Kosher Queers

42 — Eikev: The Opposite of Iniquity

August 06, 2020 Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow
Kosher Queers
42 — Eikev: The Opposite of Iniquity
Chapters
Kosher Queers
42 — Eikev: The Opposite of Iniquity
Aug 06, 2020
Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow

This week, Grandpa Moshe tells us a story for a really long time, the Israelites reject fast fashion, and ~someone special~ gets a date for Tu B'Av. Also, Lulav condemns "nation-ly nations," otherwise known as nation states, and Jaz has a grammatical digression about plural vs singular you.

Full transcript here.

There's a good overview of Tu B'Av here. Lulav references the classic poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll, and if you haven't read it recently, that's always fun. Jaz read Freelance Rabbi by MaNishtana and we both read Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce. You can also see Jaz's old Tamora Pierce fan account, @incorrectTammy. Jaz also references the books When Bad Things Happen to Good People, and How Good Do We Have to Be? by Harold Kushner.

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

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

Show Notes Transcript

This week, Grandpa Moshe tells us a story for a really long time, the Israelites reject fast fashion, and ~someone special~ gets a date for Tu B'Av. Also, Lulav condemns "nation-ly nations," otherwise known as nation states, and Jaz has a grammatical digression about plural vs singular you.

Full transcript here.

There's a good overview of Tu B'Av here. Lulav references the classic poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll, and if you haven't read it recently, that's always fun. Jaz read Freelance Rabbi by MaNishtana and we both read Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce. You can also see Jaz's old Tamora Pierce fan account, @incorrectTammy. Jaz also references the books When Bad Things Happen to Good People, and How Good Do We Have to Be? by Harold Kushner.

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

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

Lulav: Hey Jaz! How was your Tu B'Av that has definitely happened by the time that we're recording this? 

Jaz: (snorts) Hey Lulav! I'm beaming into the future to answer your question (Lulav giggles) and I would say that it was lovely. 

Lulav: Cool. Can you tell me a little bit about what it entails? 

Jaz: Sure. So Tu B'Av is a small Jewish holiday of happiness that happens in the middle of the summer. It's on the 15th of the month of Av. That's why it's called that. Although, fun fact, the way you say 15th isn't "tu." It's just called "tu" because when you write it, you write it with the letters tet and vav. (Lulav makes an appreciative sound) Tet is the ninth letter and vav is the sixth letter, so when you put them together it makes the number 15. 

Lulav: Illegal! 

Jaz: (chuckles) And when you spell out tet-vav, it makes the sound "tu." 

Lulav: Amazing. 

Jaz: It's very charming. I like it. Also normally we don't do things with nines and sixes. 

Lulav: I was going to say 

Jaz: We do it with ten-and-one and ten-and-two, and we only don't do that here because that would be yod-hey --

Lulav: Oh! Whoops 

Jaz: -- for ten and five and that's a name of G-d and they were like, "We're not going to do that for a number so we'll move it to nine and six." (chuckles) 

Lulav: Also Ye B'Av doesn't sound as good as Tu B'av. 

Jaz: (laughs) It's true. But they do that for every 15th, not just holiday 15ths. 

Lulav: Oh okay. Cool. 

Jaz: Anyway it's a joyous day -- 

Lulav: Callooh callay? (Jaz laughs) Sorry, that's frabjous; my bad. (both laugh) 

Jaz: But there's a bit in the Talmud that says there were no holy days as happy for the Jews as Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur. 

Lulav: Hey -- 

Jaz: Which is a wild thing to say, (Lulav laughs) because Yom Kippur is not generally a happy day and Tu B'Av is like a festival of love. 

Lulav: Yeah. Okay. 

Jaz: Unmarried girls would go out dressed in white garments and dance in the fields — in the vineyard specially 

Lulav: Oh, that's fun! Like the summer festival in Stardew Valley! 

Jaz: (laughs) Sure.

Lulav: Or is that spring? I think it's spring because you can buy strawberries there. 

Jaz: Cute. (Lulav chuckles) So there's a bunch of different Talmudic arguments for what Tu B'Av celebrated and one of them that's kind of connected to the thing we were talking about recently is, you remember the daughters of Zelophehad? 

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Who could only marry within their own tribe? 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Well on Tu B'Av, this ban on marrying only within your own family's house is lifted and on Tu B'av you can marry whoever you want. 

Lulav: What. (laughs) 

Jaz: Or at least within the Israelites. Not like, outside of it. 

Lulav: That's... amazing? How... why? (laughs) 

Jaz: I -- 

Lulav: Why this? Why now? (Jaz laughs) Is it just that on the 15th of Av, one year some orphaned girl was just like, “you know what, I'm going to get married to a Gadite instead?”

Jaz: (laughs) Maybe! It's also apparently a particular festival with a particular offering, like, related to the day when people would bring offerings of wood to the temple. Anyway in modern Israel it's celebrated as a similar thing to Valentine's Day. 

Lulav: Jaz, (fake-bashful voice) will you be my Tu B'Av-entine? 

Jaz: (laughs) I will. 

Lulav: Aw, thank you! Shucks! 

Jaz: And also, by the time this episode is out -- 

Lulav: Yes. Right. Will you retroactively but also in the future -- ugh. The fact that we have a reasonable person's production schedule makes things so weird timewise. 

Jaz: (laughs) It's true. 

