when people are racist G-d doesn't like it, (Lulav chuckles) don't be racist.” It's not the interpretation that I like the best but it's a good and valuable interpretation. 

Jaz: What's your favourite?

Julia: I prefer the idea that there was some kind of relationship difficulty between Moses and Tzipporah and Moses and both of his wives and that Miriam is speaking on behalf of the women and part of why I think that's possible is because there's another story about Miriam intervening in a similar situation in a disagreement between a husband and a wife. So way back in Shemot, there's a line that says a man in the house of Levi went and married a woman and these are the parents of Moses, Miriam, and Aaron and rabbis looked at that phrase “went and married” and said that's redundant; why didn't it just say married? (lulav laughs) and the interpretation they came up with was that their parents heard that Pharaoh was going to kill their children and Moses’ father Amram said, “well, if Pharaoh is going to kill our kids then there's no point in being married and there’s no point in having any kids,” and he divorced his wife.

Lulav: Woof.

Julia: And she was understandably kind of upset about that, ‘cus it doesn't seem like he consulted her or talked this over with her at all. And Miriam at that point who, as far as I can tell would have been about six years old but well say that she was an unusually, like, smart and perceptive six year old, went to her dad and said something to the effect of, “Pharaoh’s order only affects the male children. Your order affects everyone, and also now all the other men are going to copy you and also divorce their wives because you're a leader in our community. You are potentially dooming all of us to death if you refuse to have children. Go back and re-marry my mom.” And he did that! So there's an existing story about Miriam bringing couples back together after disagreements, and specifically disagreements caused by men behaving badly —

Lulav: To clarify this is midrash from the beginning of Shemot? 

Julia: Yeah. Yeah, this is way back in the beginning of Shemot.

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Lovely.

Julia: So yeah, that story kind of sets a precedent for Miriam to behave in a kind of similar way in this story.

Lulav: To like, be reconciling people?

Julia: Mm hmm.

Lulav: So one interpretation, which I believe you use in your fanfic, has that Tzipporah is the Cushite woman and also a Midianite —

Julia: Yeah.

Lulav: Can you talk a little about that?

Julia: Yeah, that's not really based on anything in the Torah.

Lulav: Oh! Okay. 

Julia: I just, I mean other than trying to reconcile this particular sentence. I have a history minor and one of the things i've learned from studying history is that people moved around and intermarried—

Lulav: Mm hmm.  

Julia: —a lot more than we might assume in the past and so its possible for example that some woman came from Cush and settled in Midian and married into this polycule with Tziporah’s seven dads (Lulav laughs) and that would make Tziporah both Cushite and Midianite so that might be another explanation for what's going on here.

Jaz: Isn’t there also commentators who say that sort of who the woman is is a little bit aside the main point of the problem between the siblings, like—

Julia: Mm hmm.  

Jaz:—definitely at least one of the siblings is behaving badly but also they're also sort of using whatever going on with Moses with his wife or wives as like a pretext to talk about him as a prophet compared to them as prophets. 

Julia: Oh yeah that's definitely plausible, and that would explain why there's no mention of Moses’ wife after this first sentence, that Miriam and Aaron immediately switched to “has the Lord spoken only through Moses, has He not spoken to us as well?” which is about their role as prophets.

Lulav: Yeah. 

Julia: And when G-d comes in, G-d only talks about their roles as prophets and their roles in comparison to Moses so that suggests that whatever this initial argument was it was more of a pretext or an entry point into this larger conversation.

Lulav: It's’ the proximal reason they're talking about it but not the ultimate reason.

Julia: Right.

Jaz: This is like when you fight with your roommate over doing the dishes and it's actually because they hurt your feelings last week and you still havent talked about it.

Julia: Exactly. (Lulav laughs)

Jaz: Okay. So, G-d says like, “You should be listening to Moshe because I trust him completely and I speak to him directly.” 

Lulav: Yeah.

Julia: And not in riddles which is not true, G-d has said many riddley and confusing things. (Lulav laughs) 

Jaz: And also G-d is currently as of this exact moment speaking to Aaron and Miriam not in riddles, but (Lulav laughs) in fact very plainly. But G-d is saying anyway like, you should listen to Moshe because he's right about more things, so like, don't question his prophecy. What do you make of that part? (Lulav chuckles) 

Julia: So I think that G-d is also acting on pretext here.

Jaz: Oooh.  

Julia: I think, you remember what I said earlier about, there's a transition in this Torah portion away from divine leadership and towards human leadership?

Jaz: Yeah!

Julia: I think this is a little bit of an anarchist conspiracy theory, (Lulav laughs) 

Jaz: Beautiful. 

Julia: but I think G-d is deliberately trying to lessen the people's reliance on existing leaders and preparing them to be self-governing in advance of entering the land because they can't rely on G-d forever. They can't eat mana forever. At some point they need to be able to lead and take care of themselves. 

