Kosher Queers

35 — Shelach: Redacted Scouts

June 18, 2020
Kosher Queers
35 — Shelach: Redacted Scouts
Kosher Queers
35 — Shelach: Redacted Scouts
Jun 18, 2020

This week, Tanakh is used as a pickup line, Moshe gets into an argument with G-d about how everyone has value actually, scouts go exploring and name a place "Grape" even though they shouldn't be able to name it because people are already living there, and the Israelites are incredibly bad at Simon Says. Plus, we spend some time getting to know Yehoshua, but kinda wish we didn't because he's a narc. 

Full transcript here.

The quote from Psalms that Jaz said at the beginning of the episode can be found here. Svara, the organization that sent it to Jaz, also is doing daily drop-in queer Jewish text study, which you can sign up for here. When talking about Grey's Anatomy, Lulav forgot the inimitable Christina Yang. She is culturally Jewish on account of her stepfather & mother, and therefore was the first Jewish main-cast character.

You can buy I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom here and Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, also by Kai Cheng Thom, here. The reference to Caleb being Miriam's husband comes from the Talmud, from this long bit in Sotah (11b and 12a) where they're talking about a lot of aspects of Caleb's family that are confusing.

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

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Show Notes Transcript

This week, Tanakh is used as a pickup line, Moshe gets into an argument with G-d about how everyone has value actually, scouts go exploring and name a place "Grape" even though they shouldn't be able to name it because people are already living there, and the Israelites are incredibly bad at Simon Says. Plus, we spend some time getting to know Yehoshua, but kinda wish we didn't because he's a narc. 

Full transcript here.

The quote from Psalms that Jaz said at the beginning of the episode can be found here. Svara, the organization that sent it to Jaz, also is doing daily drop-in queer Jewish text study, which you can sign up for here. When talking about Grey's Anatomy, Lulav forgot the inimitable Christina Yang. She is culturally Jewish on account of her stepfather & mother, and therefore was the first Jewish main-cast character.

You can buy I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom here and Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, also by Kai Cheng Thom, here. The reference to Caleb being Miriam's husband comes from the Talmud, from this long bit in Sotah (11b and 12a) where they're talking about a lot of aspects of Caleb's family that are confusing.

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

Support the show (

Jaz: Hey Lulav?
Lulav: Yeah Jaz?

Jaz: Did you know there is a line in the book of Psalms —

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: —where David says “tov li torat piach mealpeh zahac vechasef,” and I prefer to read this one to you as “tov li torat picha mealpeh zahac vechasef” cuz I think that's the feminine way to read that line?

Lulav: Oh, fun! (giggling)

Jaz: And it means, “Torah of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver coins.”

Lulav: YO OKAY! (Jaz laughs) OKAY! How'd you find that one? 

Jaz: Svara sent it to me.

Lulav: (laughs) Thanks Svara! 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Enabling gay pickup lines. (Jaz and Lulav laugh) Thank you for making that the energy we start the podcast off on. (Jaz laughs). I'm so glad. 

Jaz: Anyway, Lulav, what other cool and queer Jewish things have you been doing this week?

Lulav: Well, recently, I got, I think a notification or maybe I was just looking at my list on Netflix but basically, “Grey’s Anatomy” season 16 went up on Netflix and I was like, “Season 16? I didn't even watch 15!” So of course, I spend like, three or four days just watching both seasons of “Grey's Anatomy,” because I love one soap (Jaz laughs), and, spoilers for “Grey's Anatomy” for the next like 60 seconds probably, but there is a character named Levi Schmitt and he is gay! He's also the first like, Jewish main cast character? 

Jaz: Ooh! 

Lulav: And he has a great uncle Saul who like, dies—

Jaz: Aww. 

Lulav: —when he comes out to him but it turns out that the reason he died was that Saul was also gay and was just so happy? And also dying. 

Jaz: That's horrifying but also I guess charming? 

Lulav: Yeah! So like there usually two or three relationships that the story line focuses on in the season, and Levi’s relationship with his boyfriend is the first gay male relationship that’s been featured in “Grey’s Anatomy.” 

Jaz: Oooh! 

Lulav: So theres stuff about like variable levbels of coming out and gay experience and the most queer and Jewish thing for me was, we’ve always been here and the like one Jew in the main cast of the show is gay —

Jaz: Yeah.  

Lulav: — which is validating. (laughs)

Jaz: Yeah.  

Lulav: But also like, season 16 has him coming into his Judaism —

Jaz: Oooh. 

Lulav: — cuz he didn't grow up, like, religiously Jewish, just really culturally Jewish. 

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: But in going through the death of his great-uncle he becomes more observant. There are times during the season when he just like, sings liturgical songs that he learned growing up. They're in Hebrew, and it's beautiful and, just like the whole coming into one's own Judaism over the course of growing up is pretty cool and I love it. 

Jaz: That's so sweet.

Lulav: (chuckles) Do you have any opinions about either “Grey’s Anatomy” or the fact that I have watched 16 seasons of this show, sometimes multiple times?

Jaz: Uh, well, I have very little opinion about “Grey's Anatomy,” I don't think I've ever watched more than an episode or two sort of in the background of a thing. 

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: Is that the one that takes place in Seattle or is that the other —

Lulav: it is!

