Kosher Queers

45 — Ki Teitzei: When You Come Out

August 27, 2020
Kosher Queers
45 — Ki Teitzei: When You Come Out
Chapters
Kosher Queers
45 — Ki Teitzei: When You Come Out
Aug 27, 2020

This week, we talk about re-interpreting things out of existence, gay years, and how you can just be a girl if you want to. We also talk about why virginity is super fake and also a bad idea, and thus it's unfortunate that the Torah treats it like it's real. Plus, a short exercise in finding meaning in under-nuanced stories AND sex worker rabbis.

Full transcript available here.

As regards to the "stubborn and rebellious son" bit, here you can see the commentary in Sanhedrin 68B side by side with the original text.

Content notes: conversation that touches on about sexual abuse between 13:32 and 16:59. Explicit conversation about sex and notions of virginity from 31:26 to 36:44.

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

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

Show Notes Transcript

This week, we talk about re-interpreting things out of existence, gay years, and how you can just be a girl if you want to. We also talk about why virginity is super fake and also a bad idea, and thus it's unfortunate that the Torah treats it like it's real. Plus, a short exercise in finding meaning in under-nuanced stories AND sex worker rabbis.

Full transcript available here.

As regards to the "stubborn and rebellious son" bit, here you can see the commentary in Sanhedrin 68B side by side with the original text.

Content notes: conversation that touches on about sexual abuse between 13:32 and 16:59. Explicit conversation about sex and notions of virginity from 31:26 to 36:44.

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

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

Lulav: Hi Jaz!

Jaz: Hey Lulav!

Lulav: Has anything cool or queer or Jewish happened to you recently?

Jaz: Yeah! I feel like a number of cool and queer and Jewish things that happened to me recently. (Lulav gasps) The first one is that I went to Queer Talmud Camp last week. It was queer Talmud camp online, so it was my third year going to QTC, but my first year doing it online. And they called it “QTC Diaspora Edition” which is very cute. 

Lulav: Awww! I love that! 

Jaz: Yeah. And you know I still studied some good Talmud and saw some good friends and had a really nice time and it's more challenging to do online, but I still — it was really lovely.

Lulav: Yeah, I'll imagine it's a little more challenging online.

Jaz: But I was still very charmed by it, because in lieu of our regular campfire there was this gathering where they put a bonfire flickering thing on the screen and then different people would lead a song and you could sing along from their own houses. And they had mailed you beforehand these little packets. You unpacked it for the campfire (Lulav chuckles) and inside was a little box of matches and a few graham crackers and a chocolate bar that had gotten all melty in the mail and then solidified again (Lulav laughs) and a toothpick and a set of marshmallows and a tea candle.

Lulav: Okay, there it is..

Jaz: You could light the little tea candle and roast your little kosher marshmallows and make s'mores. 

Lulav: That's amazing. 

Jaz: It was very cute and I got a kick out of it. Some stuff really just did hold up. My first time at QTC I was like, “There's a talent show? Okay, but there's never been a good talent show in the history of the universe.” (Lulav laughs) And then I went to their talent show and I walked away and I was like, “Huh, there's been one good talent show in the history of the universe.” 

Lulav: (laughs) I'm so glad.

Jaz: Anyway the talent show is like, still pretty applicable over Zoom because you can still just do your act and have people see it. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And the previous two years in poetry at the talent show, this year I was like well I could but I feel like my poetry is all kind of a downer at this point, (Lulav snorts) like, anything that I'd have ready to present, 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: So instead I did a reenactment of the Talmud Avatar crossover fanfic with stuffed animals playing the different rabbis. 

Lulav: I love that?

Jaz: It was great. 

Lulav: Jaz?! Jaz! Cool. Can I tell you about some cool stuff that happened to me?

Jaz: Please. 

Lulav: I have basically no social life so most of these things actually do at least tangentially involve you (Jaz laughs) but there was another PowerPoint party recently and it was even more entertaining than the first, I would say, mostly because I actually to some degree prepared a PowerPoint ahead of time instead of just saving a couple of images, forgetting about it for several days, and then giving an off-the-cuff speech. So since the general audience is a little less sciency —  

Jaz: Way to drag my friends! 

Lulav: It's not a drag! It's just like, a thing! It's good because as somebody who's trained as an eighth grade science teacher and therefore has a proximate knowledge of many things I can find cool topics that I was entertained by when I learned about them and teach them to friends in like five minutes.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: So this particular one, the concept got a little muddied, but I started with, “How do you tell what time Shabbat starts?” I use that as a way to talk about the different time factors that affect when sunset is. 

Jaz: Who knew it takes so much math to be Jewish?

Lulav: (snorts) That is a joke right? (Jaz laughs) But anyway, point is, I did talk mostly about astronomy and unbeknownst to me (Jaz chuckles) the Hawk brought one of their favourite topics which were flat earthers. 

Jaz: I feel the need to defend her honour to clarify that she is not herself a flat earther for the sake of everybody else listening.

Lulav: Yean no, I was about to clarify that too because the Hawk is too cool for that? No, she's just really interested in flat-earthers and this was not by and large a defense of Flat Earth hypotheses, other than me incredulously being like, “Wait, how can they believe that?” and her being like, “I don't know” and me being like, “I don't know either.” (Jaz laughs) But yeah it was really cool I enjoyed her presentation and she recommended one particular documentary and so that day or the next I just went and watched the documentary and it was very straight, right? Except for, okay: so there were like four people in the documentary who the Hawk mentioned and had little pictures of in her presentation, and I was like, “Okay, that person looks boring, that person looks boring, that person looks fashy — oh, hi.” And I wasn't sure why the Hawk had included the fourth person because the description that she gave was mostly like, “is there to make fun of them.”

