Kosher Queers

49 — Haazinu: In Which We Have Opinions About Poetry

September 24, 2020 Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow
Kosher Queers
49 — Haazinu: In Which We Have Opinions About Poetry
Kosher Queers
49 — Haazinu: In Which We Have Opinions About Poetry
Sep 24, 2020
Jaz Twersky and Lulav Arnow

This week, we try to define the concept of a parent and the even more confusing concept of a dad, G-d gets reminded about the existence of consequences, and Lulav tells you to drop out of grad school. Plus, Jaz entirely misunderstands a video game, but gets excited about grammar and also poetry, fully living up to being a "word nerd" and not a different kind of nerd.

Transcript available here.

The Kaddish D'Rabanan is available here, if you also want to read it with your chevruta. If you're interested in learning more about Jewish demonology, check out the podcast Throwing Sheyd.

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 was written by 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, we try to define the concept of a parent and the even more confusing concept of a dad, G-d gets reminded about the existence of consequences, and Lulav tells you to drop out of grad school. Plus, Jaz entirely misunderstands a video game, but gets excited about grammar and also poetry, fully living up to being a "word nerd" and not a different kind of nerd.

Transcript available here.

The Kaddish D'Rabanan is available here, if you also want to read it with your chevruta. If you're interested in learning more about Jewish demonology, check out the podcast Throwing Sheyd.

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

Support the show (

(at the same time) 

Jaz: Hi Lulav. 

Lulav: Hi Jaz

(talking in unison ends) 

Jaz: Oh. 

Lulav: I mean that was great. (Jaz laughs) Love the synchronicity. What has been going on in your life recently though? Anything cool and queer or Jewish?

Jaz: Well, I am back in the vicinity of friends. 

Lulav: Ah, baruch Hashem!

Jaz: Yeah! So I've seen a bunch of friends recently. I got to do outdoor studying with my chevruta for the first time in like, many months? (Lulav giggles) And, it was really lovely! We—

Lulav: Oh your chevruta DiCo! 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Yay! I'm so glad you got to see him face to face. 

Jaz: It was really lovely and also like, everyday, when we’re done studying we say the kaddish derabanan, which is like the prayer you say after finishing study?

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: But it's hard to say prayers in unison online?

Lulav: Oh. Sure is. 

Jaz: So, we trade off paragraphs and like, he'll do a stanza and then I'll do a stanza, and there's one stanza in particular that I learned a little bit faster — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — so we alternate who does which stanzas so we’re not always doing the same ones and this time we were in person so we got to say it in unison and now we have it both basically memorized and also— 

Lulav: Oh good. 

Jaz: — on the paragraph that its like, a little bit trickier for him to do, turns out, it's actually easier when you can do it in unison with a person (Lulav giggles) which makes a lot of sense cuz like, you can pick up on the rhythms of it that way, so — 

Lulav: Oh good. 

Jaz: — that was really nice to be able to do that like that. 

Lulav: (chuckles) Yeah! 

Jaz: Also, right before this, before we were recording, I went for a walk with a friend and we went to the farmers market together and then we went for a walk in the park and Prospect Park - which is near me - is large and I have a terrible sense of direction. (Lulav snorts) And unfortunately my friend Sarah also has a bad sense of direction?

Lulav: Hi Sarah! 

Jaz: (Laughs) So like, we were talking about things that were queer and Jewish, like we were chatting about our lives and the ways in which Judaism is connected to different parts of our lives and also different things about our queerness, and also we got really really lost in the park and were there for an additional hour at least longer than we thought we would be, so... 

Lulav: Good. 

Jaz: Yeah. Those are my queer and Jewish things. Lulav, what about you? What cool or queer or Jewish things have you been up to recently?

Lulav: Well I have two major things and both of them happened yesterday  — 

Jaz: Oooh. 

Lulav: — which was the 28th of August. One of them is that I too had my first in person Jewish event in a while. We did shabbat in Fair Oaks park, right across from the art museum. It was a really nice time. We all had individually wrapped challah and like, individual servings of Welch's grape juice. 

Jaz: Aweee. 

Lulav: Which is the first time in like a decade that I've had grape juice that wasn't fermented. (Jaz chuckles) Yeah, I don't know, it was just nice, we got to see a whole bunch of people like Thrin, and Julia. Han, and Mira and other people who I had met before the pandemic but haven’t seen in several months and wasn't like, friends with beforehand? So I don't know who they are. 

Jaz: Yeah, was it an event through shul?

Lulav: It was an event threw JPride, which is the queer orginization that connects a bunch of different jews in the cities?

Jaz: Nice. 

Lulav: So, like, the people that I mentioned are mostly from Shir Tikvah, but there may have been other people or non-congregationally affiliated people there? 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: I don't know. That was cool. I also got to see tiny humans for the first time in a while. 