Jaz:— long running medical show? Okay. Yeah. 

Lulav: Yes. That was a reason that I wanted to bring it in the podcast that I have since forgotten. (Jaz and Lulav laugh) 

Jaz: Yeah, so love that. I have very little about “Grey's Anatomy.” I worry slightly for your health if you have binged this show in the last like, couple weeks since we've talked about it but, you know, that's fine.

Lulav: Yeah I just live like this. 

Jaz: Oh. 

Lulav: Yeah, so was that all the stuff you wanted to talk about, cool queer and Jewish wise?

Jaz: Well, so I also had a thing this week. 

Lulav: Oh good. 

Jaz: Which is just that I had my first visit this week with someone who I got to hang out with in person who like, doesn't live in my house (Lulav giggles) that I've had for the last two months. My bio dad, Lewis came for a socially distant visit —

Lulav: Yeah.  

Jaz: In the backyard, and that was super lovely. He came once during the week and hung out in the backyard and the second time he brought the woman he's been seeing and he's living with, cuz like, it wasn't gonna be more dangerous to have two of them. 

Lulav: Yeah.  

Jaz: I got to meet her in person and I don’t know, it was just, one, really lovely to get to see him, cuz he's family and also good to just see any kind of humans in person, (Lulav laughs) you know? so— 

Lulav: There are only four humans in the entire world. 

Jaz: Yeah, you know so that was really nice. And just thinking about it in terms of families can look in all sorts of ways, and he was talking to me about plans for rabbinical school and like we were talking about some things that are Jewish and some things that are secular and it was just like, this is what my family is like and I love them, so. 

Lulav: Yeah! That's really good. Wanna get this party started?

Jaz: Yeah! 

[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 chavruta is learning Shelach. That was so many “ch”s. 

Jaz: (laughs) Or potentially Shelach Lecha, depending on what you call this parsha. 

Lulav: How dare you! That's so Reform?

Jaz: (laughs) Are you accusing me of being too revisionist with the (Lulav laughs) transl — yeah. 

Lulav: (sarcastically) Yes because as we all know, I always (laughing) stick to the Orthodox opinion on things. 

Jaz: You couldn't even keep a straight face through that (Lulav snorts), and I wasn't even present to see that. 

Lulav: No, you can hear it though. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: So, we were very confused about this because the JPS says, “Shelach Lecha,” but the thing that I had written down when we were making the schedule for this podcast said “Shelach,” and so —

Jaz: So we went and looked at a bunch of different places to see what they all said. 

Lulav: A bunch. And it seems to be that Orthodox sources have it as “Shelach,” and Reform and Conservative sources have it as “Shelach Lecha,” but who knows? 

Jaz: Which I think is very funny, because one might expect Conservative sources to say “Shelach,” and this feels to me like, because the Conservatice movement split off from the Reform movement, and not actually from the Orthodox movement —

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: — maybe they just like, picked this up from the Reform movement, and then just like, never got rid of it. 

Lulav: Wonderful. So Jaz, what does Shelach Lecha, or just Shelach mean?

Jaz: Send. Our first verse is the verse that we have that starts a million things (Lulav laughs), that goes “Vayedar Hashem el Moshe leymor,” but the second verse starts with “Shelach lecha anashim," like send out men or people and those are going to be our scouts who —

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: — dominate our narrative for this parsha. 

Lulav: So, I'm going to send you out! How much time would you like to be wandering (Jaz laughs) in Canaan, getting the brief idea of this parsha?

Jaz: Okay, I didn’t time it ahead of time but it looks like an imposing block of text, so give me 60 seconds. 

Lulav: Okay! Three, two, one, go. 

Jaz: Twelve boy scouts went out to check the promised land (Lulav laughs) and had some good fruit there! (Lulav is still laughing) They were there for 40 days but when they came back 10 of them said, “We can't go to the land because we were so impressed by how big and strong and muscley those men were that we didn't know what to do with those strange feelings, and, anyway, nope, we can never go back there!” (Lulav laughs) And, everybody cried and wanted to die and G-d got impatient and said to Moshe “What is up with our people? Why are they like this?” and Moshe said “You gotta have patience! Also, even though they’re saying they want to die, you can't actually kill them all; it'll look bad.” So, G-d said “Okay but you’ll be wandering in the desert for 40 years! Only your children will make it in!” Of the 12, Joshua and Caleb were fine but the ones who’d spread negativity died of plague, and people were like “Uh, okay, we'll go into the land! Right now!” and Moshe was like “That's not going to work guys!” and it did not work. (Lulav chuckles) So, G-d gives some more instructions about how they'll give sacrifices when they've done something wrong, uh, once they eventually get to eretz Yisrael, and then clarify via killing a dude that's doing something on sh— shabbat? Uh, and doing something on accident is different than doing something on purpose, and FINALLY yarn reminds [timer goes off] you to be a good person. 

Lulav: Yeah! Yarn reminds you to be a good person! That was a much briefer summary of the last paragraph than I thought you were going to have. 

Jaz: (while laughing) Why?

Lulav: I don't know, we were just talking very animatedly about tzitzit when we were getting ready to record. 

Jaz: I love tzitzit! It is, however, kind of a footnote to this parsha. 

