Kosher Queers

53 — Lech Lecha: Don’t Have Heroes

October 29, 2020
Kosher Queers
53 — Lech Lecha: Don’t Have Heroes
Kosher Queers
53 — Lech Lecha: Don’t Have Heroes
Oct 29, 2020

This week, we talk hammer-based encouragements, raptor husbandry best practices,  and what's worth believing in or not believing in. Spoiler: parasocial relationships are not the way to go.  Also we contemplate having the autonomy to make choices that the prophets don't approve of.

Transcript available here.

This week's reading is Isaiah 40:27–41:16. Next week's reading is Kings II 4:1-37.

You can read "The Nutritionist" by Andrea Gibson here and check out their book, Take Me With You.

Support us on Patreon or Ko-fi! Our new website, still a little bit under construction, is at 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 talk hammer-based encouragements, raptor husbandry best practices,  and what's worth believing in or not believing in. Spoiler: parasocial relationships are not the way to go.  Also we contemplate having the autonomy to make choices that the prophets don't approve of.

Transcript available here.

This week's reading is Isaiah 40:27–41:16. Next week's reading is Kings II 4:1-37.

You can read "The Nutritionist" by Andrea Gibson here and check out their book, Take Me With You.

Support us on Patreon or Ko-fi! Our new website, still a little bit under construction, is at 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 (

Lulav: Hi Jaz. 

Jaz: Hi Lulav. 

Lulav: Whats cool and queer or Jewish in your life this week?

Jaz: Well, a coworker told me their new name this week, (Lulav gasps) and that was cool. 

Lulav: Amazing. Do you wanna put them on blast and say what it is or no?

Jaz: No, I don't, cuz I think they're still talking to more people. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: So I don't know if they’re— it will be by the time this episode goes out, I'm not outing anybody, but I'm not gonna say their name on air just in case. 

Lulav: I'm so proud of them.

Jaz: It is cool, that it’s like, one of my trans coworkers that I can have more than one trans coworker and I don’t even work at like, an orginization thats particularily oriented around queer trans anything, it just happens to have multiple trans people who work for it. Anyway, and it was really sweet and we all said mazel tov, and that was really nice. 

Lulav: Cool. How many coworkers do you have? Isn't it only like... 8?

Jaz: Well, it depends what you mean by coworkers. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: Cuz we have a bunch of part-time people who I would also call coworkers, —

Lulav: Mmm. 

Jaz: —and also we have people who are part of the wider organization but not in my department who I would also probably call coworkers. 

Lulav: Hm!

Jaz: I just don't work with them very much cuz they're not in my department. 

Lulav: Okay. Gotcha. 

Jaz: But, yeah, my department is relatively small and has gotten smaller this year. 

Lulav: Oof. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: So, yeah I'm glad that the transes are sticking around. 

Jaz: Yeah. Lulav, whats something cool and queer or Jewish that happened to you this week?

Lulav: Well, last night I think? Shachar and Shachar’s friend and my best friend all played League of Legends together, which, like, is a bad idea, but also when you're doing it with friends, it's almost an okay idea. 

Jaz: Were you also there?

Lulav: Sorry, yes, and me. So we had 4 out of the 5 players necessary for a team, and it was really fun because like, we had two trans women and two non binary people on T, and there were some really gay usernames. 

Jaz: Oh?

Lulav: Yeah, like, I’m palmsmith which is just like a personal thing about my name. 

Jaz: Uh huh.

Lulav: Though I do have the tag GaLs, for the clan that I'm in. 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: And then, I'm not gonna give away specific peoples names here, but, there was d00mdyke, butchberry, and CatradoraIsCanon. 

Jaz: (laughs) Okay. 

Lulav: So, yeah. We were rolling with the gayest party, and it was really fun, like, I'm not great at League of Legends, but turns out that when 3 of the four other people that you're playing with are people who know you and you know have decent emotional control, the games are so much more fun. 

Jaz: That makes sense, and sounds really sweet. 

Lulav: Yeah. So, shoutout to our other transcriber (Jaz laughs) who plays jumpy women in top lane. 