Jaz: Aww.

Lulav: Because I think the organizer had at least one child. Yeah. 

Jaz: Nice. 

Lulav: It's fun how little self-restraint children have? (Jaz laughs) There was a jogger who ran past us and this kid was playing with a branch and just like, slapped the branch at the jogger and almost hit him? 

Jaz: Mm! 

Lulav: And it was just like... no! Hey child, what are you doing? (Laughs) 

Jaz: Be careful! 

Lulav: I think that was during Lecha Dodi.

Jaz: Oh my goodness. (Lulav laughs) That sounds delightful. 

Lulav: Yeah, we used the new Batya Levine version of Lecha Dodi. 

Jaz: Oooh. Cool. 

Lulav: Because times being what they are, the reasonability of singing was maybe not the best and so we just listened to a recording. 

Jaz: Ah. Right. That makes sense. 

Lulav: And then the second thing was something that reminded me of my extremely charming boyfriend. (Jaz laughs) Namely, I was playing the Bad Game, League of Legends — 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: — and I was playing a draft pick game where I got assigned to bottom lane, and my support had the username "Reish Lakish", which if you are an avid listener to this podcast or somebody who has read a decent amount of Talmud, you will remember as the bi bandit (Jaz laughs) whose boyfriend was another rabbi. 

Jaz: I remember him as the bi bandit, I think you could probably find people in the world who would be like, "I read a fair bit of Talmud and I didnt remember him like that." (Lulav chuckles) But those people are wrong, so. 

Lulav: He's ripped and spends a lot of time with Rabbi Yohanan. 

Jaz: Yes. 

Lulav: Yeah, we just got assigned to the bottom lane together and I like, dropped a Rabbi Yohanan joke in chat —

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: — their only response was "!!!". (Laughs) And then I was like "I’m so glad that bot-lane is all gay and Jewish, and they responded with "!!!!". They did more talking in game, but anyway, turns out that they're a 2017 grad of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, so that was really fun. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: And, like definitely lends credence to the general impression you've given me of the RRC, (Jaz laughs) which is everybody who goes there is gay. 

Jaz: Ye- that is my general impression that many of the people who go there are gay. 

Lulav: Right, if we were like, qualifying statements, it’s not everybody. 

Jaz: As an impression, I dont think it's like, wrong. 

Lulav: Anyway, this doesn't help with my other impression which is that straight men don't play support. (Jaz laughs) 'Cuz like, every support that I’ve ever had a conversation with has been a woman or queer in some way. 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: Inclusive or. 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: Sorry for talking about a video game that you presumably know nothing about, but on the other hand, everything I say about it is a great shame to be personally, so... (chuckles) 

Jaz: I don't know nothing about it. 

Lulav: Okay tell me what you know about League of Legends. I really want to hear this. 

Jaz: Oh no. 

Lulav: Just like, any facts. 

Jaz: It is a game that you can play with other people — 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: — who are not physically present in your location which I think means that there is some open world component to this game — 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: — also there's fighting — 

Lulav: Uh huh. 

Jaz: — also there is like, a reasonably high level of graphics (Lulav chuckles) , and what are other facts I know about it? Also, the people who — 

Lulav: So — 

Jaz: — played it were mostly weirdos on Reddit when I was 18. 

Lulav: Oh G-d yeah. 

Jaz: Um. (Jaz laughs) 

Lulav: (sighs) Yeah. It's like, never been a good idea to play League of Legends, mostly because of the community. They have in the last couple of years instituted some community reforms, including better reporting of people. Uh, still real toxic. 

Jaz: Yeah, I was going to say my main fact about League of Legends is that I know that you play it. 

Lulav: Wow, way to drag me on our podcast. (Both laughing) 

[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 Haazinu.

Jaz: Yeah. Lulav, do you have any thoughts about this particular parsha?

Lulav: You know, I had as the great Mayor Pete once said —

Jaz: Oh no.

Lulav: — "high, high hopes for this poetry section," but they were dashed. It wasn't very interesting poetry, imo. For something that like, every generation is supposed to remember, I wasn't a fan. I mean, it's not bad, it just could be so much better.

Jaz: Ah, okay. A note for our listeners that I double checked this word and haazinu is related to “ozen,” aleph-zayin-nun, like ear?

Lulav: Hm!

Jaz: And this as a verb literally translates to "give ear to", so it's like listen but it only shows up in poetic contexts. You wouldn't use it outside that.

Lulav: And, speaking of poetic context I think some of what I want to hear from you is about names of G-d.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: Because we definitely get an uncommon one. How long though, would you like to sing me your own poem that summarizes this chapter?

Jaz: I would like 45 seconds.

Lulav: Okay. It doesn't have to rhyme or have a consistent meter, but... uh 45 seconds on the clock?

