Kosher Queers

46 — Ki Tavo: Curse Mountain

September 03, 2020 Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow
Kosher Queers
46 — Ki Tavo: Curse Mountain
Kosher Queers
46 — Ki Tavo: Curse Mountain
Sep 03, 2020
Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow


This week, we talk about manga Jaz read in middle school, whether it's better or worse to read blessings and curses as gendered, and the possibilities of lesbian separatists. Plus there are wombs that are also minds.

Transcript available here; it may not be fully completed this week, and if not, that will be fixed ASAP.

The books Lulav read, courtesy of Jaz's bookshelf, were Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, and Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett, all queer YA books with queer authors. (The author of Leah on the Offbeat just came out literally this week.)

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

Support the show (

Show Notes Transcript


This week, we talk about manga Jaz read in middle school, whether it's better or worse to read blessings and curses as gendered, and the possibilities of lesbian separatists. Plus there are wombs that are also minds.

Transcript available here; it may not be fully completed this week, and if not, that will be fixed ASAP.

The books Lulav read, courtesy of Jaz's bookshelf, were Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli, and Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett, all queer YA books with queer authors. (The author of Leah on the Offbeat just came out literally this week.)

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

Support the show (

Lulav: Hi Jaz. 

Jaz: Hey Lulav. 

Lulav: How are you doing this week?

Jaz:  I'm doing pretty good, how about you?

Lulav: I… am underslept but feeling really productive. 

Jaz: Good. 

Lulav: Those two things are not directly related to each other, but you know. (chuckles) 

Jaz: What's something cool or queer or Jewish you did this week?

Lulav: That's a good question I have been pondering this very deeply and I think the most Jewish thing that I could come up with was making fun of Ben Shapiro — 

Jaz: Oh no. 

Lulav: — with Tova — 

Jaz: Oh no. 

Lulav: — but that's not something that I particularly want to share because the less that I mention Ben Shapiro the better. 

Jaz: Yes. 

Lulav: Anyways, he's a shande far di goyim. 

Jaz: Uh huh. What about queer things? Didn't you read several books this week? 

Lulav: I did read several books. I talked about this last episode but you, Jaz, sent me three whole books of young adult literature which is something that I haven't read very much of recently and most of the stuff that I had read previously was John Green.  There was some Maureen Johnson, so at least I experienced occasional female writers but like… yeah. Anyway, point is there are three books, all involving queer people — 

Jaz: Uh huh.

Lulav: All written in the last three years, I think, is the most generous range that I want to give there?

Jaz: I don't remember when the earliest one was written but yes, sounds about right. 

Lulav: You mentioned Felix Ever After previously — 

Jaz: I did. 

Lulav:  — and that was from this year. And then there's also Leah on the Offbeat, which is the sequel to Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda? 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: I didn't read Simon vs, or see the movie “Love, Simon” that is based on it.  

Jaz: I did both of those things. 

Lulav: (chuckles) Really?!

Jaz: I sure did. 

Lulav: Sorry, that “really” was less surprise at you and more surprise at the fact that movies I did not see exist. (both chuckle) Um, so that's where we're at mentally today but you were saying, about your experience. 

Jaz: Oh yeah, I read/watched both of those things. It was a fun time! Also like, several years ago, but, yeah. 

Lulav: Yeah. And then, I think, of the three books, my favourite was Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett, who is an infant, not to say that disparagingly just like —

Jaz: She wrote it as a teenager. It's so cool! 

Lulav: Yeah, she's like… 21 and published. 

Jaz: Also she wrote the book at like, 17. 

Lulav: That's amazing. Anyway, it had a lot of musical references that I — I think I… entirely understood? Which was wild because musicals are not my thing. It was made easy by the fact that most of those references that were specific were to Rent. (laughs)

Jaz: They are doing a play of Rent in the book. It's their high school musical. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Which is wild as a choice. (Lulav laughs) It's great. 

Lulav: Especially, aren't they a Catholic school?

Jaz: I don't think so. I think she used to go to Catholic school — 

Lulav: Or is that her old school and she went —

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Okay, so this is a public school, gotcha. But yeah the three main points of the book are there is a young Black girl who is a) living with HIV and fairly secretive about that fact?

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: And she b) has a huge crush on a boy, and c) hangs out with two lesbians and is coming to terms with the fact that she's bisexual. 

Jaz: One of them is bi. Only one of her friend is a lesbian.

Lulav: Right. Sorry. That's correct. There were several days in which I barely slept in between reading this and talking about it.

Jaz: Uh huh. Also you read it at like 2 in the morning, right?

Lulav: Ahhhhhh-ahhhhhh, no comment. (Jaz laughs) Anyway, it was really good.  I think they talked about Harry Potter about 100% less than the other two books, (laughs) which is not, you know, I'm not faulting the author because that's apparently just what 8 — 19 year olds talk about all the time? The one thing that I do find fault with —

Jaz: Oh?