Jaz: I- I don't really know what that means but great! (Lulav laughs) Lulav, should we also tell the listeners about a thing we both did this week?

Lulav: What did we both do this week? Oh! Yes. Right. So, Jaz as you may remember is a third grade teacher, for like, afterschool stuff, and the lesson this week, as we are recording was about Sukkot. And so, they asked me to come in for their third grade classes so I could tell the kids about my name, and the metaphors underlying it. 

Jaz: Which was very sweet, Lulav was our first guest in the class. 

Lulav: Awe. 

Jaz: So, like, on the Jewish front they got to impart Jewish knowledge to Jewish children, (Lulav giggles) and also on the queer front, it was about name changes so I’m prepping students slowly to be like, "hey did you know? there are so many things in the world and so many people".

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: Which is very exciting because were soon going to have a unit that's about Jewish naming practices as part of like, our life cycle units and, I don't know, it's just nice to be able to teach about that- about Jewish life cycles in a way that's not so cisheteronormative.

Lulav: Yeah. And also, none of the kids asked me bad questions about gender stuff? I think the most personal thing that I got was "wait, so did you have a different name when you were born?" and I was just like "yeah, it was my grandfather's name but that was a boys name and I really wanted a name that wasn't for boys".

Jaz: Yeah. Which they very much accepted and also were happy about in the sense that I was like, "that's a great question and its gunna mean that you got a preview of our next unit (Lulav giggles) so congrats to you" and they were like "hell yeah".

Lulav: (laughs) I don't think any of the children said hell yeah but that was definitely the vibe.

Jaz: That was the vibe! (laughs)

Lulav: So yeah, that was really fun and I had a wildly different presentation every time because consistency in my verbiage? Never.

Jaz: I would say you had basically the same presentation and tweaked and updated your style of presenting it as you were in different classes, both because you got better and more comfortable at knowing (Lulav giggles) how to present that knowledge in the amount of time and also because you're working with different kids who reacted in different ways.

Lulav: Yeah, the last class was really energetic which I liked.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: I also liked the other ones, to be fair. (Jaz laughs) Anyway, are you ready to start the show?

Jaz: I am!

[Brivele intro]

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 the haftarah of Lech Lecha, which is to say, Isaiah 40:27-41:16.

Jaz: Yeah, and Lulav, you were going to summarize for us Lech Lecha, right? So that we could have a sense—

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: — of how the haftarah and the parsha fit together?

Lulav: Sure thing. Can I get 40 seconds on that?

Jaz: Mm hmm. Ready, set, go.

Lulav: Some divinely inspired nobody and his sister — wait. Wife? Have a run in with Pharaoh and his brother moves to S’dom. When said brother is captured by a big ol' military alliance, Abram marches with his neighbors in retainers to get him back- and does! Abram has a mid-, or frankly late-life crisis, but is reassured by his household god that there will be babies. He cuts a covenant and then gets some pretty explicit spoilers for the next four books. There's some really bad polyamory, resulting in a son whose stepmother is not fond of him. Lastly, Abram cuts another covenant, if you know what I mean, (Jaz groans) and gets another syllable for the trouble. (Jaz groans)

[timer goes off]

Lulav: Listen.

Jaz: That was pretty good! If you want to hear a longer run-through of the actual parsha, that's in episode 3; Patriarchs and Matriarchs behaving badly. (Lulav laughs) Lulav, how would you say that the parsha connects to the haftarah this week?

Lulav: Yeah, sure. One thing that I just wanted to note is that like, the story in Lech Lecha just starts. We don't get a lot about what brought Abram to his G-d. Just like, that G-d — you know, Hashem — saying "hey, I will make of you a great nation."

Jaz: Mm hmm.

Lulav: So, I think what relates to this haftarah portion as far as I can tell, is actually that military stuff in the middle—

Jaz: Hmm.

Lulav: — that I remembered less of before I read this again. There's some stuff about "you are the people who I have chosen, seed of Abraham, my friend."

Jaz: That's where I thought the connection came from, the idea of this is the initial one where G-d says "I have chosen you", and this haftarah is sort of reiterating that—

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: —as part of what's gonna happen next.