Lulav: Sure is! (Jaz laughs) Do you want to talk about the leg of this parsha?

Jaz: The what?

Lulav: You said footnote, so were getting the leg notes —

Jaz: Okay!

Lulav: — cuz, cuz the leg is the —

Jaz: I don't think that's how that works!

Lulav: Eh? Eh? (laughs) 

Jaz: A footnote to a body of texts is very explicitly connected to the body of text, not the leg of text. 

Lulav: Okay! Fine, uhm. The head? No… give us the long summary Jaz! (both laugh)

Jaz: Okay, so G-d speaks to Moshe and says, “You gotta send out scouts to the land of Canan, and you'll send one representative from each of the 12 ancestral houses — I think not including the Levites.

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Which is a answer to our question a while back of like, “are the Levites included in the 12”?  

Lulav: They are not! 

Jaz: They are not included in the 12. There's one person from each tribe and I didn't mention this in the summary but we get a cute name change! (Lulav giggles) There's a boy whose name is “Hoshea Ben Nun” and it gets changed to “Yehoshua Ben Nun,” which means they sort of just tack on a yud in the front (Lulav giggles), and in so doing now there's a yud hey, instead of just a hey, and the yud hey is like a variation on G-ds name so it indicates —

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: —that he's special. 

Lulav: Okay, so, I just want to butt in here, haven't we had Yehoshua son of Nun talking in several parashot across the entire Torah?

Jaz: I don't remember but didn't we have him last parsha? Coming in to Moshe being like, “hey… somebody is prophecy-ing.” 

Lulav: That’s what I'm saying! Oh wait, that was the kid and then Yehoshua had a more adamant reaction about how they should be locked up because everytime we see Yehoshua it's him being a narc. 

Jaz: But it definitely did call him Yehoshua Ben Nun —

Lulav: Right? 

Jaz:— in the last parsha, when he goes up and says, “Hey, Moshe, other people are prophecy-ing and I don't think they should be doing that!”

Lulav: (snorts) So like, that's one parsha where he showed up. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: There's the one where they use Moshe as a human mascot during a battle (Jaz chuckles), and they're like, lifting his arms and stuff? And Yehoshua is either one of the guys who holds the arms or one of the guys in command of the fighters.

Jaz: I don't remember. We can probably go back and check. I wonder then, if this is then, here's a formal list of all their names — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: but sometime in the past, Moshe has changed one of these guys names—

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: — so, here were their original names, but this one has been updated since the list was originally made. 

Lulav: Can I give my take?

Jaz: Yes please. 

Lulav: So, there was this list, right? But, just as Yehoshua kind of shows up in several parashot with no warning they were like, “Hey, that name’s kind of like Yehoshua, let's have that be him. (Jaz chuckles) That's him now.”

Jaz: I have a slightly more cynical take. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: You know how sometimes when there are like cis people and they're writting a trans character? (Lulav laughs) And they're like, “well, when people change their name they do exactly the same version of their name.” Like we had a character who I've decided to name Timothy, and her name is Jimothina or whatever. 

Lulav: I mean, as we all know, my dead name is Lewis (Jaz laughs)... [whispers] It’s not… I'm not telling you what it is. 

Jaz: Anyway, it reminds me of that. 

Lulav: Sounds about right. (laughs) 

Jaz: You know what I mean? Anyway… 

Lulav: Then, what does Moshe say?

Jaz: Then, Moshe’s like, “So, go and check out the land and see what kind of place it is! Like, what are the people there like and is there a lot of them? What's the countryside like in terms of ability to farm? Do the towns have walls or are they open? What kind of soil is there? Are there woods? And bring back some fruit so we can all try it. 

Lulav: And this seems to be in open recognition of the fact that people live here, right?

Jaz: Uh huh. Yup. Wanna say something more about that or want to wait on that one?

Lulav: I'm going to wait a little bit until we see exactly the extent of civilization that's already here?

Jaz: Okay! 

Lulav: So yeah, what do they find?

Jaz: They went up and scouted. They go into the Negev, which is a desert, but then they go to Hebron, which is a town and there's a bunch of groups of people there. It notes actually that maybe it wasn’t such a desert at the same time, but anyway, Hebron is an old town, and there's grapes growing and there's all of these different groups of people living there and they cut some grapes and try them and they're delicious. 

Lulav: And big right? Cuz the JPS has that they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes but it had to be born on a carrying frame by two of them. 

 Jaz: Yeah, and also have some pomegranates and figs. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And they name the place Eshkol, like, grape (Lulav laughs). And then after 40 days, 40 being kind of an important number, and maybe rounded, but they return to where the rest of the Isrealites are.

Lulav: — Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And they say, “Really good fruits, excellent farming, but there are powerful people there, big cities with walls and here are the like, five different groups of people who all live here in the cities and along the river and sea.”

Lulav: And, so, they're going into this scouting mission knowing that the ultimate aim is to displace everybody from this land and claim it as their own, and, what they see if that the cities are fortified and very large and the people who inhabit it are powerful like, there's civilization here, people live here! It's just atrocious that the thrust of this story is that they're going to be displaced and that's cool. 

Jaz: Yes? I — hm. So, I'm thinking about it, partially because my instinct is to think about like, is there a more generous way to read a text?