Lulav: — Is they made a joke about a movie of Cats. (Jaz laughs) They were like “why would anybody make a movie of Cats?” and this was released in 2019 so this was a very pointed joke. And, listen, I hate the musical Cats; I actually kind of enjoyed the movie. It was a little straighter and whiter than I would have preferred but I think it told a more coherent story than the Broadway musical did. 

Jaz: Okay. Also, “a little straighter and whiter than you would have preferred” describes a lot of media. 

Lulav: Oh G-d yes. Well — yeah. 

Jaz: Not this book though! This book was great. (laughs) 

Lulav: Yeah, this book was amazing. To be fair, when I say “a little,” most of the stuff that I am counting non-straight is subtextual, cuz there's a very horny threesome scene that isn't technically a threesome scene. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: Anyways, that's enough about Cats (2019), and unfortunately enough about Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender, Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli and Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett. Jaz, has anything cool and queer or Jewish happened to you this week?

Jaz: Well, none of those books were things I read this week, but I would also re-iterate that they are great. 

Lulav: Yeah! 

Jaz: My synagogue finally got back to me — 

Lulav: (whispers) Yes!

Jaz: — about what the plan was for the school year so I confirmed that I'm going to be teaching remotely this year, which is very exciting news because now I can plan for the school year. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: By the time you got this, it's been like a month and it's like old news, but for me it's like, I go back to work next week, I'm so glad I have knowledge of my schedule, (Lulav laughs) and it means that I get to make other plans and that — 

Lulav: (faux-innocently) Oh, other plans?

Jaz: (audibly grinning) And that impacts my life in two respects. One of those is that I'm having lots of conversations with my roommates and the other people that I'm connected with in the city about all our different precautions we have in place and having more knowledge of my life makes it more possible to have those conversations, which is good, and the other one is that you can come visit me. 

Lulav: Yay! So when you get this episode, it's a week until I get to see Jaz in person for the first time ever. 

Jaz: (chuckles) I'm glad you looked at the calendar and know exactly when this episode is coming out cuz I don't remember exactly when this episode is coming out. 

Lulav: I might be off by a week. 

Jaz: Wait, let's check. This episode comes out on September 3rd, so it's two weeks. 

Lulav: Right, okay. Oh no! We won't get to do a live episode… of season 1! (Jaz laughs) Anyway, yeah, so we're really looking forward to season 2, and by “really looking forward to,” I mean we are extremely not thinking about it because we've got so much work to do. (laughs)

Jaz: Who can think of things that far in advance? We're in a pandemic. Anyway… 

[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 Ki Tavo. 

Jaz: We sure are. Lulav, do you have anything to say about this before we summarize it?

Lulav: All that I have to say is that I'm going to knock out the summary in 25 seconds. 

Jaz: Oooh, that's so fast. 

Lulav: So what's up? Oh actually, do you know what Ki Tavo means? I didn't look this up. 

Jaz: Ki is like “when” and tavo is related to “bo” as in like, “go” or “come,” so it's like when you enter. 

Lulav: Hm. Yeah, “when you enter,” okay. So, 25 seconds if you please. 

Jaz: Ready… set… go. 

Lulav: Is it 2005? Cuz we're bringing fruits basket to Temple. 

Jaz: Oh no. 

Lulav: Make sure that in the tithe year you give people 10 whole percent of your revenue. Poor people and priests gotta eat too! The learned elders tell us to build a Torah monument that would put Roy Moore to shame and we get yelled at at length by some Levites, including about the fact that we know it is in the Messianic age because Jewish bottoms still exist. (Jaz laughs) Moshe calls us stupid and then the parsha ends. 

[timer goes off]

Lulav: (both laugh) So… yeah. 

Jaz: I am so glad that you made that joke at the top of the episode. 

Lulav: (Laughs) It's not something that I would make during the body of the episode but definitely at the short summary. Wait — okay. Very important question; did you read Fruits Basket?

Jaz: I sure did. 

Lulav: Oh, I sure didn't, but I am surrounded by people who did. 

Jaz: Oh no. 

Lulav: (laughs) Listen, I have read my share of, mmm sub-par manga?

Jaz: I was a teen in middle school who only made friends through Japanese class. 

Lulav: Ah. That'll do it. (laughs)

Jaz: For our listeners sake, if you were not a middle school student in that particular niche — 

Lulav: Or alive in 2005. 

Jaz: Don't say that! How young are our listeners? —

Lulav: That's a thing that is possible with listeners now. (Jaz makes an upset noise and Lulav laughs) Anyway, go ahead. 

Jaz: No offense if you're young, but also how? (Lulav laughs) Anyway, Fruits Basket is — was? A manga and then a worse anime (Lulav laughs) of a girl who was staying with people who were embodiments of different animals from the zodiac and then like, falling in love with and having whole plots around figuring them out, especially cuz one of them was the cat who’s like, not really a member of the zodiac but really wanted to be and had angst about it. 