Lulav: So, yeah, where I'm getting the military stuff is lines 11-13, "shamed and chagrinned shall be all who contend with you. They who strive with you shall become as naught and shall perish", and to me who just read the parsha and the haftarah in quick succession, that's the thing that stands out because Abram is just like, "hey, my brother’s captured and I'm gonna go fight like, 5 different kings to get him back."

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: And then he just does. And so, I think the kind of success that is promised in this prophecy, and the kind of success that is promised all throughout the last three books of the Torah, the clearest example we ever see is when it's not even a thing, when Abram just goes and does it.

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: Do you disagree with that though?

Jaz: I think that's an interesting place to start, yeah. (Lulav giggles) I think that again, like, the haftarah and parsha connections are often tenuous. (Lulav giggles) I think that both of the ideas present there of like, chosenness but also military prowess are as good as a place as any to draw connections to.

Lulav: Okay. I appreciate that, thank you.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: So do you want to get us started talking about the haftarah portion and what that means?

Jaz: Sure, so we were talking a little bit last week about some of the surrounding context of what's happening in the world, cuz were still in Isaiah —

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: — and, if you missed last week and want that context, I would suggest going back to listen to it. Lulav gave a fairly comprehensive, I would say, (Lulav laughs) short summary of some of the war dynamics that are happening here. I would say that it's worth nothing that Isaiah is a prophet who has started out in a situation where people were at peace and he was troubled by how they were treated each other, and then people are at war and he's troubled —

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: — that they are relying too much on the military might of the nations that they're making alliances with to ultimately protect them.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: And that this is really distressing to Isaiah who is calling out here as well for people to be turning to G-d. So, and what's happening here, right before we start reading—

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: —cuz were going a little bit earlier in Isaiah than last week, and so right before our haftarah starts, there's all of these bits that remind me actually of the end of Job, that are —

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: — basically as like, how can you compare G-d to anything? How could you question G-d in anything?

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: Very similar it feels to me to that, were you there when I set the earth on its foundations and could you measure (Lulav giggles) the distance the distance between stars or whatever? And then here there's G-d measured the earth with G-d’s hand and kneaded the earth's dust and weighed the mountains and the nations are like a drop in a bucket, (Lulav giggles) and then they're like, and an idol, it's like a woodworker made it and a smith put gold on it and it's just some normal materials made by human hands.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: So that's like, what's happening before we even get into the haftarah, like, that's where we're at. That's the like, vein Isaiah is going down.

Lulav: That was really useful context, like, I got a little bit of that from just scrolling a couple verses above, but you went like, a fair ways back into chapter 40 and, wow, that super does resemble G-d speaking from the whirlwind in Job.

Jaz: Right?

Lulav: Do we have Job in the haftarah portions?

Jaz: That's a really good question, I don't think so.

Lulav: (gasps) We don't! Guess we'll have to do a season 3.

Jaz: (laughs) Cuz Job is in Ketuvim I think, but I don't think it's in the haftarah cycle we’re doing.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: If it's in somebody else's haftarah cycle, cuz I know that the haftarah cycles do vary, if anybody else happens to know a haftarah cycle where Job shows up, please let us know. I'd be curious.

Lulav: Yeah. So, what happens in this portion though?

Jaz: Yeah, so, then in the haftarah we start over here on 40:27, —

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: — and that one starts with lama tomar, why do you say this? (Lulav giggles) And it's a question for the Jewish people; why do you say that my cause is ignored by G-d? After we were doing all of this stuff about G-d did everything, we're going to so why do you say G-d won't be there for you? Then Isaiah reiterates some more about how like, it's the G-d of old, it's the creator of earth from end to end, and we start also with these questions of like, hal-oh no[???]? Which is like do you not know it? Or, even more directly, in a way that I really enjoyed, imlo shama eta. If you have not heard somehow, which is nice because this is the same root of the shema so it's like a parallel (Lulav giggles) of we’ve been told to listen, are you just like, not listening? Are you not paying attention? And then moves into another line that shows up in our liturgy, which is notem liyaev koach, which is a line that is usually translated as "gives strength to the weary'', as like an attribute of G-d, and it shows up in the Birkot Hashachar, in like, the morning blessings.