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: This one in particular because I am invested in finding good things in it. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And I’m wondering also, because as we go on we definitely find there's people here, and they say the land is there, and the cities are fortified. There is a commentary that was like, one of the distinctions between a walled city and a peaceful city and one of the reasons they might be asked about it is that it's a question of indicating whether the people are war-like or peaceful? That if they're fortified they're probably a war-like people, and if they're peaceful then they probably won't have walls, in the same way that that's sort of what walls are for now also. Like, if we’re building a wall on the southern border, it's because we're not being friendly and peaceful, you know? 

Lulav: I feel like having a wall round a city means that you have to be less bellicose about defending it. 

Jaz: Well, the rabbis thought that it was an indicator that they're fighting — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz:— that it is specifically like, a fighting city as opposed to one that's at peace with its neighbours. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: But so, anyway, the thing that I was thinking about is when Caleb is like, “Well, maybe we should still go up anyway,” and the rest of the scouts are like, “We can't go up, we wouldn't be able to win in an attack and they would kill us.”

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: They said, “We look like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must of looked to them,” and the whole community breaks out weeping and they're like, “It would of been better if we died in Egypt, or better if we might die in the wilderness, than if we go into this land and die there,” and like, I recognize that it is maybe in some ways easy to look at this as just like, a conquering and colonial story, but it feels to me also like in this particular instance, these people aren't warriors, they're not trained armies —

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — they just got out of slavery like a year ago! And that's what they've been doing for their whole life. They're arguably refugees trying to find a place to live, and they're like, “Oh no, they're war-like, and we can't go there.” 

Lulav: Yeah, so an interpretation that I want to bring, I don't know that this is intended by the text?

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: But, talking about how everybodies big and war-like and they can totally mess you up —

Jaz: Mm hmm 

Lulav: —reminds me of the slander that American settlers used against the Native peoples of America. 

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: About how they’d scalp you, and they're all war-like and as we see pretty soon the people who say that are deeply afflicted, so like, overstating the bellicosity and danger of your neighbours, you can read here is a bad thing.

Jaz: Mm. Yes. Normally though, in that scenario that you're saying —

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — that was used as an excuse to attack people, and here when they believe the people are strong and fierce, they're using it to say, “We shouldn't go there at all.”

Lulav: Right, and so that's why I say it's maybe not at all intended by the text —

Jaz: Mm. 

Lulav: — because you have to be having a reading of this being a scenario where they're not at this point intending to displace the people who already live there, so rather than this being like a “should we fight them or not?” it's a “who lives here?” 

Jaz: Mm. Yeah. I got stuck a little bit, so — not stuck, but I was thinking about this section before we started recording —

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — and in particular on this “we seemed like grasshoppers” bit (Lulav giggles), and I was wondering about, it's unusual to have the comparison to grasshoppers, or to bugs, as something small regarding other people. Like, I found a comparison in Isaiah where people are compared to grasshoppers beneath G-d.

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: But comparing yourself to other people like that is like an out of proportion response. 

Lulav: Yeah, I mean the preceding stuff is that the Anakites they're talking about are like, Nephilim?

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: Are descended from  these giant dudes who roamed the earth early on. 

Jaz: Yeah, but the Nephilim are angelic, practically. 

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: Like, this is almost treating other humans like gods. 

Lulav: Ohhh! Okay, so you're saying this maybe has something to do with idolatry?

Jaz: I do. Yeah. 

Lulav: Ooookay. 

Jaz: And also, a sort of devaluing of their own selves and lives. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: I was thinking about different types of queer thoerists, or activist thinkers, in terms of when they talk about, “what does our beautiful future hold?” Like, they're thinking of themselves as like completely insignificant. You know, when I think of what people talk about as like, “how do we dream a better future that we want to bring into existence?”

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: You don't super do it by thinking of yourself as something so insignificant that you can be crushed under foot by people who are opposed to you? 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: You're beautiful and radical liberatory dreaming has to imagine yourself as like, part of a force that can change things, not something so insignificant that like, the capitalist system will grind you under foot. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Because, then the whole community is like, “We would like to die because this is terrible.” (Lulav chuckles) instead of being like, “Well, we should figure something out.”

Lulav: Mm hmm. So, the removal of hope is a bad thing here also?

Jaz: I think so? And explicitly also, Moshe and G-d then have to respond to a community of people saying, “We want to die,” and are having difficulty with that, and that was resonant for me.

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Like, what happens when like the world is hard, and you have that kind of reaction to it. 

Lulav: (chuckles) Yeah. Can you talk about how the leaders of the community respond to this despondency?

Jaz: I can. May I tell you first the reference that I was checking for this, that it reminded me of? 

Lulav: Sure! 

Jaz: I don't have the book here because it's back in New York, but have you ever read I Hope We Choose Love? It's by Kai Cheng Thom. 

Lulav: No, I haven't, but that sounds really familiar. 

Jaz: It maybe just came out a couple years ago. I really resonated a lot with it, it's called I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl’s Notes From The End Of The World.

Lulav: Ohhh. 

Jaz: And she has a chapter in it, and I think the thesis of this chapter is about the trans women she knows that have died by suicide, and she was saying our communities don't do a good job of like, holding onto people. That we have this thing of like, it's respecting people's boundaries and someone could say, “Okay, if you want to die then go do it!” and she's like, that's not a moral thing to do, you can't let people do that like that. 