Lulav: Okay, so instead of being like there is a multiplicity of leaders it's like everybody has to be their own leader?

Julia: A little bit of that, Also i think that G-d is deliberately setting Himself up (Lulav chuckles) to kinda look like the bad guy here because it's pretty clear that no one else agrees with this decision like, Moses doesn't speak up to argue, the people don't speak up to say, “yeah, Miriam and Aaron should shut up!”, like nobody's happy about this (Lulav laughs) so I think this is kind of a win-win scenario for G-d because when G-d punishes Miriam either the people will agree that she should have been punished which will weaken their reliance on her and encourage them to start thinking about new leaders or they will decide that G-d was in the wrong which will weaken their reliance on G-d and encourage them to look towards human leaders in general. 

Jaz: That's beautiful! I have a friend who teachers Jewish kindergarteners, first graders — and just like, once a week — and she shares a lesson with me at one point that was basically hyping them up like were going to go out for recess and have a great time and giving them really pointless busy work to do instead (Lulav chuckles) and basically creating the conditions in her classroom such that the kids threw like, a mini revolt against the teacher and very carefully orchestrating it such that they ended up staging a little protest in the classroom instead. (Lulav laughs)

Julia: Nice!

Jaz: It's great. Credit to Jess Levine or “Jess from online” for that one.

Lulav: Oh okay! 

Jaz: Yeah. Anyways, Julia, do you want to finish the story?

Julia: Yeah! So there are a couple of words that i want to point out.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Julia: One of them is that, okay the translation I have here is that G-d punishes Miriam by striking her with “snow white scales.” 

Lulav: Mm hmm.  

Julia: And that particular description of tzaraat, which, have we talked about tzaraat and why it's not leprosy?

Jaz: I don't believe so. 

Lulav: I mean the scales are definitely different from how leprosy works uh, but yeah go ahead and talk a little more about that?

Julia: The Hebrew word is “tzaraat” and it definitely isn't identical with the disease that we now call leprosy because it's described in a variety of different ways and it really seems to have been a catchall for a variety of different skin conditions. Some of the descriptions sound like vitiligo for example, some of them sound like eczema. It was kind of a “we don't know what's wrong with you but there's something up so we're calling it tzaraath,” but this particular description of it being like snow is only found in two points in the Torah. One is here, and the other is back in Shemot when G-d is talking to Moses in the burning bush.

Jaz: Ooooh.

Julia: One of the signs that G-d gives Moses at that time is turning his hand—

Lulav: Yeaaah.  

Julia: turning his hand white with tzaraat, and then turning it back, and in that scene Moses is gaining power; he is talking to G-d for the first time, he is being given his mission, and so the fact that the same word is used here suggests to me that Miriam is also gaining power, she just doesn't necessarily realize it, and it's not as explicitly stated.

Jaz: Ooooh.
Lulav: Mm hmm. I think the thing with that as a symbol, with tzaraat as a symbol, is like, not so much that you have the power to do these things but that G-d has you. Like, in the Moshe context, it’s like, he puts his hand in and takes his hand out and its quickly resolved, it’s just like yeah look at all the ways in which your body can change, but in the Miram example, it’s not healed immediately; she has tzaraat and then she's got to go out of the camp for seven days as is the prescription for tzaraat.

Julia: I think it actually maybe healed immediately. The text doesn’t explicitly say that—

Lulav: Okay.

Julia:— but remember, after tzaraat symptoms go away, you're not immediately readmitted.

Lulav: Mm hmm.  

Julia: You have to wait until seven days from when the symptoms stop which is good disease prevention by the way, I mean, it was as good as you get into the bronze age. (Lulav laughs) So the fact that she was readmitted after seven days suggests that she was struck with this disease, then immediately healed, but you still have to go threw the process of waiting for seven days before she can come back in and the fact that it is only seven days rather than seven and a couple more days—

Lulav: Mmm. 

Julia: —suggests to me that she was healed immediately.

Lulav: Yeah. Or at the very least that the infection did not spread, which I think is the qualification for readmitting somebody over the course of 7 days. 

Julia: Yeah I think that is in there. If it stops or if it doesn't spread. 

Lulav: If you want to hear Jaz and me being more immediately knowledgeable about this subject because we had just read it, you can listen to Episode 27, on Tazria-Metzora.

Jaz: The other thing here though is that this looks like it's a pretty severe thing this time because, Aaron and Moshe are very frightened by it, it’s not just like—

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: —Miriam has a rash. Aaron is over here being like, “I am so sorry” like, “don't make Miriam suffer for something that we both did” like, “don't make her die, don't make her flesh be eaten away, she's gotta be okay.” And Moshe is very much on their side about it and calls out to G-d and we still use this line in our prayers today, of “el na refa na la.”