Jaz: Uh huh.

Lulav: Ready, set, go.

Jaz: A death bed poem did Moshe say, so his words the people would take away.

Lulav: Oh my G-d.

Jaz: He asked that his speech land like dew,/ Upon the hearts of every Jew! He said that G-d was our parent who gave birth to us,/ And took care and helped out when we made a fuss,/ That G-d was like an eagle with huge wings,/ Who flew us along and gave us the best of all things./ But the children of Israel, ungrateful, did what they wanted/ And G-d just felt so unbearably taunted./ So G-d almost left them to an awful fate,/ But other opponents would have credited the strength of their state./ And so G-d concluded, "I am the one!"/ And so the poem was over and Moshe’s life done./ He went up to the top of a mountain named Nebo/ To view the land disallowed him laid out below./ He made a mistake when he was young,/ And now he was stuck no matter how bad it stung.

Lulav: Um.

[timer goes off]

Lulav: (Jaz laughs) So... perfectly timed and also I love you so much. (Jaz laughs) And also how dare you?

Jaz: (Laughs) You really caught me off guard there when you were like, "sing your own poem!" and I was like, "Ack! I thought I was going to surprise you"! (Laughs)

Lulav: That was just my segway! I was being fancy. (laughs) I should have known though frankly. (Jaz laughs) Also I liked yours better than this one. (Jaz laughs) So, how about you take us through it, stanza by stanza.

Jaz: Yeah, okay, so if you remember from last parsha, we sort of left on this cliffhanger of like, Moshe opens his mouth and talks and so we jump right into the poem here where there's no like, opening line to remind you. (Lulav laughs) So this first bit is like, “Haazinu,” like, “give ear. May my discourse come down as the rain on my speech like the dew give all of this glory to G-d.”

Lulav: Mm hmm. And I like the imagery here of showers on young growth and droplets on the grass.

Jaz: Yeah. Yeah.

Lulav: Which is actually an interesting thing because droplets show up on the grass early in the morning?

Jaz: Mm hmm.

Lulav: Because of transpiration, which is like, plants breathing water through their bodies.

Jaz: Ooooh.

Lulav: So, this is yet another thing where Hashem is the breath.

Jaz: That's rad. I didn't know that. (Lulav laughs) Thank you for science.

Lulav: (laughs) You're welcome for science.

Jaz: Anyway, that's very cool. Um, I guess the beginning of the poem is a good place to note that like, poetry looks different in Hebrew and in English?

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Mine rhymed. This does not rhyme.

Lulav: (laughs) And that's also generally true in the original Hebrew that it doesn't rhyme?

Jaz: Yes. Like, there are parts of it where like, the vowels line up but it is not as regular about it in the same way. A lot of poetry in Hebrew is about like, parallel grammatical structures —

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: — rather than specifically do the same sound show up at the end of a line.

Lulav: Yeah, and I think just like casting my mind over a couple of liturgical songs from shul like, hashkiveinu. Adonai does not rhyme with l'shalom.

Jaz: No.

Lulav: So, it's fine. We're used to this.

Jaz: Yeah, it's just a different type of poetry. Poetry as it happens tends to be a thing that shows up in a lot of really interesting ways in a lot of languages —

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: — because it always like, bends the rules for what is standard grammar in the language, but because standard grammar differs, the rules for how to make poetry also differ which is really cool.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: Like, it's way easier to do rhymes in French than in English, so —

Lulav: That's very fair.

Jaz: Yeah. And also like, in English we play with word order a fair bit, like you can do things in poetry that we don't say so much when you're just talking. (Lulav laughs) Like, my little one just opens with, "a death bed poem did Moshe say," and that's not like you can't say that but you wouldn’t in regular English?

Lulav: Right.

Jaz: But like, Japanese doesn't have as firm of word order because it uses particles to mark things as different parts of speech —

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: — so Japanese poetry is less focused around like, can you move word order around in the same way.

Lulav: Thank you. I am so glad to have received this linguistics wisdom.

Jaz: (laughs) Anyway, so —

Lulav: I have a question after this couplet.

Jaz: The one that starts hazur tamim pe'alo?

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Okay. I mean, this one’s talking about G-d’s deeds are perfect and just and stuff like that.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: I think the thing you're about to ask me about is the fact that it calls G-d “Hatzur,” the rock?

Lulav: Yeah. So like, I just don't get what Moshe is talking about here because Dwayne Johnson was only a face under the name Rocky Maivia, and was decidedly a heel for most of his career including his entire time as "the Rock," (Jaz laughs) so like, in what universe are are his deeds perfect and his ways just? It's literally his job to be a meanie.

Jaz: Not anymore, didn't you see him in Moana where he was a very cute divinity?