Lulav: Hm. 

Jaz: Sometimes people can't articulate that they want help and want a better life —

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz:— so the thing they say is just, “I want to die,” and her example is like, if a child is struggling and says, “I’m going to run away,” the more moral thing to do is say, like, “Yes, you always have a home to come back to,” and also say like, “I’ll come find you on the streets because you need to still have a way to live and survive,”

Lulav: Yeah. The first response to apocalyptic thinking is to see if you can make the material circumstances better — 

Jaz: Yes. 

Lulav: rather than giving in to the apocalypticism. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Also, I thought that Kai Cheng Thom sounded familiar and it is because Tova was reading Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, a Dangerous Trans Girls Confabulous Memoir—

Jaz: Yeah! 

Lulav: —a couple years ago. 

Jaz: I haven't read that one yet. 

Lulav: So yeah! I should probably look at her work. 

Jaz: It's very good. Anyway, but that's what I was thinking about when this whole community was being like, “Oh no, what are we going to do?” (Lulav giggles). 

Lulav: Yeah! I hope we choose love. 

Jaz: Yeaaah! 

Lulav: Also, she's exactly one month older than me! 

Jaz: Oh my G-d, that's wild. Next in the narrative, Moshe and Aharon fall on their faces. They are really upset I think by this reaction and then Joshua and Caleb — I don't know if we've had it explicit in the narrative up to this point, but like, Joshua is Moshe's chosen successor and Caleb is Miriam's husband.

Lulav: Sorry, what?


Jaz: Caleb is Miriam's husband. 

Lulav: When did that happen?

Jaz: I — I — I don't remember. This is just a thing that I know. 

Lulav: Amazing. Okay. 

Jaz: Anyways they had also been two of the scouts and they had also been like, it's a good land. Like, we could do well there if you continue to follow G-d. They do say an upsetting thing about, “the people of the country are our prey.” 

Lulav: Mm hmm! I feel like that one specifically is coming from Yehoshua, because it tracks with everything else that he has said. 

Jaz: Yeah, and the community does not react well to this. They threaten to pelt them with stones. (both laugh) And G-d appears and is like, (echoing voice) “Break it up, break it up. (modal voice) and then G-d says to Moshe, (echoing voice) “The people don't trust me and I feel like I've shown up for them a lot of time. Maybe I should just strike them down like they asked for a minute dealer and start over." (modal voice) And Moshe talks G-d down from this plan. (Lulav chuckles) Do you have any questions about this? 

Lulav: Not particularly? Im looking at the Wikipedia page for Caleb, son of Jephuna.

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: And apparently his name is either related to dog, keleb, or it is related to whole-heart, kol lev, so he's just a whole hearted puppy. 

Jaz: (laughs) Oh my G-d. 

Lulav: Haven't found anything about Miriam, so that might be a different Caleb, but good. 

Jaz: Alright, well, I have a small note here then that I was looking up here in terms of commentary regarding this Moshe talking G-d down from destroying people, (Lulav laughs) which is that Moshe says to G-d, “Aren't you slow of anger and abounding in kindness?” And there's a midrash about when Moshe first went up on Mt. Sinai and G-d said, (echoing voice) "I am slow to anger and abounding in kindness." (modal voice) And Moshe said, "but just for like, the righteous people, right?" And G-d was like, (echoing voice) “No, also for the wicked people." 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: And then when it comes to this section, Moshe’s like, “Remember, G-d, you said you were slow to anger and abounding in kindness?” And G-d was like, “But maybe only for the righteous people! These people aren't being righteous!” And Moshe’s like, “No, you said even for the wicked people. Even though these people are being wicked, you gotta be consistent.” (Lulav chuckles) And G-d's like, (echoing voice) “Yes, you are right. Okay.” 

Lulav: Good. 


Jaz: Anyway, I just appreciate that midrash has another person arguing with G-d (Lulav laughs) and doing so well, and also that the takeaway from that is all of the people have value, even the ones who are not doing good things. 

Lulav: Yeah. One of the things I want to point out is that, “the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness” comes from a bit pretty late in Shemot where Moshe is coming down the mountain and G-d goes before him and like, talks Itself up, using these exact words, so, it sounds like the midrash is looking more into the “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” for all people, whereas the Torah text here is focusing more on forgiving iniquity but also keeping track of it. 

Jaz: Mm. Well, the midrash thing that I just said, I think was referencing that bit back in Shemot where G-d said it to Moshe. The text knows that that's where it came up last time. 

Lulav: Yeah. Thank you for that midrash. It's a really nice aspect to add to the reading. 

Jaz: Right? There's a lot else going on, so like — (Lulav laughs) okay. So then, G-d like, okay okay, but none of those people are going to be able to get into the promised land. 

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Their children are going to be able to get into the promised land and I got them out of Egypt but they're not also going to get to leave the eilerns except for Caleb who’s special. 

Lulav: So this is another reason why I think the Yehoshua bit was added later, cuz — 

Jaz: They seem to forget about him. 

Lulav: Several points here, Caleb is the only one mentioned. 

Jaz: Yeah! 