Lulav: Which line?

Jaz: It's the end of the parsha at 12:13 and he sounds el na refa na la, which is roughly—

Lulav: Oh! OKay!

Jaz: “G-d, please heal her”

Julia: Do you want me to make, uhm, the thing Aaron says even worse?

Lulav: Uh oh. 

Julia: I don't remember if it's in the Torah proper or if it's in Talmud but there is a rule that a close family member cannot declare someone free of tzaraat because they will be biased.

Lulav: Mmm.
Julia: And priests are supposed to be the ones to declare someone pure or healed. At this point the priests had consists (Jaz laughs) of Aaron and his sons which means that every single existing priest is a close family member there is no one that can technically declare Miriam healed —

Lulav: Mmm. 

Julia: —because there is no one who fits the specific qualification to make that declaration, so it's understandable that Aaron is very freaked out by this.

Lulav: Yeah okay! So they're basically saying the same thing here, Aaron is like, “hey, I don't have authority here — can you make sure this turns out okay?” and Moshe is saying, “hey can you make sure that she's healed?”

Jaz: Yeah

Lulav: It’s cool. 

Julia: Which ties back to my point about how whatever the initial argument was it's clear that Moses and Aaron are very much on their sister’s side.

Jaz: Oh yeah.

Julia: Like there’s no resentment, there’s no lingering anger, there's just “we want her to be okay.”

Lulav: Yeah. So, a lot of this imagery shows up in a song that you sent the two of us before the recording. Do you wanna talk a little bit about that?

Julia: Yeah! So there's a Jewish indie folk singer called Alicia Jo Rabins who has been putting together songs about women in the torah and sometimes it's very famous named women sometimes it's women who were just mentioned one time but she has one about Miriam which is called Snow and it's about this particular torah portion and Rabins has said that the goal with the song wasn't necessarily to explain away all the questions and problem that arise from this chapter but just to wonder what would this have felt like for Miriam? What would she have thought about and experienced?

Lulav:  Yeah and I feel like it's very good at that, showing the tension between what you have to do for your people and what would probably feel best to do and all that. 

(Snow by Alicia Jo Rabbins plays)

“And if your father spit in your face
Wouldn’t you want to leave that place
And if your skin should turn to snow
Wouldn’t you have to go
And if your God should turn from you
wouldn’t you turn too.”
Julia: Yeah, there's a line in there that goes “If anybody had asked me, I might not have chosen to go, but sometimes you don't have a choice.”

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Julia: And I think that epitomizes the tension going on in this chapter very well.

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Yeah. So that's the parsha, huh?

Jaz: That is the parsha, is there anything that we didnt get to talk about that you wanna add as a last conclusion, if not I have one more small point. 

Julia: There's one more point that I want to make about my argument that the people are on Miriam's side and kind of moving away from G-d and that is that earlier in this Torah portion, in 9:18 it says the people remained in camp as long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle and then in 12:10 as soon as Miriam is struck with taarathhz is says that the cloud withdrew from the tent so at that point the cloud is moving away but the people do not march on until 12:15 when Miriam is readmitted, so the cloud leaves, the cloud moves away which means they would start moving.

Lulav: Ohh!

Julia: But they don't. They wait. 

Lulav: That's a really good point. 

Jaz: Nice! That's lovely. 

Julia: I wish I could take credit for coming up that that one myself but I actually got that forms podcast called “Bad Jew Weekly,” which sadly has been taken off the air, I can't find any recordings of it anymore—

Jaz: Aww. 

Julia:— but it was a really good one. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: That’s great.

Lulav: The sad thing about podcasts is a lot of them just disappear. 

Jaz: It is. It's one of the things about the medium that like, it hasn't figured out a good archival system yet.

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Though I know that there are people who are working on it, but, the last thing that I was going to say is that in the reading that I was doing about this they note an additional thing about meat which I meant to bring up earlier which is that their promised land is also associated with food, it's a land flowing with milk and honey —

Julia: Hmm.  

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz:— and it's also about food that they're going to have to raise and farm and take responsibility for themselves as opposed to the mana that they’re getting in the wilderness (Lulav chuckles) so to your point Julia, about needing to have more human leadership and more responsibility, this is sort of like a “there are better things coming for you than the things you're complaining about but you are going to have to rely on human leadership and human cleverness and capabilities and interalliance and do it, like, with each other.”

Lulav: Yeah. 

Julia: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: Cool. Does that bring us to rating G-ds writing, the segment where we invent scales and force each other to rate the parsha on them?

Jaz: I think it does. 

Julia: Yeah! 

Lulav: (laughs) Okay. 

Julia: The rating system I came up with was out of 74 prophets who are not Moses, how many prophets would you rate this Torah portion? (Lulav laughs)

Jaz: Beautiful. 

