Kosher Queers

41 — Va'etchanan: Attractive Heresies

July 30, 2020
Kosher Queers
41 — Va'etchanan: Attractive Heresies
Kosher Queers
41 — Va'etchanan: Attractive Heresies
Jul 30, 2020

This week, there's an unusual amount of singing on the podcast as we receive some liturgy, we roll our eyes at Moshe's incessant complaining, and we learn that G-d requires monogamy from Their long-term partner to really wholeheartedly commit to Am Yisrael. Plus, things older than modern books and semi-heritable responsibilities!

Full transcript available here.

We mention different settings of the Shema in this week's episode. The one Lulav sings is the second in this list, which includes other beautiful/interesting versions to check out! The Wikipedia has a pretty good brief overview of saying "Never Again," and you can join the modern Never Again Action here.

Content Notes: very brief (4 sec) siren at 25:54. Also, non-graphic discussion of genocide from 43:00 to 47:41.

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 Lulav Arnow and our transcript was written by Jaz Twersky. Our logo is by Lior Gross, and we are not endorsed by or affiliated with the Orthodox Union.

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Show Notes Transcript

This week, there's an unusual amount of singing on the podcast as we receive some liturgy, we roll our eyes at Moshe's incessant complaining, and we learn that G-d requires monogamy from Their long-term partner to really wholeheartedly commit to Am Yisrael. Plus, things older than modern books and semi-heritable responsibilities!

Full transcript available here.

We mention different settings of the Shema in this week's episode. The one Lulav sings is the second in this list, which includes other beautiful/interesting versions to check out! The Wikipedia has a pretty good brief overview of saying "Never Again," and you can join the modern Never Again Action here.

Content Notes: very brief (4 sec) siren at 25:54. Also, non-graphic discussion of genocide from 43:00 to 47:41.

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 Lulav Arnow and our transcript was written by Jaz Twersky. Our logo is by Lior Gross, and we are not endorsed by or affiliated with the Orthodox Union.

Support the show (

Lulav: (speaking simultaneously) Hi Jaz. 

Jaz: (speaking simultaneously) Hey Lulav — oh. 

Lulav: That works. 

Jaz: (laughs) No, it doesn't! Hey Lulav, what cool or queer or Jewish thing have you been up to this week? 

Lulav: I forgot to exist because I stayed up late for a combination of reasons, including trying to finish last week's episode, and then I was so sleep-deprived that I just kind of lost the next three days. (snorts) 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: Let's see... I mean, it's not Jewish… (snorts) Anyway, I watched “The Babysitter's Club,” which is on Netflix. And it's cool. I never read the books as a little girl.

Jaz: Really?

Lulav: Yeah. We had very different childhood socializations. 

Jaz: I... hear that — 

Lulav: Not to talk like a TERF, but — (Jaz laughs) Did you? 

Jaz: I sure did, yeah. (laughs) 

Lulav: Good. 

Jaz: I just have trouble trying to conceive of what it's like to encounter “The Babysitter's Club” first as an adult, (Lulav laughs) so please tell me more about that experience. 

Lulav: It's kind of like encountering Tortall and Emelan first as an adult. It is pretty cool. I'm guessing that this is slightly updated from the 90s, because I'm pretty sure that there weren't any trans kids that they were babysitting back then.

Jaz: Oh yeah, that's neat.

Lulav: Okay yeah. But there was a trans girl and I was like, wait, why is the point-of-view character for this one talking about how her clothes make her feel more like a girl? And then later, she had to, like, go to the emergency room and the doctors were misgendering her and the babysitter stepped out and was like, “No. Please, be normal people.”

Jaz: Mmm! Cute! 

Lulav: Yeah! And her dad was proud of her. Her dad also plays a devil on “The Good Place.”

Jaz: Cute. 

Lulav: Anyway, that was excruciating but also fun. Like, I've been through that exact scenario except for, I didn't have somebody five years older than me to overcome her anxiety and stand up to doctors in my place, so mostly I just had to disgruntledly rip off the band with incorrect information that they had input based on absolutely nothing despite having my identifica — sorry, I have some mild trauma around this! I was very ill! 

Jaz: Yeah, it sucks to have to deal with people being bad about gender when you're just trying to get healthy. 

Lulav: Mm hmm! If you are working in a medical profession and you witness either incorrect paperwork or your colleagues misgendering people, even if they're not there, please step up and say something about that! I'd appreciate it! 

Jaz: Yeah. 

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

Jaz: I got new earrings this week. (Lulav chuckes) And as you may know but I don't know if our listeners all know, I love earrings. They've been one of my main sources of fashion for my whole life. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Since I was 12 and first begged my parents to let me have earrings. (Lulav laughs) I started begging them for it before I was 12, but 12 was when they agreed because I was old enough to be a Jewish adult and make that decision at that point. 

Lulav: Okay. How was the process? I've only had an ear piercing in the most cartilaginous part of my ear, so when I think about other piercings, it's just like, oh no! (laughs) 

Jaz: Well, I just, like, went to the mall and got my ears pierced with one of those, like, ear piercing guns or whatever. 

Lulav: Uh huh. 

Jaz: But I was so happy that I was going to be able to wear dangly earrings and like, the first two months, you cannot do that. You have to wear teeny little stud earrings. 

Lulav: Sure can't! (laughs) 

Jaz: And I was really grumpy about it as a kid because I was like, that is so long! And by the end of them, I hated those little stud earrings so much and I never wore them again once I got to take them off (Lulav giggles) and then proceeded to not wear stud earrings at all for years and years and only dangling ones.

Lulav: You have started wearing some studs, right? 

Jaz: Yeah. And that was a little bit of a gender expression thing for me. 