Lulav: Okay, that's as an actor. I'm talking about his wrestling career (Jaz laughs) which is the only thing that matters. From like 1998, until he mostly retired in 2004 and then also his couple appearances in like the early teens, he was just, a heel? He was all like, "can you smell what the Rock is cooking?" and like, "just bring it!" and he called people jabronies?

Jaz: I'm so glad I never got into wrestling.

Lulav: Oh, neither did I. This is all second-hand mostly thanks to googling this morning but also just to the fact that like, (sighs) trans girls are really into wrestling.

Jaz: I have friends who have been really into wrestling. I mean no disrespect to any of them.

Lulav: Yeah?

Jaz: If you're listening, it's not personal, it just seems like a lot.

Lulav: Yeah. The Friends At The Table people are really into wrestling, and so I was like "ugh okay, I guess I like the concept of kayfabe even if I still don't care about wrestling itself. 

Jaz: I have a question for you about this one.

Lulav: Yes? Okay?

Jaz: You went to Christian schools.

Lulav: Uh oh.

Jaz: Well, um, listen we have a lot of names for G-d but we don't use like, the one about rock very often? It's pretty rare. Did you encounter it more frequently in Christian settings?

Lulav: Uh. I mean, I’ve mostly encountered the name “the Rock” via Ma’oz Tzur.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: I don't know- huh. I think there's a line about the Lord is my rock?

Jaz: Mm hmm.

Lulav: But I just don't care about that? (laughs)

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: Why? I want to hear your thing.

Jaz: Well, just, I know that it comes up a couple of times in Jewish liturgy but it was my, sort of vague impression that there was a note about it in my Torah commentary that is also comes up in Christian liturgy and I wondered if it came up more often.

Lulav: Weird. Yeah that's not something that was apparent to me.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: Oh! Well, okay there was "you are the rock upon which I will build my church" which is extensively something that Jesus said to Peter, and which the Catholic church uses as institutional validity.

Jaz: Hm!

Lulav: Calling Peter the first pope.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: But I don't know about the rock as a reference to divinity.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: Specifically in Christian scripture.

Jaz: Got it. I mean, mostly also what's going to happen in this thing is that there's going to be a bunch of different comparisons to things that G-d is like, or could be. (Lulav laughs) Like we know that Judaism in particular later is like, "look, G-d’s not like any of those things, we just have to have comparisons for the sake of our human minds, so were going to get a bunch of them —

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: — like, as a rock, as an eagle, as a parent," just like a bunch of things.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: So—

Lulav: Also, I just wanted to mention on one tangent, I am so glad we don't have Jewish saints.

Jaz: O-okay.

Lulav: Like, we have Cool Jews.

Jaz: How is this related?

Lulav: Uh, I was talking about the Peter thing.

Jaz: Okay. Is Peter a saint?

Lulav: And that's like, Saint Peter. Yeah.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: And it's just like, thinking about the fact that we don't have venerable figures that are supposed to convey our prayers to G-d in something that ostensibly, but I could not tell you how is not polytheism. Um...

Jaz: Okay. We do have like, you know, some people have like, particular tzadikim or like, particular important figures.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: But I guess mostly, while they're alive.

Lulav: Right. (laughs)

Jaz: Anyway, you might be like, "this person seems particularly spiritually influential and I would like them to pray for me," but you would not continue to say that after they died for the most part.

Lulav: And you also wouldn't be like, "hey, Baal Shem Tov, can you help me find my car keys?"

Jaz: (laughs) Yeah. Anyway, so —

Lulav: So yeah, keep going.

Jaz: — our next comparison is of G-d as a parent. There's a couple of ways that this plays out. This first one is about like, unworthy children and the word here is "avicha."

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: So my translation renders it this time as “your father,” or “the father who created you.”

Lulav: Hm! 

Jaz: The next time this same exact word comes up they translate it as “your parent.” There is no gender-neutral word for parent in biblical Hebrew.

Lulav: ‘Cuz it would me like "emecha" if it were mother?

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Okay. For other people who aren't inside my head, the word that we use today very commonly is avoteinu, our ancestors.

Jaz: Mm hmm.

Lulav: Or imoteinu, our female ancestors.

Jaz: Uh huh.

Lulav: And so it looks like the important part here is like, av?

Jaz: Yes.

Lulav: Right? Yeah, okay.

Jaz: We see those particular words also come down to like modern Hebrew as aba and ima, father and mother.

Lulav: Mmm! Yeah for sure.

Jaz: I'm noting that particularly because a little bit later — I am skipping ahead here to like, line 18 —

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: — where we have both that — 

L: Oooh!

Jaz: — description of rock and parent again but this time we don't get the word parent, we just get a description of the rock who like, did this, and I — this is a little bit tricky for me because it requires a little bit more grammatical parsing than I have, but I think it's both framed as in the masculine, the- it's not grammatically feminine here, but also this word I think has a root of yud lamed daled, like, child, like childbearing. 