Lulav: Also if she touches them they turn into that zodiac animal? Is that how that works? 

Jaz: Oh, I forgot about that! Something like that. I found it very charming at the time. I was very into it. I haven't read it since I was like 13. (chuckles)

Lulav: Uh huh. That is a big mood. Things that I read when I was 13 were good, except for not if I ever read them again. (laughs) 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Anyway, that was quite a big tangent about our cultural references. Instead, I want to talk to you about what is actually in the Torah. 

Jaz: Yeah. Go for it. Take us through it. 

Lulav: Yeah, so while you're in the land, every harvest you must gather a sacrificial basket of the first fruits of the harvest and bring it to the temple where you then recite the cliff notes of Yisrael, captivity, exodus and promised land. Then you maybe or maybe don't have a feast, it's unclear to me based on the text. Any questions about this aliyah?

Jaz: (laughs) How do you feel about this line that says “my father was a fugitive Aramean”?

Lulav: It's interesting because I feel like we haven't gotten much about being Aramean or what that means?

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: Are you familiar?

Jaz: Not deeply! I mean, so, Aramaic is the later language but it doesn't exist yet when this is written. Aramean, I believe must be a group of people from this region but I don't wanna speak to it and say lots of things about it because I don't know them. 

Lulav: Right. I think it is an interesting description of what was going on with Yaakov, because on the one hand he was going as a fugitive to Egypt because the family was completely out of food. On the other hand, he was a wealthy herd owner so like… eh? But in general, yes, they went down to Egypt with meager numbers and became a great and very populous nation. 

Jaz: And it is true that when they went down to Mizrayim, somebody was sold into slavery and — 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: — the rest of the family came seeking food. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. Yeah, I'm… maybe it's because we've been reading the Torah for so long but I just assumed that getting captured by slavers was a thing that everybody worries about and has happened to at least one of their nine siblings. Uhm (laughing) this might be an inaccurate picture of how ancient Jewish life worked. 

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: Is it okay if I move onto the next bit?

Jaz: Please. 

Lulav: In the third year, the year of the tithe, you give 10 percent of your yield as the consecrated portion for community dependents to be fed. You also have to avow that you followed some very relevant food-related commandments and entreat that the Name continue blessing us with plenty. This makes the most sense, I think, when considered in the context that we've had a convenient and just swore that we held up our end of the agreement. This is backed up by the next aliyah where we talk about that very covenant. Any questions?

Jaz: Not so far! 

Lulav: Cool! Aliyah four. Also, I wrote all of my notes ahead of time in very explicit sentences which is a change. 

Jaz: Yeah! 

Lulav: (Laughs) Uh, aliyah 4. We get a slight shift in narrator, I think — I might have missed identical phrasings in the previous parashot, but, instead of Moshe talking at lengths, we now get Moshe and the elders of Yisrael charging the people. 

Jaz: Hmmm. 

Lulav: Do you have any commentary on that?

Jaz: I just have a question for you, which is — 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: — before when we have one narrator it was a fairly straightforward, one person was speaking and — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — the other people were dictating. But if there's multiple people speaking, you have a more complicated arrangement. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: So, do you think this implies that they take turns speaking or, he speaks to the elders and then the elders go out into their communities and say it to groups of people, or they all speak in unison like a hivemind, (Lulav laughs) or what's happening here? And what are the different theological implications in that?

Lulav: Okay, so something that I'm seeing in the subsequent quotes: “ Moshe and the elders of Israel charge the people saying observe all the instructions that I enjoin upon you this day.” I'm not sure how the “I” works out here?

Jaz: Mm hmm. I mean, I think the “I” is G-d. Do you not think so?

Lulav: But is it an explicit word?

Jaz: Mm. You mean is there a thing that says “I” or is it just implied by the conjugation?

Lulav: Yes. 

Jaz: It's explicit. It's over there in “anochi.”

Lulav: There we go, thank you. What that tells us is either the elders are just standing up next to Moshe like it's a State of Union address — 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: — and Moshe is still the only one talking. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: Or hive mind. Which would be wild. What are the theological implications?

Jaz: Yeah! 

Lulav: I don't know. 

Jaz: Okay, I have a thought. 

Lulav: Yes please. 

Jaz: Feel free to disagree with this thought, but I'm currently part of a decision making process in my personal life where we have to figure out how were going to be making decisions, and one part of that that someone brought up is, hey, if we're making a decision, do we have to be in consensus or do we just need a majority?

Lulav: That's smart to talk about. 

Jaz: Right. 

Lulav: Question, did you have a consensus on what the answer to that was or just a majority?

Jaz: (laughs) As it happened, on this particular instance, he said, “I would like to have a consensus on this particular question” and we got a consensus on that particular question.

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: But we have not yet established like, do we need a consensus for all time, every time we make a decision? Or did we just, was it just good luck that we had it last time?