Lulav: We forget about Yehoshua. So it might be that in the original only one person was like, hey no, it's going to be fine, stop crying about it. 

Jaz: Yeah. It seems to go back and forth on this one. 

Lulav: Yeah. Oh also! A question about that. 

Jaz: Mm 

Lulav: What ancestral houses to Calev and Yehoshua come from? 

Jaz: Ah. Well, we can find that out. It’s in the list at the beginning. (Lulav chuckles) Caleb is from Yehuda and… Ephraim? 


Lulav: Yeah, so these are the ones that we've talked about before as being ancestral houses that exist later in history, right? 

Jaz: Well, Yehuda definitely is. I don't think that's true for Ephraim. 

Lulav: Okay. Yeah that kingdom might've gotten wiped out. 

Jaz: Yeah. Ephraim is special — it's one of Joseph's kids. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. Notably not the inheritor because that's Menasse, but someone who makes a totally different ancestral house. 

Jaz: Do you remember the thing about Ephraim and Menashe is that the older child should have got the blessing and instead they blessed the younger child? 

Lulav: Yeah! 

Jaz: Do you remember which is which? 

Lulav: So we say them in the order Ephraim and Menasse — is Menasse the younger? 

Jaz: I don't remember. That is why I asked you — that wasn't a trick question. 

Lulav: (laughs) Oh, that's interesting. Menasse is the first son. 

Jaz: So Ephraim is the inheritor? 

Lulav: Ephraim is the inheritor, even though it says here from the ancestral house of Yoseph, namely the ancestral house of Menasse. So I don't know what's up with that. 

Jaz: Anyway, from the inheritor, Ephraim, is Yehoshua. And then G-d sort of says it again, angrier, your kids will get in but you won’t and your carcasses shall drop in this wilderness (Lulav laughs) and you shall bear your punishment for 40 years because you were scouting for 40 days. I didn't double-check, but I wonder if this is a text thing, like, there's one tradition that has it as less angry speech and one traditional that has it as a more angry speech. 

Lulav: I mean, yeah, one has just Calev and one has “save Calev and Yehoshua.”

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Yeah, the angrier one might be the one that comes from the tradition that talks up Yehoshua as a successor to Moshe.

Jaz: Mm. that would make sense to me because he's a more military leader. 

Lulav: (chuckles) Yeah. 

Jaz: I don't know if you're familiar with it, but the tradition I was given growing up is part of the reason they wandered for 40 years in the desert was so that the people who were entering the promised land were not people who had ever been slaves, that you were building a new civilization with people who had always ever been free and that they were better equipped to build something new. 

Lulav: Yeah, the idea that none of us will see a communist society; it has to be the generations that grow up fundamentally respecting other people and helping each other out. 

Jaz: I think it's a similar concept, yeah. How do you feel about that? 

Lulav: So I never heard a really strong explanation and that does sound familiar to me, so I like it. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: Not just because it's familiar but because that tracks. There was a movie that I watched yesterday called the girl with all the gifts and there was a lot about transitioning from an old world to a new world and who gets brought along and what it looks like to be part of the new world. 

Jaz: Mm hmm 

Lulav: So that plus some communist theory plus the tradition related to this text all seem to agree that you can't enter the promised land if you were one of the people if you were one of the people who left for the promised land. 

Jaz: Hmm. It reminds me a little bit, because we were talking about my family earlier in the show, of the ways that my brother and I interact with ideas of gender and sexuality being somewhat different than the way my parents do. 

Lulav: Mm. 


Jaz: And this is particularly notable and funny to me with my brother because my parents and I are queer in different ways but we are both queer. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And my brother isn't but there are ways in which both of us had to learn — we didn't grow up with a lot of specific kinds of gender norms in our house

Lulav: Mm.

Jaz: And we don't have necessarily the same types of associations with them that our parents might have grown up with or that other types of people grew up with. 

Lulav: Yeah 

Jaz: And consequently, we don't have always a great sense of what was the normative thing to do. I think I've told you a story of when my brother had a friend come out to him as trans, and the friend was like, I feel like you should have known, and my brother was like, in retrospect I get it, but all of the things that she did were things that I also did and I was wasn't a girl. (laughs) 

Lulav: Yeah I mean, I think growing up with fewer explicit expectations as to gender presentation made it easier — well, hmm. Two directions: 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: One, it made it easier for me to understand my femininity not so much in contrast to masculinity but as its own thing, but the other direction is it took me longer to come out because there was less friction between the gendered expectations of me and the ways that I just existed? 

Jaz: Can you spin me another line of that one? I don't quite understand. 

Lulav: Yeah. So like, I was assigned male at birth, and growing up there wasn't stuff like you must play with trucks and do sport. 

Jaz: Ah. 

Lulav: There was some stuff about like, makeup is for girls, and like… I don't know. But I wasn't getting gender lessons explicitly and yeah, I don't know. Ways in which I would talk to people and ways in which I would hold myself and pick up interests… it wasn't in the rigid binary of American gender. 

Jaz: Sure. 

Lulav: It was something kind of new and if I have children, the expectations that they grow up with are going to be something new again. 

Jaz: Yeah. Yeah! So it's a sort of similar thing of, you get to create new things with new generations.