Lulav: Aww, cute .

Jaz: No part of me was willing to be like, there will be a time at which I don’t wear earrings as part of my self-expression, but I will lean into slightly more masc earrings for a little bit. And so, I was doing that for a little bit, and a couple weeks ago, my mother cut my hair really short (Lulav makes a dreamy noise) and I really liked that, and also in the last few weeks, I've been leaning into my most large and flamboyant earrings.

Lulav: (laughs delightedly) Because they are now, like, 300% more obvious, right? 

Jaz: They're now way more obvious and also it's like a nice balance! Like I have this buzzcut haircut and I wanted to balance that with very huge earrings. (both chuckle) 

Lulav: Cool. 

Jaz: I feel better in them that way than I did when I also had longer hair. And this week, I got new Jewish earrings, and I haven't had Jewish earrings in a long time and so — 

Lulav: Oh! Other than the ones that you made, right? 

Jaz: Other than the ones that I made myself. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: But like, they were Jewish by virtue of the words on them, and these are Jewish by virtue of the fact that they have little hamsa charms on them. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: I bought them and they are courtesy of Tova, who made them and sent them to me. 

Lulav: Yeah! That's really cool. I'm glad you like them. Can you describe them a little more particularly? 

Jaz: Yeah. So, there's like a little hamsa charm on the top of the earring and then a big tassel of string and so one of them is blue string and the other one is red string but the little charm with the hamsa and the evil eye on top is identical so they're like, slightly mismatched but pretty clearly a set. 

Lulav: Yeah! That's cool. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: So this is like, embroidery floss, right? 

Jaz: I think so. 

Lulav: Okay. I know so. (laughs) Maybe I shouldn't give away trade secrets, but. (laughs) 

Jaz: (laughs) Okay! Do you want to tell us more things about these earrings or creative processes that I don't know? 

Lulav: Yeah, I mean, Tova was really excited. They have over the last probably year been trying to find a bigger variety of art projects that they can a) share with people and b) sometimes sell! And one for the things that they thought of was snipping some embroidery floss to make just a really bushy broomy dangly earring! And combining that with hooks and charms and stuff. So they were super excited when they found usable hamsas. 

Jaz: Yeah. They're great. We were bonding over having new craft projects, (Lulav chuckles) because I've also found that being at home and not with my yarn stash, back in New York — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — has meant that I've had to be a little bit more creative about my craft projects recently. 

Lulav: (giggles) What's your new project? 

Jaz: I did a bunch of sewing on things, like sewing some patches on pants. 

Lulav: Oh yeah! 

Jaz: I've been doing more drawing than usual... so it's been fun. 

Lulav: Cool! Would you like to mosey along to the parsha?

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 we’re here to joke about Judaism and talk Tanakh together. Today, our chevruta is learning Va'etchanan.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Do you have any insights that you want to share broadly, Jaz?

Jaz: So we're in Va'etchanan this week, which is, "and I pleaded."

Lulav: Ooh. Is it pleaded or pled?

Jaz: Well, the translations have it as “pleaded.”

Lulav: Okay, fine.

Jaz: But uh, you can do it differently

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah, no, that seems like actually a really good title, cuz it does start off with Moshe recounting how he pleaded.

Jaz: Uh huh.

Lulav: And that's like, one thing that really stood out to me. I was really confused about some of the phrasing in the beginning of this parsha and then I realized that it was Moshe telling the story of how G-d had been talking to him and he'd been talking, so there are like layered pronouns here and it's just really weird.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: How about you tell us about that in 75 seconds or less?

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: What are you looking for?

Jaz: I think we can do it pretty quickly. Let's try 30 seconds. Or like, let's try 45.

Lulav: (laughs) Okay (Jaz laughs) That's a thing that I do a lot is like, make a bad judgement as to how long something will take the first time, but when I revise it it's like, oh yeah, there we go. Okay, 3, 2, 1, go.

Jaz: Moshe recaps a bunch of stuff, anxiously giving a bunch of instructions before the people go off without him. He’s clear — don’t add or take away anything from what you’ve been told, just keep it and teach them to your children, and you’ll be great, cuz Torah’s great. Some of the reminders include: no idols, like, really, like maybe don’t even draw pictures, because if you do you might end up in diaspora, and oh no. (Lulav chuckles) Also, some stuff here about how G-d is a faithful lover, I mean faithful divinity, who you can always come back to and is super cool, and is personally only into monogamy. Plus, the full ten commandments, word for word, and a note that they were spoken in fire. Also, we get a part of the Torah service and the Shema this week! Then a note that even though Jews are a teeny little group of people, that’s what makes us special, (timer rings) because G-d likes an underdog. 

Lulav: Was that it?

Jaz: That was it. (both laugh)

Lulav: That was cool. It was like 48 seconds.

Jaz: Aw.

Lulav: I do have a bone to pick here.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: Which is that G-d is not monogamous. G-d requires everyone that G-d is dating to be monogamous. (laughs)

Jaz: (laughs) I... please elaborate, because I don't think you're correct.

Lulav: Well, G-d has relationships with all of its creations, right? All of the people that it has chosen?

Jaz: Mmmmm, no? I don't think that that's correct.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: There is a line here that's like, yes, G-d might be connected to all of the nations, but is only with the people of Israel. G-d has lots of friends —

Lulav: Okay, so when you were talking about monogamy, you are talking about, not each of the Jewish people individually is dating only G-d; it's that the Jewish people as a group, Am Yisrael, are only dating G-d.

Jaz: Yes.

Lulav: Religiously.

Jaz: Yes.  

Lulav: Okay. That makes much more sense, Thank you. 