Lulav: So speaking of time, can you tell me about any cool and queer or Jewish things that have happened in your life recently? 

Jaz: Sure. So a while back I mentioned a book that I'd recently acquired, called Freelance Rabbi and I just finished it. And it's by this rabbi who goes by the pen name MaNishtana. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And it's a story about another Black Orthodox Jewish rabbi and the adventures that he gets up to in his life as he's running a synagogue and also working a day job as a comedy writer (Lulav chuckles) and also looking for love and also making enemies of other people.

Lulav: Oh, as one does. 

Jaz: As one does. It's a delightful story. Also, it flips back and forth between talking in third person about this rabbi, whose name is Ariel, and having bits in first person which are not ever confirmed but I think are heavily implied to either be from the perspective of G-d or the Moshiach. 

Lulav: Interesting. 

Jaz: More likely the latter one. And that's really fun. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: So I very much enjoyed it. It's mostly not a queer story — like, the main character is this straight man -- although I will say, there are a couple moments where they mention queer characters, I sent you one of them, where they mention offhand this lesbian couple. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Who’s very shomer shabbos and whatever. Do you remember what they call themselves? 

Lulav: No, but it was both really cringey and really good? (Jaz laughs) Do you remember? (laughs) 

Jaz: I sure do. They call themselves the Orthodykes. 

Lulav: Yes! (laughs) Okay, that's less cringey and more funny than I remembered. 

Jaz: Yeah, it's very cute. But also, I was waiting the whole book for the love interest, who is this really cool woman whose name is I think Liba Sheibel or whatever but goes by the initials LS, or just goes by Ellis the whole book. 

Lulav: That's cute! I love that!

Jaz: It's cute. 

Lulav: So we actually both have a friend who goes by his initials as a name and it's really cool. 

Jaz: We do? 

Lulav: Yeah, Alfie! For ALF. Did you not know that? 

Jaz: No?!

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah, Alfie taught me such wonderful things about people's names as like, when you have a bunch of names and you combine them into a word, and also, if you have a really fancy rich boy who's the third of his name, sometimes he gets nicknamed Trip. (Jaz laughs) So if you ever run into a Trip, that’s — he's a third probably. 

Jaz: That's great. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Anyway Ellis is great and I really like her and also I was waiting a little bit for there to be a passing reference to her having an ex-girlfriend or something -- I really wanted her to be bi. Like, it's fine for her to like, end up with the man at the end. They seem very sweet together and like best buds but also I really wanted her to be bi. (Lulav laughs) I have decided that she is and it just never comes up on page. 

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah, of course! This is the queer representation we deserve -- wait what? 

Jaz: (laughs) Anyway, I recommend the book, though I will say, for those who are buying it: a warning that it's formatted really strangely.

Lulav: Hmm.
  
Jaz: -- in that the text is quite small and the margins are like two inches. (laughs) So -- 

Lulav: Whoa. 

Jaz: I don't know why it's like that. The actual content of it is well worth reading. 

Lulav: So usually margins are one inch, right? 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Is that to make it look like a Talmud page? 

Jaz: It would be an interesting question (Lulav laughs) and I don't know. But I don't think so, because part of the reason a Talmud page is formatted like that is so you can fit more text in around it, and there's no more text fitted in around it. It's just a central column. 

Lulav: The text is other people's commentary, right? So maybe the empty space is for you to write your own commentary on the text! How cool would that be? 

Jaz: That is cool. My commentary is just things like, “hey, is Ellis bi?” Like, I don't know -- (laughs) 

Lulav: Yeah. You're like the anti-Rashi in that way. 

Jaz: (laughs) Lulav, what's something cool or queer or Jewish that's happened in your life recently? 

Lulav: Well, speaking of books that you have read, (Jaz chuckles) we had a book club together, which was really fun. So Tamora Pierce books were something that I picked up as an adult. I graduated from college and was having a really bad summer where I was just kinda like, detoxing from some brain meds and going on to other brain meds and it was a time. But like, I would bike to the library and just check out Tamora Pierce books. So I read some Tortall, most of Emelan and then back to the Protector of the Small books and stuff before I finally moved to Minneapolis. But it was one of the few things that I remember from that summer. Like, Tamora Pierce, Hannibal... yeah. (both laugh) 

Jaz: Not a bad reference point! 

Lulav: (snorts) Right? (bad Hannibal impression) So tell me Jaz, what is your experience (laughs) of Tamora Pierce books? 

Jaz: So in contrast, I read them mostly as a kid, or at least like, mostly as a teen. 

Lulav: Mm hmm 

Jaz: And I read all of them (Lulav laughs) Yeah, I read them, not necessarily all in order, but I did read all of them, and often more than once. I only owned a couple of them. I have a small handful like, right next to me. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Cuz I'm in my parents’ house. (Lulav chuckles) And I have a couple on Kindle that I got when we were living out of the country and I didn't have any physical books. 

Lulav: Yeah! 

Jaz: And so the books about Aly are some of the later ones in her Tortall universe and I remembered really liking them because they felt more complex and nuanced to me than some of the earlier stuff. (Lulav laughs) These books are about a colonized people staging a revolution against their oppressors, and so I enjoyed them in some respects more than some of the like, “I just want to be a knight” type of stuff that comes earlier. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Not that the “I just want to be a knight” stuff can't be great, also. 