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: But when I watched it there was a cute astronomer lady and she had dyed hair and I guess that's my queer thing (laughs) for the week. 

Jaz: Oh my G-d. I thought the queer thing was just that all of us were there at this party.

Lulav: Well, yes, and all of us were Jewish. 

Jaz: And also you got introduced to a via the Hawk, like… 

Lulav: Yeah. Yeah like everybody involved with queer and Jewish — 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: — to be fair, Just like one of the salient things is I'm a lesbian. 

Jaz: Uh huh. Uh huh. 

Lulav: Though also I was here because I was a lesbian. My boyfriend invited me to hang out with their friends, (Jaz laughs) so, you know, whatever.

Jaz: I wanted to throw in one more thing. 

Lulav: Okay, yes please. 

Jaz: This is not a lesbian thing although it does involve people who are u-hauling. 

Lulav: G-d! What?

Jaz: (laughs) Which is that I went to my friend's wedding celebration. 

Lulav: Mm!

Jaz: And my friend is Jewish — this is a Jewish thing — she just got married and I think she's the first person sort of in my social circle who I'm close to like, who's of my age, who got married. (Lulav chuckles) She's a little bit younger than me, her husband seems very nice, they did get engaged after dating for two weeks, (Lulav sighs) and got married within a couple of months, (Lulav sighs, but louder) so I don't know him very well. 

Lulav: I'm sighing directly into the microphone now. (both laugh)

7:29

Jaz: But I got to meet him at this like, socially distant celebration in her backyard. I wasn't at their actual wedding. And you know, they're an Orthodox couple. 

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: And now that's she married my friend is covering her hair and wearing a wig and also seems really happy and um —

Lulav: Cool.

Jaz: I hadn't been at a gathering quite like this before so I saw people doing the sheva brachot, a series of prayers basically that are like blessings and prayers for the newlyweds that other people do for them.

Lulav: Oh yay.

Jaz: And that was very sweet. A man who I didn't know pointed at me and said that I should get married.

Lulav: What? (both laugh) Oh, said that you should get married.

Jaz: That I should get married.

Lulav: I thought this man pointed to you and was like, “I should get married to this person!”

Jaz: (chuckling) No. No, it was more of a like, he was an elder being like, all of you young people should get married!

Lulav: (laugh) Okay. Alright.

Jaz: Anyway, so that was my very-not queer but Jewish —

Lulav: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Good Thank you for sharing.

Jaz: Yeah. Are you ready to get started?

Lulav: I am.

8:41
[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. This week, our chevruta is studying Ki Teitzei. 

Jaz: We sure are. 

Lulav: Did I get that word for word? 

Jaz: Yes. 

Lulav: I forgot to open the script and so I was just like doing that off the dome. 

Jaz: Oh I think in that case, you switched one of the words — 

Lulav: Nooooo.

Jaz: But in no particular way that was important or relevant. 

Lulav: (laughs) Okay cool. So can you tell us a little bit about Ki Teitzei?

Jaz: Sure. Can I have 30 seconds in which to do so? 

Lulav: Thirty seconds are on the clock. Three, two one, go. 

Jaz: This week, we get a bunch of new rules and some old rules, many of which are so horrifying that later rabbis took considerable time to re-define them so narrowly that they’re basically never applicable! (Lulav chuckles) This includes things about the death penalty, proper parenting and spousal relationships, and rape. But also, haircuts indicate a change in social identity, clothes are connected to gender expression, fairness is important, and everyone in the community needs to be fed, so you can’t horde stuff. However, the text does act like virginity is a thing (ringer goes off) creates the category of a mamzer, and repeats the somewhat self-defeating injunction to wipe out the name of Amalek.  

Lulav: Right? Okay, so you were like five-ish seconds over.

Jaz: Oh-kaaay.

Lulav: Unfortunately. So we have to end the podcast here. The project is over.

Jaz: So I can go hide in a hole at this abject failure.

Lulav: No, it is because you have to be stoned in front of the community. Thus we will sweep out evil from our midst.

Jaz: Ahhhh.

Lulav: All Yisrael will hear and be afraid.

Jaz: Ahhh.

Lulav: Sorry.

Jaz: Uh, I propose we don't need to, because Rabbi Yochanon is going to say in a couple generations (Lulav laughs) that I only need to be flogged and that only if I’m between the ages of 13 and 14. (Lulav chuckles) Yeah.

Lulav: Can you tell me what Ki Teitzei means?

Jaz: That's a good question.

Lulav: Is it like, who takes the field?

Jaz: So it doesn't include "the field," I don't believe. (page turning noises) Or "who" actually. Ki Teitzei is "when you go forth."

Lulav: Oh, okay.

Jaz: Or alternately, you might prefer this translation. It's "when you come out."

Lulav: (Laughs) Huh. Okay! I do like that.

Jaz: (laughs) Which, honestly! If this parsha is about right when you come out, my friend Evvan has a thing about how the first year after somebody comes out is their gay year (Lulav chuckles) and they get to loop every single other covnersation around to them being gay, and they get to because inevitably they will. And you just gotta live with that for the first year, until it's just a regular part of who they are as a person and then they don’t talk about it constantly. My point being, when somebody first comes out, they're kinda messy and they don't know how to be properly part of a community yet, and this parsha is kinda messy and it doesn't quite know what it's doing yet (Lulav laughs) which is why other rabbis had to deal with it later.