Jaz: Yeah. Yeah. 

Lulav: So my bone has been picked (Jaz laughs) and I think we can head into the parsha if you don't mind. 

Jaz: Great. Yeah. So we start with Moshe speaking. He says this whole thing about, “I am pleading with G-d that I can cross over into the land and G-d says no.” (Lulav chuckles) And Moshe blames the people for this. 

Lulav: Uh huh. 

Jaz: And says, “But Hashem was wrathful with me on your account and would not listen to me.” And the people do not interrupt this shpiel, or at least we don't hear them, but that's how Moshe is phrasing it. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: And G-d says to him, “Do not speak to me of this again and instead go out on the mountain and look at the land that you can't go to and then give Joshua leadership.” 

Lulav: Mm hmm. Yup. So quick roll-back. I think that Moshe was blaming the people, but not in an accusatory way. Like, I interpet, "Hashem was wrathful with me on your account” to be like, “Hashem cares about you and so was wrathful with me." 

Jaz: Aww! 

Lulav: He is complaining though. (laughs) 

Jaz: (laughing) He is complaining. I was about to ask how somebody could be blaming somebody but not in a mean way, but uh, I guess... 

Lulav: Yeah, It's not an accusation, but it's like, yeah, this was because of you, to be clear. (Jaz laughs) 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: Yeah. So then what happens while we stayed on in the valley near Beit Peor? I guess it's less “what happens” and more “what is he talking about?” 

Jaz: Yeah. He just keeps talking. And he keeps telling the people to listen, right? Like, “v'atah Yisrael shema” — like, “And now, listen, Israel!” (Lulav chuckles) So this one is like, “Listen to these rules. You can't take anything away from them or add anything to them. Just keep them. Because you saw what happened when you didn't do that and G-d wiped out a bunch of people at Baal Peor.” 

Lulav: Okay. So this, in one interpretation, seems pretty contradictory to the entire history of Judaism. 

Jaz: (laughs) The, “don't add things to it?” 

Lulav: Right. I think most charitably we can interpret this as, “Don't say that I said anything except for what I command you and don't leave off anything that I said”? 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: What do you think? 

Jaz: Well, it reminds me... Rabbi Benay Lappe has talked about, we got Torah from Sinai. And then Moshe passes it down to the people and the people pass it down to each other and then a rabbi passes it down to a later rabbi and finally they give it to me, right? (Lulav chuckles) And so, we have the Oral Torah and the Written Torah. And some people talk about the Oral Torah as also given at Sinai and then just like, only written down later. 

Lulav: Controversial. 

Jaz: And some people talk about the Oral Torah as a thing that developed over time, and within that idea of a thing that developed over time, there is also maybe this idea that sure, it wasn't written before then, but it was always there and always holy, and so any new interpretation isn't really technically a new interpretation because that interpretation — 

Lulav: Was at Sinai. 

Jaz: — was always available to be found in the text!  

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: It was just kind of waiting for you to be present to read it there. 

Lulav: That's cute. 

Jaz: It's cute and also it sort of means, if you can take it from the text, it's there. 

Lulav: Mm. Yeah, I like that. 

Jaz: Do you have a thought that you wanted to offer on that? 

Lulav: It's just so attractive when you do heresies. (Jaz cracks up laughing and Lulav joins in) So, next? 

Jaz: Um, so then Moshe says, like, okay, given you all of the rules that you need as G-d has given them to me and now they are given to you. So, you gotta observe them faithfully so that other people, when they hear about you, will go, "oooh, those people are wise and have lots of understanding." 

Lulav: So, I just wanna ask — 

Jaz: Yes. 

Lulav: Because the way the translation phrases this, you're proving to other peoples who “on hearing of all these laws will say” this compliment. So irrespective of the tradition built up that is Judaism — 

Jaz: (chuckling) Uh huh. 

Lulav: If you came accross a people who had a bunch of laws that focused on like, property rights and slavery and right treatment of others and like, marriage laws, would you say, “surely that great nation is a wise and discerning people?”

Jaz: This is a hard question. 

Lulav: Like, what would you think generally on seeing, “Oh cool you have a bunch of laws?” 

Jaz: Well, I mean, that's complicated —

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — for me personally, because I think that sometimes putting systems in place can be a really effective way of making sure that things get done 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And I believe in putting in place social safety nets and practices and there are times where I see people who have figured out complex systems of how to do things I don't know, and I can admire that they've figured out a system. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: But also if that system is bad and enables them to do bad things, then I would not think that. 

Lulav: Right. Like, if you sit in on eviction court and just see a bunch of people getting legally forced out of the places that they live, you might think, “this nation has many laws!” But I don't think you would think, “this nation is a wise and discerning people.” 

Jaz: Right. But if you saw a system where you're like, “huh, these people have figured out a way to distribute food such that everybody gets some.“

Lulav: Mmm hmm. 

Jaz: “And their system of like, laws and mechanisms allows them to make sure that nobody goes hungry and all videos have automatic captioning and also —”

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: “The mechanisms work smoothly,” I think I'd be impressed by that. 

Lulav: Okay. So you think this line is less, these people will hear of the fact that you have laws, and also will hear of specific interpretations that you all have of the laws, and more like, these laws are cool and they'll see that?   

Jaz: I think so. 

L; Okay. 

Jaz: And they're enabling you to live better lives. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. Okay, thanks! That was my question for that bit. 

Jaz: Great. Also I — it's very sweet that English things keep translating it as like, “What great nation has laws and rules as perfect as all this Teaching that I set before you!" But the word teaching is just "haTorah" which is great. 

Lulav: Good. 