Lulav: That was so Tanakh-ical of you. “A decision for all time.” (laughs)

Jaz: Anyway, we're deciding how we make decisions among other things at the next meeting — very Jewish of us. But I was just thinking of it because you could think of this here, I think, as they're speaking as one voice because they all came to consensus and they're speaking as if it comes from all of them, so they can all say the same line because they all agreed on it, is I think a possible interpretation, or he said one thing and they all agreed to copy it exactly and repeated it later. Like, when you're at a crowd for a protest and one person speaks and the rest of the crowd acts like a microphone and amplifies those exact words. 

Lulav: Yeah. So, in general I prefer less magical and more straightforward readings. 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: And so I was thinking, when you asked me this, about who would be talking and how did they figure out what they say? Like just thinking of the practicalities of speaking as a hive mind without magic is very funny because there's probably 20 times as much arguing as there was actual writing of the things that they were going to say. 

Jaz: Uh huh. But if you got everybody to practice the same thing you could still do it if you planned it in advance. 

Lulav: Yeah, exactly. 

Jaz: Or if you got them to all say like “whatever Moshe says, we’ll just say it again really loudly so everybody could hear it.”

Lulav: Right, there is consensus on the topics that will be talked about but they didn't need to figure out every single word because the person saying the words is right there. 

Jaz: Right. A better way that you could distribute knowledge to thousands of people in an age before microphones is do the human microphone thing. 

Lulav: And in an age I think mostly before writing materials?

Jaz: I don't think that's implied because Moshe writes the 10 commandments on tablets. But probably, you don't have lots of easy writing. 

Lulav: Yeah, most of the Torah is oral history, right?

Jaz: I believe that's correct. 

Lulav: So, yeah I think the crowd microphone is a really good way of helping that oral history because if you wanna remember things word for word, having somebody say it and then a  bunch of people repeat it, so that not only the people who repeated it have an example, but everybodies hearing these words over and over again. I think that's cool. 

Jaz: Right. This is why like, if you're trying to learn services and prayers and stuff, the thing they tell you to do is just go to services a lot. 

Lulav: Right? So, regardless of how the charging actually works, the charge they give is kind of novel. As soon as you cross the Jordan, write the entire Torah on some plastered stones. Were told to do this on Mount Eval. Jaz, do you remember the last time we were told something about Eval?

Jaz: No. 

Lulav: Okay well, it was immediately after the blessing and curse lines that you read in parshat Re’eh.

Jaz: Oh great.  

Lulav: Where we are told we’ll recite the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Eval. 

Jaz: Oh fun. 

Lulav: And we get that, you know, later in this parsha. So I am sorry to ask the question here, but why do you think the Torah is to be memorialized on the mountain of curse pronouncement?

Jaz: Ooooooh. 

Lulav: I looked up an answer for this. 

Jaz: Please share your answer! 

Lulav: Oooh, but it involves actual politics, I want to hear yours off the dome. 

Jaz: (laughs) Okay… the Torah is (sighs) enshrined on the mountain of curses because… it was going to be offered on Mount Sinai but then Moses broke it because the people were idol-worshipping. 

Lulav: Okay… 

Jaz: And so the place that was going to have it is now also a site that is connected to idol worship and is connected to now humans have to do it in a slightly more difficult way, um, because they didn't take the simpler path, and because we never take the simpler path we have to wrestle with the fact that wrestling with the Torah is going to include a life of curses as well as simple blessings. 

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah. I like that. That's a really good reading. So, when I looked at the Wikipedia page to see where Mount Eval was mentioned — 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: — in the Torah because I couldn't figure out how to use concordances, I found a bit about how according to the Samaritan Torah, apparently the memorial was constructed on Mount Gerizim. 

Jaz: Huh! 

Lulav: And the reason this was an important difference is Mt. Gerizim was within the Samaritan lands and a place that Samaritan Jews found particularly holy, whereas Mt. Eval was something where they could be like, “Oh, we're not involving the Samaritans in the place where the really cool monument was built.” 

Jaz: Huh! 

Lulav: So that might be a thing where in the oral transmission of the Torah, people who were racist against Samaritans were like, “let's make it Mt. Eval.” Would you like me to continue? 

Jaz: Please. 

Lulav: So, in the next aliyah we have an explicit restatement of what we're told in Re'eh. Six houses stand to proclaim blessing and six to proclaim curse. Notably — 

Jaz: Oh you skipped — wait. 

Lulav: What's up? 

Jaz: You're not going to talk about the "you shall build an altar of stones which you shall not wield an iron tool to build?" 

Lulav: Ooh! I was thinking about that and really excited but then I like, got up to get more water or something and forgot about it. Yes. An altar of unhewn stones, which is one of my favorite things from… I think Shemot? was just like the description of how you worship Hashem through unhewn stones piled up on each other through very simple straightforward sacrifice and devotion. 

Jaz: Mm! 

Lulav: So yeah, I really like the altar of unhewn stone. 