Lulav: Good. Yeah, I'm just like, I get the gay year thing, but also, who doesn't loop every conversation (Jaz laughs) back around to one of their identities? (Laughs) If there's anything I learned from Felix Ever After. 

Jaz: (laughs) Yeah, also, I gushed about Felix Ever After, I think on an earlier episode and now you have also read it. Which —

Lulav: Yeah! Jaz was kind enough to send me a bunch of books and it's all like, gay YA. I have really enjoyed the first book that I breezed through. I liked what Jaz said about it. You kind of hate some of the characters, but it's like, they are well-written. It was a good book. Extremely dated to 2019, but. (giggles)

Jaz: All YA is going to — sorry, we can't go down this path. Not right now.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: This is going to be too long of an episode.

Lulav: Right, we need to actually finish this and go places, because we both have time commitments. Okay! So what happens in this parsha, more specifically?

Jaz: Okay, so on the one hand nothing. (Lulav snorts) Just because you're a plot orientated person — nothing happens in this parsha.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

13:32

Jaz: But on the other hand, we get a bunch of rules. And we start with this one — if you take prisoners of war and one of them is a beautiful woman who you want to be with, you can marry her. You bring her back to your house, she cuts her hair and her nails, changes clothing, spends a month lamenting her family, and then gets married.

Lulav: So remember how Cassidy was like, these rules may seem really bad, but also, they are a slight improvement of the rules of the time! (chuckles) 

Jaz: Uh huh.

Lulav: I feel like that's relevant here.

Jaz: Okay. Please say more.

Lulav: Like, you can capture a wife just because you think she's hot, but you do have to let her mourn her family and like, take care of her health and wellbeing and if you think she's fugly or too difficult, you gotta not enslave her.

Jaz: Yes.

Lulav: Treat her rightly.

Jaz: Yes. That is... all absolutely true and.. (Lulav snorts) present.

Lulav: Like, agreed, generally, but also this is based on the premiose, when you fight people and murder a bunch of them and take others captive, and one of the captives is hot and you want her as a wife.

Jaz: Y-yeah.

Lulav: Which, wild premise.

Jaz: Yeah. So, I went through this parsha and looked at a bunch of the Talmud commentary — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — on the bits that struck me as horribly outrageous because of them they really walk it back and this is one of the ones where they like, walk it back a little bit.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: They're saying like, “What if this isn't exactly a prisoner of war but it is a woman who is from a group of people who are not Israelites,” who maybe you have historically fought with?

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Which is to say, this is about can you marry a convert.

Lulav: Mm. Okay

Jaz: And the sort of end result is, yes you can.

Lulav: (laughs) Cool. I think also, this specific passage takes place under the assumption that people have gone out and murdered other people for political reasons.

Jaz: Mm.

Lulav: So, you gotta think about what people who have gone out en masse and murdered other people and are now taking humans as bounty are gonna do. And so I guess this is a commandment that's like, “Do the absolute least instead of just going hog wild and like, mistreating all of your captives.” It's like saying, “Cops are not allowed to do choke holds unless their lives are threatened,” because like, the entire thing of like, bargaining with somebody who is armed and has the legal authority to kill you is like, you can't.

Jaz: Okay, but the “cops are not allowed to do choke holds unless their lives are threatened” is bad. Like —

Lulav: That's what I'm saying. This is still bad. (giggles)

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Like what if instead of this, we just didn't take humans as bounty or sexually abuse people via capturing them?

Jaz: Uh huh?

Lulav: Anyway sorry, I didn't intend to talk a whole bunch about this specific thing. Is there anything else that you have thought-wise?
 
Jaz: I do actually there's a whole thing about, “And then she'll cut her hair and her nails” and that this indicates is changing her status socially and I think that that is an interesting thing. Cutting your hair and your nails indicates things about how you relate to other people.

Lulav: Mm! And also you are allowed sharp edges.

Jaz: Ooh!

Lulav: And the next part is, “And discard her captive’s garb,” so like, maybe that is part of the social standing, is, you are allowed to have scissors and knives and stuff. 

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: Which you wouldn't if you were just like, a captive. 

Jaz: Nice. I was thinking of it somewhat separately actually like in a more theoretical sense what happens if you from the context of just being a captive and think more exactly of what does it mean that cutting your hair is indicative of a change in your social status?

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: Partially because that's kind of how I operate in the world, right? Cutting my hair is important to me. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And also we have biblical analogues of people who keeping their hair long was very important to them, like Samson — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — who draws strength from having long hair, and we had stuff about nazarites too, like, cutting your hair is related to upholding your vow or not. Yeah, I just think it's an interesting note that your hair indicates how other people interact with you, and how you interact with the rest of the world.

Lulav: Okay. Thanks for that insight. Then what happens?

Jaz: So — 

Lulav: Well, nothing, but then what are we told?

Jaz: There’s a person who has two spouses, and there is a loved spouse and a hated one.

Lulav: Oh, is that how it's translated? 

Jaz: No. That is, however, what it means. 

Lulav: Wow. 

Jaz: Does yours say, “loved — 

Lulav: And unloved?” Yeah. 

Jaz: Sure does. So, I was curious about it because my translation says “loved and unloved” also and that makes it sound like you're in love with one person and one person you're just kind of with out of obligation, right, but the text for love has “ahuva,” which is clear and like, related to the word “ahava” which is love. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And so if it was going to be “unloved” I might have expected it to be “lo ahuva” or “ein ahuva” — something that’s the same word but with a negation in front of it. 

Lulav: Right.

Jaz: It is instead an entirely different word, “shanua,” which is really like, hate. 