Lulav: Cool. Who's that question for?

Julia: Uhh, let's say Jaz.

Jaz: Okay. I'm so excited to get to answer a scale question that's not Lulav’s. (laughing)

Lulav: Hey! I was! I'm going to ask — ! Yeah, anyway. 

Jaz: (laughs) Uhm, out of 74 prophets who are not Moses I would rate this parsha a solid 70 prophets. I felt really good about it. I think we're back to a lot of narrative and also interesting moral lessons about self reliance and the nature of leadership and the way we behave towards our siblings and also maybe bonus dads. (Lulav laughs) I — I don't know there's just like, a lot happening here that seems interesting and sweet! (page turning noises) I'm particularly charmed by the stuff with Moshe saying, “yeah! Everybody should be prophets, that’s wonderful!” and the stuff where the siblings are really being there for each other.

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Julia: Nice!

Lulav:  Yeah, that's all good. So question about the siblings; the 74 prophets includes Eldad and Medad and Miriam and Aharon, right? 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Julia: Yup. 

Lulav: So does your rating include or exclude them?

Jaz: My rating includes the siblings and both of the -- what are their names -- 

Julia: Eldad and Medad, I think. 

Jaz: Thank you! It excludes some random people who we don't have names for. Extras. 

Lulav: Yeah .

Julia: The bonus prophets. 

Lulav: (laughing) What? Okay, so Julia, out of at least 10 chomers of quail, just like up to your ribs in quail, what would you rate this parsha?

Julia: I'm kinda torn because the quail are ultimately a bad thing so I don't know if a high rating is actually good?

Jaz: Play it like golf. (laughing) 

Julia: Okay. (laughing) No, you know what, I'm going to say 9 chomers of quail and also some garlic and the garlic is in there because it's one of the things that people specifically want and aren't getting —

Lulav: Yeah! 

Julia: — so it's kinda like the forbidden garlic, and I think my interpretation doesn't necessarily fit the tradition or plain readings of the text (Lulav laughs) but it's there, and I like it, just like I like garlic. 

Lulav: Yeah! And this being a parsha of continuity errors the least amount of quail gathered was 10 chomers and you're rating it 9 so that's perfect.

Julia: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: There’s extra stuff and continuity errors —

Jaz: Hah! 

Lulav: —and I love it! Jaz, ask me, ask me.

Jaz: Lulav, out of an extra month between First Passover and Second Passover, how many days of the month would you rate this parsha?

Lulav: Okay uhm I would rate this yesod of hod. Um, 30 — no that's wrong. Point is, I would do this one fewer than the days to Pesach Sheni —

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: —because continuity errors do make my brain hurt, but also there was so much narative in this chapter which is something we've been lacking for a while, and like, we really get at the at least three opinions (Jaz laughs) bit with this parsha because everything we read had like five different interpretations that we can put to it .

Jaz: Lovely.

Julia: Yeah I think Sefaria has 80 different commentaries just on the first sentence of Numbers 12. 

Lulav: (laughs) Good. 

Jaz: So good. 

Lulav: So like, it's the day before Pesach Sheni but that is itself a day, and an important day, a day that the Lord has made, and so the fact that i'm rating it less doesn't mean that it's a lesser rating.

Jaz: Aww. 

Julia: I like that. 

Lulav: Cool! Jaz can you take us to the close? 

Jaz: Yes, alright. Thank you for listening to Kosher Queers! If you like what you’ve heard, you can support us on Patreon at, 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, concerns or suggestions like Julia did at, 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: The full transcript for this episode was done by Jaz and, for the first time, Reuben Shachar Rose! Hi Reuben. Y'all can find that transcript in our episode description, 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: Julia where can we find you on the internet? 

Julia: So, I am most active on my tumblr which is There's a dash between the two words.

Lulav: Okay. 

Julia: I am also on archive of our own if you want to read that fanfiction that was mentioned earlier, my name there is alwaysquestioning (Always_Questioning)and the fanfiction is called “The Last Broken Thing”

Lulav: It's good.

Jaz: Julia, can we link to it?

Julia: Sure 

Jaz: Excellent. 

Lulav: Were also going to link to the post that Julia sent us about Behaalotecha if that's okay?

Julia: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: Okay! 

Julia: Like Jaz, I am recording this audio on the traditional lands of the Ohlone people.

Lulav: Cool! 

Jaz:  Uh, and I’m Jaz Twersky and you can find me @WordNerdKnitter on Twitter and 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.

Lulav: All at once! 

Jaz, Lulav and Julia: Have a lovely queer Jewish day! 

(Jaz laughing) 

[Brivele outro music]

Jaz: This week's gender is a sleeping cat.

Lulav: This week's pronouns are mew and mews.