Jaz: Good. I also really do. Also, I may have noted this last time but I'm going to reiterate it again because I like it, which is that the only thing I know of where this like, the only thing I know of where you can't put an iron tool to it, as a thing that's still in existence, is for tzitzit, which you can't cut with like, regular scissors. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: So we've sort of taken this terminology that was applied to an unreplicable physical specific holy place and applied it to a thing that can just be on your body as daily wear. It's one of those, um, “your body is a temple” type of deals.

Lulav: Whoooaaaaa. 

Jaz: I'm sorry, but not that sorry. 

Lulav: (laughing) No, don't be sorry, that was a great insight. (Jaz laughs) Like, the body as opposed to the place is kind of the whole thing with the rabbinical tradition because we don't have a temple; we need to figure out what it means to devote ourselves as people of the covenant. 

Jaz: Yeah, in a lot of ways. Alright, now you can move on. 

Lulav: Right. So, notably, of the six houses that are on Mt. Gerizim for blessing, I remember five out of six if I were just like, asked to recite the children of Yaakov. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: And of the six on Mt. Eval, I mostly just remember Reuven.

Jaz: (chuckles) Okay.

Lulav: So it's interesting that the blessing one gets the famous ones plus Issachar (Jaz chuckles) and the curse mountain gets everybody else. 

Jaz: Uh huh 

Lulav: Also notably, this is according to the children of Yaakov, so Ephraim and Menashe are collapsed into Binyamin and the Levites stand on Mt. Gerizim. The rest of this aliyah is abjurations against transgressing mitzvot and a couple of blessings that following mitzvot will provide. Do you have any questions about this? 

Jaz: So we have the 12 inverse commandments and then four blessings, and my question is: the ways that the curses are worded are pretty explicitly gendered and gendered in a way that some of them can be neutral, some of them are just directed at men. The way that the blessings, is that some of them can be neutral, some of them are just directed at women, would be my read of this. 

Lulav: Interesting. 

Jaz: Would you like to either contest this or offer an interpretation of what that means?

Lulav: Okay, so the best that I can do off the top of my head is “something something sacred feminine.” 

Jaz: Ahhh. Okay. 

Lulav: (laughs) But also, men ruin everything. Hm. Yeah, no, I got nothing.

Jaz: Okay! 

Lulav: It is interesting to me that the curses, you said they were kind of 12 negative commandments?

Jaz: Yeah! 

Lulav: It's interesting that these are positive transgressions of generally negative mitzvot, so you have like, “do not put a stumbling block before the blind” and the way that's phrased here is, “cursed be he who misdirects a blind person on his way.”

Jaz: Hm. 

Lulav: I don't know if that's related to gender at all but it's just really interesting that like, the previous times we've received all of these they've been negative mitzvot, stuff you're not supposed to do, and here they are positive transgressions. 

Jaz: Yeah. I would have argued that that would have been a one that's pretty neutrally phrased, but lots of them are about like, here are specifically women that you're not supposed to sleep with (Lulav giggles) and the ways that they're connected to you through marriage, more to the point. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: So like, not that you can't read them as a lesbian, that's not the point that I'm trying to make, (Lulav laughs) I'm just like… 

Lulav: Yeah, I'm going to draw fences around Torah — 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: — and say if it's a specifically gendered relation mentioned, take that in the non-gendered sense. 

Jaz: Huh! Why?

Lulav: Because you also shouldnt have sex with your brother — or half brother if we look at line 27:22. Like, these are pretty good straightforward rules. You shouldnt have sex, for instance with your mother’s husband. 

Jaz: Even though it's specified as father’s wife. 

Lulav: Right. I just think that insofar as any of these are good ideas, which, just skimming, they are really good ideas, they should be applied generally. (laughs) 

Jaz: Yeah, they do all seem like pretty solid ideas. So you don't think that there's any value or basis in looking at the Torah has unnecessarily gendered this thing, (Lulav laughs) what is any meaning that we can draw from the fact that it's gendered?

Lulav: Hey Jaz, how many women were involved in composing the Torah, as far as we know?

Jaz: This is a debatable question —

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Because it depends what you mean by “know” and also by “we” (Lulav laughs) because some people would argue — I am not necessarily one of them but some people would argue — that neither men nor women were involved in the composing of the Torah because we just got it directly. 

Lulav: Ah. Okay. So what you're saying is, “I composed Torah, but did not inhale?”

Jaz: No! That is not what I'm saying! (Lulav laughs) What i'm saying is sometimes I think that there's value in just taking the things and removing the gendering and accepting that Hebrew is a flawed human language that just contains gendering, and sometimes I think that there's value in looking at it and saying, like, “these are all conjugated and phrased in the masculine and the next ones about blessing are about like giving birth and baking bread and making food and why did they set up that dichotomy?” 

Lulav: Okay, so the thing you were saying is is it possible to read this in a lesbian separatist context, not just a lesbian one? Okay. 

Jaz: Eh — uh. (Lulav laughs) Sure. sure. 