Lulav: Okay. Okay! Fancy. 

Jaz: Um, and the point that they have here is that even if your child is from a relationship that you hated, you have to treat those children as equal to the children from the spouse that you loved.

Lulav: Mm hmm. That's not been the case necessarily (coughs) Yaakov (coughs) (Jaz laughs). So this is so this is kind of a, “hey, don't do what your grandpas did,” huh?

Jaz: Yeah, maybe.  I had a question for you — 

Lulav: Oh, sure. 

Jaz: — which is, does this bit right sensibly for you in terms of these being standards for different people you have relationships with?

Lulav: Sorry, as a polyamory thing or as a general thing?

Jaz: I mean, I think both. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: This is specifically in the context of the person married to multiple people, but like — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: If you have insights of it in any other kind of relationship, I would love to hear those too. 

Lulav: So I feel iffy about prioritizing inheritance based on birth order.

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: But like, I think that following the trends of inheritance based on birth order that everybody else is doing and like, following those trends with your actual birth order rather than prioritizing the Rakhel over the Leah — that seems very reasonable and wise. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: My other thought is that if you hate somebody you should probably break up with them. (Jaz laughs) So, tell us a little bit more. Stop after the stoning part ‘cos —

Jaz: Great! 

Lulav: — then I have a question. 

Jaz: Great. Okay so, we jump straight from children to another thing about children —

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — which is, if you have a wayward and defiant son who does not heed any of his parents even after disciplinary action, his parents take hold of him and bring him to the elders and denounce him and they all stone him to death and thus we will sweep out evil from your midst. All of Israel will hear and be afraid. 

Lulav: So, just checking with you for a second — 

Jaz: Yup, yup. 

Lulav: This is, you have a child and you kill the child ceremonially as a way to improve the standing of your nation. Am I good so far?

Jaz: I don't think improving the standing of your nation. 

Lulav: Uh? “Thus you will sweep out evil from your midst. All Yisrael will hear and be afraid.” 

Jaz: That's not improving the standing of your nation is it? That's about, like — 

Lulav: I — I guess. Okay so basically where I was going with this is how are we spinning this so that it's not child sacrifice?

Jaz: Oh sure! I mean mostly the way we're spinning this is by saying, “Oh, that's not what it meant.” Right? Let me read you quickly some Sanhedrin 68b where they are elaborating on this case. 

Lulav: Good. 

Jaz: And they're asking, “From when does a stubborn and rebellious son become liable to receive this death penalty”? They have “from when he grows two pubic hairs until he has grown a beard around,” the “lower beard” quote-unquote surrounding his genitals “and not the upper beard,” “but the Sages spoke in euphemistic terms.” 

Lulav: Thanks Sefaria. (laughs)

Jaz: They do this fairly frequently in the Talmud, actually. It's a time. Anyways, so it's a very short period of time, and the reason is as it is stated if a man has suffered from a rebellious son which indicates the penalty is imposed upon a son and not a daughter, (Lulav chuckles) upon a son but not a fully grown man, plus if they're properly a minor, a minor is excempt from the death penalty so, It can't apply to a man and it can't apply to a minor and it can't apply to women at any age so…  it can only apply to this very narrow window just on the cusp of adulthood. That’s the only time it's allowed to be applicable and then Rabbi Yochanan also chimes in that it wasn't anyway talking about killing but only about flogging — it's like, a whole thing. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: Anyway, so mostly what they do is they're like, “No, no, no. You thought we were talking about recklessly killing our children? No, no, no, no, no. It can only apply under this very very tiny set of myriad circumstances!”

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: There's no evidence that this has ever been carried out.

Lulav: (scoffs) Good. A little bit before in Sanhedrin we are told by Big Judes that his friend Biggie said the only people you should seat as judges are ones who look at the carcass of a creeping animal and say “that's pure anyway.” So, can you yourself think of a different way by which you would basically legislate this punishment out of existence, i.e. say that a disloyal and defiant child is actually chill? 

Jaz: Oh, I feel like there's many ways. (Lulav giggles) One, If you say that capital punishment is banned as a community, then you just can't use it against anybody — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And also if you say, “Well, you can't kill a child because then you would be disappointing your parents and then you would be acting as the rebellious child.”

Lulav: Oooooh. Did you just make that up?!

Jaz: Or — yes?

Lulav: Okay! Wow! I'm fannin’ myself. (Jaz laughs) We should maybe move on before this becomes a different kind of podcast. 

Jaz: Oookay! 

Lulav: Okay. So, thank you very much for that wisdom. What's the next bit?

Jaz: The next bit, we leap between very tangentially connected topics; that's how this whole thing is structured. So, then we're like, well, what happens if there is capital offense? It's “you must bury a person on the same day.” This is also the origin of where lots of our funeral traditions come from. 

Lulav: Mmm. 

Jaz: LIke, traditionally Jews get buried within 24 hours. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: And, they have this thing here where you must bury a person on the same day if they're guilty of a capital offense, and, everybody gets buried within 24 hours. 

Lulav: Yeah, would you do less for somebody who isn't guilty of a capital offense?

Jaz: I don't know. I mean, in practice I know, but traditionally everybody gets buried that quickly. 

Lulav: Okay, so I just have one question about this, which isn't like, a very interesting question. It's just have we had impalements in Torah up until this point or am I confusing that with Trickster's Choice?

Jaz: We have not had impalements. 

Lulav: Okay, so that was Tamora Pierce, cool. (Jaz laughs) Uh, you can move on. 

Jaz: I'll also note that impalement isn't a way people get killed really. It's like, uh — 

Lulav: It's a display. 