Jaz: So and then, there's this note of like, you gotta take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously so you don't forget the things you've seen, You have to teach them to your children and the things that Moshe is repeating now is a slightly different version of the story we heard about getting the 10 commandments the first time. 

Lulav: Also, literally untrue of anyone alive in this scene, but like, go off Moshe. 

Jaz: Yeah, except him I think. (Lulav laughs) I think none of these people were alive. 

Lulav: Does Moshe realize that everybody is dead? 

Jaz: This is a good question. There is a note slightly later in the parsha where he goes out of his way to say, “you were there.”

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: Moshe emphasizes about these things that you have seen with your own eyes even though none of these people were alive. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: And later when we get to 5:3 there's this line that says, “It was not with our ancestors that Hashem made this covenant but with us, the living, every one of us who is here today.”

Lulav: That's hot. (Jaz laughs) Like, not in a sexy way, just, I love that. 

Jaz: Yeah, Moshe goes out of his way to emphasize you might think it was with people who were not you specifically, but with your ancestors. Nope! It was with you. Specifically. 

Lulav: Every lifetime you must cut the covenant. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Cool. 

Jaz: Or this implication of a thing that I think we talked about when we got it, about everybody was there, somehow. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Even those not yet born. 

Lulav: So are there parts of this account of the reception of words that you want to point out as different from the previous time we heard this story? 

Jaz: Yeah. So the thing about fire is a little different.

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: Not that there wasn't fire last time, but this gives us very specific, and G-d “spoke to you out of the fire; you heard the sound of words but perceived no shape — nothing but a voice.” That there is this clear connection here to no idols and no depictions of G-d. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: You just heard it, but you didn't see it, and that feels significant because this is also the parsha in which we're about to get the Shema, which tells us to listen. (Lulav giggles) There is a thing here. Moshe recites, "Since you saw no shape, when the Eternal your G-d spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, do not act wickedly and make for yourselves a sculptured image in any likeness whatever." 

Lulav: Yeah. That's really cool. 
Jaz: Is there anything else that you in particular want to talk about here? I do have a fun anecdote. 

Lulav: No. 

Jaz: Okay, so there is a story that my mother told me when I was little. When she was a little girl and in school — I don't know why they did this at school. because my impression was that this happened at her like, public school and it seems vaguely illegal.

Lulav: (laughs) When has that ever stopped people? (laughs) 

Jaz: The teacher asked them to draw G-d. 

Lulav: (snorts) Lo!

Jaz: And my mother was the only Jewish kid in her class and the other kids were drawing these like, vaguely Santa Claus-esque figures, you know, (Lulav snorts) like Zeus. 

Lulav: Okay, Zeus-a Claus. I know exactly what you mean. 

Jaz: And my mom took this brown crayon and just scribbled all over the page, because she had it so ingrained in her that you can't draw G-d. 

Lulav: Nice. 

Jaz: Yeah, it's a great story and I tried at one point — my art skills weren't quite up the task of what I was trying to do, but I was trying at one point to draw a zine that was about this story, sort of. 

Lulav: Mm! 

Jaz: And connected it to my own sense of identity talking about what it feels like to try to draw depictions of gender. Like, not representation of forms of gender, but like, just like what gender is in itself. 

Lulav: Right. 

Jaz: And it's like, I cannot do it. I don't know. 

Lulav: Yeah. The thing I'm thinking of is like, you can't see a function. You can only see a function acting on arguments. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: And G-d is the function. 

Jaz: Nice. 

Lulav: I wanna point at 4:19: “And when you look up to the sky and behold the sun and the moon and the stars, the whole heavenly host, you must not be lured into bowing down to them or serving them.” Because like, even the sun and the moon are not where HaMakon is. 

Jaz: Right. 

Lulav: They're part of the grandeur of things that exist. You can get caught up in the particulars of a thing and we as Jews see the whole picture and revel in that whole picture, more so than any manifestation of it specifically. 