Lulav: Oh yeah! Okay.

Jaz: And that this is a description of like, a G-d who bore you as children and gave birth to you. 

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: So.

Lulav: I like that.

Jaz: Which I think argues definitely more strongly for a non-gendered version of G-d that I know that like, you and I use anyway (Lulav laughs) but like, I think it's fun to see it come up in the text like that.

Lulav: Yeah. How boring would it be if the only way you could conceive of G-d is as a dude.

Jaz: I mean like, I once was in a Hebrew class and somebody asked a question about our parents, like we were all talking about our families, and again there's no gender neutral word in Hebrew that means parents. For the most part, modern Hebrew defaults to the masculine when it's a mixed gendered group, and I wasn't about to say a word that could translate to dads to describe my mothers.

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: So, I had to be clear that I was talking about my mothers. And it would just- just to say metaphors that rely on the concept of father are very alien to me. (Lulav laughs) And metaphors that rely on the concept of parent —

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: — I can like, a little bit more get behind.

Lulav: Mm hmm. ‘Cuz like, tell me if this is overreaching but like, to you the concept of a father is somebody who shows up around Passover and occasionally plays guitar with your moms?

Jaz: Kind of yeah, (Lulav chuckles) I mean I love him but —

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: — that's not my concept of a parent.

Lulav: Right.

Jaz: My parents are the people who raised me and they're my mothers.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: Anyway, so partly this is being brought up because part of the poem is instructing you to like, ask your parents and the elders is your community about what G-d did in the past —

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: — and how G-d found the people of Yisrael in a desert and like, watched over them and then we get this metaphor of "like an eagle who browses its nestlings gliding down to its young, so did G-d spread wings and take them", and then talks about like, nursing them with honey from the crag and oil from the flinty rock so this is what I meant when I was like "and gave them the best of things".

Lulav: Yeah. What is “curd of kine”?

Jaz: Uh, thats a good question.

Lulav: I'm just googling a lot of things right now.

Jaz: Okay, well curd is a thing usually you get from like a dairy thing, but I don't know what the other thing is.

Lulav: Oh! Well, fun thing about that, kine is apparently a collective noun for all cows.

Jaz: Oh that's interesting.

Lulav: I think. This is very confusing and google won't tell me the language of origin, but it's like cattle generally. The example sentence is "the low and kine came home at twilight," so that's cool.

Jaz: Well in Hebrew it's bakar, which is definitely cows.

Lulav: That is also what Google says. (laughs)

Jaz: And then chema'at which is a construct form of like, curd or butter of cows.

Lulav: Oh fun.

Jaz: I think they just wanted it to sound poetic.

Lulav: It's, yeah, it's just the translator doing that. Good.

Jaz: There are other words for cows, like I think this is kind of an unusual word for cow and probably they wanted that to come through. 

Lulav: Speaking of unusual words for things that I've heard a lot about in our lives, maybe more so me than you because I'm from Wisconsin. (Jaz laughs) Line 15, we have the name Yeshurun — 

Jaz: Uh huh.  

Lulav: — which is the first time that that has appeared in the Torah.

Jaz: Yeah, it’s a very poetic version of just talking about the people who are more frequently referred to as Am Yisrael.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: And, the Hebrew opens the yishman yishrum, so it’s picking up on the sounds of the words right around it and (Lulav laughs) using a noun that's very similar to the verb that came right before it.

Lulav: Is “vayishman” like, “and grew fat”?

Jaz: I think so.

Lulav: Okay. Thats cool. I'm just like, so interested in how the grammatical constructions of Hebrew get translated to poetic grammatical constructions in English. There's so much cool stuff that I — if I had more ability to focus on things —

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: — for long periods of time, I would really wanna just like, —

Jaz: Yeah, I mean this is a small note that is maybe not important but that vav isn't an “and” there actually.

Lulav: Oh! 

Jaz: It's doing grammatical work of indicating what like, tense or aspect it's in.

Lulav: Oh, so that's like a past tense sort of thing?

Jaz: Well, yes kind of.

Lulav: Or, pluperfect?

Jaz: It's — well. (Lulav laughs) Okay, this I believe is a vav reversive, which is to say the yud indicates that it would be in imperfect —

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: And the vav reversive reverses that (Lulav laughs) so that it would be the action is completed.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: I think. I'd have to actually double-check.

Lulav: Okay. I wish I had studied verb tenses more recently than a decade ago.

Jaz: Anyway, (Lulav laughs) as my Talmud teacher would say, "if that was unhelpful you can just let it rise up and pass away (Lulav laughs) and then come back to us as we’re done talking about the nitty gritty of grammar."