Lulav: (laughs) I did have a lot of fun with it. I also did enjoy the cop series. (laughs) 

Jaz: I did not enjoy Beka Cooper so much. Anyway…  

Lulav: Okay. Right. So our book club was reading Trickster's Choice, which is the first of the Aly duology and it was really fun! We got to talk about, like, “to what extent is this a white savior narrative” and “why does this girl want to get with a crow” and (chuckles) depictions of the god Kyrioth; characters we really liked — it was a fun time. 

Jaz: Who is going to be quite different than the god we're going to see in this week's parsha! 

Lulav: Especially in terms of not having embodiment in the way that Tortallan gods do. 

Jaz: Absolutely so. 

Lulav: As just a closing note, I wanted to talk about this one cool Twitter account that I found a couple of years ago, which was -- 

Jaz: Oh no. 

Lulav: Incorrect Tamora Pierce quotes! 

Jaz: (laughing) Oh no! 

Lulav: Have you ever seen that account? 

Jaz: Why must you drag me in public like this? (Lulav cracks up) So I ran a Twitter account called Incorrect Tamora Pierce for like, I don't know, six months? For a while. 

Lulav: (chuckles) Yeah. 

Jaz: A couple years back. And then I uninstalled Twitter for a while and when I came back I forgot to go back to it. (Lulav laughs) So it's probably still out there. Yeah. I haven't touched it in a while. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. Good. I'm so glad. 

Jaz: Did you have another point —

Lulav: No —

Jaz: Aside from just pointing out that I was that type of Tamora Pierce fan?  

Lulav: Uh huh. Listen, you made something out of your fandom, which is cool. If you had written Tamora Pierce fanfiction and I had read it, I would definitely want to talk about it here. 

Jaz: This means that I should do a Tamora Pierce and Talmud crossover, right? 

Lulav: Ah, yeah, there you go, that'll be your third one. (both laugh) 

Jaz: Alright, now can we start the episode. 

Lulav: Right, now taking your segue. 

[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 Eikev. 

13:10 

Jaz: Yeah. None of the translations of Eikev seem to translate the actual literal word Eikev, which is fascinating to me. 

Lulav: Yeah! What is that word? 

Jaz: It's like, "in consequence of" or like, "consequently"

Lulav: Oh yeah! Cuz it starts with "and if you do" so that might be the translation 

Jaz: Right. It's like implied but it's just not concretely there. 

Lulav: Wild. Okay. So can you give me 40 seconds to talk about this parsha that is mostly review of things that we've already talked about. 

Jaz: Sure can. Ready. set, go. 

Lulav: Hey guess what -- if you're good you won't be sick or infertile! I'm sure that's borne out in reality and not a thing that has made people feel super bad throughout history. Destroy pitilessly all the people who are marked for genocide, cuz you can't lose with this god at your back! Fun fact though: y'all suck, and it's just that the other people you're slaughtering were significantly worse that justifies this. We zoom in on Moshe's experience of that whole calf incident, including the fact that he made the ark to carry the tablets down from the mountain. We get an exhortation to be less stiff-necked and befriend strangers, and are reminded that from the mere family of Yisrael came the star-numbered G-d-wrestling people. We are promised near-effortless agriculture, and repeat much of "V'ahavta." (ringer rings) Boom! (laughs) 

Jaz: That was pretty good! It was very good. 

Lulav: Thank you. I feel good about myself, (Jaz laughs) and, you know, mixed about this parsha. So, yeah, like I said, we start off with “and if you do obey these rules, what's going to happen to you,” which is a thing that we've heard multiple times, right?  

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: So it's like, “the Lord will favor you and bless you and multiply you bless the issue of your womb and produce” -- basically, you'll be blessed above all other people and nobody will be infertile and Hashem will ward off all sickness. Which I just... don't... that's not a thing. 

Jaz: Yeah, you highlighted this in your summary. It seemed to particularly hit you as frustrating. Can you say more about that? 

Lulav: Yeah, it's a thing that I've talked about before where having a transactional relationship with the Divine is (sighs) really antithetical to my understanding of it, because it's like, if you do this, then this will happen and so, if the consequence doesn't happen, that means that you did something wrong. Or, it means that everything you've ever been told, if the consequence is a punishment, everything you've ever been told is false, and so you fall out of the tradition and I just don't like either of those options. Do you have feelings about this? 

Jaz: I mean, I think -- I don't like the idea of a transactional relationship either, but it does make me think about trust and authority. And I was just talking with some people about, if you're being asked to trust something, you also have to have indicators of some sort of why you should trust it, if somebody in authority asks you to trust them. Uh, okay, let's give something more concrete. If your politician asks you to trust them, right, and has done no things to earn your trust, you might say to that politician, “Okay, but you have to actually do something — put forth a bill, vote in this particular way. You can't expect me to just blindly support you.” 

Lulav: Suggest an annual budget for next year that cuts more than just $50,000 from the cops. 

Jaz: Right. 

Lulav: If we're talking about Mayor Frey. 

Jaz: (chuckles) That's also a good example. 

Jaz: And if the mayor's like, “Well you just gotta trust me to do the right thing,” you're like, “Well, no, actually.” 

Lulav: Yeah, I trust that more when somebody has very clear positive intentions. The thing about liberal politicians is that they tend to have no intentions other than furthering their careers and enriching business owners and like, maybe being slightly less homophobic while doing so than their Republican counterparts would be. So (laughs) I much more trust people who are like, “Hey we are going to treat each other rightly and make it through the wilderness together.”