Jaz: Nice. And then we transition from that very beautiful type of language to — 
Lulav: Woof.
Jaz: To Moshe being like, “now, G-d was angry with me —”
Lulav: “I don't know if I mentioned this before.”
Jaz: (laughs) He brings it up so much, and is like, “I can't go into the land, I must die here, but you should cross in.” 
Lulav: (imitating a Jewish grandma) “It's fine, I'll just die here. No, no, go to the good land! It's fine! Don't worry about your prophet!” 
Jaz: Yeah. And then we go right back into no idols, really no idols (Lulav snorts) and teach your children to not make any idols. And there's a note that if you do worship idols, you'll be wiped out and also you'll have to leave. Like, those of you who survive abandoning G-d shall be left among the nations where you will serve gods of wood and stone made by human hands that cannot see or hear or eat or smell and the English doesn't quite capture it, because in the Hebrew they emphasize "can't" over and over again. It’s like, v'lo yirun, v'lo yishmun, v'lo yohclun, v'lo yerichun. 
Lulav: Okay. 
Jaz: Right, they just kind of emphasize like, they can't do this and they can't do this and they can't do this — like, they're not real. 
Lulav: Okay, but what happens if you just speak with all your heart and soul this greater concept?
Jaz: There, it says, “If you seek it, you'll find what you're looking for, that G-d holds compassion and will take care of you and won't forget the covenant made on oath with your ancestors.” 
Lulav: Mm hmm. 
Jaz: And so there's this note about like, we're unusual in this respect. And there are lots of questions. Like, you only have to ask, since humanity has existed, has anything like this happened before of a whole nation of people hearing a god speaking out of the fire or a whole nation of people liberated from another one with the way that we got out of Egypt? Like, that this is an unusual and powerful event and to hold awe for that. 
Lulav: Okay. So does this whole section here, about this has never happened before, it’s unique, does it seem like these are a proof for the already faithful or should we assume that any such things happening, like, in the modern day or since then or like if you discover, oh hey, things like this happened elsewhere in the world at about the same time, would those themselves be signs of greatness? 
Jaz: Oooh. That's a good question. You know, I'd always heard it as there's something about everybody being spoken to.
Lulav: Okay 
Jaz: That prophets had been heard of, one person having holy inspiration — 
Lulav: Mm hmm. 
Jaz: but the idea of having everybody spoken to — 
Lulav: Okay. 
Jaz: Like, one person could be lying and could fool people, but having everybody experience it at the same time, everybody's not lying. 
Lulav: Okay 
Jaz: That there was something about that in particular that made it a proof text for generations to come. When they're emphasizing the teach it to your children aspect, it's not that somebody came and fooled us; all of your ancestors experienced this and that's how you know it really is important. 
Lulav: Yeah. I mean the reasons that I asked would we assume that any such things are a sign of greatness — 
Jaz: Yeah. 
Lulav: I mean, conquistadors sure did take for themselves a nation in the midst of another by prodigious acts, signs and portents, certainly by war, so like I think, if these things are to be taken as a sign of greatness in and of themselves —  
Jaz: Mm. 
Lulav: (sing-song) That lets people justify a bunch of really bad stuff!
Jaz: Yeah. So what do you make of this portion?
Lulav: I think it's just that it's talking to people that already believe that their ancestors were brought out of slavery and that they have a land destined for them. 
Jaz: Mm. 
Lulav: Again, I'm sure Moshe is saying this. Like, I would prefer an interpretation where this is not coming word for word form G-d, you know? 
Jaz: Mm hmm.
Lulav: Like, I get the whole thing about everybody is directly hearing the voice.
Jaz: Mm hmm. 
Lulav: That's cool, but like, the general thing about conquering a nation by prodigious acts and war with like, signs and portents attendant, that that is like, special?
Jaz: I don't see a thing about conquering in this particular section. 
Lulav: 34. 
Jaz: Maybe I just don't read it as conquering. My impression was that that one was not about conquering, that it was about escape, leaving Egypt. 
Lulav: Ohhh. That is about leaving Egypt; you're right. The one nation is Yisrael from the midst of the nation that held us. Oh. I see. 
Jaz: Yeah. 
Lulav: That's much cooler. Okay. Objection withdrawn. 
Jaz: I just think that this one's about, like, in what cases have people been freed and completely withdrawn from another, and in that case, your thing about, is there maybe a signal of divine power in that every time that happens? 
Lulav: Then I would think so, yes. 
Jaz: Right. Beautiful way to think of every time a group of people gets free from another group that's keeping them oppressed — 
Lulav: Mm. 
Jaz: that that's  a signal of — 
Lulav: Elohim. 
Jaz: Yeah. 
Lulav: The many gods as one. 
Jaz: Yeah. 
Lulav: So that's cool. I like that a lot more. (Jaz chuckles) I didn't really have any particular things to say until about 6:10, so you can motor if you want. 
Jaz: Okay. We have a quick note. Moshe sets aside three cities where if someone has unwittingly killed another person, there's a place that they can flee to. It's sort of a refuge town for those accused of great harm. 
Lulav: (dramatic voice) For manslayers. 
Jaz: Yeah.
Lulav: Sorry, that word is just so funny to me. 
Jaz: And then, there's this thing here. Let me draw your attention to line 4:44. The English is quite unexceptional. It says, this is the teaching that Moshe set before the Israelites. 
Lulav: V'zot HaTorah asher sam 
Jaz: Sham
Lulav: Asher sham — no but the little dot — 
Jaz: Oh, sorry, you're right. 
Lulav: Asher sam Mishea? 
Jaz: That's Moshe. 
Lulav: Moshe. Oh course it is. Lipnei bnei yisrael. 
Jaz: Yeah. So this is fun because if you're at a b'nei mitzvah and they have like, just gotten the Torah out of the ark and the kid growing into an adult who's going to be reading for it is like parading it around the synagogue, in some synagogue, they'll be singing this particular line. (sings) V'zot haTorah, asher sam Moshe, lifnei b’nei Ysrael," — like, that's part of the line as they're like walking around the congregation. It's like (sings) "And this is the Torah, that Moshe sat before the Israelites!" 
Lulav: (laughs) Good. 
Jaz: Yeah.   
Lulav: It sounds much better in the Hebrew. 