Lulav: Okay. Yeah, is there anything else in this area that you wanna talk about?

Jaz: Well, no unless there's any comment you wanna make about how you're feeling about the new terms for G-d and for the Jewish people that show up here?

Lulav: So Yeshrun etymologically comes from upright or like, just.

Jaz: Mm hmm.

Lulav: So that's... cool I guess?

Jaz: (laughs) Do you have mixed feelings about that or do you just think it’s like, interesting?

Lulav: It's interesting and I am not sure what my feelings are about that. Not that they are mixed, that I have not put enough thought into them to tell you.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: It's really interesting that so much of this poem focuses on G-d as rock. As “hatzur.”

Jaz: Mmm. Well I think one of the things that's interesting about it a little bit is like, tzur is rock but it's also contextually (Lulav giggles) sometimes maybe mountain?

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: And Moshe is about to go die on the mountain.

Lulav: (laughs) Okay. Cool.

Jaz: You know, just in the poetic sense it’s mountain. It's obviously not literally a mountain but it does carry that implication.

Lulav: Yeah. One thing that I did want to talk about is line 17, where we have all of the ways to mark disdain for other objects of worship.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: They're called demons, no-gods, gods that the people sacrificing to them had never known, — 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: — new ones who came but lately who your fathers did not know. 

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: And so, yeah there's a lot of interesting stuff here, and I'm not sure — so because there's so much build up around these concepts in English — 

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: — I'm not sure what of these are actually carrying through in the Hebrew, like what comes out when they say “demons.” The latter two things where it’s like "gods that you haven't lain with nor have your fathers" —

Jaz: Uh huh. 

Lulav: — that makes sense. It's saying like, not only do you not have history with them, your family doesn't have history with them. 

Jaz: Mm hmm. The word that they use here in Hebrew that they translate as demons is sheydim —

Lulav: Oh good, okay. 

Jaz: — and if you're interested in learning more about sheydim, about the sense of Jewish demonology, I can recommend another podcast for you called "Throwing Sheyd" where sheyd is spelled s-h-e-y-d and they describe themselves as a podcast about Jewish demonology and they’re a lot of fun. 

Lulav: Yeah, I still have to listen to them. 

Jaz: I do recommend it! 

Lulav:  Cool. Okay. Wish I could make my brain focus on things that I actually want it to focus on instead of just like, picking random netflix shows to watch all ten episodes of. (laughs) 

Jaz: Um, so, anyway I do think that they are referring to a thing that does eventually get a whole bunch of like, Jewish specific knowledge of — 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: — what this is. 

Lulav: But what happens next, I mean we go from our people were given the best of things and so they grew fat and coarse which like, euuugh, and then they fell to iniquity as a result of not appreciating all the fine things they were given seems to be the thrust of this stanza. 

Jaz: Yeah, I can't endorse the way the text thinks that evilness is just displayed on people's bodies like that.

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Also, kind of weird and fatphobic but then there's this whole thing about how like, yeah G-d is mad about it and is like, "if people are gonna be sacrificing to gods that don’t even exist, I should make them angry with people who don't exist or like, people who are such utter fools."

Lulav: Making up dudes online to get mad at. 

Jaz: Yeah! (Lulav laughs) And then there's this whole bit of like, well I'll give them plague! I'll give them famine! I'll send creepy crawlies at them! (Lulav laughs) And then this bit of like, well I might have gotten rid of them entirely but then there's like "but for fear of the taunt of the foe, there are enemies who might misjudge and say 'our own hand has prevailed, none of this was brought by G-d," and um, G-d’s like "I can't let those people think that they would have won —

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — It was me!" and G-d’s like, "Well, then I guess I can't do it. Guess I gotta not worry about that anymore.”

Lulav: And, here we see that the sunk cost fallacy is divinely supported. (both laugh) I can't drop out of grad school even though it's killing me because then all of the grad school that I've already done will have been a waste! 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Is what I mean by sunk cost fallacy, for those who aren't familiar. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Uh, side note, if you want to drop out of grad school, please do. If you kind of want to drop out of grad school but you like, still think that you can do it, please don’t drop out. I really hope that you can make it through and like, have that degree. But also grad school is so bad. Just drop out. (laughs) 

Jaz: Neither of us have ever been to grad school, I just feel the real need to like, preface this. 

Lulav: Right. My best friend went to grad school and dropped out, so a lot of growing into adulthood for us was like, realizing when we didn't have to sink further costs into things that we had already sunk costs into. So like, talking to them through them figuring out that they didn't have to do grad school anymore was definitely like, a big thing in my early adulthood. 

Jaz: Sure. 

Lulav: But, yeah. It's different for everyone. Ostensibly some people can do higher education which is like, wild to me but... (laughs) 

Jaz: You know, sometimes you get really really upset about something and then somebody brings up something from just an angle that you absolutely hadn’t considered and it brings you back to earth kind of? 