Lulav: Yeah, I don't know. it's a really interesting insight though. 

Jaz: I guess I was just thinking, there could be value in saying, what is the things that's actually adding value? Like, the things that you're cursed for are about men treating women badly and I think that there's value in acknowledging that specifically. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: And the things that they're blessed for are like, acts of creation that don't have to be done by women but that are often done by women, just in the way that treating people badly can be done by people of any gender but is often done by men. 

Lulav: Right. And speaking of things that is often done by men, so far in the Torah I'm pretty sure that all of the metal-workers we’ve heard of have been men — 

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: — and we start out the curses with “cursed by anyone who makes a sculptured or molten image”. 

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: So, it seems like a lot of the curses are focused on things that are traditionally masculine, especially moving his fellow countryman’s landmark because women can't own property unless they're orphans. 

Jaz: Right. 

Lulav: So, yeah a lot of the places where there's room to transgress a negative mitzvah is in the traditionally masculine domain. 

Jaz: Yeah. I just wanted to note it as a sense of, obviously you can look at these as de-gendered things and there's value in that, of everybody having care of how they treat other people, and also that it's possible to look at it in a gendered way, in a way of saying, “Hey, what's the power analysis here that's being addressed by the text?” And part of what the text is saying is, “Maybe men who have the ability to have power have more opportunities to go wrong (Lulav giggles) and hurt more people and you gotta pay more attention to the blessings of people whose work has been overlooked because it's traditionally feminized.” 

Lulav: Riiiight. Also, an interesting thing that I will point out is the line “blessed shall be the issue of your womb.”

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: And like, just cuz I'm barren doesn't mean that under this covenant the issue of my womb wouldn't be blessed. 

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: So, yeah this can apply to anyone. (laughs) 

Jaz: Yeah, just on that particular note, the words there that they translate as blessed be the issue of your womb are “pri vitnecha”

Lulav: Yeah 

Jaz: So “pri” is just like “the fruit of.” We have the same word in “the fruit of your soil” in “pri hadama” later in the verse, but beten is like “stomach.” (Lulav laughs) It’s also womb, but traditionally, we have mind, as in where your thoughts happen but they would have had beten as where your thoughts happen. 

Lulav: In your gut? 

Jaz: yeah, basically. 

Lulav: Okay

Jaz: And so if you wanted to think of “pri vitnecha” as the fruit of your creative juices from your gut (Lulav laughs), like --

Lulav: This is getting lurid. 

Jaz: Sorry! I just mean that like, it doesn’t have to be literal, your physical children.

Lulav: Yeah. Thank you Jaz. Okay, and then, we get the world’s longest aliyah, which is a claim I made up and have not investigated even a little (Jaz laughs) It’s all stuff about how people will be afraid of you and you’ll be a wealthy top — these are the blessings — and then a much longer list of curses if you transgress the covenant. I don’t particularly care about torture poetry, so let me know if there’s anything in chapter 28 that you do want to talk about Jaz. 

Jaz: Yeah! We get a reversal of all of these blessings (Lulav laughs) that we just went over here and they’re in the wrong order.

Lulav: Okay 

Jaz: They repeat exactly the same things with exactly the same terminology but they switch I believe the place of the third and second ones?

Lulav: Ooh, so they do. 

Jaz: Why do they do that? What does that mean? 

Lulav: Uhm… hmm! I don't know. (Jaz laughs)  Do you have ideas? 

Jaz: I don’t have specific ideas. I just think it is odd and interesting. 

Lulav: Okay. It might be that as Moshe was deciding to say these things, either he forgot one of them and then was like, oh wait, go back, cursed shall be the issue of your womb and the produce of your soil, or people seemed to be falling asleep on the edges of the crowd there and so he wanted to shake it up a little bit 

Jaz: Okay. Make sure they were paying attention. 

Lulav: Uh huh. 

Jaz: Or they tried to skip one of these and somebody came and was like, hey you can’t skip that! You have to curse that part too! And then they were like, I guess we’ll curse that part too. 

Lulav: Good. I love that. Is there anything else that you want to talk about here? 

Jaz: In this section of bad things that'll happen to you? 

Lulav: Oh G-d yes. 

Jaz: Yeah. We have this — forgive me in advance — bit about you will go from everybody being in debt to you and you being on top —

Lulav: Right? 

Jaz: — to  you’ll be in debt to everybody and they’ll be on top. 

Lulav: That is specifically 28:13, Hashem will make you the head and not the tail. You will always be at the top and never at the bottom. 

Jaz: Mm hmm.

Lulav: If only you obey and faithfully serve the commandments. 

Jaz: Lulav, do you think this sounds like a good thing? 

Lulav: So my vaguely fatigued butt is sighing internally at reading this. 

Jaz: Uh huh.