Lulav: Yeah. But like, the two directions that I was talking about because a) I'm autistic and b) I didn't grow up with explicit rules around gender, it was easier for me to be like, oh, okay, so this is how I'm conceiving of my gender, now that I am actively thinking about it as an adult. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: But the other direction was, much like David Nathan, ways in which I was atypical for a male presentation didn't bother me that much. 

Jaz: Ah. 

Lulav: I was just like, oh, that's not a thing that boys can't do. 

Jaz: Yeah, sure. 

Lulav: So it just took me — like, I came out to myself when I was 23 or 24 instead of like, when I was 17 or something. 

Jaz: Yeah. G-d bless the people who came out at 17, but I was also not one of them. 

Lulav: (laughs) Everybody's straight at 17. 

Jaz: Oh my G-d. 

Lulav: Actually, it hasn't even been a whole generation and the fact that there are so many people who are just like, “yeah, I'm gay,” when they're 14 or 16 or 12 or younger, it's just really cool. 

Jaz: Yeah. I mean, I teach eight year olds during the school year and it didn't come up a lot, we didn't discuss gender and sexuality all that often, but the kids know about queer people and have queer people in their family and sometimes have figured out stuff about their own gender and sexuality — very impressive. 

Lulav: Baruch Hashem.  So, that was the queer part of our podcast. 

Jaz: No! Anyway, whatever. 

Lulav: How about the rest of that parsha? 

Jaz: It was related! OKay. Anyway.  Then the other 10 scouts who aren't Joshua or Caleb die —

Lulav: Of plague, to be clear. 

Jaz: They die of plague because they were spreading slander about the lands and causing the people to be really upset, and then the people are really upset and they say, “Well, I guess were supposed to go into the land, like, that's why they died, ‘cos they told us not to (Lulav laughs), so we're going to go in right now,” and Moshe is like, “Well, no, G-d has said actually you can't right now anymore (Lulav giggles). It will not succeed, so don't do it cuz other people will kill you by swords” and they go in anyway. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And they have this note here; though the ark and the cloud has been showing them the way didn't move — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: They marched off and it says the people who are already living in the land, the Amalekites and the Canaanites, “dealt them a shattering blow.”

Lulav: As a child who was kind of bad at Simon Says —  

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: I just want to express solidarity with the Israelite people because they are all very bad at Simon Says! 

Jaz: Really bad at following directions. (Lulav laughs) I do have a little bit of sympathy for the like, “But! You told us to go in! and we were in trouble for not going in! And now, why are we in trouble for going?!”

Lulav: Mm hmm. Which is fair! 

Jaz: Which is fair. And then G-d says to Moshe like, “Here are the rules for how you'll do an offering for any number of reasons; when you enter the land here's how you do it,” and then we get some more rules about that. 

Lulav: Jaz, is this new information?

Jaz: No. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: I don't think so! We get a restatement of “one law for the resident and stranger," 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: And another thing of “if you unwittingly fail to observe any one of the commandments, there is a sacrifice," and i feel like it's getting restated here because the people have transgressed, (Lulav laughs) and it's like, a reminder that there is a policy for what you do in that case. 

Lulav: Yeah, and it seems like this is more explicit about like, if the whole community did unwittingly there's this specific offering, and if there was an individual, that one individual offers something. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: It sounds different from what we had before but it might be the exact same, phrased differently. 

Jaz: Admittedly, the specifics of the sacrifices are not my strongest suit.

Lulav: They do make my eyes glaze over. 

Jaz: But I think we've had stuff about if you err unwittingly before. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: This seems to be premised on the idea that most actions are unwitting; also if you do it very very intentionally that's different.

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: But most of them seem to be unwitting because then they have this bit in the end of somebody who was gathering wood, presumably to start a fire, and they're like, “What do we do with this person? We don't have a protocol for that." The answer appears to be, put him to death, (Lulav chuckles) but! Yeah. 

Lulav: Okay, so again, they're pelting him with stones —  

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: rather than pushing him off a cliff and dropping a stone on him.

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: Are you sure that this isn't just what stoning means?

Jaz: I — look, I was reasonably certain! Okay, hang on. “Mishnaic formulation of stoning is surprising. being pushed from high places replaces the throwing of stones.”

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: And, so there may have been an earlier thing that was throwing stones, but it gets replaced by being pushed and it changes the stones being thrown by the whole community as like, public spectacle to a more solitary form of execution. 

Lulav: Mmm. Okay, so it's not less deadly, it's less public. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: Which is what we've done with executions in the U.S. too. We used to have very public hangings that people came to and they have moved to solitaire electrocution or injection, you know, things that are done behind walls.

Lulav: Yeah. Not necessarily more humane —

Jaz: No, less public.

Lulav: So what's up in the last paragraph Jaz?

Jaz: So, we’d had all this stuff about accidental sins and what you do about them and in the last bit they just really wanna make sure you can avoid doing things wrong accidentally if at all possible and so, G-d says to moshe to tell everybody to have little fringes on the corners of their garments forever. A little bit of blue, and have it serve as a reminder to observe all the commandments and be holy, (echoing voice) “I am the Eternal, your G-d who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your G-d, I the Eternal am your G-d.” This is the formulation when you really wanna strongly emphasize it, (Lulav chuckles) and these are tzitzit that people still wear today. 