Jaz: Yeah, after they're dead. Okay. And then we have stuff about right treatment of other people like if somebody has lost one of their herd animals you gotta take it back, and — 

Lulav: Rabbis love this by the way. I think I've heard at least two dvar Torah — Toro— devarim? Tora — I don't know enough grammar. I've heard at least two dvars about this. (laughing) 

Jaz: Good. Well done.

Lulav: (laughing) Thank you. 

Jaz: Yeah, it's very sweet. It's just, like, you can't leave it you have to take it back. And if it's falling down you have to help stand it back up. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Uhm, can we skip the — 

Lulav: Oh whoops. 

Jaz: Yeah. You spotted the next — 

Lulav: (chuckling) Looks what’s further down on the page! 

Jaz: That's what I was gonna say. You know how there's that line Leviticus where people are like if you're looking for an anti-gay line in the Torah, this is the closest you're going to find? 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Well, if you're looking for a similar thing about trans people in the Torah this is the closest you're going to find. 

Lulav: I do want to know that this says, “A woman must not put on man’s apparel nor shall a man wear women's clothing,” which I think means you should — 

Jaz: You're commanded to wear dresses?

Lulav: Well no, you are — if you are going to have a system of gender in the first place — 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: You are commanded to give people a clear way to express that so they don't get misgendered unless it is maliciously. 

Jaz: Ooooh, I like that! 

Lulav: Like, basically there should be ways of dressing that are unique to women and unique to men so that if I go out in a really nice dress and I have my hair covered and like everything is pretty clear that I'm a woman, it shouldn't be a thing where some people are like, “Oh, well, boys can dress femininely so I just assumed blah blah blah blah.” (Jaz laughs) No. No. It's very clear what's going on here. 

Jaz: For people not to be mishearing us, we also do think that like, boys can dress in whatever they want, but like — 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: — not the point. 

Lulav: Just like,  if we're going to have boys can dress femininely as a thing that everybody should know, first it should be known that if you want to be a girl you can be. 

Jaz: Uh huh! 

Lulav: Among all people. 

Jaz: Uh huh!

Lulav: And once there's room for all people who, hey, maybe a decade after they start thinking about it realize maybe they're girls — 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: — then we can be like “It is so important that there be no differences in signalling via clothing.”

Jaz: Okay! 

Lulav: Is my opinion on that. 

Jaz: Okay!

Lulav:  Anyway, enough of me being angry. (both laugh) 

Jaz: Never. 

Lulav: Aw. 

Jaz: Do you have anything else you want to say about that particular line or should we move on?

Lulav: No, the first new thing I'm seeing is line 13 so you can keep chugging. 

Jaz: Okay! Then, just quickly the bits that I'm skipping are, if there's a bird you’ve got to pick it up.  If you make a new house and there's going to be people hanging up on the roof that you have to build fences and rails so that people don't fall off. 

Lulav: I love that. 

Jaz: I do too actually, it reminds me of how all bridges should have rails. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Also there are things about proper sowing of your vineyards, you shall not plow using an ox and a donkey together. This is actually also very sweet because the reason you can't do that is because the donkey is much smaller than the ox so it would just be the ox pulling all of it mostly, and it's not fair. 

Lulav: Yeah! They would be unequally yoked is — 

Jaz: Yeah! 

Lulav: — is, I think a thing that — I really hope that doesn't just appear in Christian scripture. 

Jaz: Mmm. Might though… Then there's a small note about also a tzitzit! And then we have some more marriage rules. We’re going to have marriage rules for a bit. (Lulav laughs) This one is, a dude marries a woman and then decides he doesn't like living with her anymore and instead of just divorcing her, which he could do, he makes up a lie about her and spreads it around. 

Lulav: Which, I will note, that's one of the Ten Commandments that you don't do that!

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: It’s in the Ark of the Covenant that you do not do that. 

Jaz: So, her family is not thrilled about this lie and takes him to court about it basically and if it's proven that he's lying he gets flogged and then he's not allowed to ever divorce her, which I know sounds terrible, that she would have to stay married to this dude — 

Lulav: But she has access to his household, and like — 

Jaz: — and resources, it's I think meant more to be it's about he has to financially provide for her for the rest of her life. 

31:26

Lulav: Mm hmm. So, there's an implication here — 

Jaz: Uh huh.

Lulav: Because the parents of the wife must bring evidence that she was a virgin and it sounds like the evidence they're using is wedding night sheets where they had penetrative intercourse and she bled all over the place. Is that a fair interpretation of what they say here?

Jaz: It's a little vague but I think that's a reasonable interpretation. Would you like to talk more about why that's unfortunate, because I think that's a useful thing to touch on?

Lulav: So, a, some people don't rupture their hymens when they have penetrative intercourse for the first time. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. 

Lulav: Especially in the modern-day when anyone has used tampons, that will often tear or cause to recede the hymen long before the first time of penetrative intercourse. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: And also, just like, if you're doing it right and you have a little bit of wind up — like, so I live in Minnesota and several months out of the year it is very cold, and so if you want to drive your car you should probably let the engine warm up a little bit — 

Jaz: Oh my G-d. 

Lulav: — so that the difference between cooled and heated car tissues — parts of the engine I guess — doesn't cause the engine to crack in any way or otherwise wear out. And a similar thing is true when you are pleasin’ your wife, which is that if you warm the engine up — 

Jaz: Oh-kay. 