Lulav: Which is why I mentioned it in both the short summary and in this longer summary as like, you have to be a wealthy top and we know the Messianic age hasn’t come because we’ve still got Jewish bottoms. (laughs) 

Jaz: (laughing) Uh huh 

Lulav: But also… hmm. So, I do think it is a blessing but I don’t like hierarchies. 

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: I think generously — 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: — ee have in the previous line “You will be creditor to many nations but debtor to none” and so it sounds like we're being assigned a leadership role. Something where we use the extra that we have to give people wiggle room in their projects. 

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: And where we lead, like, we are the people who choose where the centipede is going, the head not the tail, and also we are generous lovers apparently (Jaz laughs). So that’s the good reading. 

Jaz: Okay! And then there’s this other line that I thought was interesting. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: There’s two versions of this line, there's like the blessing line and the curse version of the line and the curse version of the line is like, you shall march out against your enemies by a single road but flee from them by many roads.

Lulav: Good. 

Jaz: Uhm, but there’s a blessing version of this earlier where it’s “your enemies shall march out against you by a single road but flee from you by many roads” and that’s 28:7. 

Lulav: 28:7… there we go. Yes

Jaz: And I wonder what the significance is of “you will be scattered” or “they will be scattered” and how we might think of that as a people who is absolutely 100% definitely scattered. 

Lulav: (laughs) So I know that you haven't played any military strategy games but one of the worst things is when you lose a battle against the AI in a total war game and your army breaks apart and like, goes to a bunch of places and you have to like, reconnect everything. It’s just nasty and if you think about what that’s like for the people involved, people who you care about, who you consider your friends or at the very least colleagues or at the very least related to you somehow, you don’t see them and you don’t know if they’re alive

Jaz: Mm hmm.

Lulav: So a) I can see why that’s a big punishment but b) we are connected to each other increasingly even as we are in diaspora. Like I think it’s very clear that some of the threatened curses are things that have happened in Jewish history. 

Jaz: Yeah 

Lulav: And on the one hand I don’t think they’re forever but on the other hand I do think that the squads that went west and east and south, when they all come back together again a year and a half later, they're all different. They’ve all spent that year and a half apart. And I don’t know that that’s necessarily the worst thing ever, because this G-d is one that creates a whole world in all of its variations and so, just because we don’t speak the same tongue doesn’t mean we’re worse off for it. 

Jaz: Mm. Yeah. 

Lulav: So that’s my really long dvar on that I guess? 

Jaz: I like that. 

Lulav: Thank you. 

Jaz: I don’t want to dwell too much on all of the horrible things that have been happening, and rest assured, listeners, there are like a lot of horrible things that are threatened here. 

Lulav: A lot a lot. 

Jaz: Really. 

Lulav: It’s like the stuff we heard before but more. 

Jaz: Yeah, I do just want to touch briefly on one of the more egregious ones, which is the one about cannibalism of your children. It basically says no matter how moral and fastidious and good of a person and connected to your family you felt, you'll be reduced to this horrible person doing this horrible thing. 

Lulav: Mmm. 

Jaz: I guess I would say, how do we wrestle with something being a punishment where part of the punishment is you have become a completely different person by the end of it. 

Lulav: I think that's like, the metaphysics on morality? At least in my interpretation of a lot of Torah. Instead of relying on like, you do this and you will get magically provided with all of the goods things, I think it is more when you do well it is related to you being a good person, —

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: — related to you being generous and pooling resources with your neighbours… When you are a good person, good things will happen to you and you'll become an even better person. When you're a bad person, bad things will happen to you and you'll become an even worse person. And there's the whole thing about, even in the thousandths generation you can still be like “hey I actually really like this covenant that used to be a thing, can we do it again?” — 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: — and you'll be accepted. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: So yeah, taking a very physical perspective on how everything works, I think it's mostly just like, being a bad person, somebody who is un-generous, like a man who doesn't feed his wife the baby flesh that he's devouring —

Jaz: Awee. 

Lulav: — like, that's its own punishment. 

Jaz: Mm. Okay. Thank you. 

Lulav: Do you have thoughts here?

Jaz: It just reminds me of the ways in which lots of systems and many of our current systems included are set up to be punishments and not ones that encourage change, and so this thing here that explicity aknowledges “were going to change your whole character by making circumstances much worse than anything you did” reminds me of how prisons work, which are explicityly torture for things that are often much worse than things anybody did. 

Lulav: Like not even an exaggeration. Literal torture. 

Jaz: So, that's part of what I'm thinking of here as a comparison that this is a particularly harsh form of setting up justice and it is notable to me that it is deliberately exaggerated language, it feels like. 

Lulav: Mm hmm, thanks for sharing that. 28:63 says that just as Hashem delighted in making us prosperous and many, they will delight in causing us to perish and be wiped out. I've got a good reading and a bad reading, which do you want first?

Jaz: The bad one. 