Jaz: Mm. I guess all that I'm saying is this feels like an attempt to forge some sort of communication with the Divine, which says, given that we’ll have less direct communication now, maybe there's other things that you can try and do to try to interpret the confusing world around you. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And try to see, hey, when you're healthy, or hey, when you're prosperous, you thank G-d for that thing and that's an indication of something. 

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: It's just that the flip side and the reverse side suggests punishment and that's bad. I don't like that. 

Lulav: Yeah, but also if the good things don't happen, if you are sick or infertile — which like, that's a mood — then it's like — 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Oh, guess I’m categorically not a good person. Cool. 

Jaz: And that sucks. (Lulav laughs) To the extent that the text implies that, that has led to problems for forever and is bad. I -- yeah. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. Anyway, moving on, so yeah, you're supposed to destroy all of the people the Hashem delivers to you, showing them no pity, which is in keeping with things that we have been told multiple times by Moshe. And basically, don't worry. It’ll be fine, this is the same G-d that did all the plagues in Egypt so you'll be okay. There's a bit extra in here that's like, Hashem will dislodge those peoples before you little-by-little instead of all at once, because if it was all at once the wild beasts would multiply because there aren't any people around, I guess? 

Jaz: Yeah, there is a notion of like, you don't gain the land all at once but it happens gradually. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. What was the thing that you wanted to talk about? 

Jaz: Just because what we we have talked about what's horrible and genocidal in this before and I think obviously that that is still in many ways true here, but rather than going over that in quite as much detail since we have spoke about that, as you noted — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: I wanted to note that there is a thing here that they translate as, “you must not bring an abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be” -- it has it as "proscribed." It could just as easily be cast out. The word here is “herem" and that gets translated in other places as, like, “excommunicated.”

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: So you must reject this awful thing from outside your culture and not adopt it. And so I was wondering — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: We now are in part of a process of creating the diasporic Judaism of the future and we're surrounded by the influence of American culture that we may or may not want to influence our own practices. So what type of practices from our surrounding culture would you categorize as abhorrent things that we don't want to bring into the society we'd be building? 

Lulav: Pledge of Allegiance is just like  straight off. That is worshipping false idols and abhorrent. In general, the idea of patriotism for the — like I know this is basically just saying "nation-ly nation" but — the goyish nation around you, rather than pride in the culture that you are a part of -- 

Jaz: Can you say more about that? 

Lulav: Yeah, I think the idea of nations in general is… iffy, right. 

Jaz: (chuckles) Sure. 

Lulav: (chuckles) Cuz it's like, gathering people up into something that reinforces its own power through conquest and to a certain extent, I don't think there is an American identity outside of the ways in which we have overthrown governments and committed genocide against people and continue to do so and way way overspend on military stuff while framing it as defense; all of that is just inherent to what it means when you say, “I am proud to be an American.”

Jaz: Hmm.

Lulav: And that's avodah zarah to me. 

Jaz: And you think that that's inherent in doing it. 

Lulav: Right. I think if we were living in modern Germany, it would still be avodah zarah, because to have a nation as a nation-state means necessarily that you are shutting down the cultures that live within that nation and like, homogenizing them into something which only exists to further the nation. 

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: And I just don't like that. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: (laughs) So, um, other things… let's see here… what counts as abhorrent? 

Jaz: I don't know. I will note, I guess, just for the sake of accuracy and completeness that the word they have here is “toevah.”

Lulav: (laughs) Okay.

Jaz: Toevah was the same word they used in that "a man shall not lie with another man" verse. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. So yeah. I don't know. Can you think of anything else you would find abhorrent and not good to be brought into your house? 

Jaz: Yeah. I think that one of the things that I think about here is one of the things I really prize about Judaism, and that seems somewhat antithetical to the American culture we live around, is the focus on communal living.

Lulav: Mmmm! Mm hmm. 

Jaz: You need a minyan of 10 people to do the basic prayers that are sort of the foundation of a service. Not that there's nothing you can do on your own, but many things are done in collectivity and when we say Yom Kippur is our holiest day of the year, our apologies are done as collective apologies.

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: And I think American culture really prizes the individual and could we de-emphasize that as we were building something better. 

Lulav: That's really cool. Yeah, the idea of hierarchies, in general. 

Jaz: That one I don’t think we can blame on America. (laughs) 

Lulav: Right. But that's something that I would be resistant to bringing into my house. 

Jaz: Mm.

Lulav: Trying as much as possible to like, have many favorite things.

Jaz: Aww.

Lulav: And appreciate and criticise everything that you engage with. 

Jaz: Yeah. Beautiful.

Lulav: So you gotta faithfully observe all the Torah that is enjoined upon you today. You were subjected to hardship but you made it through, like, your clothes and your feet worked okay. 

Jaz: I'm sorry, you don't want to talk about that bit where it's like “the clothes that you wore for 40 years didn't wear out?” 

Lulav: (laughs) Listen, I -- (Jaz laughs) Okay, that is a little weird. (Jaz laughs) Yeah, what is up with that? Hey! Come back! (both laugh) Do you have anything about this? 

Jaz: No, I just think it's charming that the miracle is “your fabric endured and also your feet didn't get tired.” 