Lulav: — the hymen is  much less likely to rupture. Like, it's just a membrane, it's fine. Just don't, (sighs) don't make people you care about bleed, unless they ask you to and you're exercising safe — whatever. Don't make people you care about bleed. 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: Is where I'm going to finish that up. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: Also it's weird that your parents just like, take the bed sheets and keep them somewhere. Like, what?

Jaz:  I mean, I think it's for this explicit purpose, right?

Lulav: Yeah! Right? Like, the only way that this would be a thing is if everybody just does this. 

Jaz: And everybody must for self protection. 

Lulav: I hate this. 

Jaz: Right, also the whole thing is premised on virginity as a thing — 

Lulav: Also that! 

Jaz: — and it's kind of not. 

Lulav: Do you want to talk a little bit more about that?

Jaz: It's not real! Sure. (Lulav laughs) Um, yeah I mean virginity is an unfortunate concept to base your system around — 

Lulav: Mm hmm!

Jaz: — in a number of ways and one of the ways in which the unfortunate is it is premised on the notion of there's something wrong with a person, specific usually a woman — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — if she's had sex multiple times or with multiple people, that that is in some way denigrating of her, that's why this, in this context, is slander and a lie worthy of punishing somebody who spread it.

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Whereas, in a better world, and a better social understanding, it just wouldn't be slanderous because it wouldn't matter, in the same way that like, sometimes in modern day, people leak other people’s nudes and they're like oh this is very embarrassing for the person whose photos have been leaked? That's only true if you think that there's something wrong with having taken naked photographs as an adult. 

Lulav: Right, which, lots of employers sure do!

Jaz: Right — 

Lulav: For some reason. 

Jaz: So, you would think that the problem is one person has violated another person's trust — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: But for some reason it gets more translated as there's something wrong with your body. 

Lulav: G-d. 

Jaz: Or there's something wrong with yourself for having taken those photographs. 

Lulav: And, I think a reasonable thing about marriage law would be saying if there's something foundational to the agreement that you made with each other that you are making a life together — 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: — then that being provably false is a reason to get divorced. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: I think. Like, I still think that that's reasonable?

Jaz: Yeah! 

Lulav: But, virginity is just not a thing, my dudes. 

Jaz: Right. I mean, The other reason that virginity is the thing is that just because it, definitionaly and mechanically, for something like this tends to rely on a very binary and cisnormative and heternormative idea of what sex is.

Lulav: Right. 

Jaz: And that just isn't accurate and it means that you also end up with people in confusing situations who are like, I literally could not tell you if, uh — where someone might spread around rumors about whether or not the person is a virgin and then the truth would come down to, “Well I guess it depends on your perspective and definition of what sex is.” 

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. 

Jaz: ‘Cos different people just do different things with their bodies. 

Lulav: Also, just like even the standard of evidence has nothing to do with what sex is? Like, I hate this. Anyway, let's move on!

Jaz: Let's move on! Ok, so there's all of those things but there is all of this stuff happening about standards of behavior and punishing people for those standards of behavior. So like, there's this thing that comes right after — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — that's tied into this about if people are cheating on their spouses, both they and the person they cheat with die. Again, I think they walk back the literal death (Lulav laughs) for that penalty, but not the like, penalty idea. And then there's a thing about like, “well, what if they're engaged?” and “does it matter if it wasn't voluntary?” and the answer is, it definitely does matter if it wasn't voluntary. Even in the Torah’s text they say like, “If a man comes upon an engaged woman and attacks her, if she cries out for help, she is not subject to any of the punishments that might apply for cheating.” 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And if she is like out, distant in the countryside where nobody could hear her if she cried out for help, it's assumed that she did. 

Lulav: Yeah. I think that this is, mm, an under-nuanced view of how humans experience trauma, especially if you have set up a gender system where half of the people are supposed to be subservient and are also like prizes to be won? 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: Cuz like, just because you don't cry for help really actively doesn't mean you wanted it so that's the assumption that the text seems to be doing here. 

Jaz: Yeah. Yeah. It's not, um, as we might say in many respects — it's definitely an under-nuanced text and it doesn't take into account the full range of human reactions and ways that people can hurt other people. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And especially with how that plays out with gender violence and I would say that we know because there has been so much other interpretations on this parsha in the Talmud that if there is a value that you could extract here of you don't blame people for violence that other people perpetrated against them — 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Like, if you can extract that value and then say, “Yes we will need to do more interpretive work on this later (Lulav laughs) but we think that value is there,” I feel like that's a fair way to read the text.

Lulav: Yeah. I do too. 

Jaz: Okay, finally — 

Lulav: More!

Jaz: Oh my G-d, there's so much more. I would like to race through some of this. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Which is: they introduced the category of the mamzer, which is basically an illegitimate child. And it reads it as, “no mamzer shall be admitted into the congregation of the Eternal, and the descendant of such even in the tenth generation,” and I think what this in practice this ends up meaning is that illegitimate children can't marry priests?

Lulav: Mm. Okay, congregation of Hashem. Okay. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Okay, this makes much more sense, thank you. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Cuz, like, on the basis of ethnicity and issue in or out of wedlock, there is a permanent prevention of people from joining the “congregation of the Lord” and so that being specifically marrying into priesthood makes so much more sense — 

Jaz: Yeah.  

Lulav: — as a thing that I would want to be part of, (sigh) if you have to make those restrictions, only priest is fine. 

Jaz: I also want to be clear that it's not permanent. Tenth generation is a really long time but it's not permanent. Please consider how long the Jewish people have been around for.

Lulav: Yeaaah, but, ugh, it's like saying El-ahrairah is the prince of five enemies; it's not just five, there are a bunch of mustelids out there. 