Lulav: Oh! The ones that I'm never awake for, that's really cool.

Jaz: (laughs) It's one of those things where there's a whole list of qualities of G-d, basically.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: I've talked probably about matir asurim, releases the imprisoned.

Lulav: Mmm.

Jaz: There's also this one, gives strength to those who need it basically, to the weary.

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: That I didn't know came from here.

Lulav: (giggles) Jaz, would you happen to know if this is like, a different language from the one that the Torah was written in?

Jaz: That's a really good question.

Lulav: Or is this a very similar Biblical Hebrew?

Jaz: So this is definitely also in Hebrew because it is easier for me to read it.

Lulav: (laughs) Right, than it is for you to read Aramaic?

Jaz: Yes.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: The thing is, most texts are written either in Hebrew or Aramaic. Biblical and Rabbinic Hebrew are different, but they're not so different that it is easy for me to distinguish between them.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: If I was gonna be looking up words in here though, I would probably look them up with Biblical Hebrew rather than Rabbinic Hebrew.

Lulav: Yeah, cuz this is a couple hundred years before we get the first rabbis.

Jaz: At least. (Lulav giggles) Because the Temple is still standing. We're talking about nations and fighting and all of the prophets take place while there is nations and kings and people to be prophecy-ing to—

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: — who are, like an organized political body with independent government, and like, the Rabbinic tradition begins to develop into the form we know it now and to be like, a powerful tradition of its own, not just like, a fringe movement of rebels or whatever, after the destruction of the Temple and after there's been like, Roman conquering of the region.

Lulav: That's actually an amazing insight because, definitely in my lifetime there has never been a Temple where like, the people who explicitly textually guide your religious community just are, and can be prophesied to?

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: So I wasn't considering who this is directed at, so much as a general thing to whoever's listening.

Jaz: That's a really interesting question. I don't think this is being prophesied to the Temple.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: I think Isaiah is talking to all of the people, but in particular talking to the kings.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: And the king's seat of power is at the palace, not at the temple. I don't think the prophets- at least I don't think Isaiah specifically is prophesying so much to the Kohanim.

Lulav: Thats fair. Especially since the book begins with the prophecies of Isaiah, son of Amoz, who prophesied concerning Yehuda and Yerushalem in the reins of Kings of Yehuda.

Jaz: Yeah.

Lulav: Yeah, it does seem like the framework is kings.

Jaz: Yeah. I think there might be exceptions. None are immediately coming to mind, (Lulav laughs) but that doesn't mean there aren't exceptions.

Lulav: Uh huh.

Jaz: But also the first prophet I was familiar with is the prophet Nathan, who—

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: — doesn’t have a book because he shows up in places where he's talking to David.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: And that's his primary function in the story, is like as a prophet who talks to and particularly scolds David.

Lulav: Amazing.

Jaz: Yeah. It's great. Also, it's delightful because my brother's name is David Nathan.

Lulav: (laughs) Oh, he has slash fiction in his name!

Jaz: (laughs) That's terrible.

Lulav: (laughs) You're welcome. Anyway, yeah, keep us walking through here.

Jaz: Right, so, there's things about renewing strength, a list of things that's like, for humans, even like, young humans can stumble and fall, but if you put your trust into G-d instead, your strength just gets renewed. We have this metaphor of they shall renew their strength as eagles grow new plumes. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall march and not grow faint.

Lulav: That's a wild pull because it implies that they were like, regularly watching preening eagles?

Jaz: Probably it's more relevant to know the habits of animals if you're in an agricultural society. The Talmud talking about animals is like a wild time.

Lulav: (laughs) Oh no.

Jaz: There's a very funny story about like, which animals do you interrupt praying for? Like do you do it for spiders, or snakes, or scorpions? And there's a like, if you see a wild bull, or just like, if you see a bull that is this particular colour and this particular breed (Lulav laughs) at this particular time of year, not only do you stop praying, you run for it (Lulav laughs) and you run up a roof and you kick a ladder down.

Lulav: Good.