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: I guess this is not “your feet didn't get tired” but they said they didn't swell up, which is more like “you didn't get bunions.”

Lulav: Part of it is that Am Yisrael rejected fast fashion, and so instead of having very frequent tears and making it kind of hard-to-adhere patches to their clothing, they had good solid materials and any wear that there was could be repaired. 

Jaz: True. Also we do know that they had the wise women who were very good at weaving — 

Lulav: Mm! 

Jaz: Who made covers for the mishkan, so maybe they just made them very good clothes and when they wore out fixed their clothes really well. 

Lulav: Right! So that's cool. 

Jaz: Great.  

Lulav: Can we talk about the “man does not live on bread alone but on anything that the Lord decrees?”

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Is that a thing that you have come across a lot in liturgy and stuff? 

Jaz: I didn't actually know it was from here. I assumed it was a Christian thing. 

Lulav: Right? I mean the thing about a lot of the speeches in the gospels is, there are direct quotes from Torah. 

Jaz: Yeah. This morning I was going over a prayer that is like a prayer I know and have said but have never studied word-for-word so I didn't know what each word meant — 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Even though I knew generally what the prayer meant. And I was going through it with DiCo and DiCo grew up Catholic and as we went through it, said "Jaz, this sounds so similar to the Lord's prayer." 

Lulav: Yeah! 

Jaz: And it was part of the kaddish, and the kaddish has a bunch of variations but is one of the most frequently said prayers, so they just kind of borrowed very similar structure and they sound really similar. 

Lulav: Yeah. When you and I were studying Talmud together, it was like, “Oh cool so there's like, the same kaddish over and over again. That's really fun.” Or maybe it was… praying with Khesed… 

Jaz: So did you have something that you wanted to say about the bread, also?

Lulav: I'm trying to figure out what's up here. Is it the idea that you don't have to have specific conveniences but that as long as you try it'll be okay? 

Jaz: Hmm. Well, I don't think so because there's nothing in here about trying and they didn't try for the manna. They just got it. 

Lulav: Right but what I meant more was, the idea that if you try to be okay with a thing and it keeps you alive, that can be okay? I don't know. 

Jaz: Hmm. 

Lulav: I'm having trouble interpreting this. 

Jaz: Well I think that one of the meanings from there could have been you succeed or fail as G-d dictates. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: -- like, your ability to thrive isn't just dependent, in fact, on your work. It's dependent on circumstances and it's dependent on sort of the whims of the universe. 

Lulav: Ohhhh. 

Jaz: And it's not just like, you work and therefore you have bread. 

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Which is sort of the original — that's what Adam is told. Like, you toil from the soil and then you have food. And this offers a slightly more complex, “Actually, it depends! Maybe you will.” 

Lulav: And this rolls from “maybe you will depending on circumstance” into “the land you're going to is one with a whole bunch of crop variety and you won't lack anything” and is this the part…? No, the near-effortless agriculture is a little later. But basically, the idea is you are being brought to a place where it will be easier to live. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: And that is the cool thing that Hashem is doing rather than, you know, harder places to live. 

Jaz: Right. It does remind me almost of gold rush rhetoric. You know, you’ll just go and there will be gold nuggets sitting on street corners. (Lulav laughs) This may be not everybody's reference point. I just was a small child (overlapping) in California --  

Lulav: (overlapping) In California? Uh huh. (both laugh) Good. 

Jaz: We read a lot of gold rush books (Lulav laughs) when I was like seven. 

Lulav: I'm so glad. (page turning noise) Yeah, so things multiply, it'll be great... 

Jaz: The next bit is about virtue, that it's not for any virtue of yours. 

Lulav: Yes! That is definitely a thing to focus on. So 9:4 -- 

Jaz: If you want to talk more about the other stuff before we get there -- 

Lulav: No, I don't. (laughs) I very much do not. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: So 9:4, when Hashem has thrust everybody away from you, don't say Hashem has enabled us to possess this land because of our virtues. Rather, it's because those people suck. It's not because of your virtues and your rectitude. Clearly, you have been really bad the entire time. You're so stiff-necked. 

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: And then it goes into an itemized list of (chuckling) bad things that people have done, I guess. 

Jaz: Yeah, I mean we can debate the goodness or badness of their respective actions but certainly the argument is constructed as, “Don't think you were good; you're not inherently good; here's some bad thing you did as proof.” 

Lulav: Right.

Jaz: “Why are you getting these good things even though you were bad? Because the other people are worse and also --

Lulav: (laughs) “I liked your grandparents.”

Jaz: “And also I've chosen to believe in you. and that you'll do better.” 

Lulav: Yeah. And I think that that can be a cool thing regardless of grandparents, just the idea that if you want to be Jewish and you do Jewishly, you are part of that covenant. 

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: I don't know that any of that is intended in this text, but that's just a thing it made me think of. 

Jaz: Mm. Well, what do you think about this model? “I don't think that you are good people but also you’re getting treated the way you are because other people were worse.”

Lulav: The opposite of inequity is neutrality. 

Jaz: Ooh. 

Lulav: There is a sense in which the opposite of inequity is doing good actively, but if we're talking about the logical statement “!inequity,” that just means, like, you're not as bad. And I think that is a useful way to conceive of people, as not having an axis of good action and ill action, but having multiple axes along which you measure good and bad action, and you try to minimize the vector contribution of bad action while maximizing the good action.