Lulav: Yeah, it's just really nice having fringes hanging out on your garments.

Jaz: Yeah and we had in building other parts of the mishkan, this word “tekhelet,” and tekhelet is the type of blue that you'd use for the tzitzit, and so sometimes you see tzitzit now and they're white and it's because they lost that particular blue. And they were like, “we don't know what particular blue it was so we're not going to do it the wrong blue,” and so they have fringes that are white. 

Lulav: Yeah, kind of, I feel like, how we will often write the LORD in translations when it's not “adonai,” but they rewrote it so it would be. 

Jaz: Right, and then for this some people do use blue and it's because they believe that we have rediscovered the particular blue that is tekhelet. 

Lulav: It's a very nice blue.

Jaz: It's a very nice blue. Comes from a particular snail I think?

Lulav: Oh fun.

Jaz: Anyway, I really like it that they're just like here are ways that you might accidentally do wrong things or the ways that the people gave into their fears and that prevented them from being able to create their new better society, so here, you just wear your tzitzit and you will be more likely to remember to do better. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: It's sort of the same idea that later gets extended to a kippah in a similar way of, it will be a constant physical reminder, so it's a nice thing. 

Lulav: Yeah, I don't know if I mentioned it on the podcast before but, the wearing of kippot reminds me of the verse  “you hem me in before and behind; I feel your hand on me” because there's just this physical reminder on a very personal part of your body that you are before G-d. 

Jaz: That's beautiful. 

Lulav: Fitting that we started with a psalm and close out with a psalm. Um, I would like to clarify one thing.

Jaz: Mm hmm.

Lulav: Is the cord of blue running along the length of the garment, or is it interwoven with the fringe?

Jaz: It's interwoven part of the fringe.

Lulav: Okay 

Jaz: In modern day, the way you tie it has significance. There's these different threads and they're all tied and then there a tangling bit that's not tied.

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: And Ashkenazi and Sefardi and Yemeni Jews all have different patterns to the types of knots and tying around things that they have. And possibly other people as well; those are just the ones I'm familiar with. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: And like, the numbers have different significance. 

L; It's flagging for ethnic groups. 

Jaz: Kinda. 

Lulav: You leave your fringes hanging out of your back pocket. 

Jaz: Yeah. You are allowed to wear tzitzit inside of your clothes also, if you want to remember but you don't want other people to see them. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Like, G-dly special secret underwear. (Lulav laughs) Lulav, are you ready for Rating G-d’s Writing? 

Lulav: What is that, Jaz? 

Jaz: The segment in which we take two scales in which we take two scales that we have just made up or prepared unfairly before the episode (Lulav laughs) and ask each other to rate the parsha based on them. 

Lulav: Okay. I think I am ready for that. Jaz, if you were to commemorate this parsha with the fringes of your garments, how many tassels would there be in a fringe? 

Jaz: I don't understand this question. When you wear tzitzit, there are four tzitzit. 

Lulav: Oh, okay. 

Jaz: You wear one on each corner. 

Lulav: Okay. I thought that there were more dangly bits to the fringe. There are only four? 

Jaz: Well, you have one tassel on each corner and each one is made up of six strings maybe? Per tassel? Something like that. 

Lulav: Uh huh. 

Jaz: So my clarifying question was, are you asking me how many tassels I'm rating it, out of four tassels, or how many strings per tassel... What was the question? 

Lulav: Okay, yeah. So out of 24 strings — 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: That makes the fringes of your garment for remembering this parsha, how many strings do you need to use? 

Jaz: Ooh. I'm going to give it 20? 

Lulav: Okay 

Jaz: Which is all of the white ones but no blue ones. 

Lulav: Ohh. 

Jaz: There's a lot of really beautiful stuff in this parsha and I really liked it but I did struggle with it at some of the points as well. Lulav — 

Lulav: Yes Jaz. 

Jaz: Out of 12 scouts, how many scouts would you rate this parsha? 

Lulav: Ooh, okay, hold on. I would say trustworthy, loyal, helpful, not friendly, nor courteous, nor kind, obedient but not cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and occasionally reverent. So I think I would name this… how many did I skip. It's something like 8.5 scouts out of 12. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: (chuckles) Sorry, you did compare them to Redacted Scouts in the beginning. 

Jaz: I — yeah, sure. (Lulav laughs) Fine. — 

Lulav: Jaz, can you take us to the close? 

Jaz: Yeah. (both chuckle) Thanks for listening to Kosher Queers! If you like what you’ve heard, you can support us on Patreon at, which will give you bonus content and help us keep making this for you. You can also follow us on Twitter @kosherqueers or like us on Facebook at Kosher Queers, or email us your questions, comments, and concerns at [email protected], and please spread the word about our podcast! Our artwork is by the talented Lior Gross. Our music is by 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, whose words of Torah are like silver and gold. 

Lulav: Whee! On my honor, I will do my duty to edit this episode.

Jaz: Oh my G-d.

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 recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Ohlone people. 

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

Jaz: Have a lovely queer Jewish day!

[Brivele outro music]

Lulav: This week’s gender is a fortuitously late and leisurely recording

Jaz: This week’s pronouns are li, lem, and lems.