Lulav: (giggles) Okay. 

Jaz: Like, G-d got really upset and was like, "what if I just destroy it all," and then... was like, "oh but that would cause this other problem over here that I just hadn't considered. — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — Maybe I should try something that's not just burning it all (Lulav laughs) and just try something else instead."

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: So this one is not just a sunk cost fallacy but more of a like, oh right, something reminded me that there's answers beyond just get rid of it, get rid of it all. 

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah, I think the best possible reading here is you must always consider the negative externalities of your plan and not go through with it if they would genuinely harm things. 

Jaz: Well, sometimes things are like, the world is complicated and things can be both harmful and necessary. 

Lulav: Right. 

Jaz: We live in a complicated world. But, in general, yes consider the consequences of your actions. 

Lulav: (laughs) Mostly when I think about plans that have negative externalities it's like, oh we're going to raise property values in this area by making sure that all poor people are either forced out of the area or starved to death. 

Jaz: Yeah, lets not do that. 

Lulav: Let’s not do that! 

Jaz: And also, G-d brings up this metaphor here about like, "I put it all away, sealed it up into my store houses. I could unleash vengeance upon people if I needed to, in the future. I do not need to at this moment," and then has this thing about like, G-d will say, “well, where are their gods? The rock in whom they sought refuge?” And it's bringing up this thing that's like, you might pledge yourself to things. You might like, devote your life to something. Is it worth it, does it care about you too?

Lulav: Mmm. 

Jaz: And this is like, don't be so loyal to your company that you forget that it is a company, (Lulav chuckles) you know? Whereas this one is being like, those other gods, are they real? Are they gonna help you? Are they gonna show up for you?

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: So then has this that's like, "see that I am the one and there's no other ones," and that like I have ultimate power here is kind of the end of the poem. 

Lulav: Yeah. And there's a lot about like, wetting my flashing blade and my handling hold on judgement. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Which is just like, have we seen such embodied bellicose language about G-d, to this point?

Jaz: Well we saw some the last time there was poetry via Baalam, that was also like about destruction?

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: But yeah, the way this poem has metaphors around a rock and an eagle it also has like very physical ones around a sword, and a blade, and a hand. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: In a way that again, later tradition goes out of its way a little bit to be like all of these are metaphors. 

Lulav: Right. Which is like, having gone to some Lutheran schools, that's not a thing that I get from Christian imagery of the ostensibly same god, where it's very embodied?

Jaz: Well, they have a person so. 

Lulav: Yeah but, even the language about the father of the trinity is very embodied and I think that's something that appealed to me a lot about Jewish conceptions of the divine, is like you just don't have a body for G-d. 

Jaz: Right. 

Lulav: It's the whole thing. 

Jaz: Mostly G-d communicates through the fire or the cloud — 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: — is sort of the closest we get to any kind of embodying. 

Lulav: I mean, the closest that we get is if you look upon the face of G-d you go blind and die. 

Jaz: Yeah... but — 

Lulav: But. 

Jaz: — also we don't have anybody who does that. That doesn't happen to anybody I don't think?

Lulav: Mm hmm. Moshe’s the only one and after he does it he gets exfoliated. 

Jaz: I don't think that that's right, I think even Moshe like, G-d’s like, “you cannot see my face and I will turn and show you my back.” 

Lulav: Mmm, right, or like he has to put on a veil so that he's only looking at things through a veil, I don't know. Anyway, that's just cool. Even the most embodied stuff isn't what you expect when you think about bodies. 

Jaz: Right. 

Lulav: And mostly even for Moshe, like in this one, G-d’s like kind of prophesying through Moshe's mouth, but mostly even with Moshe it's just kind of like a voice that speaks out of the cloud or the fire. And then the poem is over, you know Moshe has spoken it. Joshua’s there and also some other people and then Moshe says, "take it all to heart, teach them to your children, it's important," and then G-d speaks to him and tells him to go to the top of Mount Nibel. I workshopped it a little in a way that I felt fine about for the English to make it rhyme. 

Lulav: Oooh. Good. 

Jaz: But, in Hebrew it is more like Nehbo. I feel fine about that. (Lulav giggles) Anyway, G-d is very clear like, you’ll go up on this mountain and die there. 

Lulav: Like, not just you will die before you see the promised land but like, you will go up that specific mountain and die. 

Jaz: Yeah. And you can look at the land, but you can't go in and it's because you did a thing with your brother and he's already dead and you're the last one and you — the way it's written here is like failing to uphold my sanctity among the Israelite people. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: Which I think we talked about at the time that it was like, not specifically just he hit a rock but he called the people rebels and didn't do what G-d said and didn't like, believe in the people?