Jaz: It does. (both laugh) 
Lulav: That's cute. Yeah, I've never been to — what's the thing. I remember Kuzu having posts about this holiday but I can't remember what it's called — the one where they parade the Torah? 
Jaz: Simchat Torah? 
Lulav: Simchat Torah. Thank you. Yeah, it sounded like a really fun time. 
Jaz: Yeah. Well, also, this happens, at least in the synagogue that I work at — 
Lulav: Mm hmm. 
Jaz: on most Saturdays, because this is part of the ritual that they do every time there's a b'nei mitzvah. 
Lulav: Cool. 
Jaz: Simchat Torah is cool though because also you unroll the whole Torah. (Lulav laughs) Yeah. 
Lulav: Can you explain a little bit about the construction of the Torah, for people who might be unfamiliar?
Jaz: Yeah, the Torah is a scroll. Most books we read now are a codex, right, which means they have a binding and a spine. 
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: The Torah is older than the codex form. (Lulav laughs) It predates the codex, and so there's two poles and the scroll is wrapped around them. It's written on sheepskin and is handwritten by a scribe, a sofer, whose job it is to write it specifically. The writing of it is difficult and complicated and — 
Lulav: And also you need to make sure not to mess up. 
Jaz: Yeah. If you make a mistake on a part of the scroll, that piece has to be discarded and can't be included in the rest of the scroll. 
Lulav: Like, you can't even scrape it off and start again? 
Jaz: No. You have to do a whole new sheet. 
Lulav: Cool. 
Jaz: So when we are reading the parsha, the scroll is the whole Torah. Not the rest of the Tanakh, but it's the whole Torah. (Lulav chuckles) So you roll the scroll to get to that week's parsha (Lulav giggles) and then the next week you're doing the next parsha. 
Lulav: So would you say that having a Sefaria window open and using the scroll wheel on your mouse (Jaz chuckles) is a slight reproduction of this holy work?
Jaz: Uh, one could say that. 
Lulav: (laughs) Good. 
Jaz: Okay and then after we've gotten that, Moshe says more things about how like, this is where we are when we got them and says again to everybody, “like, really listen and observe them” and then has this thing about like, “G-d made a covenant with us, not with our ancestors but with us, the people who are here now.” And then, Moshe's like, “I stood and conveyed because you didn't want to hear the words in the fire,” (Lulav chuckles) and then we get those initial ten commandments again. 
Lulav: Yeah. oO have we talked before about the concept of visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject G-d? 
Jaz: We have not! Would you like to say something about that? 
Lulav: Yeah. I think — okay. The charitable interpretation here is that this line says, “Even if it's been three of four generations since people actively rejected the covenant, I'm still going to enforce this. Like, they'll still be on my naughty list.” 
Jaz: Mm. 
Lulav: So that's the good interpretation. The one that I have, like, immediately upon reading it, which might not be born out by what people have said over the ages is that, if parents reject Torah, that is something that their children are responsible for for several generations. 
Jaz: Mm. 
Lulav: Which I feel much more complicated about. 
Jaz: Yeah. 
Lulav: Do you have any thoughts on either of those things? 
Jaz: Well, didn't do research on the ways on which this has been interpreted over time, and we could do that research and come back with it, if you think it would be worth coming back to. Personally, I wonder about the ways in which there can be people whose parents maybe have rejected some aspect of Judaism, but their children are still entitled to it, so even to the third or fourth generation, even if your parents and your grandparents rejected it. 
Lulav: Yeah. 
Jaz: You can still come back. 
Lulav: If it's like, in this house we do not wrap tefillin, for some reason. I don't know. Like, it is still a thing that the children can do when they make their own decisions. 
Jaz: Yeah. And also this is maybe a thing about generational memory. Third or fourth generation is the time when you might still have known and been connected to people and have that still inform your actions. 
Lulav: Right. 
Jaz: And then showing kindness to the thousandth generation, you don't. So it's like, your kindnesses persist basically forever, and your wickednesses persist for as long as they're in living memory. 
Lulav: (chuckles) Okay. That's cool. 
Jaz: Because also, that does continue to inform things three generations out, right? Like sometimes, we've met people whose family is German, say. 
Lulav: Mm hmm. 
Jaz: And they're young enough so they definitely were not alive when Nazis were in power. But they're old enough that like, definitely their grandparents were. 
Lulav: Okay. 
Jaz: So then you have a question of, they don't bear responsibility for the actions of their grandparent, but also, how well do they get along with their grandparent? And how well — you know, (Lulav laughs) what do they talk about with their grandparents? 
Lulav: Yeah. And I — huh. I'm not sure what words to use here, but there can be a distinction between, like, they are like, responsible for the “sins” of their ancestors versus they need to be paying extra attention to make sure they're not reproducing the unjust things that their ancestors did. 
Jaz: Right. 
Lulav: I think about living in a society that has had chattel slavery for most of its existence. 
Jaz: Right.
Lulav: And just, like, the people who are alive now and American have an even greater responsibility than anyone else to make sure not to reproduce chattel slavery, and treat rightly the people and their descendents affected by it. 
Jaz: Right. Or the corollary might be now, when you talk about how do you relate to history —  
Lulav: Mm hmm.   
Jaz: If you go and visit Mt. Rushmore and you're like —  
Lulav: Oh G-d.
Jaz: "Ah, isn't this a beautiful monument to the presidents," rather than "oh, isn't this a tragic and terrible thing that was done to the Lakota people and their sacred lands — and how do we get it back to them and restore some of that in whatever way is meaningful," you know, like —   
Lulav: Yeah. Also, for anybody who is not up on that particular thing, Mt. Rushmore was and kind of still is a sacred place for Lakota people, and some dude just came in and blasted the rock away to make president faces. Literally the faces of the people who drove out their living ancestors. 