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: But like, if the least you can do is not be really mean to other people, that's still worthy of a good life. 

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: Is how I am interpreting that. 

Jaz: Mm! 

Lulav: Like, do more than that! But if the least you can do is just harm people minimally, you're good, even if you do some bad things in your life, like at Horeb so provoking Hashem, you can come back from that and just do better next time. 

Jaz: Yeah. I mean, it's tricky, right? I think about a few different things here.

Lulav: Mm.

Jaz: One of which is Harold Kushner, who's famous for writing the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, also wrote another book called How Good Do We Have to Be? 

Lulav: Mm! 

Jaz: And I think in both of them but certainly in one of them — I just can't remember which one — he offers a definition of good people. And I think it might actually be in When Bad Things Happen to Good People, because the premise of it is, he's not talking about incredibly good people. He's not talking about when bad things happen to those who have spent their lives only selflessly caring for others and tragedy befalls them. He's talking about, like, when bad things happen to normal everyday people who have maybe done some bad things and some good things. 

Lulav: Cuz that's literally everybody, let's be real. 

Jaz: Right. And he's saying, look, some people look at a tragedy happening and they're like, “Is this punishment because my, you know, because I never go to shul and I didn't give money to that homeless person on the street the other day.” He's like “No, it isn't. Like, it really really isn't. And I refuse to believe in a god who would say that it's punishment for that.”

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Your system of morality has to do better than that because if it's that kind of under-nuanced, you have to believe in a god who's incredibly cruel.

Lulav: Yeah . This topic, for people who want to read more, is called theodicy, which I was very confused hearing the first two or three times, because it does sound like you're saying The Odyssey, but no, (Jaz laughs) It's T-H-E-O-D-I-C-Y, theodicy, basically the idea of “why does a good G-d allow bad things to happen.”

Jaz: Mm hmm.

Lulav: I guess this gets less at like, why are bad things are allowed to happen and more at like, are those bad things punishment?

Jaz: Mm hmm.

Lulav: Which we seem to, on Kosher Queers and amongst many Jews, say, “No, they're not as punishment.” 

Jaz: Yeah. Well I also find this passage particularly interesting as a person.

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: Lulav, you know this probably, but I have thought long and hard for a long time about like, what it means to navigate the world when it is difficult to think of myself as a good person. And I think that, not because of low self-esteem, but because I've hurt people who I've cared about and those were bad things. And so one of the things that resonated for me here is G-d's looking at it and saying, "Absolutely, you have definitely done bad things," 

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: “And I'm not rewarding you for those bad things,” (Lulav laughs) you know, “I am holding a sense of ‘you have done bad things and you shouldn't have done them.’” 

Lulav: Right.

Jaz: “And also, ‘Hey, people should face consequences for bad things.’”

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: “And you can still believe in ‘you should not do bad things’ and believe in ‘you can do better in the future,’” like G-d is asking the Israelites to do here and trusting that they can. 

Lulav: Yeah. And like, an axiom that I want to put out there is: you cannot get through life without hurting someone. Like, it's not “you have to hurt people to survive,” it's just that sometimes, bad things happen interpersonally and that doesn't mean that your life is over, it just means that you try harder next time. 

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: And I think when we talk about the wickedness of the peoples of the land, it's like, not trying better when you do something wrong. 

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: Like, seeing that somebody is hurt by your actions and just not caring is I think what real wickedness looks like. 

Jaz: Mm. Yeah. I don't know that this is implied in the text, but a thing that's been helpful is to think of things as being like, a growing edge and to think of doing the right thing as a thing that you can actively learn to do 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: That is a thing you can practice and get better at in the same way that you can practice and get better at more concrete aspects of Jewish practice like “I was learning this prayer so that I would understand it better.”

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Also you can get better at learning what the right thing to do is, so that you are a better person in the world. 

Lulav: Yeah. Learning what people like when you interact with them and what makes people happy and secure. 

Jaz: Mm. That's also good! Okay we should really move on. 

Lulav: Oh my G-d, yes. So, we're at Horeb and Moshe is just like complaining about it. I mean, we're not at Horeb in the narrative, but we are in grandpa's recollections on the mountain.

Jaz: Yeah. 

37:33  

Lulav: So he gets the tablets and Hashem is like, “Hey, hurry up cuz the people down there have made a molten image. Also, I am going to just kill them all.” And so Moshe comes down, checks out the situation and (laughs) says, “Thereupon I gripped the two tablets and flung them away with both my hands, smashing them before your eyes.” (Jaz laughs) So it sounds like he had planned this ahead of time. (Jaz laughs) It wasn't that he was bringing the tablets and was like, “Oh no, you did a bad thing, now i'm going to be angry about it!” It was like, “Hey, I brought these specifically so that I could smash them on the ground.” (Jaz laughs) It's very funny. 

Jaz: Well, I think it is a punishment, (Lulav laughs) but yes. 

Lulav: Smashing the commandments is not the reason that Moshe doesn't go into the Promised Land. That's just not mentioned. 

Jaz: No, G-d's chill with that part. 

Lulav: Right. He can be angry about stones that Hashem gives him if it's in a context of rebuking the people, but in the context of “I'm just going to be mad,” that's not acceptable. 