Jaz: Anyway, so they probably do know stuff about eagles but also, I don't know, we- not maybe you or I specifically but I feel like people who also don't know stuff about animals (Lulav laughs) also pull on animals and even eagles particularly now that they're like a metaphor for the US or whatever.

Lulav: Woof.

Jaz: So I feel like it does not feel that unusual to me to say, yeah they just pulled on an animal behavior that might or might not be accurate—

Lulav: Hm.

Jaz: — as a metaphor for their nation.

Lulav: Fair. Yeah, the only reason I'm commenting on this is reading Animorphs at a young age gave me a healthy respect for raptors.

Jaz: Oooh!

Lulav: And so, I was just surprised by like, eagle husbandry knowledge. (laughs)  

Jaz: Yeah. Do you have any thoughts about what's happening here in terms of the theology of this idea that like, if you put your faith in G-d you just won't ever get tired?

Lulav: (laughs) I — hm. I don't know that it's saying you will never get tired? Okay, no it does say "they shall march and not grow faint", but I think this is talking about motivations—

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav: — because the next couple lines talk about, you know, rousing a victor from the east, summoning him to your service and stuff which I'm assuming is talking about the Assyrians? And if you focus the things that you care about into your conception of divinity—

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: — that's very renewing and like, something that you can fall back on in hard times?

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: But if you put your faith on somebody who you know is bad, coming to save you—

Jaz: Mmm.

Lulav: — that's not something that makes you feel good. Like, every time I think about the Democratic party I sigh, very deeply.

Jaz: It's almost like, (Lulav sighs very deeply) if you want to make that your working metaphor that you’re like, yeah I put my faith in the ideals that I cling to. I don't put my faith in any particular person, because an individual human or an individual policy even, —

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: — can let me down, but if I am focused on like, the ideals that I want to fight for then I'm prepared to keep fighting for them even if a particular thing lets me down.

Lulav: Yeah, I think that's a good read on it.

Jaz: Which is a thing that I do really try and subscribe to is not putting people on a pedestal. (Lulav giggles) I have a Google Doc that just lives somewhere and every time somebody who I once looked up to does something that I find really upsetting and disappointing I write it in this Google Doc, and the Google Doc is just titled "don't have heroes."

Lulav: Oh, babe. (Jaz laughs) I mean like, good, but also: oh babe. (laughs)

Jaz: This is a document reserved for famous people. I think it is fine and good to have like, real admiring relationships with the people in your life, but that feels different than holding like, a person who you don't know and therefor like, could never personally work something through with—

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: — up as like, a paragon.

Lulav: Yeah. Those are called "parasocial relationships" because you feel like you have a relationship with the person, but they literally don't know you exist.

Jaz: Yeah. (Lulav laughs) Anyway, so I think it's a nice thing to own there of like, you gotta hold onto the things that are really important—

Lulav: Yeah.

Jaz: — not, yeah. (Lulav giggles) Okay, so then there is this bit that's like, let the people come forward, and I really like this that it's like "let us come forward together for argument", (Lulav laughs) which is how I start all parties.

Lulav: Good. I mean there was that, uh, presidential debate drinking game in which we came forth for argument about things that were likely to happen a whole bunch, so yeah that sounds about right.

Jaz: Well, moving right along from that one, (Lulav laughs) there is a note that's like, were back to the rhetorical questions about like, who has roused a victor from the east, and delivered up nations and trouden rulers and rendered their swords like dust? And then they're like, yeah, yeah, yeah. It's G-d. (Lulav giggles) You guessed it. It is.

Lulav: So, what do you think they’re talking about with rousing a victor from the east, because on the one hand we know a victor from the east who trod sovereigns down, but on the other hand it's saying that G-d was the one who brought that victor.

Jaz: Yeah, what exactly is the thing that you are asking?

Lulav: How are we supposed to read that? Is it that G-d was the one who provided the Assyrians as a defense against the northern kingdom, or?

Jaz: Well—

Lulav: Is this supposed to be like, some other mythical figure that we're just unfamiliar with, personally?

Jaz: It's interesting because in some of the commentary, like in the Ibn Ezra, they refer to this—

Lulav: Mmmm.