Jaz: I don't understand this reference but I believe you. (Lulav laughs) I’m powering through, unless you want to explain what that reference is. 

Lulav: It's a Watership Down thing. I have mentioned it before but like, their god I guess? There's like a sun god, but also like a rabbit prince named The Prince of —  okay it's translated as a Prince of a Thousand Enemies but literally it translates to Prince of Five Enemies because rabbits can't count above five and so five or above is a big number. 

Jaz: That's cute!

Lulav: According to this text. And I think similarly, like, Moshe can't count above the 10th generation (Jaz laughs) even though he knows it exists. Like, he could look at 11 generations of history and be like, “ah! there are more than 10 generations here!” but in conceiving of it, 10 generations is just such a big number. 

Jaz: Did you know that there are languages that exist in the world that their basic counting is like one, two, three, many. 

Lulav: (laughs) Good. 

Jaz: Uh, it might be one, two, three, four, many. But, it's… good. There's also a thing about how if there's a slave whose running away you have to protect them and like, hide them. Then there's stuff about, you can't have… okay this is a little bit of an outside translation. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: It renders it as “no Israelite women shall be a prostitute, nor shall any Israelite man be a prostitute,” but it is probably more like “your priests and religious leaders can't be part of the sex cults that are also religious, that are some of the ways that your neighbouring communities worship.”

Lulav: I do want to note… 

Jaz: Yeah?

Lulav: I don't think that means sex work is illegal?

Jaz: No, I don't think so either. (Lulav laughs) Cuz it's like, you shall not bring the fee into the house of G-d, and I think, look, lots of the other things of this are read really narrowly and I think you could read this one really narrowly too. Like, you can't operate sex work at your local synagogue, (Lulav laughs) which seems fine to me? 

Lulav: Right?

Jaz: Like, that's fine, please operate it out of your home instead. Or, wherever else. 

Lulav: Or at least outside the synagogue. 

Jaz: What?

Lulav: If you’re going to arrange clients at shul, do it outside the synagogue. 

Jaz: Though I do want to put in a personal plug here that I think our system should be set up so we have more rabbis who are or were sex workers. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: I think the rabbinate would be better for it. 

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah.

Jaz: Right, so then there's stuff about you have to leave grapes and stuff on the vines in case people need it —

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: —and then we get your thing about what happens when people divorce. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: I'm actually just going to read this paragraph out because I have an interesting anecdote. 

Lulav: Okay, please. 

Jaz: A householder takes a wife, and becomes her husband. She fails to please him because he finds something obnoxious about her and he writes her a bill of divorcement, hands it to her, and sends her away from his home. There's a longer part of this paragraph, but that's the bit that I wanted to highlight because — 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: — when I went to go visit the reconstructionist rabbinical college, I sat in on a class — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: that was people presenting Jewish art work they had made. 

Lulav: I love this? 

Jaz: And one of the people in the class whose name, unfortunately I don't remember, had made a piece of art using the language of a get, I believe using this language of this paragraph and what this person had — 

Lulav: Mm, sorry just to translate, get is a bill of divorcement? 

Jaz: It sure is. 

Lulav: Okay, cool. 

Jaz: Not in this text I believe, I don't think thats the word it uses here — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: But just, in general that's what it's called. And so, what this rabbinical student had done was taken a picture of this and then cut out the words individually and then rearragent them in different sentences using the same words so it said different things. 

Lulav: Oookay. 

Jaz: And by rearranging those created a number of different alternate scenarios (Lulav chuckles). Including one where she divorced him, sure, but also something entirely different and a whole variety of different scenarios that led to the dissolution of the marriage. And I thought it was both very cool and very beautiful and also this student ended with one particular arrangement of the words that said “all of these scenarios are different ways that marriages could have ended. I like this one best because I feel like it captures best how I feel about my divorce”.

Lulav: Awe. Do you remember what that sentence was?

Jaz: (sighs) I could not reconstruct it from this — 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: But it was something about “there is something obnoxious that fails to please, and so we have given each other a bill of divorcement so that we may both be in a better situation. 

Lulav: Yeah. Cool. 

Jaz: Yeah! Yeah. It really impressed upon me the way that like, when you bring people with different experiences and different voices like you can find things in the Torah that you wouldn't have found otherwise. 

Lulav: Hmm! 

Jaz: You gotta wrestle with this text and sometimes cut it to pieces and put it back together. 

Lulav: Yeah. I love that. That's a really cool insight. 

Jaz: Right?

Lulav: And I think the practice of Judaism beyond the text is when you come out with a bunch of different interpretations. 

Jaz: Hell yeah. I do think that you gotta make the text real and personal and queered and you know, all of the things!

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Then there's stuff about like, you gotta have equal weights and fair measures and uh, parents can't be punished for their children or children for their parents, only their own things they've done wrong and— 

Lulav: Which, that feels like a contradiction of something else that we've gotten elsewhere. 

Jaz: Uh huh! (Lulav laughs) Yeah, what was that about the mamzer earlier this parsha? Hm! 

Lulav: Oh also that! I think what that's really saying is that we shouldn't have priests. 

Jaz: Hah hah hah! And then stuff about you gotta leave food in the field so nobody goes hungry. People can be punished but not too much because they have to be part of the community and they can't be degraded in the eyes of the community. We're not sending anybody to prison for life or whatever. If somebody dies and his brother doesn't agree to marry his widow in order to like, provide a social safety net for her basically she gets to bring him before the courts. Also, we are almost done and there's two absolutely wild things that happened here near the end. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: One of them is right at the very end. You have to remember how Amalek was terrible to you and you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget. 