Jaz: I don't think so, because he's rebuking the people the second time too. He's like calling them rebels and stuff but the second time he's rebuking the people for complaining and this time he's rebuking the people for actually doing something concrete and bad about, like, making the statue. 

Lulav: I like that interpretation 

Jaz: Thank you. 

Lulav: I also think that the rebuke is a little different in both cases. In the case of the tablets he's like, “Hey, this is a cool thing that would have furthered our main quest and you don't get it now because you didn't even listen to the things that I told you in the first place. So we're going to smash this and do it over again.” 

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: Whereas with the rock, it's like, “I am mad and so I'm going to hit this rock instead of talking to it like I was supposed to.”

Jaz: Mm 

Lulav: It's like throwing a tantrum, rather than starting something over so that you can do it with a whole heart. Does that make sense? 

Jaz: Yeah. Okay so, we get that story, the retelling, and then, (page turning noise) we continue the retelling. 

Lulav: (gleefully) With, “when I lay prostrate before Hahem those 40 days and 40 nights,” which is just so funny to me. He was just like, on his face. (Jaz laughs) the whole time. Yeah, so this is a lot about like, “Hey don't kill them.” It's basically just a restatement of the things that they were talking about.

Jaz: Although I will say —  

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: This is maybe unfair and unreasonable of me -- in the original story, they had Moshe arguing with G-d but like, I don't remember the lying down part. (Lulav laughs) I just remember the argument up on the mountain and this implies that Moshe is lying down the whole time and arguing with G-d, which really makes it sound a lot more time like they're parents arguing about how to handle their children in bed. 

Lulav: Okay that would be supine. This is prostrate. 

Jaz: Listen, you can lay on your stomach and still be arguing. (Lulav giggles) 

Lulav: But yeah, Moshe is married to Elohim 

Jaz: Great. 

Lulav: Like, agreed. So, are there any things you want to drill down on? The one thing I noticed was in chapter 10, he's commanded to make the ark in order to carry the tablets down. 

Jaz: Well, he remakes the tablets. It's just that this time, instead of G-d writing them, Moshe writes them. 

Lulav: Right. 

Jaz: G-d dictates and Moshe writes the second time. 

Lulav: So in the first part, the ark of the covenant, was that part of it? 

Jaz: No, I think humans always make the ark. 

Lulav: Right. 

Jaz: It's just the tablets themselves, originally G-d makes and then the second time, G-d just dictates.

Lulav: Mm hmm. Okay so he was on the mountain and then 40 days resumed the march, blah blah blah. Ooh, this is fun! “And now, oh Yisrael, what does Hashem demand of you? Only this, to revere Adonai your god, to walk only in xer paths, to love hir and to serve Hashem with all your heart and soul, keeping the commandments and laws.” So like, the main thing demanded of you is to be chill. (Jaz laughs) To want good things, I guess. 

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: To have a goal for the better. 

Jaz: That's a nice interpretation. 

Lulav: Yeah. So this is the part where they talk about the ancestors, like, Hashem was drawn in their love for your ancestors and so he chose you. 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: And here's a fun part: “Cut away therefore the thickening about your hearts and stiffen your necks no more. And Hashem upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing. You too must do this, for you were gerim.” 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: So that's fun. I like this explicit statement of what good looks like beyond just, you know, committing genocide, which has been kind of the thrust of the last book and a half. 

Jaz: I don't think that's been true for all of it. That started near the end of Bamidbar. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. But being very clear here that you must befriend the stranger and like, it doesn't say “the stranger from Am Yisrael,” it says “the stranger.” 

Jaz: Right. 

Lulav: And so I think whereas a lot of the previous parshas have been about the uniqueness of the people and of their mission to get the promised land, this parsha is very much about “you're not unique; you are just chosen.” 

Jaz: Yeah 

Lulav: And you're going to be chosen as long as you act well. 

Jaz: Right. 

Lulav: As long as you deserve it. Which just reminds me of a general romantic philosophy, which is, like, I'm not dating people because they're like, special-special, or you know like, (dramatic voice) my soulmate (modal voice) or anything like that, I'm dating them because they're cool and I have chosen them and they continue to be even cooler in the future. (laughs) 

Jaz: Sure. 

Lulav: So another way in which Moshe was married to G-d. Okay. There's a bit about “Your ancestors went down as 70 people and now you are as numerous as the stars.” We get the V'ahavta.

Jaz: So, we get a thing very similar to what we got last parsha. There are slight difference between them and actually mostly those differences show up in the Hebrew (Lulav laughs) so you might not have noticed them, but in some of these, the difference is just that whereas in the bit we read last parsha -- 

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: The instructions are all the singular, like, “you do this.” 

Lulav: Ohh! 
  
Jaz: Some of these are in the plural. 

Lulav: It's plural you! That's fun. 

Jaz: Yeah. We don't have a plural you distinction in English. Older versions of English did -- fun fact — but we don't have one in modern English really. 

Lulav: I like “thou” and “you” as separate things of plurality. 

Jaz: Yeah! However, it is not all that useful in modern English where nobody talks like that. 

Lulav: Right, because you don't come up and just tutoie your friends the way that you would in French. 

Jaz: Right. 

Lulav: Yeah. Using "you" in a special emphasis doesn't actually convey the plurality of -- anyway. 