Jaz: — not as a contemporary kingdom, but just as Abraham being from the east, and that implicitly frames Israel like, the people Isaiah was speaking to.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: As the people from the east.

Lulav: Also, yeah, we're both looking at the same Ibn Ezra commentary right now and it has a helpful connection to the parsha because this is Abraham who defeated the kings in Genesis 14.

Jaz: Yeah, I don't know, I find it interesting when there's commentary like that. Often it's like, you should read it like that, but often it's there to clarify things that are unclear which means that it wasn't in the text. (Lulav laughs) So your reading of like, oh it's talking about the you know, contemporaneous people who just did come—

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: — and fight a war, and save them seems just as legit but rabbis don't necessarily want him to have been talking about that. (Lulav laughs) So they have said "oh no, no, no. this is how you should read it."

Lulav: Okay. Thank you. I do like the reading though, where it's like, ha ha! you thought you called on a temporal power? Well you did, but who do you think made that temporal power in the first place?

Jaz: Right.

Lulav: What’s up? (laughs) 

Jaz: Yeah, that is part of what's happening, and it's like an interesting, you couldn't even have called on them if I didn't let you type of deal.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Which really, again, raises really interesting questions about, well what are the nature of the choices that we could make if things so determined by not us.

Lulav: Right.

Jaz: But I think that's not fully what Isaiah is saying here, I do think we are left with a high degree of choice and autonomy, it's just that Isaiah disapproves of many of the choices people might make.

Lulav: (laughs) The job of a prophet.

Jaz: Yeah. But I also really like the idea of like, you think military victories are gonna save you? (Lulav giggles) Well, I let there be a military victory this one time but also, I turned other peoples swords into dust once.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Like, you think you can count on swords? I don't know, there's value in that for me of holding this idea of, you can't trust in weapons. Somebody can always have the bigger, badder weapon. You have to build your society on something else.

Lulav: Mm hmm. And are they saying that the thing you should build your society on is helping each other and bringing similar skills to be used together and different skills to support lax?

Jaz: Yes? They are?

Lulav: Okay cool.

Jaz: There's this note about like, "no shackles placed on G-d’s feet", like, just total freedom.

Lulav: Uh huh.

Jaz: And I think that implicitly frames the like, I think utopian vision that Isaiah lays out next as one of like, this is what the proper condition of freedom is. 

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: That's my reading, tell me if you agree with it.

Lulav: Sure. The translator seems to think that "his feet" is not G-ds, but rather the victor from the east, but I don't know. You had a good reading.

Jaz: I think that is up to the translator, but I think that is definitely ambiguous because the subject of all the of the rest of these sentences has been G-d.

Lulav: Mm. Okay.

Jaz: Plus the victor from the east is this figure that they want you to believe like, the semi-mythical Abraham.

Lulav: Mm hmm.

Jaz: Like, even would have understood to be metaphorical at the time if they understood to be referring to Abraham.

Lulav: Okay.

Jaz: But then they have this thing of like, everything trembles in fear of G-d, and so everyone helps each other, saying to their siblings that are around them, "courage, courage, courage", it — it — sorry, it reminds me a little bit of that Andrea Gibson poem, “The Nutritionist.” Have you ever read “The Nutritionist?”

Lulav: Wait, Andrea Gibson... Okay I am going to leave the room to see if I'm thinking of a thing that I'm thinking of.

Jaz: Okay.

Lulav, in a Spongebob-style voiceover: 10 seconds later. 

Lulav: Okay, so that is Andrea Gibson, cool. I have a book of Andrea Gibson, uh, Take Me With You. 

Jaz: Oh! That was a pretty good book. 

Lulav: (laughs) Yeah, it was interesting. I was expecting like, poetry more so than mixed media poe—  I don't know. It was fun though. So, what's “The Nutritionist” by Gibson. 

Jaz: I'm not, I think, gonna read the whole thing because it's not my poem and it's a little bit long. 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: But, I really like it and at the end, sorry to give away the end of a poem, it works best when it's built up from the beginning, it ends "friend, if the only thing we have to gain in staying is each other, my G-d, that's plenty. My G-d that's enough. My G-d, that is so so much for the light to give each of us at each other's backs, whispering over and over and over; live, live, live".