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: And G-d has held onto that, like you're not the leader that can lead them in a new place. 

Lulav: (laughs) Though, the fact that we're giving this to Joshua is like, and this guy is? (both laugh) 

Jaz: Fair enough. 

Lulav: The one who I most famously remember as the snitch?

Jaz: Uh huh. Uh huh. Look he was younger then, sometimes people make mistakes and then grow into better people. 

Lulav: Yeah, like some people are authors of a crime bill which incarcerates — 

Jaz: No. 

Lulav: — thousands if not millions of people, and then they, checks notes, are still tough on crime. (Jaz groans) Wait... 

Jaz: Okay. (Lulav laughs) I guess we're just going to invalidate the thing that I was saying by pointing to a person that did not evolve. 

Lulav: Im sorry. I will make recompense for that by Pokémon Going to the polls. I’m sorry. (laughing) I'm just taking this all deeper. 

Jaz: Let's move on. 

Lulav: To Rating G-d’s Writing? I'm just unfamiliar with the segment Rating G-d’s Writing, can you tell me what that's about? 

Jaz: Welcome to Rating G-d’s Writing, (Lulav laughs) the segment in which we pick two scales and force each other to give an arbitrary rating of this parsha based on those arbitrary scales. 

Lulav: Thank you for that introduction, now I understand the concept! Jaz, out of ten stanzas, what would you rate Haazinu?

Jaz: I would rate it 9/10. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: I like poetry. Even this poetry. (Lulav laughs) I like that it does interesting things with grammar. I like that it does interesting things with metaphor, and plays with the idea of a G-d who can be equally many different kinds of things and those are all equally true. That the world doesn't exist where people or a divinity is like just one thing. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: I think it's got messiness and flaws and I think that there's something lovely about saying the person who has brought you to where you are is not always the person who can get you where you need to go and you can pay proper respect to how they got you this far without believing that they're the ones who are gonna take you where you need to go next. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. Thank you for that. 

Jaz: Lulav... 

Lulav: (gasps) Me?

Jaz: What poetic device — 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: — do you think best encapsulates this parsha?

Lulav: Okay. I'm going to have to think about poetic devices for a second. I think chiasmus is a poetic device that encapsulates this parsha fairly well. That is the concept of like, starting with one construction or one topic and then moving onto another and then in the middle going back from that final construction or topic all the way back to that first one because the major arc of this poem goes from there were the days of old where you were brought into greatness, and then you were big meanies, so then this like, going from greatness to meanness gets reversed and we have "I could mess with you a whole bunch, but instead I will vindicate you," does that make sense?

Jaz: Sure. 

Lulav: Like I don't know that this poem as a whole is the best example of chiasmus, but like, when I think of things that would apply as a rating to this parsha, chiasmus is definitely the one that comes up for me. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: Another thing that I just wanted to say is like, when I read things I will very often be trying to pluck meaning from them more so than I am technical enjoyment, so poetry tends to be very difficult for me, actually, because instead of just like, taking things construction by construction and looking at all the cool interplays I am mostly just looking at poetry to like, get the statement out of it? And that's not what poetry generally does? A lot of the meaning and even beyond the meaning, a lot of the reason that you make or consume poetry is to enjoy the artful things done with technical construction, and so it was really nice how like, when I first read Haazinu, I was like, eh this isn't a great poem, but you walked with me every stanza piece by piece, and like really drilled down on these constructions that you like so much and that made me enjoy it a lot more, so thanks for that. 

Jaz: Thank you. 

Lulav: So, yeah this was our penultimate episode and it's gonna be very fun to see you next time with “And the blessing.” Jaz, can you take us to the close? 

Jaz: Yeah! Thanks for listening to Kosher Queers! If you like what you’ve heard, you can support us on Patreon at, which will give you bonus content and help us keep making this for you. You can also follow us on Twitter @kosherqueers or like us on Facebook at Kosher Queers, or email us your questions, comments, and concerns at [email protected], and please spread the word about our podcast! Our artwork is by the talented Lior Gross. Our music is courtesy of the fabulous band Brivele, whose work you can find on Bandcamp. Go buy their album, they’re great. Our sound production this week is done by my lovely co-host, Lulav Arnow. 

Lulav: I really wish I could have thought of an example of people who get better with time, because that's definitely a thing, it's just not true of Joe Biden. (Jaz laughs) 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 Lenape people. 

Lulav: I’m Lulav Arnow and you can find me @spacetrucksix on Twitter, in a wonderful example of chiasmus, play League of Legends with me @palmsmith. (Jaz laughs) I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Wahpékute and Anishinaabeg.

Jaz: Have a lovely queer Jewish day! 

[Brivele outro music plays] 

Jaz: This week's gender is the faintly nostalgic smell where a gender used to be. 

Lulav: This week's pronouns are hm and um.