Jaz: But there is a plurality indicated here. In 11:18, we have "v’shamtem et d’varai eleh al levavchem v’al nafshechem uk’shar’tem otam leot al yed’chem v’hayu l’totafot bein einechem." I was emphasizing the bits at the ends; the "chem" is usually the bit where you can tell that it's plural because in the version that we got last week, it's usually -- 

Lulav: Bein einecha. 

Jaz: Right. Which is just singular. 

Lulav: So that's cool. 

Jaz: It is cool. 

Lulav: Yeah, another part of this parsha is that it's not just about the individual action. You have to, as a people, work for good and remember these things. As a people. 

Jaz: Yeah. That's I think related to what I was saying about individuality but also goodness. I think it's a good point to note. This parsha has come back to this statement and re-emphasized. When it says, "impress these words upon your very heart," it's all your collective hearts. Bind them as signs on your hands, all of your hand, and all of your forehead. Which, look, is a little bit tricky to wrap our minds around in our English grammar but is a formulation nonetheless that conveys communal responsibility. 

Lulav: Obviously the way to phrase it is let them serve as a symbol on your four-hundred-head. 

Jaz: Ehhh. (groans)

Lulav: (laughs) Okay. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: I'll see myself out. Yeah, so the one last thing I wanted to point out from my short summary is where this kind of mirrors the V'ahavta and is instead “V'ahavtem,” I think? 

Jaz: I don't actually think “v'ahavta” or “v'ahavtem” even is in this formulation. 

Lulav: What does it say at the beginning of chapter 11? 

Jaz: Umm... oh, sure does! V'ahavta. 

Lulav: (laughs) Boom! Yeah it starts off with the beginning and it ends with the end, but in the middle, it promises about what it means to be entering a land flowing with milk and honey and it's like, “This is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come — there, you had to water with your own labors the grain that you sowed, but the land that you're going into has regular rain and so agriculture will be much easier.” And that's just a funny note to me. 

Jaz: Good. 

Lulav: Okay. So that's the parsha. You know, people will fear you? Any closing thoughts? 

Jaz: I don't think so! Any last things before we get to our final segment? 

Lulav: You mean Rating G-d's Writing, the segment in which we make up scales and then rate the parsha according to them? 

Jaz: That's the one. 

Lulav: Okay. So Jaz, out of five instructions that you are enjoined with, that you may thrive and increase and be able to possess the land that Hashem promised on oath to your forefathers, how many instructions would you rate this parsha? 

Jaz: I would rate this parsha two good instructions, one neutral instruction, and two bad instructions that I am refusing to abide by. (chuckles) 

Lulav: Okay. So I'm not going to ask about like, the good or the bad, but which book of Torah is your neutral book? 

Jaz: Oh no. 

Lulav: (laughs) Or does this rating not mirror how you actually feel about the Torah as a whole? 

Jaz: That does not mirror how I actually feel about the Torah. I would not divide them into books like that. (Lulav laughs) Nonetheless, if I had to pick one to be the most neutral, I think I'd go with Bamidbar. 

Lulav: Okay! Yeah!

Jaz: Though I do not feel neutrally about it, I want to clarify. (Lulav laughs) I have many opinions; very few of them are "eh." 

Lulav: (laughs) Good. I love that about you. (Jaz laughs) Rate me! Or, make me the rate -- (Jaz laughs) I can't do English today. You know what I mean.

Jaz: Okay. Out of four sets of tablets, how many tablets would you rate this parsha? 

Lulav: Okay. So I'm going to rate it two that are nestled very securely in an ark made of acacia wood, and two that have already been thrown on the ground. Because this is a lot of review. That's the ones that have been thrown on the ground. (laughs) 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: But at the same time, there is a lot about enshrining what we already have in a novel manner, and doing so in a way that points out its importance.

Jaz: Mm! 

Lulav: So these are the same tablets that were shattered before, but they have been made by human hand and put into an ark to be carried. 

Jaz: Mm. Do you feel like this is a positive rating? 

Lulav: Yeah, I do. I did enjoy a lot of this parsha, mostly in terms of what we talked about when we drilled down on it. If I had to rate it straight off, I probably would have said like, a tablet. 

Jaz: (chuckling) Uh huh. 

Lulav: Or like four tablets but they all say exactly the same thing. It's just four copies of the first tablet. But no, like, upon further reading, it makes sense. 

Jaz: Good. The interpretative is generative. 

Lulav: (giggles) Good. Jaz, can you take us to the close? 

Jaz: I can. Thanks for listening to Kosher Queers! If you like what you’ve heard, you can support us on Patreon at patreon.com/kosherqueers, which will give you bonus content and help us keep making this for you. You can also follow us on Twitter @kosherqueers or like us on Facebook at Kosher Queers, or email us your questions, comments, and concerns at kosherqueers@gmail.com, and please spread the word about our podcast! Our artwork is by the talented Lior Gross. Our music is courtesy of the fabulous band Brivele, whose work you can find on Bandcamp. Go buy their album, they’re great. Our sound production this week is done by our excellent audio editor, Ezra Faust. 

Lulav: Our 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: Special shout-out, actually, to Reuben, who's been helping a bunch this summer and doing really astonishing work.

Lulav: Yeah. Thanks, Reuben.

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.

Both: Have a lovely queer Jewish day!

[Brivele outro music]

Lulav: This week's gender is: cowering from the screams of cut grass.

Jaz: This week's pronouns are: shey/sheir/sher.