Jaz: Right. So there is a question here about how do you relate to the past. We continue through the commandments of keep Shabbat, honor your parents — we've kind of been through these before. Do you have any other comments about these particular set of 10 commandments and its repetition?
Lulav: No particular statements. I mean, this is very much — so far at least — a review book, where we're going over the stories that we have told and telling them in the slightest different light (Jaz chuckles) but still going over the same material.
Jaz: Uh huh.
Lulav: Yeah, I don't really have any comments about the commandments themselves.
Jaz: Yeah, okay. So we continue: Moshe says be careful to follow the right path; and teach things to your children; that like, all will go well with you; be faithful — and then, we get the Shema.
Lulav: Heck yeah.
Jaz: And the V'ahavta I guess, or the beginning of it.
Lulav: Yeah. So remind me, is the Shema one of those prayers that's only supposed to be said in the presence of a minyan?
Jaz: No, it isn't, because the Shema is a prayer that you traditionally can do multiple times a day, like in the morning right after you get up and then in the evening as part of evening prayers and you can do it on your own. It doesn't —
Lulav: And when you're marking it on your doorposts and on your tents? (chuckles)
Jaz: Yeah. Are you asking because you would like —
Lulav: Yeah, I really like the tune.
Jaz: Yeah. Oh, which tune do you know? I know multiple tunes for the Shema.
Lulav: That's very fair. Um, the one that we at Shir Tikvah is (singing to the "regular" tune, slowly and ceremonially) "Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad.”
Lulav: Hm.
Lulav: “Baruch shem k’vod mal’chuto l’olam vaed."
Jaz: Mm. That's beautiful.
Lulav: Thank you.
Jaz: So the interesting thing about that —
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: We only get the first line of that here. 
Lulav: We do.
Jaz: Not the second line, and in many congregations… So, Reform ones tend, though not always, to do it the same way you did, but other congregations tend to not say the second line out loud.
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: They tend to do it under their breath or very quietly.
Lulav: (gasps in realization) I think I remember being very confused about that when I went to a Conservative service.
Jaz: Yeah, they tend to do it like that, and then the only time they say it with full voice is on Yom Kippur and maybe also on Rosh Hashanah.
Lulav: Nice.
Jaz: And so that second line isn't in here. I believe there is something about in general, only angelic presences say that line and that's why people whisper it.
Lulav: Wait, only angelic what?
Jaz: The idea is you're not saying it out loud and then only angels are saying it.
Lulav: Oh, okay.
Jaz: Except on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when you can sing with them.
Lulav: Cool.
Jaz: Yeah. Anyway but so then —
Lulav: (Pronouncing each word distinctly and with a questioning intonation) V'ahavta et Adonai elohecha?!?
Jaz: I can do this one.
Lulav: Yes please! (both laugh)
Jaz: Because you gave us the Shema so beautifully. 
Lulav: Oh thank you!
Jaz: We have (chanting) "V’ahavta et Adonai Elohecha, b’chol l’vavcha uv’chol nafsh’cha uv’chol m’odecha. V’hayu had’varim ha-eileh asher anochi m’tzav’cha hayom al l’vavecha. V’shinantam l’vanecha v’dibarta bam b’shivt’cha b’veitecha uv’lecht’cha vaderech uv’shochb’cha uv’kumecha. Uk’shartam l’ot al yadecha v’hayu l’totafot bein einecha. Uch’tavtam al-m’zuzot beitecha uvish’arecha."
Lulav: Mm. Yay.
Jaz: And that bit is about all of the places and times where you take the words that you've been commanded and follow them. So, you shall love Adonai your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Teach them to your children (page turning), recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise up, bind them as a sign on your hand, let them serve as a symbol on your forehead, inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Lulav: Yeah. So for people who aren't familiar, that's where the mezuzah comes from. It's, like, the Shema as a reminder on the doorposts of your house.
Jaz: Well, I think that actually this whole verse is in the mezuzah?
Lulav: Cool. I am by no means a mezuzah expert.
Jaz: Yeah. This is also part of where you get tefillin.
Lulav: Mhm!
Jaz: That when you're like, binding them as a sign on your hand and on your forehead — we quite literally do that too.
Lulav: Yeah. And, like, every time I leave my apartment, I touch the mezuzah.
Jaz: Mm hmm
Lulav: I don't touch it to my lips, because I've had oral herpes my entire life and so I'm like, very used to not kissing things that multiple people might be touching?!
Jaz: Uh huh.
Lulav: But anyway, the point is, I touch the mezuzah and as I'm walking down the hallway to the front door, I just sing the Shema to myself.
Jaz: Awwww.
Lulav: And usually by the time I'm halfway down the street, I’m done with the two verses
Jaz: (laughs) So the last bit — I mean yeah, the Shema's an important thing for Judaism. If people know one prayer, it tends to be that one.
Lulav: Yeah. Well, there's like Shabbat candles, which if you're a secular Jew you're probably more likely to know?
Jaz: Mmm.
Lulav: But like, if you're just starting out with the practice of Judaism, that's the first prayer that you, like, remember.
Jaz: Yeah. That's probably fair. Anyway, so then there's all of these bits about like, you'll be in a good situation, and when you're in that good situation with like, houses and vineyards and olive groves and you can eat your fill — you still gotta remember G-d and be with only G-d alone. Like, the Shema, also, literally — cuz I don't think we translated it for everybody — is like, “listen, Yisrael, Hashem is our G-d and is one.”
Lulav: Yeah. A great oneness.
Jaz: Yeah.
Lulav: So you were talking about all these good thing like houses and cisterns and vineyards and I think you're leaving off the later half of every clause here which is you will be assigned great and flourishing cities that you did not build, houses full of all good things that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant, and you eat your fill. So like, this takes a turn, huh.
Jaz: It... maybe.
Lulav: I think I was conflating this with the earlier bit. This is the part that I really have a problem with. And I'm really glad that we stop V'ahavta where we do.
Jaz: Yes. So what's your interpretation of this?