Lulav: Aww, that's good. 

Jaz: And so that's what I was reminded of in this bit in Isaiah where it's like, everyone helps the other one saying to their siblings “courage", and it doesn't come through right as well in the English, I don't feel like, but yeah. 

Lulav: Awe thank you. That was a great poetry corner. 

Jaz: I mean, like, Isaiah is poetry, right? So like, I enjoy it when it reminds me of other poetry. 

Lulav: Yeah, poetry that makes more sense too in an English-speaking aesthetic. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: Um, so there's stuff about people who use hammers encouraging each other to use those hammers. 

Jaz: Yeah, I would love, actually to see somebody turn this excerpt from Isaiah into slightly more conventional poetry and in particular I would love to see a like, maybe Jewish anarchist take on this one, you know, of like, what does it mean to build a society that's fundamentally not about our amazing nations but is fundamentally oriented around the one who has this skill turns the one to has that skill and they work together—

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: — to like, build things for each other. And then it is like, this one does this bit and this one does this bit and then they fix it solid with nails so that it will not topple, like so that they can build something lasting together. 

Lulav: Ohhh. That's really cool. 

Jaz: And, I'll just note that there is like, one says it's riveting, it is good, tov hu, and to me that is reminiscent. 

Lulav: Oh! 

Jaz: Did you wanna say?

Lulav: Of the original creation. 

Jaz: Yeah! 

Lulav: Where Hashem fixes things one from the other so that they may not topple and says "it is good".

Jaz: Yeah! (Lulav laughs) Anyway... 

Lulav: That's really cool. 

Jaz: Right? And then there's stuff about singling out specifically the Jewish people and saying like, "I've chosen you, you came from all of the different ends of the earth." It's a nice nod to the diversity of the Jewish people, 'kay. (Lulav laughs) And like, then there's "I chose you, I have not rejected you, I'm with you, don't be afraid, I'll be here". 

Lulav: Cool. 

Jaz: And I guess there's two more bits before the end, and one is people who try to defeat you will not be able to. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: They'll become like nothing. And then there's two other bits that's like, wild to me because after all of those bits about being like, you're gonna do great and nobody will prosper against you, then they call "fear not a worm".

Lulav: (laughs) A worm? 

Jaz: Uh- mm. (Lulav laughs) And, I know this word and I was like, is that really worm? And the reason I know it is because its tola’at—

Lulav: Oh! 

Jaz: And I got really excited about tola’at — do you remember this?

Lulav: Oh! 

Jaz: As crimson, or scarlet, or whatever? And here they’re translating it as worm instead of scarlet because the way you make the scarlet is from the worm. 

Lulav: Oh. That’s wild. I was thinking another thing, which is, who was Yaakov's brother?

Jaz: Esau?

Lulav: And he wanted that red stuff, right?

Jaz: (laughs) Uh huh?

Lulav: Which, I'm almost certain, was not etymologically related to tola’at at all.

Jaz: I don't think so. I think we looked it up at the time. 

Lulav: Yeah. This is a fun little connection of like, oh you're making that red stuff? Well, you're red stuff yourself. 

Jaz: (laughs) Cute. But it’s wild to also be like, I don't know if they would have had the same associations that we have now about worm as like a lowly creature or whether that would have been a bit different if you're in an agricultural society and also you're making fancy yarn out of this particular worm, like it's not just any worm. So I don't quite know what the like, connotative meaning is that's happening here, but it's — hah, fascinating to me. 

Lulav: Yeah, I think — okay. So I am curbing this from Ibn Ezra who says that Yisrael has been considered by the Babylonians as worms but like, I think it's mostly just, there are such greater powers than you but don't fear, even though you're a tiny little worm. 

Jaz: Cute. I guess that in some ways goes to the thing that you're saying earlier, connected to that trust in big ideas for your organizing rather than individual people— 

Lulav: Mm. 

Jaz: — cuz its like — 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — you can be crushed underfoot, (Lulav giggles) but also, you're gonna get through. 

Lulav: (laughs) Thats cute. 