Lulav: (scoffs) Right?

Jaz: Which is a wild thing to say in that order of words.

Lulav: Uhm… I… yeah, what? 

Jaz: I actually really appreciate that the text has given us something, in our 613 commandments, a commandment that is literally impossible to do. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: I think it's good humility. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: And I also like it in the sense of, if it's like, hey, people who did bad? We should get rid of the bad things forever. Blot it out. (Lulav scoffs) Uhm, you have to strive to do that forever! Also, you are literally never going to be able to succeed in that. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. Nor should you! Cuz, you should remember what bad things there can be so that you don't do them again. 

Jaz: Mmmm. 

Lulav: You blot out the immediacy of that memory from under all the skies. 

Jaz: Hmmm. The last thing that I want to end with actually comes just before the Amalek thing, but it's still wild so… Two men get into a fight with each other and the wife of one comes out to save her husband from his antagonist and puts out her hand and seizes him by his genitals. You shall cut off her hand. 

Lulav: What. 

Jaz: Show no pity (laughs). 

Lulav: Hey! Hey! Can I just point out, the next line is “you shall not have in your pouch alternate weights, larger and smaller”.

Jaz: (still laughing) Uh huh! 

Lulav: Wh- wh? Bu- the. The other thing is if we take this euphemistically — 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: — anybody who has multiple weights is going to have one above and below. 

Jaz: What?

Lulav: Sorry, okay, so, genital biology? Uhm, testies are staggered so that it's like, harder to destroy or severely wound both of them at once. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: So everybody has… everybody who has at least two testicles has one that rides higher and one that rides lower. So, if we take this as an extension of genital talk, this is another one that you literally can't do. 

Jaz: Oh fascinating! Okay. 

Lulav: But mostly I just think that Moshe was like, hey if there are two astronauts on the moon and one kills the other with a rock… 

Jaz: (laughs) Yeah! Yeah, yeah… 

Lulav: How messed up would that be? And then immediately goes into another thing without segway. 

Jaz: Yeah… for what it's worth the rabbis are also really baffled by this (Lulav laughs)... and they're like “uh, I guess we can fine her for it? We don't actually have to cut off her hands”.

Lulav: Okay. Cool. Are we done with the parsha? 

Jaz: We are done with the parsha! 

Lulav: Baruch Hashem. 

Jaz: It is such a long parsha, thank you for bearing with us. 

Lulav: Yes, thank you dear listener. This production is brought to you by viewers by you. 

Jaz: (laughs) Quite literally, join our patreon. Lulav, does that mean you're ready for rating G-ds writing, the segment in which we pick two scales and rate the parsha based on them?

Lulav: I sure am! 

Jaz: Okay, so, Lulav, if this parsha —

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — was one year, that was the first year you came out (Lulav laughs), how many days of the year would you give this parsha? 

Lulav: I would give this parsha 370 days because there's a lot of really interesting stuff to talk about when you talk about how gay you are, more than you would expect, and so like, some of that time is wasted just being like “hey i'm gay! Did you know that? I'm gay.” saying the really basic stuff over and over again, but also there is just so much more nuance and things that you don't hear talked about but that you and people you care about can talk about together? You make a gay life out of your gay year —- 

Jaz: Aweeee. 

Lulav: — and so I think 370 / 365.25 days is what I'd rate this parsha. 

Jaz: Awe! 

Lulav: Though to be clear about half of those days are just repeating the fact that you are gay in a really cringy way. 

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: So, Jaz, if this parsha insists on saying some of the most heinous stuff in it, what would you do out of the entire process of being in the presence of elders, pulling the sandal off of the parshas foot, spitting on the parsha and saying “thus shall be done to the parsha who will not build up his brothers house, and he shall go in Yisrael by the name “Parsha of the unsandaled one”. Of those like four things… 

Jaz: Thank you for bringing that into our rating session since we did not go into detail about it (Lulav laughs) in the parsha and it is wild. 

Lulav: Uh huh. 

Jaz: So are you saying which steps of the proces?

Lulav: Yeah. Like, this parsha insists on saying some of the more heinous stuff, like saying it in the pshat rather than interpreting it the way that we have done. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: And so, how do you feel about that- like, how aggressively do you pursue this ceremony of discharging the levir’s duty by annulment. 

Jaz: Sure… I think what you gotta do is think of this as like, what is the transformative justice model that we want to apply to this heinous way of thinking? So, I think you go through the process of like, you bring them to the elders of your community and you talk about why it's bad and you go through the like, yeah you get to walk around (Lulav giggles) as the unsandaled one, and then you have like, another series of meetings regularly about like, and here's how you can earn your place back in the community and — 

Lulav: Awe. 

Jaz: — that is by re-interpreting it into a way that we can all live with. 

Lulav: Yeaaah. I love that. Jaz, can you take us to the close?

Jaz: Yeah. Thank you 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 my lovely co-host, Lulav Arnow. 

Lulav: Thank you, and I'd love to give a special shoutout to my friends Big Judes and Biggie —

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: —who I think about all the time. So, our transcript team of Jaz, Reuben, DiCo, and Khesed brings you full transcripts of every episode, which is the real shoutout that I want to make, and you can find a link to those in the episode descriptions on Buzzsprout.

Jaz: I can't believe I let you get away with calling the rabbis that. -- 

Lulav: It's liter- okay. 

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 and Lulav: Have a lovely queer Jewish day!

[Brivele outro music]

Lulav: This week’s gender is waking to a soft buzz where you sleep through loud music. 

Jaz: This week’s pronouns are e/em/eir.