Lulav: My interpretation is that you, a small and currently nomadic nation, are coming to displace the seven nations that live in these lands, and you will just live in their houses. Their houses with all the vases that they have, (claps) whatever the equivalent of family portraits was at the time. You get to take their vineyards and their olive groves. You didn't do any of this, but it's yours now. This is, squarely and on its face, genocide and the fruits thereof.
Jaz: So we're going to have this thing about the seven nations.
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: The Hittites, Girgashites, Ammorites, Canaanites, Perezites, Hivvites, and Jebusites, who are, they note, seven nations much larger than you who will not survive. And indeed, mostly those are not currently existing groups.
Lulav: Yeah.
Jaz: But the same paragraph in which we get that notes that the Israelites could be subject to the same thing. G-d's anger will blaze forth against you, promptly wiping you out.
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: So this comes with a warning to worship only G-d because otherwise you also will be destroyed.
Lulav: Yeah. Ugh! I just... we don't get the perspective of the seven nations, because when they were delivered and defeated, they were doomed to destruction, given no terms and no quarter. They were not intermarried with, nor their daughters to the Israelite sons, nor their sons to the Israelite daughters.
Jaz: Mm hmm.
Lulav: So, yeah. I like that stipulation about “if you're nasty, you'll get wiped out,” but it very much does focus on turning away from the worship of Hashem rather than turning away from just action.
Jaz: Yes. There is not, here, a “might makes right” type of thing.
Lulav: Mm hmm.
Jaz: You do not have the right to the land just because you could conquer it, any more than they have a right to it just because they're powerful.
Lulav: Mhm.
Jaz: And they note in fact that you're not particularly powerful, that it is this sort of implementation instead of your teachings that is what gives you any value whatsoever. 
Lulav: Yeah. 
Jaz: And the idea of “you have any value whatsoever because you're sticking to a moral system,” I guess is an interesting one. When it notes, like, “houses that you didn't build,” “vineyards that you didn't plant” — I mean, I think that your reading is probably correct in many respects?
Lulav: Mm hmm. 
Jaz: My automatic reading was more of a, “you have these things and you didn't earn them.” 
Lulav: Oh. 
Jaz: G-d gave them to you but they're not yours. 
Lulav: I see that particular slant on it. Okay. 
Jaz: Because we had stuff earlier in the parsha about like, you have to teach your children that when they're well-off, they don't deserve any of that. They have to remember when we were worse off and that they were also at Sinai. 
Lulav: Mm hmm. 
Jaz: And so, my more immediate guess was that this prosperity that you're going to have? You don't inherently deserve it. You just have it for so long as you have it. 
Lulav: Yeah. Okay. Thanks for that. I'm sealing up some more salt in an envelope.
(both chuckle)
Jaz: But I think your reading also holds legitimacy and I don't know what to do, quite, with that reading. 
Lulav: Mm hmm. Other than just say, never again. Like, no matter the situation, never again. 
Jaz: Mm. So I think that brings us to the end of the parsha. 
Lulav: Sure does. 
Jaz: So do you have any closing thoughts? 
Lulav: I think they definitely took the best parts for the liturgy (laughs).
Jaz: Good. Okay. Um, okay. In that case, Lulav I think it's time for Rating G-d's Writing, the segment in which we pick two scales and rate the parsha based on those scales that we just came up with. 
Lulav: Cool. Jaz, I'm going to give you a choice here. 
Jaz: Oh. 
Lulav: Would you like to humor me, or take the easy way out? 
Jaz: I guess I'll humor you. 
Lulav: (happy gasp) Yay! Okay. So, you are making a mezuzah to remember this specific parsha. What does the mezuzah look like? 
Jaz: This mezuzah is made of — it's made of stone, 
Lulav: Okay.
Jaz: Like the tablets that the 10 commandments are on. It has words literally all over it, (Lulav laughs) really tiny, inscribed in the stone. 
Lulav: Good. 
Jaz: And like, a mouth at the top of it, because Moshe dictates this whole parsha. 
Lulav: Mm hmm. 
Jaz: And also on it, down the sides, there's just like a sticker? Like, there's two stickers on the side with like, flame decals. (Lulav laughs) Because G-d spoke out of the flames. 
Lulav: Are they covering writing? 
Jaz: Yes. 
Lulav: Interesting. Ooh, this is fun. I like this. What a good mezuzah. 
Jaz: Inside is like, a kosher scroll with the bit of our liturgy that's always in the mezuzah. 
Lulav: Mmhm.
Jaz: And also inside is a like, accidental bit that the maker didn’t carve in quite the right way for a person to be handling, and so it’s sharp and will poke you if you handle it incorrectly. 
Lulav: That's so good! I'm really thankful that you chose to humor me this time. (both laugh) 
Jaz: Okay. Lulav — 
Lulav: Mm hmm. 
Jaz: When G-d commands, do not turn aside to the right or the left. Follow only the path that G-d has enjoined upon you. 
Lulav: Mm hmm. 
Jaz: How long of a path, and with what twists and turns, would you give this parsha? 
Lulav: Okay, this parsha. So, I think it is a very straight path cast in yellow brick. If I remember the later bits of Wicked correctly, the yellow brick road was like, a colonial imposition that nevertheless connected all the lands of Oz, so it's a long straight road made of yellow brick and occasionally there are trees fallen on it but there are also a bunch of signs that are like, “no matter what, stay on the road.” And I think as long as you step around the trees and come back to the path, you're okay. Nothing bad happens. 
Jaz: Mm. 
Lulav: And it's almost like you had been walking the straight path the entire time. 
Jaz: Okay. 
Lulav: Is that a fair answer?
Jaz: Yeah.
Lulav: Cool. I'm not used to other people asking me complicated questions (laughs).
Jaz: Well, seemed only fair. 
Lulav: Thank you. Do you want to take us to the close? 
Jaz: Yeah! Thanks 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, and concerns 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 my lovely co-host, Lulav Arnow. 
Lulav: A seven-nation army couldn't hold me back from sound production for this episode. Our transcript team of Jaz, Reuben, DiCo, and Khesed brings you full transcripts of every episode. You can find a link to those in the 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!
Lulav: (melodically) Yeah!
[Brivele outro music] 
Jaz: This week's gender is: fight me! 
Lulav: This week's pronouns are: ey, em, and eirs