Lulav: So the bad one is that G-d really likes toruture. G-d is the kid with a magnifying glass that burns up ants. Just as much as that same kid has their own like, ant colony where they feed the ants. The good reading is that the pursuit of justice is an active thing. When we seek a better world and are becoming prosperous and many, that is read as Hashem actively delighting in making that prosperity, and conversely when we seek to expunge bald iniquity from our midst — 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: — that is something that has to be pursued actively too, and something that we contextualize as G-d delighting in causing us to peri- well, not us in this case, it would be like, nazis. Causing them to perish and be wiped out. 

Jaz: Mm. It reminds me a little bit actually of Adrienne Maree Brown has a new book called Pleasure Activism which asserts that among other things part of the way well continue to do good activism and not get burnt out is if doing so is a joyous thing, and one of the most joyous things we do and that your activism should include like, physical pleasure and bodily pleasure and emotional pleasure and like all of those things should be part of the activist life you're building for yourself and that those are really important. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: I have only read part of the book so I can't speak to all of it but even the part I read made an impression on me. 

Lulav:  Yeah, most of what I know about that book is from Tova summarizing what they had read about halfway through it. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: Baruch Hashem. Okay. The other interesting part of chapter 28 is the last part of the torture poetry that Hashem will send you back to Egypt and galleys. There you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as slaves but none will buy.  This is hilarious to me like, I thought we were painting Hashem as a horribly jealous 16 year old in parsha Re’eh, but to get here, “you couldn't even pay to get people to exploit your labour” — it's frankly another level. 

Jaz: (Laughs) Great. Lulav, are we ready for Rating G-d's Writing?

Lulav: We are not, because we switch back — 

Jaz: Awww! 

Lulav: — to just Moshe talking. This time he recites proofs of Hashem's care for Am Yisrael, the exodus, the 40 year old terrible clothing, the abstinence of intoxicants and how the two and a half houses conquered west of the Jordan. And that's the parsha. (laughs) 

Jaz: Okay. I don't have anything to say about that. Do you have anything to say about that end bit?

Lulav: No. Which is why I wrote 3 sentences for that entire aliyah. 

Jaz: Uh huh. Okay, now are we ready for Rating G-d's Writing?

Lulav: Oh! You mean the segment where we construct scales and then forth each other to rate the Parsha based on them?

Jaz: That exact. Lulav — 

Lulav: Yes Jaz?

Jaz:  Out of… uh… four blessings (Jaz sneezes) how many blessings would you give this parsha?

Lulav: Out of four blessings?

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav:  Well, I'm going to say 5. 

Jaz: Hm! 

Lulav: One of them is because you sneezed. 

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: So, bless you. Uhm, and the other four are just like, this was very interesting? I can't tell if it's because I sat down and actually wrote out my notes on it ahead of time or because this is just like, a really interesting parsha to dive in deep on and get the structure of?

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: And there was a lot of new stuff here. So yeah, all four blessings. 

Jaz: Okay! 

Lulav: It made good bread with it's kneading bowl. 

Jaz: Good. 

Lulav: Jaz, out of 23 volumes of Fruits Basket, in the original 1998 - 2006 run — 

Jaz: Uh huh… 

Lulav: How many volumes would you rate this parsha? Again, that's 23 volumes. 

Jaz: Only 23?

Lulav: Yeah! I mean this is volumes, presumably not issues of which there were probably more. 

Jaz: I’d rate it like 18? 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: Partly because 18 is a life number and I would like everybody to get out of this parsha alive (Lulav laughs) in a way that doesn't seem guaranteed. 

Lulav: Woohoo! Boy howdy is it not. 

Jaz: Like there was a lot of interesting things to dig into in this parsha and also lots of things that made me kind of uncomfortable that we didn't even go into as much but —

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: — it's all there, and not that you can't find good things in it but you do have to try. (Lulav laughs) But also there's a lot about like, people are just finding their way and getting through and trying to figure out the best thing to do, so, 18. 

Lulav: That's cool. Jaz can you take us to the close?

Jaz: I sure can! Thank you for listening to Kosher Queers! If you like what you’ve heard, you can support us on Patreon at, which will give you bonus content and help us keep making this for you. You can also follow us on Twitter @kosherqueers or like us on Facebook at Kosher Queers, or email us your questions, comments, and concerns at, and please spread the word about our podcast! Our artwork is by the talented Lior Gross. Our music is courtesy of the fabulous band Brivele, whose work you can find on Bandcamp. Go buy their album, they’re great. Our sound production this week is done by 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: I’m Jaz Twersky and you can find me @WordNerdKnitter on Twitter. I’m recording in a new place this week, and I'm only here for one week. I believe that I am on the traditional lands of the Kashia people, who are part of the Pomo group of native people. An estimated 1050 people inhabited this area before the united states took all of this land for the most part. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Although of course, these people, the Kashia band of Pomo indians has approximately 860 members who all still i've around this particular region. 

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

Lulav: Have a lovely queer Jewish day!

[Brivele outro music]

Lulav: This week’s gender is a shout out to one's tenth cousin. 

Jaz: This week’s pronouns are ki and kin.