Jaz: But then there's this thing that's like, basically you're going to chip away at it. I will make you a thresher with many spikes. (Lulav laughs) You can thresh mountains to dust, and the wind will carry off that dust, and the whirlwind will scatter them and you'll be happy. And that's the end of the haftarah. 

Lulav: Yeah. I will note that it ends right before the line "the poor and the needy seek water and there is none, their tongue is parched with thirst. I, Hashem, will respond to them. I, the G-d of Yisrael will not forsake them".

Jaz: Mm hmm. 

Lulav: Which like, is really cool and yet, is not part of this. 

Jaz: Yeah. It's interesting to think about what role the redactors have for this in— 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: — what they choose to highlight and when because there definitely is parts of Isaiah really calling out the people, and we, my recollection is, tend to do more of that reading at the very end of the year. 

Lulav: Yeah. 

Jaz: In the like, lead up to the high holidays, and then in the high holidays. 

Lulav: Hm! 

Jaz: So, excited for that. 

Lulav: Yeah. Not this specific— 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: — reading, but—

Jaz: But more of the like— 

Lulav: Hopefully the consolations are a fun time. (laughs) 

Jaz: But more of the like, sort of calling people out does come up. We do read that. 

Lulav: Mm hmm. 

Jaz: It's just that here we’re reading the vision for a better world and I think that's a nice thing to be doing at the beginning of the year. 

Lulav: Yeah. That’s cool. 

Jaz: Yeah. 

Lulav: So Jaz, are you ready for Rating G-ds Writing, the segment where we throw two scales at each other that frankly wouldn't make sense outside of our context, (Jaz laughs) I've tried to explain it to your roommates, and then rate the text accordingly. 

Jaz: I'm so ready. 

Lulav: Okay, how about- I need to get the exact wording here, uh—

Jaz: Oh no. 

Lulav: Don't worry! Out of 14 plume feathers of an eagle, how many feathers would you rate this parsha?

Jaz: I would rate this parsha 12 plume feathers. I think— 

Lulav: Okay. 

Jaz: — it's solid to not be invested in armies, (Lulav laughs) and solid to recognize the role that chants and luck and maybe G-dly intervention but definitely lots of things outside of human control intervene on whether things go the way we want them to go. 

Lulav: Hm. 

Jaz: And, also, legit to think about like, what if we just worked together, (Lulav laughs) and like, did things better, and I think dreaming a better world into existence is like, a really good thing that prophets are good for. I like that. 

Lulav: Yeah. Yeah. 

Jaz: So, Lulav?

Lulav: Yes, Jaz?

Jaz: Out of, (giggles) out of swords that turn into dust, how many swords would you give this parsha?

Lulav: Okay, so this is very open-ended. 

Jaz: Yes. 

Lulav: I'm going to say 150 swords— 

Jaz: Okay. 

Lulav: — turn to dust, because the number of retainers that Abraham brought with him when he was fighting the kings was 318, and so if we're turning 150 swords to dust, there are still 168 left, like there is still some talk of bellicosity in this— 

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: — but like, there's a lot of going towards a society where you don't necessarily need that. 

Jaz: Mmm. 

Lulav: Where like, people are working together to make things, which is the ideal function of just like 318 people who you have hanging around your household. (Jaz laughs) So yes, 150 swords turn to dust. 

Lulav: Lovely. 

Lulav: (laughs) Thanks. Do you want to take us to the close? 

Jaz: Yeah! Thanks for listening to Rating G-d’s Writing- nope.
Lulav: (laughs) I mean, thank you. But...
Jaz: 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. We are now doing weekly bonus content, just short little weekly bonus content, so you'll get that which will be exciting. Also, if you can't commit to ongoing support but would still like to contribute, you can give to our ko-fi, which is at 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: “Like Pacman, she swallows my ghosts”. (Jaz groans) 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, or yell at me @palmliker! I recorded this audio on the traditional lands of the Wahpékute and Anishinaabeg.
Both: Have a lovely queer Jewish day.
[Brivele outro]
Jaz: This week’s gender is needle felted.
Lulav: This week's pronouns are qui and quem.